Undoubtedly nearly everyone reading this article harbours the hope that, after they’ve passed on from this life, they’ll be well remembered by those they’ve left behind - hopefully in positive ways! When our minds traverse the terrain of such somber thoughts, most of us hope to remembered as individuals who have left the world a little bit better than we found it. We want to be recalled as having been hard workers; people who contributed to our families and communities, and people whose accomplishments were worth at least a degree of notoriety. Well, if you get an opportunity to play the award winning title Village, designed by Inka and Markus Brand, you’ll have the chance to play out these reflections at least at a microcosmic level! In Village, you’ll be taking control of several generations of workers and, by meanings of steady work and tough decisions, you’ll attempt to ensure that their accomplishments are valued and recognized after their passing.
At this juncture it’s worth noting that Village is game that has made some history of its own, and has already ensured that its name is written in the annals of contemporary boardgaming achievements! This sleek euro has already won a slew of awards – most notably the 2012 Kennerspiel award from the Spiel des Jahres folks. If one were to produce a chronicle reflecting on the most notable and highly regarded games of the past two years, there’s no doubt that Village would figure prominently in that account! It has received accolades for being one of the best strategic euro games to see publication in recent years and its praises continue to be sung long after the heady days of it initial release have passed.
Will you be able to pilot your family’s fortunes to glory? Will the names of your Village family members enter the chronicles of history, crowned with victory points? Can you make the tough life and death decisions that will ensure that your deeds live on long after you do? Or do you just want to know more about this lauded title from Tasty Minstrel Games? Read on dear friend, and all shall be revealed below!
Our first glimpse of the game happens when we greet the cover art on the game box, which is your standard sized square box, typical of games like Dominion or Days of Wonder titles like Ticket to Ride. And isn't that young lady in the middle of the picture just positively blushing with excitement? Perhaps it is on account of the close proximity of a tall, dark, and handsome beau, or could it be that she is already anticipating with delight the cube-pushing that lies within the box? And what of the children in the lower right, who clearly are not so much receiving instruction about the art of medieval wheel-making, as they are about the finer points of worker placement from a wise and aged gamer who has been around the euro-point salad block more than just a couple of times. And then there's the monk near the church-yard, apparently writing a ledger of notable community figures, but we all know that his mind is on other things, like multiple paths to victory, and whether or not he can get free shipping with his next order from his favourite online retailer. Well, let's not restrain ourselves any longer, and turn over the box and see if we can learn more.
The back of the box indicates some key essentials that we want to know: that it's suitable for 2-4 players, plays in 60-90 minutes, and is considered a "complex" game suitable for ages 12 and up. There's also a picture of the attractive game in play, accompanied with a complete component list, and an introduction to the theme of the game. Special mention is made of the tactical challenge afforded by the way in which the game handles death, which is apparently a frequent - although not entirely unwelcome - visitor to our village, and requires smart time management.
As with any good euro game worth its salt, there's a solid collection of game components inside the box, and they're all attractive and well produced. Here's what you get:
● 1 game board
● 48 family members (11 in each of four player colours, plus 4 black monk meeples)
● 1 sticker sheet
● 32 player markers (8 in each of four player colours)
● 4 player farmyard boards
● 48 influence cubes (18 in each of four colours, plus 6 black plague cubes)
● 2 drawstring bags (one green, one black)
● 40 goods tiles (scrolls, oxen, wagons, plows and horses)
● 20 grain tiles
● 24 customer tiles
● 15 coin tokens
● 1 start player token & 1 next starting player token
● 3 setup reference cards
● 1 mass reference card
● 1 rulebook
Wow – that’s a lot of stuff!
All the components
The board for Village has certainly been beautifully and pleasantly produced. There’s certainly a lot going on here. In the first place, the board depicts the village that your family members will be living and working in - not to mention dying! There’s a church, a council chamber, craft shops, and a market. There’s even a glimpse, in the top right hand corner, of the world and cities that lie beyond the village! Each of these locations on the board also boasts an action space. Over the course of the game, you’ll be taking influence/plague cubes from these various locations and carrying out the actions associated with them. Overall, the board is a remarkable work of art that’s simultaneously aesthetically pleasing and functional.
The main game board
Special mention can be made of the village chronicle located at the lower right of the board. This is the book where your pioneering villagers will enter upon their passing from this life, to preserve their memory and achievements - and of course earn victory points!
The village chronicle
You gotta love games with personal player boards, and Village is not exception in this regard. These boards represent your home base – the ol’ homestead if you will. Your farm board is where you’ll store your family members, when they are new arrivals from the supply. Prior to being dispatched to the main board in order to work in the village, they'll help with producing grain at the family farm, because you won't be able to harvest a crop without at least one farmer back at home! You will also store your grain tokens, influence cubes and goods tiles here as well. Most notably, however, your farm board also has a life time track that is made up of the cloud icons which encircle the board. As you’ll see below, time is form of currency in this game and it also ensures that some of your ‘older’ workers pass on in due course. You mark the passage of time on this board and that’s one of the niftiest things about Village.
Farmyard boards for the players
So these are the folks that you’ll be working with over the course of the game. There are 11 for each player, in the four player colours seen here.
