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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Saturday, 9 November 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Walking in Provence

Game: Walking in Provence

Publisher: EmperorS4

Designer:  Wei-Min Ling

Year: 2019

Walking in Provence comes hot on the heels of the success of Walking in Burano, which we reviewed earlier this year, which was picked up for broader distribution by AEG. Walking in Burano used the setting of Burano, with its multi-coloured houses to create a really stunning looking card-laying and drafting game. Walking in Provence takes another beautiful setting, and uses it to create a very different card-laying game, with lavender and wheat fields, punctuated by mills, churches, small towns and sunflower fields.

After you've created a beautiful landscape, its important to take the perfect picture. You can do this by whizzing around on your moped, or taking an aerial shot with your drone. After all, if there's no photos on Instagram, did you really even go to Provence at all?!

Walking in Provence is a competitive card game for 2-5 players that takes just 20-30 minutes to play. You'll be racing to take the best shots first, but also hoping to arrange your landscape to meet various objectives by the end of the game.

Gameplay

At the start of the game a number of cards are drawn which represent the photographs that the players will need to take during the game. Each player will then be given a single starting terrain card along with a drone meeple and a regular meeple and then be dealt 2 terrain cards into their hand. On your turn you may place one of your two terrain cards into your map before handing the remainder to the next player. In addition to the one you were handed you will draw a second card from the deck so your hand always contains 2 terrain cards. The game will continue this way until all terrain has been played.


The cards are placed onto, adjacent to, or even under existing cards in your growing map of Provence. Each card features 6 different squares of terrain on them and you'll want to place them so that you get growing fields of crops or towns so as to match your photo requirements. After placing your card for the turn you will then attempt to take photos. You have 2 ways to take photos: on foot or via drone. Simply move the relevant meeple to an empty space on your map (the ones featuring a single tree) and then place the relevant template over (for the drone) or next to the meeple. You then assess whether the terrain covered by the template matches any of the requirement cards that were dealt out earlier. If so you can place one of your markers on the topmost free spot on that card.

While these photos are the primary way to make points, it's not just about photography. It's also about exploring a beautiful landscape. At the end of the game each player will score points based on the landscape they have created. There are points available for large fields of grain and lavender, for towns with full complements of shops, and even for ensuring all the sunflowers are pointing towards the sun! Combine these bonus points (or potentially penalties!) with the score for all of your photos to determine the winner.


Amy’s Final Thoughts 

Walking in Provence implements the card laying mechanics that you may be familiar with from games such as Honshu, and presents it in a new way. You aren't simply trying to make large areas of single types of land, but instead creating specific patterns. Specific patterns that, importantly, have a spot nearby that you can stand to take a photo or send up your drone. This really is the key change as suddenly angles become important, there's no use making a great field with a town in the background if you can't find a place to stand where you can get it all in frame!

The card drafting is as basic as drafting can be, with only 2 cards available at any one time. While you can attempt to starve your opponent of certain land types (forests, sunflowers, churches and windmills are all relatively rare) it's impossible to know if they will simply pick one off the top of the deck next turn. This makes the game more about personal choices, what is best for you? And while this does work very well it makes it feel like a fairly solitaire experience, the existence of other players only determining who gets the points for taking the first photo in a certain category. Certainly in a two player game we tended to find that players would manage every photo unless something strange happened and we tended to have a fairly even spread of first and second place photo awards. I imagine this would have a bigger effect on the game with more players.


Walking in Provence is a charming card game. The card laying may not be anything new, but it is done well. There are plenty of potential penalty points for mistakes which may well be worth including to take photos before covering up later. This helps encourage risky play and eventual mistakes. The end game scoring is well balanced against the in game scoring to keep everyone unsure of who has won until the last minute. Sometimes you can get a photo all set up only to realise that your drone can't quite fit it all in its lens which is infuriating, but in a good way. Overall I don't think it's a game I'm going to be coming back to time and time again, but it is a solid card laying game that's well worth trying if you get the chance.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

If you’re familiar with Honshu or Samurai Gardener, then you’ll be very familiar with the way that Walking in Provence looks. The key concept with your tile-laying or card laying is that all cards must touch orthogonally over overlap or underlap – which can sometimes be a little challenging if you’re trying to slot a card into a tricky spot. That’s really where the similarities stop, since the way that you obtain cards and score in the game are quite different to the aforementioned games. It’s additionally worth noting that Walking in Provence is certainly not a sequel to Walking in Burano, since mechanically it really has no resemblance.

Walking in Provence isn't a game I picked up on the first play. I found that there were a few too many scoring objectives to keep track of. You want to take your photos, make places for the photographer to stand, meet the end game scoring objectives by exceeding other people at the table, as well as keep track of the five ways to score that are detailed on your player aid - it's a lot! This feeling of not being able to grasp it all in the first game is great if it's a game you'll be playing with the same people repeated times, but for a faster filler, like Walking in Provence really is, it does limit the audience that I'd want to introduce it to. Personally, I prefer a puzzly tile laying game with simple scoring that really exercises your brain, rather than more of a plate spinning exercise.

I really appreciate that Walking in Provence does do something different with the card-laying - it stands out as a game that's more unique than other games I've played like this. It's certainly my favourite, above Honshu and Samurai Gardener, because it starts to edge out of the filler territory into something that' a bit more satisfying. It's a pretty crunchy experience for 20 minutes, and my only limitation would be a preference to keep playing this with the same people because it was a bigger learning curve than I anticipated, and a surprisingly challenging spatial puzzle for someone who usually finds this kind of game to click really fast.


You Might Like...
  • Walking in Provence is great for people who love puzzly games.
  • There's enough variety in the scoring objectives to make each game challenging and different.
  • Although there's a lot about the game that seems familiar, the photo areas are a really interesting and unique scoring mechanism.
You Might Not Like...
  • Luck of the draw and hate drafting can play a small part in whether you can achieve an objective.
  • There's no real connection with Walking in Burano, so don't be mis-led.

The Verdict
7/10 Walking in Provence is a really puzzly card game. In your first couple of games, the number of scoring objectives might be overwhelming, but there is a long term replayability benefit to becoming more familiar with the types of scoring in the game. It may not be quite as strong and uniquely thematic as Walking in Burano, but it's a great drafting game with staying power and a very satisfying filler game.



Walking in Provence was a review copy kindly provided to us by Emperor S4 Games.

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