Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 29 September 2015

All I wanted was the simple things, a simple kind of life:- Village

Game: Village

Manufacturer: Pegasus Spiele

Designer: Markus and Inca Brand

Year: 2011

Village life is a peaceful life, I’m happy to have moved here. I think the main difference is respect, when Charles left for the city half the village came to see him off. Two days later when we got news that he got run down by a wagon they held a memorial service and wrote his name in the village chronicles for all to remember. Then again when Michael died a week later no-one seemed to pay any notice, I swear I saw the vicar burying him alone after sunset. Perhaps he had done something wrong? Regardless it’s wonderful to live in a place where everyone knows your name, no-one has been murdered for over 20 years, It’s a wonder they don’t suffer with overpopulation really. But there does seem to be an awfully high accident rate...

Village is a worker placement/death simulator for 2-4 players, in it you take a family of meeple and try and make them live productive lives and not to be forgotten when they die. The game’s worker placement aspects are actually rather light, but very vital to ensuring that people die while doing the right jobs in order to make the most points.
The game has a variety of areas, which are each laid out with a number of cubes varying by the number of players. You perform an action in an area by taking one of the cubes, if you take a coloured cube then you can keep it and use it as currency, but the black cubes are plague cubes which move the death timer along two ticks. If there are no cubes to take on an action then no-one can perform that action until the board resets at the end of the round.

The actions vary in complexity; the family area (looks like a wedding) allows you to get a new meeple, or to call a meeple back from their job to work on your farm. The church area allows you to place a meeple into the church bag which you then draw from at the end of each round to see who becomes ordained and begins working in the church, there are points at the end of each round for the highest ranked church member. The market area allows you to sell the various items in the game for victory points, the person who starts the market gets to sell one thing for free, then people can buy the ability to sell using 1 green cube and 1 time. The travel area allows you to send a meeple to explore the local towns and castles at the cost of a wagon, time and a number of cubes, these offer various immediate benefits but also an end game bonus is awarded based on the number of places visited. The grain harvest area allows you to make grain at a rate that varies depending on if you own an animal and a plow. The crafts are lets you buy various items for cubes or sell grain for coins, you can also train people to be craftsmen so that you can make items for no cost but time. The council chamber allows you to become council members which allows you to take the first turn marker and a few other bonuses at the cost of green cubes and time.

The game board with cubes on the various areas, 2 craftsmen, 2 priests, an explorer, a dead councilman and a dead craftsman in the book.
A lot of things cost cubes and a lot of things cost time, what does that mean? Well cubes you get by doing actions and you generally spend a cube in addition or instead of paying time, especially for crafting cubes can allow you to make items ‘quickly’ without advancing your death timer. Time is a mixed bag of a resource, sometimes you don’t want to spend it, sometimes you can’t spend it fast enough, those black plague cubes can be surprisingly tempting. Every 10 time you have to spend one of your meeple dies, the meeples are numbered by generation, you always start with 1s and you get all the 2s before the 3s start being born etc. Conversely they must die in order, so all of the 1st generation has to have passed on before generation 2 can start dying off.

A player board, after taking 4 time worth of actions the counter will move under the bridge and a meeple will die!
The reason this matters is that there’s the village chronicle which records the lives of people in the village, but only the first people to be of note, there are a number of spots in the book (varying by player count) and you gain victory points for having 3 or more people in the book at the end of the game. Each job can only have so many people in the book, so if the craftsman section is full then your dying carpenter just went to an unmarked grave (harsh I know). The game ends when either the book or the unmarked grave plots fill up. Working in the church and the council actually have bonus points for having a meeple alive in them at the end of the game, depending on their rank at the time.

One of the things I really like about Village is that you can often be racing your opponent to kill someone off one before they do, but then later in the round be trying to avoid the plague as much as possible to keep your explorer alive long enough to travel to the next city. Killing off your meeple really is a mixed blessing and it makes for dynamic gameplay. The game also has very little luck, sure there is variance in the cube colours that come out in which places, but the number of actions available in each area is constant every round. The people who get drawn out of the church bag may be random, but you can always use coins to bribe your way out. The items you can sell at market changes, but it’s open information to everyone and you can see the next few items coming up to plan ahead. However the game can be a little intimidating at first, much like Shadows over Camelot, Village has a rule-book that takes some reading and has a lot of actions that you can do. Once you understand the rules the game play is surprisingly simple, but knowing when to do what action is always a challenge.


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