Meeples in four player colours
Prior to your first game you’ll need to apply stickers to your meeples in order to identify which generation of your family they belong to. The game comes packaged with a sticker sheet with stickers for all of the various family members and while it’s a shade on the irritating side to have to carry this process out, it really doesn’t take that long, nor is it a particularly onerous process. When you’re done, you’ll have four first generation workers, three second generation workers, two third and two fourth generation workers. As the game progresses you are going to have to grow your family (by acquiring workers of successive generations from the supply, with the help of the "family" action), but also ‘kill off’ some of your family members (by culling older first and second generation members of your family). Expect to attend some funerals! Careful management of these processes really lies at the heart of the game and accounts for a great deal of Village’s novelty within the euro game universe.
Four generations of family members
There are a few other workers in the game – four black meeples representing village clerics. These fellows will get tossed into the black drawstring bag and may get drawn during the ‘mass’ phase that occurs at the end of each round of play. Essentially their function is to add an element of randomness to the resolution of the mass phase, by making it statistically less likely that a player’s workers will be drawn from the bag.
The four monk meeples (with transparent stickers)
You’ll have eight player markers in your colour and they’ll serve a variety of functions over the course of the game. You’ll use them to track your score on the prestige track surrounding the game board. They also serve as markers indicating which cities you’ve visited on the travel map. You’ll also use one to track movement on the time track that surrounds your farm board.
Player markers in the four player colours
Influence & plague cubes
There are 18 cubes in each of four colours (orange/green/brown/pink), plus 6 black plague cubes. At the start of each round, you be seeding the board with these cubes. Once the board has been seeded, on your turn you’ll have to choose one of these cubes from the board (selecting it from a specific action space such as the church or a craft shop) and place it on your farmyard before you can carry out the action that’s associated with that particular space. While it's not necessary to remember, thematically these influence cubes represent things like skill (orange), persuasiveness (green), faith (brown), and knowledge (pink). More important is their game function - they are a necessary resource that will be used to help you acquire things like goods tiles, to travel, or to place/advance family members in the church and the council chamber.
All the influence cubes
Plague cubes will cost you time and hasten the demise of your older family members. And let’s be honest, no euro worth its salt would be caught dead without some coloured wooden cubes.
All the plague cubes
The green drawstring bag is used to randomize the influence and plague cubes before they’re seeded onto the board. Just as with the black bag used to randomize the family member and monk meeples during the resolution of the mass at the end of a round, this is of a good size and is durably constructed.
The two cloth bags
Even medieval villagers need money. These coin tokens are clearly illustrated and well made from good cardboard stock. During the game, you'll gain coins by travelling and/or at the mill (located in the upper left-hand corner of the board). There are three ways to use the coins you collect. Firstly you can use them to buy points in the Council Chamber; secondly you can use them to ensure that your family members are drawn during the mass; and thirdly you can use them as a joker/wild in the place of any influence cube. Extra coins in hand will even get you VP at the end of the game.
You don’t have to feed your family like you do in Agricola – but you’re still going to need lots of grain over the course of the game. In a medieval village, it's arguably a more precious commodity than coins in some circumstances! Grain is stored on your farm board (to a maximum of five tokens), where it is obtained by your family farmers using the harvest action. It will be used to help you do things like sell to customers at market, to gain goods tiles, to get your hands on some cash at the mill. But perhaps most importantly, you'll need grain to advance your family members in the church. There's nothing like a well timed tithe to advance your family members with clerical aspirations! They’re attractively tokens and they’ve been well made from good cardboard stock.
There are a number of different goods tiles (scrolls, oxen, wagons, plows and horses) and they can be acquired in the craft shops of the village. They are used to do things like improve the size of your grain harvest, advance your fortunes in the council chamber, travel to neighbouring villages, or sell to customers in the market. They are tough to get, and often will prove very valuable once you’ve got them – so getting them efficiently and maximizing their utility is one of the more interesting and challenging parts of the game. Getting one of your family members an apprenticeship in one of these trades will often be a wise move that reaps dividends later in the game!
Scrolls, horses, plows, oxen, and wagons
These 24 tiles represent the folks that you’ll be meeting at the village marketplace, and the items they wish to purchase. Choosing the market action will allow you to turn in the items depicted on the tile and earn the indicated number of VP at the end of the game. One of the neat things about the market phase of the game is that it's the only action that requires the involvement of all of the players.
Some sample customer tiles
Start player markers
These do pretty much do what you’d expect them to – one indicates who is currently the start player (the tile featuring our lovestruck couple), and the other indicates who will be the start player during the next round (the tile picturing the ring).
The start player marker
Interestingly the start player doesn’t move clockwise from round to round. If you want to be start player in the coming round, you’ll need to acquire that privilege by exerting your influence in the village’s Council Chamber. Having political influence in a medieval village apparently does have its advantages, and one can only wonder if it leads to the occasional arranged marriage in this particular village!
The next start player marker
Set-up reference cards
These three cardboard set up cards show you how many cubes and what colour of cubes to add to the green bag and how to seed the board with those cubes once you’ve done so. The precise distribution will vary, depending on the number of players in the game, so you’ll need to use the setup board that corresponded with the number of players you’ve got. It's a handy reference item that could otherwise have remained buried on a page in the rulebook, requiring frequent consultation, so having it handy in the form of these reference cards is a great idea.
Reference tiles, for 2, 3 and 4 player games
Mass reference cards
This reference card provides a helpful and quick overview of how to resolve the mass which is said at the end of every round. Like the setup cards, the mass overview card has been constructed from good thick cardboard stock, and is a useful reference item that greatly assists in streamlining and remembering aspects of gameplay that could otherwise be hampered by a need to look up details in the rulebook.
Reference tile with mass overview
The rule book for Village is twelve pages long and has been printed in full colour. It has been logically laid out, is clearly written and is particularly noteworthy for providing lots of excellent examples of game play situations – examples that are presented with both pictures and text. Overall this is well done rule book that should help get this game up and running quickly. You can check it out here:
English rulebook for Village
Sample spread from the rulebook
With the game board in the centre of the table, each player should receive their own farmyard board and eleven family member meeples in their chosen player colour. Place your four #1 family members on your farm board – they will function as the first generation of your family. Your remaining family members represent future generations and they can be set aside as a supply.
Now place one of your player markers on the life time track that encircles your farm board - it starts on the cloud located to the right of the bridge icon. Place another player marker on the book (0) space of the prestige track on the main game board.
Each player also gets one coin to start with, while the remainder of the coins is set beside the board to form a supply. You will also need to place all of the various goods tiles (horses, oxen, plows, scrolls and wagons) next to the board as a supply. The same can be done with the grain tokens, as well as with the influence and plague cubes.
Individual player set-up
The next step is to get the market place set up. This will vary slightly depending on the number of players. You’ll begin by shuffling all of the customer tiles and placing them in a face down supply next to the board. If you are playing with four players, place a customer tile face up on each of the ten market spaces. With three players, leave the space marked with a four empty; while with two players, leave spaces three and four empty.
If you’re playing with just two or three players, you’ll also need to block off a number of spaces in both the village chronicle and the unmarked graves. To do this, use meeples of an unused player colour, and use them to cover up the spaces marked with a four; for a two player game also use them to cover up the spaces marked with a three.
Place the four black monk tokens into the black drawstring bag and then place both the black and green bags next to the board. Having the reference cards handy is also a good idea.
As a mark of respect for their greater degree of decrepitude, and as a nod to the theme, the oldest player becomes the start player and receives the start player marker. Let's play!
Complete set-up for a two player game
Start of a Round: Placing cubes on action spaces
The game of Village proceeds over an indeterminate number of rounds. At the beginning of each round you’ll need to seed the various action spaces on the main board with influence and plague cubes. To do so, you’ll need to consult the setup card in order to determine how many influence cubes to take from the supply and add to the green drawstring bag. In addition, you will also be adding all of the available black plague cubes to the bag. Once you’ve added all of the cubes to the bag and thoroughly mixed them, randomly draw cubes from the bag and place them on the action spaces in the quantities indicated on the setup board. Any cubes left in the bag after you’ve seeded the board will stay in there and be mixed in with the cubes added at the start of the next round. Equally, if there not enough cubes of a given colour to be added at the start of a round, just add the cubes that are available, because you’ll still have enough cubes to fully seed the board.
Seeding the cubes for a two player game
Player Turns: Taking actions
Having set the game up and seeded the board with cubes, you are now ready to start taking your turns, proceeding in clockwise order from the start player. On your turn, you’ll select one cube (either a regular influence cube or a black plague cube) from an action space on the main board, and then carry out the action associated with that space. When the last cube has been removed from the board the round will be over – but we’ll say more about the end of round activities in a few moments.
So let's talk about what happens when you take a cube from an action space. If the cube that you choose is an influence cube, you’ll place that cube on your farm board for later use; you may store any number of influence cubes on your farm. If, however, you’ve elected to take a plague cube, things will play out a little differently. It will immediately be returned to the supply, and you’ll need to move the marker on your time track two spaces forward in a clockwise direction. If your marker passes over the bridge icon on the time track, well, you’ll be organizing a funeral to say good-bye to one of your family members – but more on that later.
Next, having taken your cube from an action space, you’ll proceed to carry out the action associated with that space. While taking a cube is mandatory, taking the action associated with that space is optional (the one exception being when you choose a cube from the market place).
Cubes and action spaces
So, let’s say something about each of the action spaces and these actions let you do.
● Grain Harvest
If you take a cube from this action space (and you have at least one family member in your farmyard) you will receive two grain tokens from the supply. If you happen to have acquired a horse and plow token, you’ll receive three bags of grain. Makes sense, right? Bigger and more farm equipment, more crops! If you’ve been particularly industrious and acquired an ox and a plow tile, that number will increase to four. Now that you've got yourself two, three or four bags of grain, you store them in your farmyard. Note that you can only store a maximum of five bags of grain at any one time.
The harvest action space
We'll leave the gripping stories about medieval village childbirth aside for now, and just say that this action space will provide you with new family members from the supply. After you’ve taken your cube, immediately take one family member from your supply and place it in your farmyard. You must always take the family member with the lowest available number from the supply. As an alternative, you may also use this action to return one of your family members from the game board to your farm yard.
The family action space
Taking a cube from one of the five craft spaces will allow you to acquire goods tiles that can be placed in your farm yard for future use. There are two ways to make use of the crafts spaces. You may pay for the goods tile by paying with time, that is to say, by moving the marker on your time track forward a number of spaces. Alternatively, you may also acquire goods tiles by paying for them with the influence cubes or bags of grain that you’ve acquired during the course of play.
Paying with time:
Let’s begin by considering how to pay for goods with time. Before you can pay for a goods tile with time, you will first need to ‘train’ a family member in the appropriate craft. To do so, place a family member from your farm board onto the craft building where you wish him to commence his apprenticeship. This will cost you a certain amount of time – as indicated by the hour glass symbol depicted next to the gray family member on the building’s roof. Having done so, you may now produce the indicated goods tile by again expending several units of time – in this instance, an amount equal to the number of hourglasses inside the production arrow located on the building’s roof.
Once you have placed a family member on a given craft building, they will remain there until they either ‘die’ or you remove them back to your farmyard via the family action. As long as that family member remains on a particular craft building, you will be able to produce that goods tile at a later point by taking an influence cube from the craft action space, simply paying the amount of time indicated in the production arrow.
Paying with cubes or grain:
As an alternative to paying with time, you may also pay for goods tiles with influence cubes. When paying in this fashion you do not need to place a family member on the craft building. Rather, you may purchase the indicated goods tile by returning the specified influenced cubes (or grain) to the supply.
As a related comment, note that there is no limit to the number of goods and/or coins that a play may have. If the supply ever runs out of a specific commodity, you may use an suitable replacement to make up for the shortfall.
The craft action space
Amongst the possible actions you might take, the market stands out as being unique in several respects. In the first place, if you select a cube from market, then a market action must be taken. Secondly, once a market action has been triggered, all players will have the opportunity to participate in its resolution.
Resolution of the market action begins with the player who triggered the action and continues clockwise around the table until all players have had an opportunity to serve the available customers. The first thing to note is that the ‘available’ customers are only those customers located in front of a market stall – that is, spaces demarcated with a blue border. The other customers are waiting in line and will served during a later market action.
To serve a customer, return the required goods and/or grain from your farmyard to the supply. Then take the customer tile and place it face-down in on your farm board. At the end of the game these customer tiles will be worth the number of VP indicated on the tile, and these points can prove quite lucrative.
After the player who triggered the action has chosen and paid for a customer tile, each other player (in clockwise order) will have the opportunity to serve a customer. There is one difference, however. In addition to paying the required goods and/or grain, the remaining players must also pay one green influence cube and one unit of time. Now, you don’t have to serve a customer if you don’t want to – but, if you pass when your opportunity comes round, you can’t re-enter the customer-service round at a later point. The player who triggered the market action has opportunity to sell more goods in a similar way, i.e. at the additional cost of a green cube and time unit.
When the market action concludes you’ll re-fill the market stalls by moving customer tiles forward and adding new tiles from the customer supply to the line. In the rare event that all of the customers have been served and no tiles remain, the market action is no longer available for the rest of the game.
The market action space
Life in a village is great and all – but sometimes you just have hankering to get a glimpse of life in the wider world. Well, the good news is that if you’ve caught the travel bug, there’s an action that's right for you, because can send your family members out of the village into the wide world beyond.
If you select the travel action and you don’t have any family members on the travel map, you take a family member from your farmyard and place it on one of the two cities that neighbour the village. You will, of course, have to pay to do this – in this instance, the cost shown on the path that leads to said city. The cost usually includes a wagon as well as time - which makes good thematic sense - and a couple of influence cubes. Once you have visited a city, take one of your player markers and place it on that city – this will allow you to earn VP for having visited that city during the final scoring. When placing a player marker on a city, you also gain the immediate benefit offered by that city, eg 3VPs, a gold, or some cubes of your choice.
If you choose the travel action and you’ve already placed one of your family members on the travel map, you may move one of your adventurous family members already on the travel map to an adjacent city. Alternatively, you might elect to send another family member from your farm board to one of the two cities that neighbour the village, although be aware that travelling costs still apply, and that you don't get a reward from a city if you have already travelled there previously with a different family member.
The travel action space
● Council Chamber
Taking this action will allow you to choose from one of three possible outcomes.
● You may take a family member from your farmyard and place that individual on the first stage of the Council Chamber. Doing so will cost you either one unit of time and two green influence cubes, or one unit of time and one scroll token. You can then perform the privilege offered by the first stage (getting the next starting player marker)
● Move a family member already on the Council Chamber one stage forward. This will cost you one scroll token or two green influence cubes, as well as either two or three units of time – depending on the stage. You can then perform the privilege offered by that new or any preceding stage.
● If you already have family member in the Council Chamber, you may simply perform the privilege of the current stage (or any preceding stage) on which your family member is located without moving that family member.
These privileges offered by the various advancing stages of the council chamber are:
1. take the next-starting player token
2. take two influence cubes of your choice from the supply
3. take one goods tile of your choice
3. pay one coin to receive three VP
You may have any number of family members in the Council Chamber and on any stage of said Chamber. It's worth remembering that you also earn points for having workers in advanced positions in the Council Chamber at the end of the game.
The Council Chamber
Taking this action will allow you to add one of your family members from your farm yard to the black drawstring bag. Doing so requires the payment of one brown influence cube, or three time. The folks that you add into the bag will be detained in a secret CIA prison and never heard from again!!! Just kidding - they’ll be involved in the ‘mass’ that takes place at the end of the round – about which more will be said below.
Instead of taking a cube from an action space, you may elect to pay three influence cubes of the same colour back to the supply in order to carry out any of the previously discussed actions - with the proviso that the well action is only possible if there is at least one cube remaining on the board. In this way you can take an action corresponding to a space without any cubes.
