Things moved a lot slower in the middle ages. Coupled with a life expectancy of a horse and it was a minor miracle to get anything substantial done. The best I could hope to do was make a few wagons or build a new addition to the local church. But the things worth doing are never easy. So I toiled away and did the best that I could do. But what kept me going? What kept me from giving it all up? Perhaps it was my pride or perhaps it was because I had nothing better to do? But I like to believe I did it for future generations. I worked to leave my home a better place. I busted my hump because I love my home, I love My Village.
How it Plays
Each player will be charged with the care and growth of an idyllic village with the goal of creating a town to be remembered for generations to come. You’ll be training your villagers in various professions, selling wares, farming the land, and constructing various religious and civic buildings. Death of your villagers, either via rat infestations or old fashioned time, will need to be monitored in order to make sure everything runs smoothly. You begin the game with six trained villagers and a handful of coins in order to achieve greatness. Moment to moment achievements are less important than ones that will last for generations. A church building that will last for years grants prestige points, whereas minor achievements only grant story points that need to be actively converted into prestige points.
The rounds in my village begin with rolling a fistful of dice to create a pool from which players will form their actions. On your turn, you must select and remove two dice from this pool. The sum of the dice you’ve selected will dictate which actions you will be able to take that turn. All around the various boards and cards are banners with numbers on them. These banners are associated with all of the possible actions in the game and in order to carry out a particular action, your dice must match a number in that banner.
There are two types of banners in the game: black and white. You can only carry out a single black banner action per turn. White banner actions work a little differently. You can take as many white banner actions on a single turn as long as each of them match the sum of the dice you chose to start your turn. The hope is that you’ll be able to set it up in such a way that you can do multiple white banner actions.
Most banner actions also have an associated cost that include coins or goods, but the most common cost is time. For every hourglass icon indicated by the action, you must move your marker around the circular time track on your board. If the marker makes a full revolution on the track, this indicates that one of your trained villagers has reached the end of days and you will need to bury them in the graveyard. The game ends whenever a certain amount of villagers have been buried depending on the number of players in the game.
There are many banner actions available to you on your turn and it really isn’t beneficial to go into major detail in each one, but highlighting some of them will serve to give you an idea of the scope of the game. You can create farms, build and expand the church, go traveling, make craft buildings, and sell goods. Just about every action will award you with prestige points which allows you to pursue various paths. You can also train villagers to replace those that have passed away. This is important because if you do not have a trained villager you cannot take the associated action. If you don’t have a trained abbot, you cannot build or expand the church. If you don’t have a trained traveler, you cannot go traveling.
At the end of every player’s turn, the rat die will be rolled and the rat pawn moved the indicated number of spaces along the infestation track. Once the rat reaches the end of the track an infestation occurs and all players must discard half of the story points they’ve been storing. Story points differ from the prestige points that determine the winner of the game, but they can be converted into prestige points by taking a certain banner action during your turn. That makes it very beneficial to make sure you’ve converted your story points before a rat infestation occurs.
One of my favorite things in board games is watching things grow. Whether it’s a city, a factory or village, I love seeing the seed germinate, blossom and flourish as a direct result of my actions throughout the game. It’s immensely satisfying to look at my creation at the end of the game and take it all in. It’s fun to compare my creation to the other players’ and see how they differ, to see how their creation functions, to see how it’s better and how it’s worse than my own. If you’re able to see who the winner of a game is just by looking at all the players’ creations at the end, that game is likely to be something special. You won’t find that in My Village and it isn’t special either.
I try not to have many preconceived notions when going into a game. I had played Village, the game from which My Village gets its inspiration, and came away unimpressed. I liked the idea of time as a currency, but Village lacks a spark that separates it from the ever growing pack of Euro games. I was hoping that My Village would take some of the ideas established previously, find its voice and pronounce its existence among the elite board games. But that didn’t happen. Instead, My Village is a box of cardboard and rules that lacks any personality.
When I finish a game of My Village and look at, uh, my village – there’s no joy. Every time I played, my village looked largely the same and comparing my village to my opponents’ was like a game of Spot the Difference. They weren’t identical, mind you, but the differences were relatively minor and hardly reflected anything of the players themselves. Perhaps the authors of the game didn’t intend My Village to be one of the types of building games that I really enjoy. That’s fine. I don’t need every game to be tailored to my tastes. I’m more than willing to judge a game on its own merits, but I found the blandness found in the building to permeate the rest of the game.
Take the villagers, for example. They are represented by black markers next to a tiny portrait on your board. These same markers are used to indicate money when they are placed on the bank and they are also used to represent goods such as horses and ale when placed on those respective spots. It’s a clever way to represent multiple things with a minimal amount of physical objects. However, it strips the villagers of their individuality. I never grew attached to them and instead I saw them for what they actually were, an upkeep system. Whenever a villager died there was nothing even resembling sadness. All I was focused on was making sure I had another villager trained to take their place.
Some people laud a game for offering multiple paths to victory and hold sandbox games up as the height of board game design. I’m neither for or against it in principle. What matters most to me is the satisfaction I get from the various decision points offered up by the game. My Village allows you to gain points by building the church, by traveling, converting story points into prestige points, selling goods to customers and gaining end game bonus points by constructing a council chamber. So there are a lot of ways to proceed – or so it seems. It’s hard to make any definitive statements on balance after a half dozen plays or so, but I can’t get over the feeling that selling goods is the best route to take to ensure victory.
There is a hard limit to how large you can build the church or how far you can travel which means that there is a hard limit to the amount of points they reward. The council chamber grants you end game prestige points, but it’s entirely dependent on the other paths. Gaining lots of story points and converting them into prestige points might be viable, but there’s a problem. It’s really boring! In fact all of the paths are boring, except selling goods. You see, selling to customers is a white banner action. You can try – you should try – and match the numbers on the customers and work your way towards a turn where you can sell to many of them in a single turn. It’s the perfect release to the turns and turns of gathering the right goods and customers. It’s as close to putting all of your ducks in a row as you can get in board game form. It’s so satisfying that it makes all the other paths to victory completely dull. Plus it’s usually the way to ensure victory.
My Village is the definition of an average game. All the systems and ideas are functional and there are even a few fun decisions to make along the way, but it’s lack of soul ensures My Village will blend into the sea of Euro games already available. Time and death as currency are interesting concepts, but are undercut by the lack of character in the villagers who pass away. There’s very little that kept me emotionally involved with my progress or the other players around the table. The banner action numbers are balanced in such a way that there is very little conflict over the various buildings. The game also goes on a bit too long, especially at higher player counts considering that the pace of the game is relatively constant. It’s mostly just grinding through the actions that are working for you over and over until it ends. That said, the time concept is intriguing. I just hope it can be fully realized in the next game (Our Village?).
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Stronghold Games for providing us with a copy of My Village for review.