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 5 January 2021

A Squirrel & a Hedgehog Walk Into an Inn:- Tiny Towns: Villagers

Game: Tiny Towns: Villagers

Publisher: AEG

Designer: Peter McPherson, Josh Wood

Year: 2020

Tiny Towns: Villagers is the second expansion for the resource puzzle/town builder Tiny Towns. While the first expansion added the concept on money to the game, this expansion adds people to live in your town. Animal people, in the form of cute hedgehog, mouse, and squirrel meeples. In addition to these cute new locals there is  the usual selection of new building cards and monuments to further deepen the available strategies in this cube-laden puzzle.

At the start of a game of Tiny Towns: Villagers you'll shuffle and deal out one building card for each building type as normal. You'll then place out two villager cards, one with a low cost and one with a high cost. These villager cards define what the villagers can do in this game. The game will then play much as normal with players taking turns to name a resource, each player taking a cube of that resource  adding it to their board. Once they have made a pattern as defined on the building cards they can replace all those cubes with a building token built in one of the spaces that the cubes were removed from. The game will continue like this until there are no spaces left on anyone's board at which point you'll earn the points for all your buildings, minus points for spaces on your board without a building on it.

With the Villagers expansion, each player will start with three villager meeples in three corners of their player board. At the end of a round if there is a cube any on these villager's spaces they will move one space to get out of the way of the construction. However if you spent the cube on their space by building on top of the space they are on then instead they will hang out on the new building and become available to you. You can only spend villagers who are dwelling in buildings, and you can spend them in a variety of ways. Each game has two options, one that only requires a single villager, and one that needs a pair or even all three to use. After a villager is used it will return to your map on an empty space ready to be recruited again.

These powers are varied and interesting, letting you break some of the key mechanics of the game, for example one of the single villager tokens lets you build a building with one fewer resource than it required. Not only does this let you build faster, or when a certain resource is rare, but it allows you to build a building in a slightly smaller environment than you are used to. But the true wonder of this expansion is how it changes the way you play.

In Tiny Towns it can become possible to have a plan the whole way along, knowing what buildings you want and where by the end of the game and how to get there. Of course your opponents will get in your way by picking resources you don't want, but if you know you'll need a brick in a certain space later in the game you can always dump it there early and use it when it's needed. Tiny Towns: Villagers makes everything a bit more chaotic. Naturally you want to build on top of your villagers to get their powers used and get them back on the field to use again. But you must build directly on the space that they are standing on. You can ensure your squirrel is standing in the right space early on, but then you may find yourself throwing away resources you desperately need because if you place that stone there early then your furry buddy will run away. This will either lose you the bonus you could have got, or force you to build the building on a square that isn't ideal for your strategy. Deciding how and when it's important to get villagers and when they are simply a nice bonus is key to doing well in this expansion.

Overall I'd say this is the better of the pair of Tiny Towns expansions The villagers are extremely interactive and the new buildings are often concerned with their immediate neighbors which helps break up some of the previous dominant strategies of simply amassing one building type. Villagers does add a little more complexity to the game than Fortune did, but that's no bad thing, indeed with both expansions thrown into the pot Tiny Towns is transformed from a light game into a veritable brain burner of a spatial puzzle, if you ask me that's the best way to play!


Tiny Towns: Villagers was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk 

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