The village well
End of a Round: The Mass
When a player has removed the last influence/plague cube from the board, the current round will end after that player has carried out their action. Following this final action the ‘mass’ phase of the round commences. Resolution of the mass involves the following three steps.
1. Draw four figures from the black bag. This is usually done randomly, but beginning with the start player and continuing clockwise, players can pay a coin to ensure that one of their family members is drawn from the bag as part of the four that are selected. Of the four selected figures, return any black monks to the bag, and place any other family members on the large, right most glass window of the church. Any family members still in the bag will remain there and may be drawn during subsequent masses.
Example of drawing figures at mass
2. You now have the opportunity to advance any family members that have been placed in the church. Beginning with the start player and proceeding clockwise, you can advance your family members by paying the number of grain tokens shown between the church windows. You may move multiple family members, and may move them up more than one window, providing you’re able to pay the necessary amount of grain.
3. Once the mass has been conducted, the player who has the most family members in the church receives a bonus of 2 VP. In the event of a tie, the 2 VP are awarded to the tied player(s) whose family member has advanced the furthest.
Blue's advancing churchmen
Death of a Family Member
As you’ll have noted from reading the above, time is a form of currency in this game. As the turns progress, you’ll be moving your marker around the time track on your farm board and, inevitably that marker is going to pass the bridge icon from time to time. When it does, it’s time to bid adieu to one of your family members at the conclusion of your turn. That is to say, you’ll have to choose one of your oldest generation family members (numbered #1, or #2 in the event all your first generation family members are all deceased) from either your farmyard or the main board, and ‘kill’ them off.
The decedents will be laid to rest in one of two places: the Village Chronicle or the anonymous graves behind the church. If your family member worked in a location for which space remains in the Village Chronicle (the shields in the chronicle are colour co-ordinated with the areas on the board) this is where they will be placed. Family members placed in the Chronicle will score VP for you at the end of the game. If, however, there is no room in the relevant section of the Chronicle, your family members will be placed anonymously in the unmarked graves behind the church – and they won’t score any VP when the game is over! Just as in real life, the history books remember and honour the first pioneers, but their descendents are quickly forgotten, and students of history tend to be far less interested in individuals who spend their life doing what countless others before them have already accomplished.
Entering the village chronicle after passing from this life
The game will end when either the last empty space in the Village Chronicle is filled, or the last anonymous grave is filled. The player who places a family member in either one of these locations does not receive another turn. However, each other player may perform one final action, either by taking an influence cube or by paying three of the same coloured cubes at the well. After each player has taken their final action, the last mass is said and final scoring happens.
End of a 2 player game
Victory points are awarded as follows:
Travel Map: Count the number of cities that your family members have visited and gain VP accordingly: 1 city = 1VP; 2 cities = 3VP; 3 cities = 6VP; 4 cities = 10VP; 5 cities = 14VP; 6 cities = 18VP.
Council Chamber: Each of your family members on the first stage earns 0VP; on the second stage earns 2VP; on the third stage earns 4VP; and on the fourth stage earns 6VP.
Church: Each of your family members on the rightmost window earns 2VP; on the second window earns 3VP; on the third window earns 4VP; and on the leftmost window earns 6VP. Family members still in the black bag are worth nothing.
Village Chronicle: VP are awarded depending on the number of family members who have been entered into the Chronicle. If you have only succeeded in getting one or two family members into the Chronicle you won’t receive any points. Three family members earns 4VP; four family members earns 7VP; and five or more earns 12VP.
Customer Tiles: Reveal the customer tiles you’ve earned during the course of play, total the values on those tiles and score that many VP.
Coins: Each coin is worth 1VP.
Whoever has the most VP at the end of final scoring is the winner. If there is a tie, the player who has served the most customers is the winner; if there is still a tie, the player with the most “living” family members is the winner.
A busy church at the end of a 2 player game
What do I think?
It's a quintessential euro. Don't let the theme, the artwork, and the awards, all fool you into thinking that this is a highly thematic game. At the end of the day, it's still a euro through and through. Cube-pushing - check. Euro-point salad - check. Multiple paths to victory - check. Time frame of 60 to 90 minutes - check. Medieval village theme - check. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad thing. But for some reason, it was more euro than I was initially expecting. There's lots of different ways to get points, and as such the game is arguably even quite `dry' in terms of the mental thinking that's required. Village meets the classic definition of a euro admirably, and it's certainly a very good one.
It's an innovative euro. What sets Village apart from other worker placement type euros, however, is that it does introduce something genuinely new, by having a mechanic where your workers die as the game progresses. They are really another resource, as is the use of the mechanic to track time, but it's implemented very cleverly and adds an interesting twist to what otherwise might be considered a staple in the genre. The "dying meeple" mechanic in particular may seem somewhat ordinary now that the game has been out for a year, but it really is an innovation that introduces a new element that genuinely makes the game stand out from the average cube-pushing euro.
It's a mechanically interesting euro. Although it's often considered a worker placement game, you'll find extensive debates suggesting that this isn't really the case. Without taking sides in this debate, I think it goes to prove that in some respects Village doesn't fit the usual mold in terms of its mechanics, and has elements that are hard to classify. For example, it is sometimes argued that it's not really a worker placement game, but almost more an action selection game, because the heart of game is about drawing cubes to take actions, rather than placing your workers/family. However you see it, the upshot is that it's not a typical worker placement game, and there are elements about the mechanics that prove quite interesting.
