Visually there is nothing lacking upon opening the box and punching the tiles, sorting the two colored wooden bits (not really necessary) and quickly (and I mean QUICK as quick can get) reading the rules on a small four sided rules insert. With very little ado, Andrea and I were ready to give it a go.
Part one is to build the landscape and place four of each player/colors' farms. The tiles were flipped down, with the three starter tiles set aside, which in turn were then flipped upright to form the base. Paper scissors rock determined that white (Andrea) won and place the first tile.
As indicated by the rules, the play and score totaling of one game (each game consists of three rounds) really does take just about 30 minutes to complete.
White began Part One and immediately placed a farm on her tile. Black waited until perhaps the fifth turn, and later regretted waiting as our first game indicated too many 'sea' landscaped tiles would not be used (remember, a sea tile cannot be played if it creates or potentially creates a new land mass). This meant the tile pool was rapidly shrinking! With 10 tiles or so to play, I was ready to chalk this one up to experience. Even more sea tiles surfaced (tsk!) and I ended up with only three of four farms in play.
Part two is to then alternate between players placing farm plots, which must line up adjacent to either a farm house or previously placed plot. A line of sight of clear (tillable) land must also be available. Since white was able to place the last tile, she went first. White had the odds on her side with the four farms and quickly secured routes while attempting to block mine. However the mountain ranges became an obstacle for white, negating her advantage and line of sight. Farm placement seems even more important in the scoring phase! First round score was Black 9, White 8.
In the second round I again procrastinated in waiting too long to place all my farms. This was due in part to tile draw and my revised game strategy: I seemed to have too many partial mountainous ranges and didn’t want to place my farms too close to each other in my otherwise open land spaces. We again had several sea tiles (this time eight in all) left over and white placed the final tile allowing her to go first in part two. But again I came out on top in placing plots, ending the second round with a score of White 8, Black 10.
In the third round, I was fortunate to turn the tables in selecting better tiles (less mountains and sea, more farm land) and managed very good farm placements while she struggled. We were down to a total of eight tiles left to play with two white farms in play. She managed to play all four, but the tally for plots ended up with 12 for Black, 5 for White. Final score was Black 31, White 25.
We played once more and decided to keep track of just how many sea tiles didn’t get played. In three rounds, a total of 28 sea tiles were not put in play. That certainly seems like a lot of sea tiles. Summary:
-Each round the landscape was quite different for sure. Once, our shore line was very short, perhaps 15% of the total ‘border’. In another we managed to extend the shore line to I would estimate a full 33%.
-In all three rounds we did manage to play all our farms.
-In this game, the score was more balanced, at least in two of the rounds, with one round again being an exception we attributed to luck of the tile draw and placement, ultimately impacting the choice of farm placement.
-Final score was 34 White, 30 Black.
Stoke on Trent
Come on you Seagulls! Sami Hyppia's Blue & White army!
That's weird. This bit used to mention Shire Games, and tell you all how wonderful we are. But it seems to have got deleted. Let's see what happens this time ....
That does sound like a lot of sea tiles not put into play.
We quite often play the game and use all the tiles, or maybe just have the odd one or two left over.
So .... a couple of points spring to mind:
(bear in mind I'm not questioning your ability to read rules.... and it may be us that plays it wrong - or neither of us - but the two experiences seem oddly different)
1 - The sea tiles can't form any new land, but they can form new sea areas ... therefore they don't always have to connect to the existing ocean.
2 - An unused tile can be picked up by either player on their turn and placed if it now fits. This is really useful to try and guarantee first go in the second phase.
If you knew both of these things and still had that many tiles left over, then I guess it was just "one of those things" !