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2011 New Year's resolution: Play games from my collection I haven't yet tried.
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Seeland and Vikings Enter the Ring...and Round 1 goes to?

The Dave
United States
La Jolla
California
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Our game of Stronghold in the books, Mikki demanded something of a lighter fare. We are big fans of Vikings, and The Wife was in a gaming mood, so we brought out Vikings. We have yet to try the advanced game, (that will come soon and I may even first-play review it!), but we did manage to get two plays in. I won the first with a heavy dose of ships/warriors, but the second game saw me get locked out of too many start-island tiles to make anything really happen. Also, The Wife got crushed the first game, which always has the effect of heightening her game-playing senses like a wolf on the hunt. She destroyed us.

The Wife, having placated her bloodlust for victory, decided to head to bed. I had told Mikki about Seeland, a game that at least in my mind was part of a competition between Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling to see who could create the best 2-4 player game with a Northern European theme involving a double-rondel tile selection mechanic, in which you may or may not place wooden pieces on a tile you have selected*. Since we had just played Vikings, it offered a great opportunity to compare it to its “competition”.

I had downloaded the English rules much earlier and read them. I explained them to Mikki without much problem, and we were off. We chose to play the simple game (unfortunately).

*Or maybe that actually happened? Did I read that somewhere?
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I will now review Seeland according to the following criteria. Keep in mind this is a review of the game after only one play.

Accessibility (1): How easy was the game to teach and learn? Is it complex and/or fiddly? Are the rules easy to understand and follow? How long did it take to go over the rules?

Fun (1): Is it fun? Included in this might be a theme-to-mechanics metric, or a player interaction metric.

Length of first play (1): Some games say 60-90 minutes, but the first play might take you 3 hours. Not included is length of rules explanation.

Desire to play again (1): Typically I would rather play a new game than play a game I’ve already played (with some exceptions). I know – I am crazy. This will be a good measure of how much I like the game.

Review:

Accessibility:

Minus the rules being in German (I think), and needing to download the English rules, explaining Seeland was very easy. Mikki and I quickly understood the flow of the game, and with only 3 phases (Purchase a tile, place the tile, check for scoring) it was very easy to jump right into the game.

Score: .8

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Fun:

Ugh. If Macao was dry, this was sand paper with Saltines crushed on top. The theme I guess is married decently to the mechanic of placing a mill tile and immediately flipping any island tiles, but honestly I really didn’t care at all about the theme. This game felt like an abstract with a tacked-on theme, and there didn’t seem to be much for choices here. Playing the rondel seemed to be a matter of choosing the best mill tile in front of you or the best seed tile in front of you. Placing that tile was almost a no-brainer for either of us, and the only real choice was if you should spend a stuiver to take another turn or not. Of course, if you could grab a mill and place it to drain a few islands, then it was a no-brainer to take another turn and snag those island tiles (in hopes of getting a farm, so you could replace the stuiver you just spent). It also seemed to be a cornucopia of points – oh hey 33 points here, now here’s 24 more. Woah, lookatme! I passed 0. Again.

There also wasn’t enough interaction. Mikki and I certainly encroached on each others’ mills, but for the most part we just snagged tiles as we could to maximize our score. The main points of contention were for the island tiles – and only then as a race for stuivers. In the end I managed to “find” (read: luck into) one stuiver more than Mikki, which meant I got 7 extra turns to her 5. So over the course of the game I got 2 more extra turns than she did, and I won 214 to 203. With some turns earning upwards of 20 points, the game basically came down to who found the stuivers first. Not exactly awesome.

Score: .1

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Length of first play:

Well this is an area were the game definitely shined. I think we finished in under an hour. The problem is it felt much less fun than the over 2 hours we spent slogging through Stronghold. But a metric is a metric.

Score: .8

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Desire to play again:

I’m giving this a .3 for two reasons:

1. I want to try the advanced game rules. I’ve read Chally’s review and he makes me think there is a good game lurking there. So I will at least try Seeland once more with the governors, records, and alternate set-up.

2. I want to try Seeland (even the base game) with more than 2 players. Mikki and I agreed that it was too easy to get tiles that we wanted, even taking into account the guilder/merchant mechanic. Only once was someone forced to take the workshop action for -3 points, and in the end it wasn’t even the difference in the game. But with 3, or even 4 players the board will get much tighter, the choice of taking your extra turn now or later will become more difficult, and the guilder/merchant money mechanic should tighten up a bit, as well.

Score: .3

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OVERALL: 2.0/4

I really wanted to like Seeland. I love Vikings. But truthfully Seeland, out of the box, is horrible. As Chally said in another review “It was a train wreck. Random, uninteresting, soulless. Blech. “ On the other hand, Vikings out of the box is a pretty good game. I’m not a fan of Vikings with 4 players, but with 2 or 3, the basic game is a great game. I had high hopes for Seeland, but unfortunately Round 1 of the Kiesling/Kramer cage fight goes easily to Kiesling.

Up Next: I really have no clue what this Friday looks like. I hope to have a few people over since I’m over 2-player games right now.
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