It's a thematic euro. As with most euros, the gameplay of Village is somewhat dry and abstract, and mostly revolves around optimizing your resources and maximizing your point scoring through various ways. But Village does have a theme, and it does matter. For example, taking the harvest action gets you grain, but if you've previously used one of your apprentice craftsmen to get an ox and a plough, you'll double the size of your grain harvest. Or consider the travelling action, which requires spending time as well as a wagon resource. That all makes sense thematically, as do a lot of the other elements of game-play. There's enough theme here to keep the game far from being a pure abstract, and in my estimation it's much stronger here than it is in many a euro, and it also helps with learning the game. The theme is somewhat well-worn, but it's family friendly, accessible, reasonably convincing, and does make a positive contribution to the overall experience of playing Village.
It's a beautiful euro. The beautiful artwork on the board and components helps strengthen the theme, and adds to the appeal of the game. The only unfortunate downside is that distinguishing the colours of the cubes may prove to be a problem for color-blind gamers. I'm also not sure I'm a fan of putting plastic stickers on the workers, but aside from that this game really looks pretty, and these strong aesthetics help make it easier to bring to the table, and helps make it more enjoyable to play.
It's a complex euro. This is not your typical Spiel des Jahre winning title, and it's not going to make inroads into the mass market like Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne, and that's because the rules and gameplay are more complex. Dorothy, we are no longer in Kansas, nor are we in Catan! Village actually proved to be more complex than I was expecting, and perhaps that because I wrongly was expecting something along the lines of Stone Age. This isn't on par with Stone Age, and isn't something that can be considered a gateway game. Rather, it is a genuine strategy game that requires players to absorb a decent rule-set, and the ability to make some tough choices in order to play well. Mind you, once you see the game work and how the parts move together (watching a video walkthrough) will prove immensely helpful), it's actually not that difficult. It's not a "heavy" gamers game, but it's certainly one or two steps up from your average gateway game.
It's a strategic euro. The increased complexity also means that Village has some real strategic depth. There's randomness in the form of the distribution of cubes on the board, the order in which market tiles appear, and the draw of workers from the bag for the church. But these elements only help strength the case for the game's replayability, and don't change the fact that overall it is certainly strategy that will win the day. In some respects there's some potential for AP because of the different optimal paths to consider, and the many ways you can earn points or use the different resources in the game. Fortunately the game itself keeps this in check for the most part, by limiting the amount of decisions you have to simply taking a cube and taking the appropriate action. So despite the many moving parts, the mechanism of having players perform microactions usually keeps things from bogging down. There are certainly many ways to win, and you'll definitely be getting a good strategic workout, with many different strategies to try and to explore!
It's a reasonably quick euro. Games usually take less than 30 minutes a player. I was especially surprised by how quickly we could whip through a two-player game - we consistently finish a game (including set-up and packing up) in under an hour. And when we were done, we were just itching to play again! Village plays well with the full range of players, although it's arguably best with the full complement of four players, in which case it may take closer to 2 hours.
It's a non-confrontational euro. The term multi-player solitaire often leaves a bad taste in people's mouths, although personally my family and fellow-gamers tend to prefer such games because they would rather avoid viciousness and direct confrontation. Village isn't exactly multi-player solitaire, because you are competing for cubes and action spaces. But the interaction is more competitive than confrontational, and the interaction never feels mean or nasty - there's no arsonist to burn down your opponent's barn, nor is there a way to send missiles to take out your opponent's council men. For me personally, the level of interaction feels just right.
It's a very enjoyable euro. Some euros are dry and dull, but the folks I played with all found Village thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. The more we played, the more we wanted to play again, and again! For us at any rate, it just proved to be an enormous amount of fun, probably because it ticks all the boxes for what makes a good euro, by getting the balance between complexity and length just right, along with interesting mechanics and satisfying game-play. Occasionally a euro comes along that stands out from the average fare, and Village is exactly one such game that we found ourselves wanting to come back to again and again.
It requires correct expectations. By now you'll have noticed that I've often repeated mention of the word "euro". Thinking about Village has made me realize how important one's expectations are going into a game. If you go into Village expecting big theme (e.g. after hearing repeated raving about the "dying meeples" mechanic), or if you expect a slight one-step above gateway game experience (e.g. after hearing about the SDJ Kennerspiel and other awards), then you may find yourself feeling slightly let down. It is really a quintessential cube-pushing euro, which isn't a bad thing in itself (Stefan Feld's Notre Dame is also, and I still love it!). But if you go into Village expecting a classic euro, then you will be impressed, because it does a good job of being exactly that, and adds enough innovations and theme to make it stand apart from the average. I found myself needing to recalibrate my expectations after some initial disappointment, but now I realize that was no fault of the game, but rather the result of faulty expectations on my part. Make sure you calibrate your expectations correctly, and you're more likely to enjoy Village for what it is supposed to be, and can appreciate the excellence it does offer.
Two apprentice craftsmen
What do others think?
Village does have its detractors and critics. As far as the components are concerned, the primary criticism raised is that the green and brown cubes can be difficult to distinguish for colour-blind folk. Questions have been raised in discussions about the variability of winning strategies, but the general consensus seems to be that there are multiple paths to victory. But perhaps the chief criticism you'll come across is that despite the innovation of meeples dying, ultimately Village is just a dry and soul-less euro which is all about cube-pushing optimization. This opinion is often somewhat overstated, but it does have to be conceded that Village is a typical euro game at the end of the day. As such it is somewhat on the dry and mechanical side, where the theme is more abstract than engaging - although I would argue that the theme is more present here than what I've seen in many a euro. Some gamers will find this all somewhat dull and flat, even though the game engine does what it's supposed to do rather nicely. Yet it's worth noting that even the critics do acknowledge that there are some new elements that distinguish the mechanics of Village from its predecessor worker placement games. As such it's a solid and worthwhile game, but if you really do have a strong dislike for cube-pushing euros, this fact that title brings some new elements to the genre and has won some awards is unlikely to change your aversion to the genre.
An experienced traveller
If you're not a fan of euro games, then no amount of awards or hype will convince you otherwise. But most people who praise the game highlight the fact that when measured alongside other typical euros, Village stands tall as one of the better games in the genre, not least because of some fresh mechanics and the thematic elements that are present, as is evident from comments like these:
"One of the best (if not the best) Eurogames I've ever played. Great theme and feel of the game, with a great deal of strategy." - Jones42
"Excellent worker placement game. Very refreshing mechanisms. Probably the best game of 2012." - Paul Nomikos
"I love this game. To date it's my favorite Euro. I enjoy the theme ... The various strategies seem well balanced." - Tony Fanchi
"A euro game that's actually fun." - David Bancroft
"The best euro of 2012 I've played. It made me remember why I generally like Euros the most of the games I own. The innovative mechanics are great too!" - Kolby Reddish
"Fantastic modern euro, top of its genre!" - Artur Zielinski
"A real gem here. There are a lot of underlying systems at work, but they come together in a surprisingly wonderful way. I am impressed at how smooth game play is given the variety of things going on. This is a true strategy game." - Brad Musil
"Really nice euro with lots to think about ... The theme is strong, and the generations and death mean that you have to plan well to win at this game. Recommended." - Joseph Cannon
"Brilliant worker placement euro, a lot of choices and strategy, the 'time/death' mechanic is fantastic and really adds an edge." - Sarah Andrews
"Great game with good nice and fresh mechanics! Fantastic stuff here!" - Pedro Pereira
"Village has some pretty common Eurogame features, but also a brilliant resource- and time-mechanic which makes it quite unique." - Elektro
"The right mix of tightness and rooms for creative play is what makes it one of the better Euro that came out recently." - Ninja P
The unmarked graves are full
It is lauded for its unique take on the worker placement genre, the fresh blend of mechanics (especially the use of dying meeples and time as a resource), the variable paths to victory that ensure multiple strategies and replayabilities, the thematic elements of theme that are present, and the scalability:
"An excellent take on the worker placement genre, with multiple paths towards scoring points and victory." - John Gulla
"I'm really liking this game. Very balanced. Lots of paths to victory. Theme and mechanics fit well." - Dave Seidner
"Wow, this is an amazing game! There is so much in this game, it makes for plenty of replay value, plus the "death" concept is incredibly unique and adds this "race against time" feeling to the whole game." - Matthew Johnson
"Highly replayable and innovative system of worker placement." - P. Rehberger
"A really nice example of a WP game. The game has some nice mechanics and varied paths to victory, definite keeper." - Neil Mason
"A nice, lighter Euro complete with interesting decisions, a multitude of career paths, plague, and dead family members." - Ryan Meeker
"An excellent WP game. One of my favorites at the moment. Has some complexity but it's not overwhelming. There are many paths to victory and just the right amount of randomness and luck." - Luis Diaz
"Impressed with the array of decisions and the fresh elements of how to take an action and killing off your family members." - Carol Carpenter
"Many extremely interesting systems wonderfully matched together." - Lucio Pierobon
"An excellent game with a lot of really novel mechanics." - Jack Otto
"The graveyard/time mechanic is wonderfully innovative for worker placement games ... Village is a very neat design with mechanics that flow elegantly throughout." - Christopher Boat
"Superb worker placement game with a dynamic time and resource element added in. The game is straight forward rules-wise, easy to comprehend (but requiring deep thought to make optimal choices) coupled with very low downtime. Highly recommended!" - Anastasios Kyparissidis
"I am so impressed with this game! Excellent scalability." - Matt Highfill
"A quintessential Euro, merges Agricola with something akin to Caylus. Blends theme and strategy very nicely. Nuances and depth of complexity appealing to the hardcore but still accessible through the theme." - Jason Kossowan
"Amazing Euro game that successfully conveys the theme and weaves an interesting story out of the game mechanics. Multiple paths to victory and an interesting time management mechanic makes this one of my favorite strategy games." - Brian Chung
So, is Village a game for you? If you approach Village with too high expectations as an award winning, innovative, and richly thematic game, you do run the risk of being disappointed, and even judging the game unfairly. But if you approach Village as a quintessential cube-pushing euro, you will really appreciate what new mechanics it introduces and what theme is present. It may not be a ground-breaking game set to alter the direction and design of modern games, but it does offer a fresh approach to a well worn genre, and it's certainly a splendid example of an attractive and thematic euro done well. As such, Village should deservedly go down in the history books as a worthy winner of the Kennerspiel award. This is an outstanding euro, that rightly comes highly recommended, and which fans of euro games should not miss.
The village market place
Credits: This review is a collaborative effort between EndersGame and jtemple.
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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- Last edited Thu May 15, 2014 2:38 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Tue May 14, 2013 8:07 am
no more questions, your honor! (very impressive review that leaves no question unanswered)
Fantastic review, reminded me I need to buy this beautiful game...
Fernando Robert Yu
Experiencing senility daily since... I forget.
Thank you for spending the time to write such a thourough review. It stands amongst the best reviews ever written on BGG.
Oh, and btw, are you excited to see your movie this fall?
- Last edited Tue May 14, 2013 11:22 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue May 14, 2013 11:20 am
Warlord beats Troll, Troll beats Elf, Elf beats Water Sprite, and basically everything else beats Enchanted Bunny.
Best review I have read in regards to quality, substance, and visual appeal!
One of the best reviews I've read, thank you. I've just bought this and I can't wait. We love cube pushing, meeple wielding worker placement euro's! Much appreciated. Nice images as well by the way.
As always, great review Ender.
One thing though, whilst playing The Village I got used to the concept that workers standing up were alive and lying down meant they'd passed away.
This image horrified me...
4 dead corpses in your farm yard - aaarrrrgghhh!
Spectacular review. No stone was left unturned
Great review, especially regarding the innovative things this game does. The pictures really put across how pretty it is.
We recently sold this though - despite all the plus points, we prefer other games where you actually form an engine (permanently reduce your need for resources) and buy cool stuff such as tools or buildings that let you bend the rules to your advantage
Due to the inevitable death of family members, and the need to sell the equipment you build, we felt that your family doesn't really advance during the game (although the travelling section offers a bit of that I'll admit). There's not much that's fun to acquire.
Instead there is the honour of your family members going down in history, which I must admit is cool. To further act as devil's advocate, there are more than enough games around where you form an economic engine and buy buildings, so there's room for this one.
Each to his own and there are obviously tons of people who love it!
Einmal ist keinmal
Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo
Don't let the theme, the artwork, and the awards, all fool you into thinking that this is a highly thematic game. At the end of the day, it's still a euro through and through.
This made me laugh.
I mean, was there ever any question? The theme? With a title of "Village", is there honestly anyone who mistook this for anything but a Euro?
In any case, nice review, as always!
Here comes SANTA!
I like games. I like Calvin and Hobbes. Oh, but I like games more.
Great review of an awesome game!
Nice review, as always. Just a minor correction on the well action:
Instead of taking a cube from an action space, you may elect to pay three influence cubes of the same colour back to the supply in order to carry out any of the previously discussed actions – with the proviso that the well action is only possible if there is at least one cube remaining on the action space you wish to choose.
p.9 of the rulebook wrote:
Note: The well action is only possible as long as there is at least one cube left
on any action space.
The only constraint for the well action is that there needs to be at least one cube on any action space, not necessarily on the action you intend to take. So basically, you can only take well actions during the round, not after it finished (which happens as soon as all cubes are taken).
Great review! We love this game and it sort of rotates with Stone Age. If only all rule books could be this clear though! It certainly made all the stuff in the box begin to make sense as we began our first play.
Nice review, as always. Just a minor correction on the well action:
The only constraint for the well action is that there needs to be at least one cube on any action space, not necessarily on the action you intend to take. So basically, you can only take well actions during the round, not after it finished (which happens as soon as all cubes are taken).
Quite right, I'm glad to have that corrected, edit made.
We've been playing this correctly; just got the write-up wrong despite reading and editing the review multiple times!
Ender -- Just wanted to say that your reviews are fantastic. The photos you use are out-of-this-world.
Bravo... this game is back on my radar. Thanks!
Outstanding review. My thanks.
I've played this game once and agree with your review. I found it fun but need to get in another play or 2 to solidify my thoughts. Definitely has promise. Great job on the review. I love your format.
Average game, great review. I would argue there are two kinds of euros: those where you need to take 5 actions but only have 3 and those where you need to take 5 actions and have 8. This is the latter. I never really felt like I couldn't get to take the action I wanted. It was just a question of which action and when.
Colonel Light Gardens
That review was so comprehensive my father died part way through reading it and I had to finish it off before deciding if I should buy it or not for my family.
Great review, I always enjoy reading the fruits of your labour.
Personally , I found this review rather underwhelming as it is way too short and lacks any substance . May I respectfully suggest that you make your next review more comprehensive as this one is bereft of detail ...
OK then - Excellent job - I can't imagine that any reader would need any more information to form an opinion as to whether to purchase or not !!
Personally , I find this an enjoyable title ..
♬♪♪ ♫ ♩ ♫♫♪ ♩♬♪ ♫
All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance... (Iain Banks)
Thank you for mentioning the problems faced by colour-blind players. This needs greater emphasis, however: red/green colourblind players are unable to manage the game at all.
Either the green or orange cubes must be replaced and notes added to the board before play is possible. It is a great pity that white cubes were not used instead of one of these. The board is very attractive and yet requires approximately 20 notes or alterations to be made functional.
Remember, approximately 1:12 men are colourblind and will have trouble with this game. If the publisher had replaced one colour with white, almost no-one would have difficulty. This must surely influence sales.
"Your results are back: it's negative"......um, is that a bad thing?
Just got this game last week, but haven't had a chance to play it. After reading yet another awesome Ender review, I feel I can jump right in without the rules.