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Subject: At the Gates of Loyang: A Review rss

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Kristen McCarty
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Loyang (Luoyang), in an ancient city located in China's central plain, and one of the four great ancient capitals of China. It's name comes from its location on the north (yang) side of the Luo River. "At the Gates of Loyang" takes us back to the time of the Han Dynasty. A flourishing Loyang became the capital, and for several centuries, the focal point of the empire.

Today travels come to see the White Horse Temple, one of the first Buddist temples in China, the Longmen Grottoes, caves full of statues of Buddha and his followers, and the Guanlin Temples, built to honor the hero and general Guan Yu.

Loyang is also famous for its peonies and the water banquet, Shui Xi. Shui Xi is a feast of 24 hot and cold dishes cooked in broths, gravies, and juices. Shui Xi, peonies, and the Longmen Grottoes are considered the three wonders of Loyang.

Object of the Game

Players take the role of a farmer, trading and selling their vegetables to eh people of Loyang. Their success is found along the "Path of Prosperity." The player to move furthest on the path will win. Players need cash to move on the path and invest in their farm.

Components / Set-Up

Mom always said to eat your veggies, right? Well, you will find plenty to choose from in Loyang. There are a total of 237 wooden veggie tokens. These tokens include wheat, pumpkins, turnips, cabbages, beans, and leeks. Yes, technically wheat is a grain, but we'll let that fact slide for now.



The vegetable tokens should be divided and placed to the side to form the supply. The cash tokens should also be placed to the side. Cash comes in two denominations: the small green tokens worth 1 and larger brown tokens worth 5.

The 70 action cards should be shuffled and placed in the center of the table. The action cards include 6 common fields, 14 market stalls, 14 regular customers, 14 casual customers, and 22 helpers.

Each player has their own area. The t-shaped game board is double-sided. One side is red with Asian designs and a "Path of Prosperity." The other side shows a more rural scene with a stone "Path of Prosperity," and green fields. Personally, this is the side I prefer.

Each player receives one game board. Place the scoring token on step one of the "Path of Prosperity." 3 wheat, two pumpkins, two turnips, two cabbages, one bean, and one leek are placed in the market stalls of the game board. One storehouse / cart card is placed with the one side up on the right hand side of the market.

One home field is laid out above the board. Players are given 8 more fields: 2 sets each of four cards with 3, 4, 5 and 6 spaces. These field cards are shuffled and laid down to the left of the home field to form the field pile. Players then are given 10 cash (one five, five ones) and one turn summary card.



The starting player takes the starting player token (large round disk).

Now, beginning with the starting player and continuing around the table each player buys one vegetable from their home shop to plant on their home field. The vegetable they buy is placed on the home field and all spaces on the field are filled with the same vegetable. A card shows which vegetables can be planted on it. No more than two players may plant the same vegetable during the start of the game.



Game Play

There are nine rounds consisting of three phases in the game.

1. Harvest Phase
2. Card Phase
3. Action Phase

One: Harvest Phase

All players complete the harvest phase at the same time. Turn over the top field and place it to the right of the other fields. Then, harvest exactly one veggie from each of the other fields. Put these veggies on the cart card along with any left in storage. If the last veggie is removed from a private field, the field is removed from the game. Common fields are placed on the Action Card discard pile.



Two: Card Phase

Create a new draw pile must by shuffling the discard pile and the remaining draw pile. Each player is dealt four Action Cards.

Now comes the Distribution Round. During this round each player will play two cards. One must come from his hand and one must come from the common "Courtyard." The starting player is first to place one card from his hand face up on the table, opening the "Courtyard."



On their turn, the player must choose one of two options and cannot pass. The first option is to place one card from their hand to the Courtyard. The second option is to take exactly one card from the Courtyard and one card from his hand. Both cards are placed face-up in the appropriate part of the play area. Any cards remaining in their hand are placed face-up in the Courtyard. The player takes no more actions during the distribution round. The last player to choose may no longer place cards onto the Courtyard and need to choose from the available cards.

During a two player game there is a special rule. At the start of their turn they can add a card from the draw pile to the Courtyard. This gives a wider choice and also applies when only one player is left and they must choose from the available cards.

Some cards call for immediate action when placed. A placed Regular Customer needs a satisfaction token added; market stalls should be filled with the necessary vegetables, and two cash must be paid for a common field.



Cards remaining in the Courtyard are placed on the discard pile and a new starting player is chosen. The new start player is the last player to take two Action cards. The second to last player to place two cards is given the smaller starting token and becomes the second player.

Three: Action Phase

The starting player is first during the Action Phase. Now players take action, in any order and as many times as they wish. But, they may only buy one "Two-pack."

A. Sow Vegetables: Players take one vegetable form their cart, place it on an empty field, and fill it with vegetables of the same type.

B. Buy Vegetables in the Shop: The player buys one vegetable from the shop and places it on their cart. The price is shown in the shop on the darker price tag. For example, wheat would cost three cash.



C. Sell Vegetables to the Shop: If there is free space in the shop the player may sell vegetables. They are paid the price shown (lighter color). For wheat, they would gain one cash. This action can be done during any phase.

D. Trade Vegetables at a Market Stall: Market stalls in the player's area are available. The number of bowls shown is how many vegetables need to be traded. Traded vegetables are put in the supply. The new vegetable is put in the player's cart.

E. Play or Discard a Helper: A player may use a helper's skill or discard the helper without using it. Some can be played during other phases, used helpers are put into the discard pile.



There are about twenty different helper cards. Helper cards that include a purple lantern allow player to affect other player's. Some also offer a choice of actions. You can only use one.

One example is the "Harvest Helper." He allows a player to harvest two vegetables from their fields (not home field) that contain four or more vegetables. Or any card planted receives one additional veggie token.

F. Deliver to Regular Customer: A player may deliver to regular customers in any order. Each one contains eight empty spaces. The two vegetables shown on the card need to be deliverer over four rounds (two each round). This starts the same round that the card was played.



A satisfaction marker shows if the customer is happy (purple) or not (red). A customer is not happy when they do not receive a delivery. If the player cannot or does not wish to deliver to a regular customer the satisfaction marker is turned to the red side. If the player does not deliver to a customer who marker is already showing red, they must pay a penalty of two cash.

A Regular Customer is delivered to from the bottom to the top. We like to place the vegetables sold to the customer, on the card, to keep track of how many times the customer has received a delivery. You could also use the satisfaction marker for this.

Regular customers can also not be discarded until they have received their four deliveries. And, unfortunately, the customer must receive both vegetables and a player cannot store vegetables on the card.

G. Deliver to a Casual Customer: Casual customer may also receive deliveries in any order. The Casual Customer is given the three vegetables shown on their card and the player collects payment. This payment may vary. If the player has the same number of Regular and Casual Customers, he is given the price shown. If they have more Casual than Regular Customers the price is reduced by two cash. If they have fewer Casual than Regular Customers they get a bonus of two cash. The Casual Customer is immediately discarded after delivery.



H. Buy a Two-pack: This action may only be taken once during the action phase. A Two-pack is two Action cards drawn from the draw pile. It costs the player the greater the number of Helper Cards or Market Stalls in his "played area." Cards covered by other action cards do not add to the cost.

The player pays the amount needed and draws two Action Cards. The player may choose to keep 0, 1 or 2 of these cards. If the player wants to keep both, the must be placed on top of the other so both cards can be seen. The player chooses which card to put on top. The cards are then placed in the correct area (according to the top card). When the upper card is discarded the bottom card is immediately placed in the correct area.

End of Action Phase

After a player has taken their card phase they must now store vegetables and move the scoring marker, if possible. The Store House can only hold as many vegetables as shown on the card. Any additional vegetables must be sold to the shop or lost. A player can upgrade the Store House for two cash



Now a player can move along the "Path of Prosperity." In each round the first step costs one cash. For each additional space the player wishes to move they must pay the value shown on the space.

Loans

Loans may be taken by player at any time during the game. A loan gives a player five cash and one loan card. At the end of the game, player's scoring markers are moved backwards one space for each loan. A loan can never be repaid.



End of Game

The game ends after nine rounds, after players harvest the last vegetable from their home field. Players who have taken loans move one space back on the scoring track. The winner is the one who has progressed the most on the "Path of Prosperity." If two players are tied, the winner is the person who has the most cash. If players are still tied the winner is whoever has the most vegetables left in the Storehouses and fields.

My Thoughts


Loyang is my favorite game from the Harvest Trilogy (Agricola, Le Havre), and one of my "Top 10" games. This surprises even me, for a few reasons. The first reason is that the game is more about math, than about the city of Loyang and harvesting vegetables.



I love the artwork and design of the game. Ancient China is a fascinating subject to me. My reading list has been full of novels by Pearl Buck, Linda See, and other authors who bring ancient and modern China to life. (I recommend "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" to any lover of this subject.) Truthfully, Loyang could have just as easily been called "Lancaster" and been set in Pennsylvania Amish country. The theme isn't that strong. For me, and this game, that doesn't matter.

Players needs to always be thinking ahead and keeping a budget in Loyang. It will be very difficult to do well otherwise. Usually I'm not that best at thinking ahead and games that involve this forward thought frustrate me. This feeling is rare in Loyang. I know I have to watch my area and my opponents' areas, think ahead to what cards I want, what vegetables I need to plant, if I'm almost out of a vegetable, and so forth. It can be a lot to keep track of, but it still seems possible. I think this can be attributed to the organization of the player area. Cards are kept in a certain spot and not intermixed. A quick glance tells a player how many fields, customers and goods helpers they have.

Loyang is a great two player and solo game. Going beyond two players may increase the downtime between turns. This downtime has turned some people off of Loyang. I find it helpful to take a moment and think through what I need and want to do and how I can accomplish that. Plus, you can always watch your opponent. There isn't a lot of player interaction so this can be a time to watch your opponents strategy.

There is also a element of luck in Loyang. Cards come out randomly and you don't always get the card you need. Once I had a hand of all regular customers who wanted vegetables I didn't have. Because I had to take one from my hand I ended up with a customer I didn't want and couldn't satisfy. To avoid losing cash I had to change my strategy.

The solo version is also enjoyable. This is the first game I have played solo. At the urging of my husband, I reluctantly tried it to see how it went. As usual, he was right, and I did indeed enjoy the game. It offered a interesting challenge aside from the two player version. One row of the courtyard is free while you need to pay cash from cards from the other rows. This offers another difficult choice since it seemed the free cards were rarely cards I needed or desired and they were never cleared. I still ended up with a decent score (17) and a better understanding of the game. So, overall a great game, but not for
everyone.



Quick Stats:

Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Klemens Franz
Publishers: Z-Mann Games, 999 Games, Hall Games, Hobby Japan, Intrafin Games
Number of Players: 1-4
Game Length: 120 minutes



Photo Credits: Ralph Bruhn (barandur), Svetlana (LanaDove), Markus Unger
(Schaulustiger), Kwang Il Kim (skeil), Christensaurus(SubtlyArtistic), Ralph Bruhn (barandur), Magnus Gronninger (Madeye78), Antony Hemme (Toynan), Kwang Il Kim (skeil), David G. Cox Esq. (da pyrate)(2), Tom Verdonck (LordT), William McCarroll (hezkezl), Ralph Bruhn (barandur)


Thanks for taking such wonderful pictures and sharing them with us!
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B Mendez
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My favorite solo and the first solo game I tried as well.
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S McCulloch
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A good game that I personally prefer to play solo. But then Agricola is more of a favourite with me but then I prefer to play with 2. Unfortunately for me neither game is greatly liked by my husband. I agree that the theme in Loyang is weak but feel Agricola does really well for a Euro type game on that score.
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Sheldon Morris
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My wife and I really enjoy this game two-player. It's also one of the better solo games as well. And how can you not love the vegimeeples.
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David Boeren
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Probably the best non co-op solo game I know, and an excellent game overall.

