Stefan Dorra

ZOCH 2006




G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game :

In the newest game from ZOCH, 2-5 players take the role of Spanish lairds. In the game the players build farms, castles and monasteries to increase their capital and to become the wealthiest lord, which is also the goal of the game.

Salamanca is well designed and fits the requirements of a modern tile laying game. The board shows an 8x8 quadratic grid, on which the players place their buildings and develop the landscape. Next to the three building types, there are five different landscape tiles and ten special high-producing landscapes. Each player gets a small shield to hide his values and tiles from the others. The order of a turn is set up by cards that are played at the beginning of the turn.

At the beginning of the game, five landscape tiles are arranged randomly on the board. All cards are mixed up and then given to the players. Each player also gets three laird tokens and a special Conden (a kind of caretaker). A turn is divided into five phases, which are explained more deeply in the following.

First of all as many tiles as there are players are placed face up in a special place for a display. Tiles that were left from the round before are not removed, but are strengthened with another tile, so that these spaces of the display become more valuable. Then one by one the players play a card from their hand. This determines the order of the round. The player with the highest number starts, and then comes the player with the second highest card and so on. There is one exception from this rule: if the card with the value 5 is the lowest, the player who played this card becomes the next start player.

This player begins the next phase, in which the players can increase their power. There are three different actions possible in this phase. The first one is to place a tile from the display on the board. Note that it is necessary to take and place all tiles from one display space, so if there are two tiles (one from the round before) a player has to place both of them on the board. If he chooses a building, he then may place one of his laird tokens on this building. If he has no more laird tokens he then may sell one of his buildings. The value of the building is a sum of the value of the building itself (4 for a monastery, 3 for a castle and 2 for a farm), the landscapes around the building and plagues that eventually influence the harvest of the landscapes. Landscapes play a major role and so it becomes extremely important to place the buildings on the best places and the landscapes cleverly around the buildings. All tiles with the same territory build a big landscape when they have an orthogonal connection. Thus, it is possible to intersect a bigger landscape with a different landscape tile, so you can damage your opponents. On the other hand, you have to create big landscapes around your own buildings. As a last possibility in this phase a player may place a plague on a landscape tile on the board. This will always decrease the value of the landscape. There are four different plagues with various effects.

The next possible action in phase three is to place a Conden token in one of the opponent's buildings. This will guarantee the player with the Conden a considerable part of the income if the player of the building sells it. He then will get as much money as the seller minus the value of the building. A last possible action is to execute the special function of the card that was played in phase 2. With these functions the player may move one of the plagues on the board or exchange one card with an opponent. Especially the first function can change the conditions on the board enormously.

In the fourth phase each player gives the card he played to his left neighbour who takes this card into his hand. In the last phase lairds (and the Conden) with a landscape that is more valuable than 6 gets 2 (1) Dublon from the bank.

The game ends after the round when the last tile was placed in the display.

Salamanca is much more tactical than I assumed after the first sight of the game. Unusual for a ZOCH game, the rules are quite long (eight pages), but are explained quite understandable. A lot of examples introduce the mechanism of the scoring, which is the main factor of the game. Because this scoring is a little bit more complex, the game is not really a family game. Smaller children may understand the game mechanism, but will not be able to act tactically enough to win a game. But this, of course, makes the game more interesting for grown ups. And for those people who like it, the game offers a lot of tactical elements that will guarantee long-running playing fun.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany