Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Fraser & Gordon Lamont


No. of Players:
2 - 4



No, the gnomes in A Game of Gnomes do not travel using the metrognome, but instead they have to use plain feet to get around the villages of the Gnoman Empire. Of course, there is no place like gnome, but just like good old Bilbo some of the gnomes have developed an adventurous streak, and so the story behind the new FRAGOR game from Gnordon and Fragner Lamont (sorry, got carried away…) could have been named Gnome and Away!"

Up to four gnomes/players may join the game which takes them onto 52 weeks of travels, and on their travels the players will try to collect Victory Points by gathering valuable gems, acquiring Treasure tokens, climbing Mount Gnome and plucking the famous mushrooms of the Montane King. The players also can travel into Gnome Man's Land, asking for quests at the Wizard's Tower, but unlike unfriendly Baba Yaga in Spellbound the sorcerer who dwells here will pay them an instant reward when taking up a quest, and the gnomes only will be penalized if the game is over and they still have unfinished Quest cards in their possession.

As the mentioning of 52 weeks of travelling time might suggest, A Game of Gnomes is run on a mechanism which is based on time consumption, with the players consuming one or more weeks of playing time during their turns. Most prominent among the time consuming activities is travelling between the different locations on the gameboard, and for this action the players have to use Travel cards which allow them to move across the three types of landscapes which can be found in Gnomeland: meadows, forests and mountains. The different coloured pathways form a gridwork connecting the different locations on the gameboard, and a gnome can travel most efficiently if he uses Travel cards showing the exact type of landscape through which the gnome wants to travel. In case such a card is not available to the player, other card combinations or Free Travel cards (jokers) also can be used for movement, but these cards usually will consume more than one week for getting from one location to the next.

All the time consumed by the players will not directly be recorded on the main Calendar Track (like in Thebes), but instead the time which a player spends during his individual turn for travelling and other activities first will be noted on a separate Timing Track which limits the amount of time a player can spend during his turn to a maximum of 7 weeks. Once all players have finished their turns, the time spent by the Gnome who has advanced farthest on the Timer Track will be transferred over to the Calendar Track, but depending on the relative positions of the other players' individual timers on the Timer Track those players who have spent less weeks during their turns will be allowed to rest, effectively gaining them some additional Travel cards. In this way the game balances between spending time for activities and the players' need to gain new Travel cards, and due to the shifting player order the players will be faced with some quite interesting tactical considerations based on timing issues.

The gnomes travel around the board to pick mushrooms and take them back to villages in exchange of valuable gems, but instead of fixed prices the villages will pay most for the first mushroom to be delivered, less for the second and even less for the third. After the third mushroom, a village looses interest in mushrooms altogether, and so the players strive for making the most valuable deliveries. However, the mushrooms are not simply growing everywhere, but instead mushrooms in different colours grow at some locations when the Main Timer on the Calendar Track comes to a new season, and so the players have to take into consideration the different seasons and the travelling times which it takes to get mushrooms to villages buying this type of mushroom.

Make gnome mistake, the players also face some restrictions which they can tackle by acquiring better equipment. Each gnome starts the game with a tiny rucksack (limiting hand size for Travel and Treasure cards) and a tiny basket (limiting mushroom carrying capacities), and in some shops around the gameboard the gnomes can acquire better equipment which increases their hand or carrying capacities, makes travelling more efficiently or even allows water travel. Apart from the already mentioned items each gnome starts the game in possession of one Tunnel Key which can be used to open the tunnel leading across the gameboard and one Pond Pipe which allows the temporary replacement of the standard gnome figure by an easy-travelling Froghopper, but since each of these items only can be used once other equipment cards will be needed for efficient play. In addition, the shops also offer Treasure cards, useless bric-a-brac which clogs up a player's hand, but these cards will count for additional Victory Point at the game's end

Overshadowing most of the gameboard, the dizzying heights of Mount Gnome challenge the players to make a mountain hike, since the highly valuable mushrooms of the Montane King grow only at the high cliffs of Mount Gnome. Movement to the foot of the mountain is made by standard routes using normal Travel cards, but to climb from one mountain level to the next the players need to use map cards which can be purchased in the shops. These maps offer movement possibilities between different positions on the mountain, and the players need to plan their mountain hikes in advance because each gnome only can carry a maximum of two maps. It is also possible to make normal movements on the mountain itself if the gnome stays on the same level, but due to the narrow mountain pathways it's possible here to get displaced by another gnome. This puts up an additional challenge for players out to collect a Montane King mushroom, and it allows for some minor direct player interaction.

As usual for a new FRAGOR game, A Game of Gnomes at first draws a good degree of attention just by the spectacular playing pieces, and this time the Lamont brothers have outdone themselves by including a whole mountain in the game. However, the splendid outer appearance of the playing components is not the only thing shared by FRAGOR games, but in addition the games created by Gordon and Fraser share the common trait that every one of them comes up with some quite interesting mechanisms. Sometimes the designs are a bit fiddly, sometimes on the edge of craziness, but a good entertainment value it's always a safe bet.

In case of A Game of Gnomes, the highlight of the game certainly is the mechanism which the Lamonts have chosen to represent the passing of time. Refining the basic mechanism which can be found in other time-based boardgames like the aforementioned Thebes, the connection between the Main Calendar Track and the time spent by the individual gnomes requires the players to think quite economically when it comes to the spending of time, and even though A Game of Gnomes runs for a total of 52 weeks this time may be spent rather quick if a Gnome is too careless when planning routes or dealing with shops. But what is more, the passing of time on the Calendar Track also has been interwoven with different seasons, and here some fitting in-game effects like the growing or shriveling of mushrooms, the freezing of the rivers or even the wizards footprints in the snow (easier passage to the Wizard's Tower) all contribute to the general challenge of becoming a successful gnomad of Gnomeland.

In fact, due to the amount of tactical considerations which are necessary on side of the players, it is a bit difficult to categorize A Game of Gnomes by a single term like "travelling game" or "adventure game". If compared with other FRAGOR titles, it is certainly less complex than Spellbound, but at the same time it offers more predictability and tactical stability than Dragonscroll. Due to this medium degree of complexity and the cute thematic setting, the game certainly will appeal most to family gamers, and with this target group in mind the Lamonts once again have succeeded in creating a unique, quite charming game with a good entertainment value. All in all, a typical FRAGOR game!

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Copyright & copy; 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany