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



Inka & Markus Brand


No. of Players:
2 - 4

Deutscher Spiele Preis

Kennerspiel des Jahres



Coming with a beautifully designed gameboard, the game Village sets the players into the roles of medieval farmers. Each player owns a small farmstead (player mat), and he starts the game with four family members and a family-treasure of one meagre coin which are placed at his farm. The main gameboard on the other hand shows the village from which the game's name is derived, and this village consists of several locations where the players can perform actions.

As indicated, the players may interact with the different types of locations on the gameboard during a round of play, but before a round starts an amount of resource cubes is distributed at the different locations in a semi-random fashion (a fixed amount of cubes is placed at each location, but they are randomly drawn from a bag containing cubes of five different colours). Whenever a player performs an action at a location, he must take one of the resource cubes which were assigned to this location, and he may then perform the action associated to the location where he had taken the resource. Thus, during a round of play the resources available at the different locations are slowly depleted, and when there are no cubes left that location cannot be chosen again until the round is over.


Here the game becomes quite diverse, because a good deal of different actions can be taken at the different locations. Resource cubes can be traded in for animals, carts and plows, grain can be harvested, or a wedding can be held to get new family members. These family members can be sent into the townhall (together with some resources) to get additional bonuses, they can be sent to the church to join the clergy and provide some fame (victory) points, or they can even leave the village and travel to neighbouring castles and cities (once again costing resources plus a cart) in order to collect the different benefits available there.

When chosing their turn's action, the players are faced with the dilemma that the resource cubes available at the locations usually are not the cubes which are required to interact with this specific location. Of course, there is a chance that the one or other matching cube is available at a location, but usually these cubes are amongst the first cubes taken by the players. Thus, the players will have to develop a strategy for the round, deciding on the order in which they want to visit the different locations. However, competition is tight, and so the carefully planned actions of a player often will be spoilt by the locations visited and resources taken by the other players.

All this still might sound like a more or less traditional variation of a worker placement mechanism, but a quite interesting twist comes in when you consider that players also can send their family members into the workshops to produce/raise plows, carts and animals. This action does not cost resources, but instead such an action will consume a number of time units which will be marked on the player's own farmstead board. Here a marker for time units is moving on a circular track, and whenever the marker ends a whole circle by coming over a bridge the point has come when one of the player's family members will die - something which is rather unusal for a family boardgame)!

The four familiy members which the players receive at the beginning of the game only are the first generation of the player's family, and the new family members which can be gained through a wedding are of the generations two, three and four (indicated by numbered stickers on the meeples). When a new family member is gained, the new figure must be taken of the lowest numbered generation still available in the player's stockpile, and so the players first must "activate" all their second generation family members before they can use family members of the following generation. On the other hand, whenever a family member dies, a figure from the oldest still living generation of the active player must be removed from play, and so the players will constantly gain and loose family members in the course of the game.

The death (and removal) of a family member does not only reduce the current size of a player's family, but it must also be considered that family members often are placed on the gameboard as a long-term "investment". Especially the family members at the townhall and the church require time and resources to rise in the hierarchy of their institution, and high-ranking family members are worth a good deal of fame points at the end of the game. However, having members of the oldest generation at these locations bears an ever growing risk that they may die before the game is over, and thus they might not be able to score the desired fame points.

Depending on the location where the family member was placed when it died, the figure either will be put into the unknown graveyard or into the village chronicle. In this "golden book of history" there are some available spaces for figures coming from all different locations where family members may be placed, and as long as there is space available in the chronicle a dead family member is placed there and not in the graveyard. As might be guessed, a positioning in the chronicle is much more valuable, since the players can score victory points at the end of the game if they succeeded in securing a place in the chronicle for at least three of their family members.

That's indeed an interesting approach! The family members are placed on the gameboard and usually stay in their locations, but the consumption of time actually may lead to their removal. And, even in a dead state these family members may bring some victory points, and so the players are faced with the challenge to place their figures at locations where they can secure a place in the chronicle when their time has come. On the other hand, living family members also will score victory points in the church and the townhall at the end of the game, and so the players constantly need to keep the generation of their family members in mind when making a placement at a location. As a result, they have to ask themselves whether a particular figure possibly may get lost due to time-consumption so that a younger family member should be chosen because the person is intended to stay at the location until the game's end.

As indicated earlier, Village offers quite a few different ways to act, and this is coupled with the fact that there seems to be no dominating strategy to win the game. While it may be useful to get family members into the limited spaces of the chronicle, other approaches to generate victory points include repeated sales at the market or careers in the townhall and the church, and the limitation of specific actions which is reached by the use of the resource cubes guarantees that the players cannot simply sit down and repeat their strategy with each and every game. Instead, the players are faced with an intricate optimization challenge, forcing them to make the best of the options available to them. In this context Village offers a very good balancing between short-term gains and long-term strategy, since they players sometimes must be willing to put back the one or other of their long-term goals when they recognize an interesting opportunity available in the current round. This results in a good degree of (indirect) player interaction, since the actions taken by the other players usually will have an impact on the situation on the gameboard.

While the explanation of the rules takes a well-experienced teacher about half an hour, and gameplay becomes fluid quite quickly when the players have grasped the interrelations between family members, resource cubes and available actions. However, due to the big scoring at the end of the game it might take a game or two before the different ways to score victory points are anchored in the minds of all players, and so the rules for scoring should be explained with specific care. This feat is not always easy because the main body of the rules takes a good deal of explanation as well! However, due to this multitude of playing options Village scores considerably by the fact that it requires the players to explore new ways of thinking when planning their next moves, and so the game should be well received for its originality and inventiveness.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany