Type: Action Selection/ Euro

Time to play: 60-90 minutes (Teaching: 15 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (2 – 4 Players)

It was just inside the top 100, but then the new kickstarters have finally pushed out Village. However, it would be a big mistake to ignore this little 60-90 minute game with some incredible mechanics. If you haven’t seen it, then watch out for the way this game uses a time mechanic and how limited some choices are in each round – a tricky puzzle with a lot of possible answers, and an end game that’s controlled by the players.

So where to start? The core mechanic – in this game you will have a starting set of meeples, and a whole family which can come into the game over time. You will need this family, you will need them to come into the game. However, just as there is new life in this game there is death. Every action you take costs time and time is a valuable commodity. Enough time passes and one of your meeples dies – one of your starting meeples to be specific.

Each meeple is a part of a generation, and it’s the oldest generation that dies first. The starting meeples are that oldest generation, and given that you may be putting them on the board during the game – you may be losing them and needing to replace them! Actually… and more to the point you WILL be losing these meeples, because by placing them on the board they will get occupations which will mean that when they die they contribute to your final score.

Each death goes into either the chronicle or the graveyard – the chronicle is the only place to score points, and there are only limited slots (on a first come first serve basis). So you need to think about when you need them, and whether there will still be space in the chronicle when they die. If all that’s not enough to think about, then it’s time to talk game end. The game ends when either the graveyard or the chronicle is full – that means that you need to watch out for the time when that happens.

Of course, you could also choose to deliberately accelerate or slow down that outcome based on how well you think you are doing. If you are doing well, let time slip by quickly and those spots fill up. If not though, then it’s time to avoid taking up time – build your engine for points carefully but as quickly as you can. Fighting against time in this game is really tricky as nearly everything takes time, and as some actions can’t even be selected without losing time!

Time is the only restriction either, to take an action you must pick up a cube on the board in that action space – if there are not any cubes there then you cannot take that action! The cubes are generally useful (necessary!) and allow you to complete actions. Green cubes to move up in the council, or pink and brown cubes to move through the country. Cubes also help you save time – swapping a brown cube for time in the church, or pink and orange cubes in the workshops. Watch out though, because there are black cubes out there – cubes that don’t get you any benefit and cost you a unit of time. These will get left late in the round, but as you get desperate to take an action you will reach for these cubes and accept the loss of time.

This combination of trading cubes, blocking other players’ action selection and a player controlled game end! Wow…just picking back through this game reminds me why it’s worth looking passed that dull cover which is haunted by the traditional stereotypes. There’s a lot here to like, but I do try and balance the reviews and there’s a couple of things to talk about.

This is a low luck game but not a no luck game. There’s a bag that you draw the priests from and the one time you leave this to luck (and don’t spend coins) is quite an important moment – perhaps majority, or just the chance to promote the priests by the end of the game.

One last thing; this game does occasionally feel like it’s guiding you down some very tight rails. The fact that the market can score you vast numbers of points in a single round, or that the towns in “adventuring” section have a huge number of points to the end game, means that they are vital. Early players in the turn will push towards these above all else. I can’t decide if that’s a bad thing – if you have played Agricola, it’s like the need to grow the family, it’s a huge part of the game and you just need to watch out for it. The fact that the market alone can be beaten by the adventuring player, or the reverse, is good – yet it is only these two that are so influential. Perhaps I can best express it by the fact that I think it may be possible to solve the game (with enough iterations!).

Last notes;

  • If you like the sound of the time mechanics in Village then this is a smart euro that brings a lot to the table
  • If you don’t like euros then this won’t convert you
  • If you win, try again and see how the other players change their behaviour