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Author: Knut Happel

Schmidt Spiele 2005



With the new game Angkor by SCHMIDT SPIELE the so far more or less unknown author Knut Happel has decided to tread along the rather common line of tile-placement-games. However, as you will see in this review, this does not mean that a game has to be boring because it offers no absolutely new rules, but instead a good re-composition of known concepts and elements sometimes is sufficient to create a respectable little game with a good replay value.

The game itself is concerned with the building of Temples at the historic complex of Angkor Wat, a Temple site which is hidden deeply in the jungles of Cambodia. Here the rulers did hold themselves for gods, and thus each king wanted to erect a Temple in his name at the immense complex. In the game, the players now take the positions of such rulers who want to build the most valuable temples in the jungle, but while building their temples the players always will have to keep the wild-growing jungle at bay so that it will not re-claim any of the freshly built temples.

As starting preparations, each player receives his own jungle-gameboard with roughly square-sized jungle spaces on which he is going to build his temple-complex, and furthermore each player also receives a screen behind which he can hide his hand of Angkor-tiles. There exist 6 different kinds of Angkor-tiles in the game, but all of them are randomly mixed at the beginning of the game and each player receives a starting hand of 5 tiles from this stockpile of mixed tiles. These tiles the players secretly put behind their viewscreens, with the exception of tiles showing a Princess. These special tiles are not used at the beginning of the game, so that a player who draws a Princess for his starting hand will return her to the random stockpile and draws a replacement tile instead. Finally, each player receives three playing figures: a Tiger, a Statue and a Fountain.


During his turn, a player now has two actions, for each of which he may either put a tile from his hand onto a gameboard or bring one of his playing figures into play. Since the playing figures are immobile and stay at their positions until the game has handed, the far more often occurring action is the placement of Angkor-tiles. Apart from the Princess, and Angkor-tile may also show jungle, water, a courtyard, a pagoda or a temple. The latter three are the buildings which a player will place onto his own gameboard in order to score points at the end of the game, and then each courtyard will be worth one victory point, each pagoda two points and each temple three points.

As for placement, the three scoring-tiles and the water tile may only be placed on a player`s own gameboard. Here they must be placed either horizontally or vertically or diagonally adjacent to an already placed tile of one of these four kinds. Since each player`s gameboard is empty at the beginning of the game, each board shows two fixed temples around which the player can place his Angkor-tiles. A player even may place one of the tiles over an already placed tile (thus cancelling out the covered tile), but here the exception is that water never can be covered with any other tile.

However, there also exist the jungle-tiles, and these tiles are not destined for being placed on a player`s own gameboard, but instead they are placed on a gameboard of another player. When placing a jungle-tile onto an other player`s gameboard, this tile need to be adjacent to either the outer rim of the gameboard or vertically or horizontally adjacent to an already placed jungle tile. Thus, by the placement of jungle tiles a player actually can hinder the progress of other players, since he can place jungle-tiles in a way so that they may claim already built parts of that player`s temple complex. Still, as well as on the player`s own gameboard, the rule that water may not be covered also applies when placing jungle-tiles, so that the owner of a board may actually try to protect his temple-complex by a good placement of water tiles.

Of special importance for each player are his three playing figures. As indicated above, each figure may only be placed once and remains stationary at a player`s board until the end of the game. However, since the figures may considerably increase a player`s victory points at the end of the game, a player needs to plan carefully where he wants to place his figures, and thus the player`s often wait until a few turns have passed before placing their figures. When the game ends, the players will get additional points for each interrelated jungle area connected to a Tiger, each interrelated water area connected to a Fountain, and each interrelated courtyard connected to a Statue. Here the connections must be made either horizontally or vertically, and the players will receive one additional victory point for each correct Angkor-tile connected to the fitting figure.

The final evaluation will be made when the game ends, and this happens when a player turns over the fifth and final Princess-tile during the game. Now the players will count the points they receive from their courtyards, pagodas and temples, adding up the possible points for their figures, and the player with most victory points will have won the game.

As indicated in the beginning, the game does not offer any absolutely new rules, but instead it relies on components which are well-known from one game or another and which have been re-composed to create a new game. However, this by no means should express that Angkor is a game without its own unique challenge. Quite the opposite, I would consider Angkor to be a rather coherent and harmonious game, where rules, artwork and background story have been blended into a perfect mix which has led to the creation of a light strategy game with a good balance between luck and tactics. Especially due to the twist that players also may place tiles on the other players` boards a good degree of player interaction is ensured, and from this factor the game also derives a good degree of playing fun. To sum it up, the game stands rather well-positioned in the long standing tradition of tile-placement games, and here its good and attractive playing mechanism makes it better than most of its peers.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany