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Subject: Europhile reviews: Adds something new to a well-loved genre. rss

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Adam Porter
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This is a Euro-style worker-placement/ resource-management game for 2-4 players, with a unique mechanic whereby your workers die scoring you victory points depending on what action they were undertaking when they died. It recently won the 2012 Kennerspiel Des Jahres - the German Game of the Year: Connoisseurs' choice.


Thanks to BGG user Lacxox for use of image.

Very Brief Summary of the Rules

The central playing board represents the "Village" of the title. It has areas for craftsmen to produce tools, a market-place, a church, council-chambers, a route to far off neighbouring towns, and most importantly, a grave yard for your dead workers! There is also a "Chronicle" printed on the board - an area where you can place workers who died doing important tasks, which is one route to victory points. A lot has been made of this mechanic, because it is unique (as far as I know). However, it is just one of a number of routes to victory, including the standard building-and-trading-resources mechanic, producing grain for various uses, and a couple of neat little mechanics whereby you buy influence in council-chambers or the church. These almost function like little sub-games. For example, if you place a worker to work in the church, he is placed in a black cloth bag. Other workers might be placed in there too by other players, along with a few black worker-tokens belonging to no-one. At the end of a phase, there is a church-mass and workers are randomly drawn from the bag - the person with the majority gains victory points and a prime position in the church for future rounds. Certain actions cost you not only resources, but also "Time". When enough time has passed, one of your workers has to die. The game ends when either the Chronicle or the Graveyard is full of dead workers. The players are scored according to a variety of criteria and the highest scoring player wins.

Components

The artwork is lovely, and the quality of the tokens is good. The meeples (wooden people) are your standard Euro-game fare, but you do have to apply many stickers to them before playing to indicate which generation of worker they come from. This is fiddly and annoying, but the publishers are kind enough to provide spare stickers in case of problems, which is a nice touch. There are a lot of cubes knocking around, of various colours. As with a lot of Euro-games, these soon cease to be called by their official names (Faith, Persuasiveness etc.) and become referred to along the lines of "Will someone pass me 2 pink and a brown...." Unfortunately, unlike other worker-placement games, like Agricola and Stone Age, I've yet to find a way to replace these cubes with more meaningful tokens enhancing the theme. I've yet to find a company producing wooden "Knowledge" tokens. (Kneeples?)


Thanks to BGG user Innovan for use of image.

How well does the theme hold up?

I think it holds up well. This is a Euro-game, so it isn't deeply immersive. It doesn't suck you into the story, and is really a series of small puzzles to work out over a few turns. But the atmosphere provided by the board and tokens pervades the whole exercise and it will engage you if you let it. I recall another BGG'er suggesting speaking a short epitaph for each dying worker - I haven't yet gone this far!

Complexity

Each individual action on the board works differently, so they all need explaining before starting. None of them is complex, but this does take time. It's a lot to take in for new players. Once this is done, the game is not difficult to play, even for non-gamers. But balancing the different strategies and routes to victory is what will draw in the gamers.

The Luck factor

There is luck in the mass phase, drawing your workers out of a cloth bag. There is luck with regards to which coloured-cubes are available on which actions. There is luck with regards to which buyers are present at the market. But overwhelmingly, this game rewards good strategic play.

Playing Time (in my experience).

25-30 mins per player.

It runs at about the same length of time as Agricola (for comparison).

Number of players

I have enjoyed it with 2, 3 and 4 players. I haven't noticed much difference in the experience. It scales well.

Will my non-gamer partner enjoy it?

Yeah, if they will sit through an extended rules-explanation. (My girlfriend won't!) But the theme is very family-friendly. Even the death is handled in a very positive way. It is never clear how someone dies, and they are honoured for their hard work in life. There is little direct player interaction, but you can block each other from certain actions and compete for spaces in the church etc.


Thanks to BGG user Paxton73 for use of image.

What other games is it like?

For me it feels most like Stone Age and Ninjato, but I prefer it to both. It is reminiscent in that you can adopt many different approaches to victory and all are clearly laid out on the board. Indeed, it is completely clear to your opponents which strategy you are going for by your choice of worker placement. They can choose to block you, or do their own thing. The routes to victory are much more clearly laid out than a deeper worker placement like Agricola, where every game is different depending on the cards you are dealt. Agricola rewards diversity in your choice of actions. Village rewards specialisation in one or two specific fields. Choosing the right balance is where the strategy comes in.

Positives:

- Takes a well-loved genre and genuinely adds something new. This feels like a step forward in the genre.
- Lovely artwork.
- Family friendly theme.
- Meaty decisions for gamers.
- Many routes to victory - all quite valid and well balanced.
- Very little opportunity to whole-heartedly mess up other people's plans. (This is a positive for me at least!)

Negatives:

- Long rules explanation needed for new players.
- Coloured cubes don't really invoke the theme as intended, and just become plain old "cubes".
- Not much player interaction.
- It's not a short game. It never outstays its welcome, but you do need a good chunk of time to play it with more than 2.


Thanks to BGG user Toynan for use of image.

Is it a keeper?

Definitely. I can get this to the table with many different gamer groups, with no problem at all. Everyone has enjoyed it so far. I can see families loving it and it is certainly a great couples' game if you're both willing to put in the time. I'd love to find a way to replace/enhance the cubes, but I can live with that. I'll be hanging on to this one for a long time.

See my other reviews at http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/146115/europhile-reviews-a...
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Connor Cranston
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Re: Adds something new to a well-loved genre.
I agree completely!

I've been playing this now for a week or two and absolutely love it.
But explaining it to new players is a hassle! So much information and tiny rules that are easy to forget about during game play.

But still.

Only thing I wish is they'd used different colors for the cubes. Some of them are hard to tell apart, especially pink and orange.
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Jeff A
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Re: Adds something new to a well-loved genre.
Played my first game last night with 3 players, we all agreed that it was a great game.

I don't think the rules will be an issue now that I have played a game. This is one of those games with a big set of rules but in playing you realize that its not terribly complex.
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