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



Inka & Markus Brand


No. of Players:
2 - 4



Even though the game bears the name My Village, this new design by Inka and Markus Brand without reservations could be named My City or even My Metropolis. Falling into the rather popular category of tactical dice games, the setup of all playing parts on the gaming table leaves the players with the strong impression that they are up to something big: apart from the player boards and the central gameboard, the game features the considerable amount of 104 Village cards which have been arranged in a common display from which the players can purchase new cards for their villages, and this setup alone may frighten inexperienced players because so many cards usually are a signal for a high degree of complexity.

Well, readers of this review actually can relax a bit, especially if you should be familiar with games coming from Inka and Markus. Even though the preparatory setup of the playing components is impressive, all the Village cards belong to just 8 different categories, and within these categories the cards differ mostly on minor factors (like the type of good produced or their Activation numbers). So, the crazy looking amount of cards and numbers quickly will start to make sense once the players are familiar with the rules and the general flow of the game, and after a few turns everybody will feel quite comfortable and starts to focus on the tactical options at hand.

As the title of the game suggests, each of the players is in charge of his Village board, and during the course of the game they will try to expand their villages from hamlets to thriving market communities. For this expansion the players can purchase buildings and building attachments from five different categories, ranging from City Council, Religion and Crafts to Agriculture and Travelling. For each of these categories Village cards are available in the common display, and in addition the players also may add Market cards to their village, featuring customers who can be served with goods produced by Crafts buildings.


Two major, partly overlapping playing mechanisms form the backbone of the gameflow for My Village, and the first of these mechanisms is based on a variant of tactical dice rolling which is quite popular in modern games like Ancient Terrible Things or Kingsburg. So, at the beginning of a round of play, the starting player will roll a hand of dice from which each player will chose two for his upcoming turn action, and the values of the two dice chosen will be added together in order to give the player the Activation Number for his current turn. This number can be used either to purchase one new Village card with a matching value from the common display, or it can be used to activate all Village cards of this value which have already been acquired by the player in former turns. This actually challenges the players to specialize in Village cards featuring certain Activation numbers (possibly those with a higher statistical frequency), since they will feel the need to create efficient activation chains which may be triggered by the same Activation Number.

Before we give the different types of Village cards a closer examination, let's first check out the second part of the game's main mechanics - the in-game economy. Whereas other games come with meeples, coins and different types of goods, My Village does not need distinct playing pieces for all these commodities, but instead everything is represented by plain black wooden cylinders. Depending on the place (building) where these cylinders are placed, they serve as coins (Money Barn), different types of goods (Craft buildings) or even as Villagers (when placed in the School or as a "professional" villager in charge of one of the building categories). However, the use of these generic cylinders shouldn't conceal the fact that the economical aspects found in My Village are the same as in many other boardgames, since the players need to make payments, trade goods and train villagers in order to operate the different building categories of their villages.

Still, there is one important commodity which is treated differently, and that's the time which the players have to spend in order to perform most actions. Many of the Village cards list an amount of time which the players need to spend in order to acquire or operate a building, and the amount of time spent by a player during his turn will be recorded on a circular track on his individual Village board. Whenever the pawn on the track crosses its starting point, one of the player's professional villagers will die and is removed from the game, preventing the player from using buildings of this villager's category until a successor has been trained in School and placed on the gameboard.

In this respect, the villager's "Circle of Life", My Village actually has the closest resemblance with its namesake game Village which had been designed by the same authors. Villagers who have died will be placed in the graveyard, and if they are among the first villagers of a profession who have died this will generate some Victory Points for the player, whereas later villagers who have died only will be placed in nameless graves.

The different types of buildings available on the Village cards enhance a village's economy in various ways. Some of the buildings produce coins or goods, which in turn can be sold to customers in order to gain Victory points. Other buildings feature in-game benefits which allow the manipulation of dice results, give buildings additional Activation numbers or provide various one-time or scoring effects in combination with a fixed or variable value of Victory points. A bit more unusual is the deck of Travelling cards which makes up one additional category of Village cards. These cards do not feature buildings, but instead a player can build a road leaving his village for some kind of significant place (like a pilgrimage chapel), and the more Travelling cards the player is able to acquire the better the amount of Victory points gained. However, the Travelling cards may bring up their own kinds of hazards, and so a player may need to sponsor his Traveller with money for a river ferry or a barrel of beer if he comes upon a cozy inn along the way.


Depending on the number of players, the game ends when a certain number of villagers have died, and now each player will tally his final score which is made up from a quite broad range of scoring options. Served customers, the size a player's church, Travelling and Agriculture cards plus bonus points from a player's Council chamber and points scored during the game all will be added up, and as usual for games with a broader range of scoring options the players sometimes will be surprised by the fact who turnes out to be the winner.

In fact, My Village is one of these games where the task of outlining the rules and game mechanics poses a quite hard challenge even to experienced reviewers. As indicated in the prologue to this review, the game's complexity would have warranted a name like My Metropolis, and indeed there is much more decision making and strategic planning to this game than in most other tactical dice games. Starting with bare Village boards, the players slowly will acquire more and more Village cards in order to strengthen their economies, and if a card is not taken by a competitor the players will be able to work on long-term strategies in order to maximize their final scores.

However, that's exactly the place where the central mechanism of rolling and chosing dice comes onto the stage, since the players cannot really predict whether the dice they will get for their next turn actually will match their long-term efforts or whether they must re-think their strategies in order to gain most from a suboptimal Activation number. There are some possibilities fro changing dice results, but from my perspective this clash of strategies and options at hand is the time when My Village gets most interesting, since the players cannot really afford to waste turns in which they have been assigned badly matching dice. Re-thinking, finetuning and a bit of a lucky hand are a successful Villager's most outstanding attributes, and in the end the players need to think like in real life: a Village is positioned best if it can draw on a variable economy, but it will perish if a high degree of specialization turns out to be an unprofitable venture.

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