Type: Worker Placement / Bag Building

Time to play: 60-90 minutes (Teaching: 10 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Players (2-4 Players)

This classic game takes a classic mechanic and evolves it – deck building becomes “bag building”. There might not be much to look at on the box, or indeed much of a theme here, but there is one hell of a game.

So, in my usual format what’s in the game that might bring you to the table? Well firstly, the game is ruthlessly simple. Draw some tokens from a bag, place them on your own personal player space and then going around in a circle each player takes one action permitted given their choices. This means that every turn is made up of you drawing, placing and then a slow and deliberate reveal of your actions.

Will you get the pieces you need, will you choose to build your bag with new tokens for next round or will you start to chase the points that will make you the winner. Orleans is so simple in nature that it’s almost deceptive. Almost, because in fact even within this mechanic there is a lot of strategic depth.

In most engine builders there is a simple choice at the heart – when to switch from building the engine and when to gain points. However, here there are two extra points. Everything is limited – each worker can run out and each action is limited by the workers. Secondly, each worker can be contributed to a central board which scores even more points. These additional points spaces are also limited. Specifically you will decide if and when you will use your pieces and your precious turn time to take these tokens out of the bag for good. Once gone, the bag is thinner – this isn’t just points vs engine, but this is about points / engine / efficiency.

It’s all about changing the bag probability. At first you do this by adding to the bag. As you get to the mid-game you are trying to fill the bad with the monk tokens – afterall these count for whatever you want! Then the late game comes around and you are trading away the tokens you no longer need to have a bag of mainly monks (even giving up some of them!). If you get that cycle right then you will be the winner.

It’s easier than it sounds though, because there are tempting paths to use technology, options to build more buildings, and also an opportunity to build points on the board. A little bit of everything is often not the best score – efficiency of a path means a player who can be good at one thing and okay at the rest, will beat the generalist.

Okay… regular readers will know I have not spoken about theme yet. Well, that’s because you are not buying this game for theme. You just aren’t. No-one wants to build a town in medieval times in the form of filling up a bag with people. The mechanics and the theme are completely disconnect. The theme is incredibly weak. Oh and the theme is medieval social norms…. yes not that exciting.

However, honestly I don’t think it matters. This isn’t the game that attracts people to the hobby, but the game that players move on to. If you are a new player, don’t be put off by this. Enjoy the challenges this game will throw up and be ready for some head scratching about how that opponent out foxed you and got to the last monk early.

Last notes,

  • If you like games with plenty of emergent game play and strategy – check this one out!
  • If you want theme…may be not
  • If you win, try another strategy and see if you can make the harbour master strategy work