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, 26 June 2018

Serf's up!:- Feudum

Game: Feudum

Publisher: Odd Bird Games

Designer: Mark K. Swanson

Year: 2018


Feudum is a 2-5 player euro game in which you take on the role of medieval lords seeking to expand you land and renown. In order to do this you will have to manipulate the local guilds to gain favour, upgrade your land to become more productive and perhaps even conquer your enemies! All of this is controlled via a series of 11 actions which you can choose from each turn.

Each round you will select 4 of your 11 action cards (though you can pay resources to do a 5th). Most of these are fairly simple, for example taxing gives you money for every town you control, moving allows your pawns to move around the board, and repeat lets you replay an action card you have already played this turn. However, they each have nuances to them which contributes to the rather hard to digest rulebook (no exaggeration, it almost sent me to sleep). The worst culprit is the guild action, which in itself means do one of 6 actions around the board edge. However if you have influence in a guild then you may have access to one of 2 extra actions. In essence the guild card has 18 potential outcomes, Feudum is not a simple game!

As players move their pawns about they can claim influence over territories to control them, it's possible to take over areas from opponents by adding more influence tokens.

Feudum is played over 5 epochs, at the end of each there is a minor scoring round, and then final scoring occurs at the end of the 5th. The way the game manages epochs the first is likely to be the longest and then they will get faster and faster until the game ends, epoch 4 rarely lasts longer than 1 round. You will be rewarded at the end of each epoch for having spread across the board, and for having influence in the various guilds. But the guilds are where you get the bulk of your points, if you have influence in a guild you will unlock either it's pull or it's push ability. The pull ability tends to drain a neighbouring guild to replenish yours, while the push typically empty yours to fill up another. You are rewarded points based on how successfully you managed to pull/push, these are often a good chunk of your points at the end of the game. The incentive to do guild actions also ensures that the economy of the game keeps flowing.

There is no denying that Feudum has an eye-catching art style, everything from the box art to the main board has wonderful art. However this is countered by the fact that the art is not very conducive to playing. There are several issues, but the biggest one to me is the transport paths, certain routes can only be crossed by ship/submarine, which are represented by paths of waves/bubbles. While this looks wonderful it can be very unclear which is which and it took me until the second game to even notice that the central river has waves and is therefore a boat path! Further jarring with the art the player pawns are chunky, plain colour dice that lumber across the landscape sticking out like a sore thumb. It wouldn't have hurt for the influence markers, player pawns and even the tile that dictate the location types all to have been spruced up to fit in with the style.

The player aids are substantial, and extremely usefull as there are simply too many complex actions to memorize!

Gameplay actually flows pretty well once you understand it, though I have to say I hope never to be in a teaching game of Feudum again! Most of the actions can be completed quickly to keep the game flowing. We managed to play games in about 90-120 minutes for 2 players, with the variation mostly based on the random epoch lengths. There are certainly clunkier moments, such as checking who controls a guild, which changes as locations on the board change hands, or even get upgraded! In a two player game it also often felt like the guild's economy jarred a little as we didn't have enough pawns to properly fight for guild control, and also had less guild actions being played each round.

Feudum was definitely worth the investment of learning, and to anyone questioning trying it: the advanced game is barely any more complex and a whole lot more interesting to play. That being said, the investment to learn it is high and I dread coming back to it in 6 months having forgotten half the rules. The game has a fairly long set up and a long play time, which I worry might make the game very slow for a larger player count (though player actions can speed up epochs, so it may balance out a bit). As a two player game it's a good experience, but I do wonder if I could have had more fun playing multiple smaller games in the same time frame.

6.5/10

Feudum was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £72.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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