Some background: I like lots of different games: Martin Wallace games (Brass, Steam), other euros; card games such as Dominion, 7 Wonders. Fantsasy games (Descent, Arkham Horror), games with lots of dice, wargames (Combat Commander). I don't like abstract games, word games, party games (excepting Dixit). I don't like playing huge epic games that take many hours to play (i.e. massive civ building games)
Regarding Highland Clans, I never heard of this game in my life. I received a copy of it as a freebie at BGG con last year. After seeing its low rating of #4749 and lackluster comments about it, it got shelved. However last week curiosity got the best of me and I finally opened it. I read the rules and thought "this sounds unique and fun," though being a skeptic I know there is often reading-rules-to-playing-the-game dyssynergia when it comes to anticipated fun verses actual fun. I have played this game only once, so take this review with a grain of salt, but I will say now that we all had a fun experience playing.
The bare-bones gist of the game is this: Earn VP's based on cubes acquired on your player mat at the end of each round (a round ends when everyone has had a turn). At the beginning of a player's turn, he will draw 6 cubes out of the bag (red = cattle, yellow = warriors, blue equal castles or bagpipe players, green = cloisters or monks. A player can take 2 actions represented by using the cubes drawn (not to exceed 4):
- 1 Red: place on a an empty estate spot(cattle)
- 2 Blue: place on a an empty estate spot (castle)
- 3 Green: place on a an empty estate spot (cloister)
- 1 Yellow: place in the yellow court spot (warrior) draw a card
- 1 Blue: place in the blue court spot (bag piper)
- 1 or 2 Green: place in the green court spot (monks)
- 1 Yellow and 1 Red or1 Yeallow and 2 Green: Build a new empty estate
Example of a player board showing 2 cattle plus 2 castles in the estates and 4 warrior plus 2 monks in the courts
After a player performs his action, he may raid another player. Each player plays a card valued 1-4 face down (with or without a bag piper)then reveal. Highest value wins. This is done 3 times. The player who won the most out of 3 wins. The attaker will destroy a structure in the estates, possibly stealing the cattle for himself. The defender gets VP's if he wins. Note that a player can commit a bagpiper to a card to add one to its value before it is revealed. Note that a player will always have a number of cards to choose from equal to his number of warriors in court.
Thats the gist of the game, leaving out a few rules. Thanks EnderWiggins for the above photo (and phenomenal reviews btw).
Overall, I really found the game tremendous fun. In my opinion it is way, way underrated given its ranking of #4749. I am guessing people don't like the luck factor of your actions being soley dependant on the cubes drawn. However I love that. I really enjoy games where you have to make the best of what is dealt to you, good or bad (Twilight Struggle being a perect example of course). I can also guess people may be put off by the constant raiding. Yes its frustrating having your structures frequently destroyed, but again, IMO, this just adds nail-biting tension to the game. Another need aspect of the game I did not mention was the endgame trigger. At the end of the round, a province tile is removed from the supply. When a player makes it to the higher scoring bracket (outlined in red on the score track), this estate tile is flipped over. All the tiles are numbered on their reverese side. If a number is drawn equal to or less than the first player's current score the game immediately ends. This way no one is quite sure when the game ends. Overall, the mechanics of the game are very unique. It is a simple elegant game worthy of the top 100 in my opinion. I was also pleasantly suprised to find that the designer, Ralf Burkertalso designed In the Shadow of the Emperor, another really cool yet sadly underrated game.
Alas the game does not play with 2P; that is the only downside I can think of.
See the person next to you? Kill! Kill!!! KILLL!!!!
I'm your baby! Can you feel it?
I agree with you, this game is seriously fun. The thing is that I discovered this after the third play or so, so I can understand some players discarding it even after second play. But if you stick to it and give it a few repeated plays, it starts to get seriously fun.
I concur, it's not as bad as some people seem to think, especially if you give it a chance and play a couple of games to get the hang of things.
James Fallows even picked this as his best new boardgame of the month for November 2011, and made similar comments to the ones in the above review: "I suppose when we finally got around to playing it, the low expectations provided by user comments took a big part in giving surprise pleasure in how this game played. There is lots of randomness, attacking and general nastiness not usually associated with 'cube' games, but we found it to be fun, and the mechanics (drawing 6 cubes from a bag, being able to play up to four in a variety of ways) original and interesting. I think the game probably plays best with three, with a shared understanding that luck will predominate and that it is beholden upon everyone to smash the leader, and maybe that isn't to everyone's taste, but I can see this getting played again. Fun."
I do think that rules haven't helped this game's reception, because they're not as clear as they could be. The game would also have been helped tremendously by a good player aid (fortunately there are some decent ones that BGG users have made). The `take that' elements are also somewhat unusual for a euro, but especially if you get into the theme, there's potential for some real fun to be had with it.