I've taught this to several people and everyone's liked it so far from my wife who seldom plays games and mostly sticks to things like Ticket to Ride up to the gamers at our club who like heavier fare. I've heard from several people that they prefer it to Agricola, as I do myself, but for some reason here on the geek it seems fashionable to claim Loyang is a poor game. I'm pretty sure it's just because it wasn't Agricola 2 which is what people expected it to be.

The drawbacks are the slow 3p game and the rulebook which can be confusing to learn from at first. These are legitimate gripes but you can avoid the first issue and the second is a one time thing or you can learn from another player and avoid it too. Neither is sufficient reason to skip this great game.
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Marc Mistiaen
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Since several people seem to praise the solo qualities of this game, how does it compare regarding this specifically to other similar games by Rosenberg, i.e. Agricola and the recent Ora et Labora? I enjoy both of these and might play them solo at some point but at the moment I still enjoy playing them with other people better. Is At the Gates of Loyang more suitable to solo play?
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Daniel Kearns
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Corwin1980 wrote:
Since several people seem to praise the solo qualities of this game, how does it compare regarding this specifically to other similar games by Rosenberg, i.e. Agricola and the recent Ora et Labora? I enjoy both of these and might play them solo at some point but at the moment I still enjoy playing them with other people better. Is At the Gates of Loyang more suitable to solo play?

Can't say from experience, but in two player there's this really nice opponent pushing tension. As in, when your opponent raises the bar, you have to keep up, and each player is therefore trying to push the other to do, um, dumb things?

In solo, I'd worry about losing this tension so I'd be skeptical if it were more suitable solo than multi. So, same as the others?

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Nick Bornschein
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Excellent review. Thank you!!
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Kristen McCarty
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Thanks everyone for the thumbs and comments. As I said, this is my first solo game so I'm not sure how other games play out solo. I want to try Agricola sometime soon.
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Dian
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Thanks for this great review. I tried it once and was so confused, I didn't touch it for months. This review made me go back to it the other night and I plan on playing it more.
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Kristen McCarty
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I'm glad to hear that you gave Loyang a second try, I find that it really does shine as both a solo game and a two player game.
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Martyn Smith
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At one level I absolutely LOVE Loyang - the beautiful artwork, pleasing cards, cute lil' vegi-meeples and just the overall satisfying aesthetic of it all. I just enjoy unboxing it and enjoying the pieces.

The long story short in regard to actually playing it, however, is that personally I find that it is just far too tight in scoring and that in ALL of the games I've played (both 2p and 3p) it finishes neck-and-neck with little to differentiate us until the very last moment when someone wins by the smallest margin.

I dunno, but I just feel kind of 'robbed' at this point as if no-one has been allowed to forge ahead - whatever tactic is employed.

That's why I've reluctantly put this onto eBay today...

Because even in spite of its undoubted beauty it is, for me, a beauty flawed by a constricting gameplay.

Each to their own I guess...
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Tim Silver
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Having played this and Agricola, Agricola is the game for me. Way too much fiddly math and min/maxing going on for me to find it enjoyable. I also agree with the person who said that the end is too tight. Every game I've played either came down to two players who were equally matched on the last turn and seperated by a couple cash, neither having done much to deserve the win over his opponant, or one person getting the luck of all the cards they need and blowing everyone else away by 2 or 3 points. I also feel this game has less interaction than Agricola and I don't like playing solo or multiplayer solitaire.
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