Introducing Albion

I'm sure you've heard of Klaus-Jürgen Wrede. His ticket to fame in the boardgame industry came with the multiple award-winning Carcassonne and its 329 expansions. Okay, maybe not quite that many expansions, but you get the point. We've seen a lot of Carcassonne over the years, and while some of the expansions are on the tacky side, the fact remains that the base game has got a lot of mileage world-wide, and it's served as a portal to the wonderful world of modern euro games for many a gamer, giving Mr Wrede enormous success in the process.

But now here's a boardgame trivia question for you: Name a game that Klaus-Jürgen Wrede designed other than Carcassonne. Well? Most of us are going to be just a little tongue-tied when asked a question like that, because the simple reality is that apart from Carcassonne and its many offspring, Mr Wrede isn't particularly well known as a designer. "Has he even designed any other games?" you might ask. Well yes he has indeed, and one of them is Albion, which first appeared towards the end of 2009, and is the subject of this review. It takes about 60-90 minutes to play, and is suitable for 2-4 players ages 12 and up.

In Albion, you are competing with other players to use resources like wood, fish, stone, and gold to be the first to finish building three settlements in Britain, formerly known as Albion. To do so, you'll have to avoid the native Picts, who will at times prove hostile to your building efforts. But perhaps more importantly you'll need to move your settlers and soldiers carefully around the map, building resource plants (to produce more resources), fortifications (to help with your movement), ramparts (to help with your defence), in the quest to be the first to complete all four stages of three different settlements. There's no trading, but from the description I've just given you'd be forgiven for thinking that it almost sounds a bit like "The Settlers of Albion", and Wrede's take on the classic gateway Catan! But is it any good? Let's find out.

A two player game in progress


Game box

Seen here is the Rio Grande edition, and pictured on the cover are some boats advancing upon Albion's shores. Say what? There's no boats in the game ! But I suppose this cover artwork functions as a gateway to the game's theme. Players start in the south of the land, and as new arrivals to Britain's shores your mission is to explore the land and start constructing buildings throughout it.

Game box

The box itself is a typical sized larger Amigo/Rio Grande type game, and the back of the box does a good job of introducing the theme as follows:

"As envoys of the Roman emperor, the players settle in Albion, as Britain was called before the arrival of the Romans. A contest to produce the best settlements and thus, earn the favor of the emperor, has erupted among the envoys.
With only few resources they build settlements, fortresses, and ramparts for settlements. By developing their settlements, the players attract more settlers, legionnaires, can acquire more resources, and extend their freedom of movement on the island. Players also have to deal with assaults from the Picts.
The game ends and a player wins when he completes his third settlement.

Box back

Component list

So here’s what you’ll find inside the box:

All the components

● 48 settlements
● 36 fortresses
● 24 ramparts
● 48 resources plants
● 84 resources
● 16 settlers
● 12 legionnaires
● 28 movement markers
● 35 Picts
● 1 game board
● 1 start player marker
● rule book

It's quite a ton of stuff, and each player gets quite a collection of items, especially all the different building tokens! Fortunately the box also comes with a quite nice insert for storing these components, with separate compartments for the components in each player colour.

Everything inside the box


Game board

The board features a map of ancient Britain, divided into 13 separate regions. It folds into quarters and is made from sturdy materials, and is reasonably attractive as far as boards go. It takes up a fair amount of table space, so it immediately gives the impression of being a "big" game, which is quite appropriate given that it's a game in which players are expanding their personal empire and developing buildings across the landscape of Albion.

Let me briefly direct your attention to a few special regions on the board:
● Players begin the game in the light green "launching" region at the very bottom of the map, and this is also the area to which their settlers must return each time they do a building action.
● Four of the regions produce the resources used in the game: a fish resource region in the lower south-west, a wood resource region toward the south-east, a stone resource region on the mid-west, and a gold resource region in the upper north-west.
● While these light green regions and the resource producing regions are quite safe to build in uncontested, the other seven dark green regions on the board all feature Picts (represented by the aggressive axe icon) which will potentially challenge building activities in these regions.

Map of Albion


The four resources in the game are represented by attractive cardboard tokens with artwork that visually identifies each resource: 24x fish, 22x wood, 20x stone, and 18x gold. These are really fantastic!

Fish, wood, stone, and gold tokens


In each of the four player colours (blue, red, white, and black) there are a series of tokens used to represent buildings for each player. All buildings are built in various stages, and there is a separate token for each stage. To keep things simple, I'll just show you some of the building tokens for the blue player.

● Resource Plants

These buildings produce the four types of resources, i.e. the Fishery produces fish, the Lumber Mill produces wood, the Quarry produces stone, and the Gold Mine produces gold. Each player can build one of each of the four types of resource plants in their colour. Each such resource plant consists of three stages, which will be placed on top of each other progressively as they develop: stage I, stage II, and stage III. The more developed a resource plant is, the more it produces, e.g. a stage I Fishery produces 1 fish, a stage II Fishery produces 2 fish, and a stage III Fishery produces 3 fish. Pictured here are the stage III building tokens for each of blue's four resource plants.

● Settlements

Each player must eventually build three Settlements in their colour, each of which consists of four stages. In fact, this represents the game's win condition - the first player to build all three Settlements and successfully develop them all to stage IV is the winner. Stage I and stage II Settlements will also give you bonus settlers/soldiers, while a stage III Settlement allows you to develop another building from stage II to III for free - these bonuses are represented by the icons at the top of the Settlement tokens.

● Fortresses

Each player can build up to three Fortresses in their colour, each of which consists of three stages. Stage I and stage II Fortresses will increase the movement of your settlers and soldiers by giving you an additional movement marker, while a stage III Fortress lets you start a settler's movement from the Fortress rather than the usual launching area.

● Ramparts

Each player can build up to two Ramparts in their colour, each of which consists of three stages. Ramparts increase the strength of your overall defense, which you'll need in order to prevent the Picts messing with your building plans.

Player pawns

Players move on the board using two types of pawns: Settlers (who can build new buildings) and Legionnaires (who help with defense over against the Picts). Each player gets four settlers (triangular style meeples) in their colour and three legionnaires or soldiers (circular disks) in their colour. Note that the game accidentally comes with four instead of three legionnaire tokens in each colour - this can cause confusion, but it's better to get too many components than too few!

Settlers and Legionnaires for the blue player

Movement markers

On your turn, you will move your settlers and legionnaires from region to region, and the amount of movement is determined by how many movement markers you have. Each player starts the game with one movement marker in their colour.

Movement marker for each player

There are also neutral coloured movement markers, which you can get by building stage I and stage II Fortresses, and these will increase your movement further. You'll want to get these, in order to enable your settlers to move around Albion more quickly to get you to the places where you want to build!

All the neutral movement markers


Not all the inhabitants of Albion are friendly, and Pict tokens represent the hostile native forces who may just try to resist your construction efforts. There are 35 such tokens, 17 of which indicate peace (blue handshake icon) while 18 indicate assault (red axe icon), a certain amount of these tokens (depending on the amount of players) will be placed in the dark green regions at the start of the game. When you build in a region with face down Pict tokens, you'll have to flip one face-up to see whether or not they are attacking the buildings in that region on that turn.

Example of a peaceful Pict (left) and an assault Pict (right)

Start player marker

This tile is used to designate the start player, since after the game end is triggered the final round is concluded to ensure that all players get an equal number of turns.

Token for the starting player


The rules are readily available on BGG right here. Unfortunately it's not exactly a model rule-book; there are large masses of text in small print, making the game-play appear more complicated than it actually is, and there's a number of obvious but small typographical errors that came about when the game was translated into English. This probably hasn't helped the game's reception, but if you read/watch a few reviews you should be on your way fairly easily, and a print-out of Antonello Piemonte's rule summary should help learning and running the game as well.

The instructions



Each player takes all the tokens and markers in their colour - it's a lot of stuff, and it's best to sort them out according to the different buildings you can construct. Players start the game with a stage I Fishery and stage I Lumber Mill in the appropriate resource regions, a stage I Rampart and settler in the launching region at the bottom of the board, and a stage I Fortress in one of the two dark green regions at the bottom of the world. Everyone also begins the game with two movement markers, one in their own colour, and a neutral one as a result of having a stage I Fortress. You also get some initial resources - the starting player (who also gets the start player marker) begins with 3 fish and 1 wood, while the next player in turn order gets 3 fish and 2 wood, then 3 fish and 3 wood, etc. The remaining resources and movement markers are placed beside the board accessible to all players, while a certain number of Pict tokens (depending on the number of players, and as indicated on the region spaces) are shuffled face-down and placed randomly in the regions in the upper half of the board. We're ready to begin!

A three player game gets underway

Flow of Play

Beginning with the start player, players take turns doing one of the following two possible actions:
● Take resources
● Move & build

So either you're getting resources, or you're moving and building; and then it's the next player's turn. The game will continue in this fashion until someone has completed the building of three settlements all to stage IV, and the game ends at the conclusion of that round. So let's explain the two possible actions in a little more detail.

Taking Resources

This is very simple: each of your resource plants generates resources equivalent to its stage; e.g. a stage II Fishery produces two fish, while a stage III Lumber Mill produces three wood. You simply take these resources from the supply, and that ends your turn. Obviously the more well developed your resource plants are, and the more resource plants you have, the more resources you'll produce! In the example below, blue's stage III Lumber Mill would produce three wood, while red's stage II Lumber Mill would produce only two wood. If blue chose to take resources, he would get three wood along with however many fish, stone, and gold that his other resource plants produced.

Two wood-producing Lumber Mills

Movement & Building


When choosing this action, you may move your settlers and legionnaires from region to region. The amount you may move them is limited by the number of movement markers that you have (at the start of the game this is only two, but building Fortresses will get you more), and each boundary you cross counts as one movement action. You begin the game with only one settler in play, but building more Settlements will get you more settlers or legionnaires, thus if you have several movement markers you can use them to move different settlers and legionnaires on the same turn. There's a special rule about legionnaires - as part of their movement, they can carry a face-down Pict from one region and bring it to another region, thus decreasing or increasing the chances of local hostilities in a certain location.

Multiple settlers ready for movement from the launching region


After you've performed your movement, each of your settlers may build in the region that they are in, either by starting a new building, or by advancing an existing building to the next stage. Each player is limited to having one building per region. To do this action, follow these steps:

1. Pay building costs: The cost is paid in resources to the supply, and if it's a stage I building you pay a single resource; for a stage II building you pay two different resources, a stage III building you pay three different resources, and so on. There's a special rule about paying tribute: if an opponent already has a building in the same region that is the same stage or higher than the one you are constructing, you must give one of your resources to him as a tribute. Stages are built progressively, so you start with a stage I building, then stage II must be built on top of stage I, stage III on top of stage II and so on, thus each time advancing a building to the next stage.

2. Return the settler: A settler can only perform one building action per turn, and after building it has to be immediately returned to the launching area at the bottom of the board. You can use another settler in the same region to advance the same building to the next stage, however.

3. Deal with Picts: Before your building project is successful, you have to check to see whether your efforts have incurred the hostility of the native Picts. If there are face-down Pict tokens in the region, one is turned face up; if it's a "peace" icon, it's discarded and everyone cheers, but if it's an "assault" icon, it's left face-up on the board for the rest of the game, and means that the Picts are attacking all buildings in that region at that moment. The total face up "assault" Picts in that region are tallied, and all players in that region tally up the strength of their ramparts elsewhere on the board plus any legionnaires in that particular region; the total must be at least equal to the strength of the Pict attack, otherwise they lose a stage of a building in that region.

Red has already built two stage IV Settlements

4. Benefit from buildings: Once built, your buildings give you various benefits as follows:
Resource plants - increase your resource production, as described earlier.
Settlements - represent the game's win condition since you need three stage III Settlements to win the game, while stage I and stage II Settlements immediately let you take a new settler or legionnaire (your choice) for immediate use on the board.
Ramparts - increase your overall defense against the Picts, each stage cumulatively contributing one point to your strength in addition to any legionnaires in the region under Pict attack.
Fortresses - help with your movement, with the stage I and stage II Fortresses each giving you another neutral movement marker, while a stage III Fortress enables you to begin one of your settler's movement from that Fort rather than from the launching area.

End of Game

The game end is triggered when one player has advanced three of their settlements to stage IV, and one of these settlements must be in region marked with a laurel wreath. Naturally in order to build stage IV settlements you'll need to pay their building cost with four different resources, so this does mean you'll have had to build resource plants for all four different types of resources earlier in the game. The round is completed to see if any of the other players also can obtain the victory condition required to win, and Picts on the board and resources in hand are used as tie-breakers in the event of a tie.

End of a two player game won by red


What do I think?

Gateway potential: In many respects Albion meets the classic criteria to serve as a gateway game. It's got enough theme to make it interesting, a relatively straight-forward rule-set, decent components, and a good amount of decision making, all packed into a 60-90 minute time-frame. The only thing it might lack is strong replayability. Hardcore gamers may find things to criticize, although even they might find it enjoyable as a medium weight game, but certainly families and casual gamers are likely to find the level of strategy and other aspects of the game quite pleasing and rewarding.

Components: The components are fairly good, with a nice board, great tokens for the resources, and attractive building tokens. The way the game works with layers of counters to represent each building stage works well, and may even remind wargamers of "stacks"! It does make for a lot of counters and bits, and the game can take a bit to setup and organize your pieces. By mistake the game even comes with an extra legionary token for each player. But overall it's an attractive enough product that should appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike.

Rules: The rules themselves are fairly straight-forward, making them easy to teach and learn firsthand if at least one player already knows the game, to the point where Albion seems to meet the mark as a gateway game. Unfortunately the rulebook is marred by a rather poor translation from the original German, and the game could also have benefited enormously from a good player aid. In the end Albion is not at all a complicated game, but if you're learning the game from the rules it may appear more complex than it really is, and so ideally you want to have at least one player who already knows the game and can teach it.

Theme: The game is a euro - of course - but the theme actually works reasonably well, and isn't quite as pasted on as it sometimes can be with games of this sort. There are a few odd elements in which the mechanics don't seem to mesh with the theme (e.g. why should settlers be forced to return to the launching area after developing a building?), but the idea of settling Albion and fending off the Picts is a good one, and is well integrated with the mechanisms that require players to create resources and then use them for constructing buildings. I've always enjoyed games which have a theme related to colonizing and building up some kind of a civilization or empire by constructing buildings that give you various benefits, and that's all part of the package here. in fact there's enough theme here to make Albion the kind of game that you can dare to introduce to new gamers, unlike some of the dry cube-pushing euros out there; in fact there's not even any cubes or victory points to be seen! In fact, both the theme and style of gameplay are among Albion's strengths, and it has got more theme going for it than games like Ticket to Ride and others.

Strategy: Unlike many a euro, you won't find any cubes in this game, and the mechanics do feel quite different from your average euro. Yet many other hallmarks of a typical euro are still present, notably the integration of various elements of gameplay that require careful decisions from a limited number of choices. Luck is only marginally present, in the form of the Pict tokens. Instead, players need to make strategic choices in an effort to build up somewhat of an engine that will enable them to construct their buildings as quickly and efficiently as possible, because time is of the essence, and optimizing the quickest path to building your stage IV settlements is key. Should you start by building resource plants, or fortresses, ramparts or settlements? You'll need resources to build other buildings, so naturally you'll want to build up your resource plants to make them more productive. But you also will need the movement tokens provided by your fortresses, to help your settlers get to your building locations more quickly. Speaking of settlers, you'll also want settlements, because these will give you more settlers. And as for ramparts, well, you'll find yourself wanting those as the threat of Picts increases during building. And of course you'll want to be beating your opponents to key locations so you'll need to take your opponents plans and building efforts into account as well! Managing all these things at once can create some tense decisions - not ones that are heavily complicated, mind you, but difficult in the sense that you want to do everything at once, making it tough to choose what's best at any given moment. And what you can accomplish on a turn will accelerate as the game progresses, with more resources, settles, and building benefits to work with. The player who can best manage all these elements will usually be the winner, and it's this kind of strategic and tactical potential that makes the game fun to play.

Tension: Albion really does feel like a race, and that's what it really is: who can be the first to build three settlements to stage IV? It often proves to be a closely contested race, and when one player does get the job done, others will often only be a round or two behind. But the game also feels very much like a race on a smaller tactical scale. It's in your interests to build in a region before your opponents, so that you can potentially benefit from their tribute or perhaps force them higher up the board and slowing down their progress by requiring them to use up extra movement. And should you build another rampart to increase your overall strength, in case an opponent decides to build something in the same region as one of your buildings, potentially triggering a painful Pict assault, or should you instead build something different that enhances your overall development and builds up your economic machine? All this does create a degree of tension and competition which prevents the game from being an exercise in solitaire logistics.

Replayability: There's not really much luck in Albion, aside from flipping Picts to see whether or not they are peaceful or cause an assault. While the absence of luck is a real strength in many ways, it's also the game's biggest weakness. Andrew MacLeod articulated this nicely about the game as follows: "After my first game, I thought it was the ultimate gateway game! Then, it quickly became apparent that each game of Albion is pretty much like every other game of Albion. So I think it's a game that every one should play ... once." Even if he's overstating his case, there's certainly some truth to this, because over time you could find yourself scripting an optimal path, or finding a favourite order of building and developing your structures in each game. The map and starting set-up are also quite static from game to game. Granted, there is enough interaction and competition to prevent this from being absolutely true and game-breakingly decisive, because there's enough player interaction to prevent games turning out exactly the same each time. But after a few plays, you might feel like you're doing the same thing from game to game.

Interaction: There is more interaction in the game than appears on the surface. In a two player game, you can pretty much ignore your opponent and build uncontested in the regions of your choice, but the competition really heats up with 3 and 4 players, as the benefits of getting tribute and the pain of paying it become quite important, thus playing a bigger role in your decision making. New players will often underestimate the importance of this subtle interaction, because what you give your opponents in tribute might just be enough to let them get ahead in the building race and make the difference in who wins. The Picts keep things interesting as well, especially with more players, because more buildings are built in each region, thus increasing the risk of a Pict assault. So you'll need to time your moves carefully so that your defense is strong enough to handle a potential assault triggered by your opponents, and conversely you'll be trying to monkey with your opponent's building plans in the same way, ideally forcing an assault on their structure when they're not ready for it. These elements prevent the game from being completely a one-shot wonder, so you should at the very least get a number of plays before you tire of it, even if it will never have the same kind of longevity as established gateway games like Settlers of Catan.

Picts: While I like the element of the Picts in the game, they didn't play a huge role aside from forcing players to build up ramparts in defense and occasionally acquiring some legionnaires to bolster defence. They add to the gameplay experience, to be sure, and undoubtedly there are ways you can try to manipulate them by bringing face down Picts into regions where your opponents are building. But in reality you're often building there too, and furthermore it's debatable whether it's worth spending time, effort, and movement to potentially hurt an opponent when you could be using the same energy to further your own progress - in most cases you'll choose the latter option. They're a nice thematic touch and perhaps their biggest impact is their potential: they heighten tension and interaction by forcing players to build up their defenses, especially when playing chicken with another player in the same region. Even though they will rarely hurt a careful player who is well prepared, the game would be a far more bland experience without them, because they force players to be prepared and cautious, and at times will dictate that defense is the order of the day, forcing you to postpone other developments in favour of meeting the potential of an immediate crisis. As such their presence on the gameboard is responsible for creating a lot of the tension and interaction, even if it's rare that a successful Pict assault actually happens.

Length: A complete game of Albion can easily be played with 60-90 minutes. The flow of play is usually well paced, with little to no down time, and this is another point that counts in its favour. There's some potential for occasional analysis paralysis, as you try to plan out a series of successive moves, but for the most part the game moves along quite sharply, and at no point can you afford to absent yourself from the game table for any real length of time. There's plenty to think about on your opponent's turns, and before you know it your own turn comes around again; and what's more the game doesn't drag on longer than it should.

Scalability: As mentioned already, there's not really enough interaction when playing with only 2 players, and the game really shines with the tougher challenge that results from playing with 3 or 4 players, which forces players to compete more fiercely in their building efforts. More players makes the role of paying tributes more important, thus making it more vital to be ahead in the building race within a given region. It also increases the number of Picts and the chances of them making an assault. One has to wonder if some small tweaks could have been added to make the game slightly more competitive with less players, for example by eliminating the use of one or two regions, but as it stands the game is definitely at its best with four players, and also with three - and having a game like this that works well with three players is a real asset.

The Picts in this region have a strength of 6!

What do others think?

The critics

So why might you not like Albion? Even though the game has less than 100 comments at this point, it has attracted its share of low ratings and negative comments, and here are some reasons why:
Replayability: The primary reason cited by numerous gamers is a concern about a lack of replayability, reasoning that because there's not a high degree of randomness, the optimization race will quickly become similar after a while, and the game will feel the same after several plays. Even those who enjoy the game acknowledge that there is some truth to this, and once you've figured out an optimal path you can pursue it without your opponents being able to do much about it, so in that regard replayability may be somewhat limited, and the game can develop a repetitive feel. But this doesn't mean it's inherently a bad game, and you'll certainly have fun spending a few games trying various options and strategies in figuring out what that optimal path might be - and there isn't necessarily just a single one. Furthermore, the race to be the first to build in regions and benefit from tributes, along with some interaction caused by assaulting Picts, especially in a four player game, will keep things interesting and prevent each game being exactly the same. I also find it striking that while many have suggested that there's potential for the game to be solvable with a optimal or perfect strategy, nobody has made any suggestion about what this strategy or perfect order of developing buildings might actually be - so it seems that this quest isn't exhausted just yet.
Theme: Some gamers are looking for more theme, and it has to be admitted there are elements that are pasted on (e.g. what's the logic behind settlers returning to the start area after building?). Even so, there are also elements of the theme that work rather well, and in that respect I think some of Albion's mechanics are more thematic than your average euro. Its concept of dealing with hostile native Picts and building up a civilization works reasonably well, and sets it apart from your typical economic game. It's an interesting enough theme as far as I'm concerned, even if it doesn't disguise the fact that it's a euro.
Interaction: You'll find complaints from those who find the amount of interaction insufficient. It's true that there's no real direct confrontation, but to say there is no interaction is an overstatement - it's indirect and subtle, especially in manipulating the Picts, and in competing to build in different regions, which has an impact on tribute. Furthermore, some gamers actually prefer games without strong interaction in the form of sharp conflict, so the somewhat multiplayer solitaire feel will actually appeal to many folks out there. In this particular case, however, it has to be admitted that while interaction is present, it is somewhat subtle, but it does play more of a role than first meets the eye.

To be fair, you'll also find several comments from folks who feel that the game is under-rated, and not worthy of harsh criticism, despite some minor flaws. In fact, many of the reviews are quite positive! If there is a valid concern it would have to be the point about replayability, even if it's sometimes overstated by not sufficiently taking into account the interaction that is present. How you feel about the other criticisms will largely depend on your personal taste.

The praise

So why might you like Albion? Let's hear from some of the folks who have enjoyed it or have good things to say about it:

"This is a fun, light civilization building game." - John Fetter
"Lots going on in this game ... it's got all the elements of a good Euro." - Shanthi Gonzales
"Neat little game that is quite good." - James Smith
"I liked it, partly for the implied history, and partly for it's subtlety. There's player interaction here, but it's not direct." - El-ahrairah
"Wrede made another good game that I'm certain will be as overlooked as Pompeii." - Dave Kudzma
"Not sure why this game is rated so poorly. A tight efficiency game." - Jim Leesch
"Has a nice little engine-building scheme where you have to balance between production, movement rate and defense." - oskari
"The theme is neat and the game mechanics work for what it is." - Giles Pritchard
"The comments here had originally turned me off of Albion, but now, having played it, it turns out to be an interesting game with both strategy and tactics, and almost no sign of luck." - Andrew MacLeod
"My new favorite game. It's fairly easy to learn and play, and has great bits and a beauty of a board." - Joe J.


So, is Albion a game for you? In the final assessment, it's not a bad game, and it even has enough elements to make it feel different enough from most euros in a crowded field. But the reality is that it suffers the misfortune of appearing in a very competitive market that already has many superlative games all begging for attention, so its cries to be played can quickly become drowned out by louder voices.

Even so, Albion is still worth bringing to the table for a number of plays, especially if you like games that are about colonizing by using resources and settlers wisely to construct buildings and develop your own miniature civilization. If you can pick it up cheaply, and don't mind playing something that you know in advance could have a potentially short shelf life, then by all means consider getting it; I've enjoyed my plays of the game well enough, and so has my family. You can certainly get some fun out of playing it a few times, and maybe even get some of your non-gaming friends to give it a shot as well - you can always give it to them as a gift if they happen to like it!

Albion is never going to match the height of success achieved by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede's Carcassonne, because it doesn't really have enough legs to compete with the very best. But it's still good enough to offer both gamers and non-gamers more than just a couple of sessions of enjoyment. And let's be honest, isn't that more than what some of Mr Wrede's more outlandish Carcassonne expansions deserve?

Blue wins a close 3-player game

mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews:

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Roger Fawcett
United Kingdom
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Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
There's just one kind of favor I'll ask for you - you can see that my grave is kept clean
Nice review, as always, and I agree, particularly with the replayability part. However it is a good gateway and I have a copy for my Boardgames club at school. In the UK it was only £8 until recently in The Works (one of our discount bookshops). Readers may still be able to find it.
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Brian Robson
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EndersGame wrote:
... what's the logic behind settlers returning to the start area after building?

We actually thought this was pretty thematic ... the settlers move north, build and then settle ... i.e. they stay with / occupy the new building. The settlers moving back represent additional waves of settlers moving north.

And I fully agree about the replayability limitations ... once you know what you're doing, it becomes a race to optimise your collect and build capabilities.

Get Earthworm wrote:
In the UK it was only £8 until recently in The Works (one of our discount bookshops). Readers may still be able to find it.

That's why we picked this one up. It was a real bargain at £8!
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Get Earthworm wrote:
I agree, particularly with the replayability part. However it is a good gateway and I have a copy for my Boardgames club at school. In the UK it was only £8 until recently in The Works (one of our discount bookshops).

Quite right Roger, it can serve as a gateway type game, and can prove to be good value for gamers who get the chance to snap it up at a good price point - £8 seems to be a good deal for a game like this.

brainrob wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
... what's the logic behind settlers returning to the start area after building?

We actually thought this was pretty thematic ... the settlers move north, build and then settle ... i.e. they stay with / occupy the new building. The settlers moving back represent additional waves of settlers moving north.

A clever and satisfying solution to this thematic conundrum, thanks for suggesting and sharing that Brian!
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Aron F.
United States
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Another great review, with great photos!

This game has caught my eye many times, a tribute to the great box art. I may still get it, if the price is right, but I'm not rushing to my local FLGS to get my hands on it. You are right about the market for such games as nearly saturated.

I'm glad to see you are back to reviewing strategy games, instead of kids games and party games. Maybe there are others who like the kids game reviews, and cancel me out, though, so don't change anything just for me.
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Dan Poole
United States
North Carolina
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Udu Wudu
Udu Wudu
Great review. Alas, I felt this game was incredibly boring. It just did nothing for me.
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brainrob wrote:
And I fully agree about the replayability limitations ... once you know what you're doing, it becomes a race to optimise your collect and build capabilities.

Critics of the game often say things like the following: [taken from the BGG comments]
"I'm sure there's a clear cut path to optimum efficiency"
"It's a worry that the game seems virtually solvable"
"After a few plays you can script the optimal path and their is little of nothing your opponents can do about it as it plays rather solitary."

Yet I find it interesting that nobody (to my knowledge) has actually posted anything in the forums about what this optimal path might be. Well, how about it? If there is a single winning path to victory, then let's hear some suggestions about what it is!

While I am somewhat somewhat sympathetic to the concern, in defense of the game I would argue that the subtle amounts of interaction caused by jockeying for position on the board, and the impact of tribute (which is dependent on the order and location in which players build) play a larger role than what some people seem to think. What's more, the need to build up a defense (via ramparts and legionnaires) isn't calculable in advance; how often an assault will be triggered and what its strength is will be dependent on where your opponents are building, and which Pict tokens are revealed. All this precludes having a single way to win, because the game will play out differently each time depending on what other players are doing and you'll need to take this into account when optimizing the best path to win.

It's certainly not a completely solitaire exercise, at least, not with 3-4 players (I'd probably recommend avoiding playing with just 2 players aside from your first couple of plays when this doesn't matter so much). Despite somewhat of a static starting setup, and while choices might feel somewhat similar from game to game, you will need to adjust your strategy and choices depending on what other players are doing, and where and when they are building.
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Alter Ego
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Fantastic review!

Played the game few times and always liked it, but then it fell victim to the cult of the new (which I am trying to fight back more and more nowadays).

And thanks to your review, I feel that I may just need to resume/dust it off and give it a few more plays. Who knows, maybe I'll find this optimal path (in which case, I will post something in the relevant forum).

Thanks for this amazing contribution/write-up!
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