[Editors note: The following is a Nemesis Review, featuring opinions from our in-house eurogamer, @Farmerlenny, and his deadly enemy the thematic space-loving @Futurewolfie. Make sure to read both opinions to get a better overall picture of the game!]
I received Glen More for my birthday last year. Glen More seems like it should have everything that I value in a game: interesting decisions, exciting and novel mechanics, and lots and lots of meeples. It even has tiles a la Carcassonne and takes place in the British Isles. So what did I think of it? Read on, good gamer, and find out!
How It Works
Glen More is a tile-laying, tile-activation, VP-engine game for two to five players. The goal of Glen More (like most games in our hobby) is to end the game with the most victory points. Players earn points primarily through the three scoring rounds, which take into account Scotch (whiskey) production, chieftains, and special locations.
At the start of Glen More, each player gets one village with one clan member and six coins. Each player places his colored meeple on the starting spaces of the Glen More board, and the tiles are separated by backs into piles 0, 1, 2, and 3. The 0 tiles are shuffled and placed around the outside of the board to form the track.
Glen More has variable turn order, that is, play does not always proceed clockwise. Instead, whose turn it is is determined by which player is farthest back on the tile track. Thus, it is possible to take more than one turn in a row (though whether this is advisable is another story).
A turn in Glen More involves a player moving his meeple anywhere on the track, taking the tile on that space (if he can pay its cost), playing the tile in his tableau, and activating tiles. After this is done, the empty space at the end of the track is filled in with the top tile of the current stack, and the clockwise player closest to the empty space goes next.
Each tile has a a cost (the upper lefthand corner), an immediate benefit gained when played (in the lower righthand corner), and an activation ability (lower center). Playing tiles in your personal tableau follows similar rules to Carcassonne: the tile must connect orthogonally to tiles already in your tableau. In Glen More, the tile must also be adjacent to (including diagonally) a clan member already on your tiles. Once the tile is placed, the player may activate the new tile and all adjacent tiles, using their abilities (which are generally producing resources, moving clan members, or trading resources for VPs or Scotch).
Glen More has a market system to accommodate for players not having the resources required to buy tiles or perform other actions on their turns. The center of the Glen More board has a row for each resource (wood, wheat, stone, sheep—sounds like Settlers of Catan!—and cattle) with three spaces. If a player needs to buy a resource, he may only buy what he will use, and he pays the cost in coins of the first available free space and places the coins on the free space. Players may sell resources at any time on their turns, turning their resource cube in and taking the coins from the farthest right covered space. Buying resources might give your opponents a leg up, as coins count as VPs at the end of the game!
Some tiles represent special locations, which are the proper nouns of Glen More. They are places like Loch Ness, Castle Stalker, and Iona Abbey. Each special location tile comes with a corresponding special location marker detailing its special ability. These are things like giving extra Scotch, chieftains, VPs, or coins. The special locations themselves are also one of the scoring parameters.
One of the other scoring parameters is a player’s chieftains. Chieftains are a player’s clan members that he moves off of his tableau. (Certain tiles allow clan members to move; for one movement point, a player may remove the clan member completely and keep him in a stock of chieftains for scoring.) Essentially, they represent the no-longer-working “supervisors.” Tam symbols on some special locations also count toward a player’s chieftain total.
At the end of each draw stack marked 1, 2, and 3, a scoring round happens. Players are graded on how much Scotch they’ve produced, how many chieftains they have, and how many special locations they control. Each player gets VPs in their relation to the weakest player in each area. (For example, if Phyllis has one barrel of Scotch, Jimmy has three, and Mavis has seven, Phyllis scores 0 points, Jimmy scores 2 points, and Mavis scores 8, per the table on the board.) After the third scoring round, players also receive VPs for special conditions (usually special-location related) and 1 VP per coin they have. Players also count the tiles in their tableaus, and players having more tiles in their tableau than the player with the fewest tiles lose 3 VPs per tile more. (If Phyllis has twelve tiles and Jimmy fifteen, Jimmy loses 9 VPs—see, taking multiple turns doesn’t always pay!) After this final scoring, the player with the most VPs wins (and presumably becomes monarch of the glen).
Glen More has a lot of fans, and with good reason (there are a lot of novel mechanisms in play here). I’m just not one of them.
First, what’s good: the mechanics. There are a lot of brilliant things about this game, chief among them being the market system. What an inventive way to render the back-and-forth of a trading market. Buying resources gets more expensive the more they’re “bought,” and selling resources produces less money the more they’re sold, signifying supply and demand. And I love that buying resources opens the market for other players to sell theirs. I also like the end-game scoring mechanism of penalizing players for taking too many turns. This keeps any one player from running away with multiple-turn schemes (one of the potential downsides of Kill Doctor Lucky). The variable turn order track is novel, but it’s more fun on paper than it is in practice.
So, if I admit above that Glen More is mechanically brilliant, how can I also say that I am not one of its fans? Well, for starters, the game feels bland. As much as I’ve admitted elsewhere that theme isn’t a big deal to me, it doesn’t feel like there’s any flavor in Glen More. The artwork is understated and boring. Even the plaid on the back of the game board seems washed out and faded. The tiles and game board are on thin cardboard, and there are not many resource cubes included with the game (though running out was never an issue). Because of these things, the game feels wispy and insubstantial in spite of its stronger virtues. It’s hard for a player to get excited about a game that doesn’t seem to have excited its publisher.
Aside from flavor issues, which admittedly aren’t that important in the grand scheme, the game fell relatively flat at each play session. Glen More didn’t get any of the players excited before, during, or after the game. It was similar, really, to the lukewarm reception San Juan received when I introduced it. “Oh, that was mildly diverting,” seemed to be the consensus, followed by clamors for Dominion or another fun game and with no one itching or even offering to play it again.
What does this boil down to for me? Playing Glen More feels a lot like eating vegetables or reading Ulysses: I recognize that it’s a beneficial experience, something I should enjoy, but it’s not one that I’m too excited about. (And I recognize that the failing here is most likely mine.) The board and components are all kind of bland. The mechanics, while exciting on paper, are not very exciting in actual gameplay. I can see where a lot of other players might like Glen More: there really is a lot to like, and I want to like it. I’d just rather play a more exciting game than what’s offered here.
I pretty much second @Farmerlenny’s opinion on this one. While there are a lot of strategic choices to make, and it was at least enjoyable to play, I felt it landed very solidly in “meh” territory for me. It had some interesting things going on mechanically, but nothing I didn’t feel like I’ve seen other games do better.
It just didn’t create a memorable experience. I love it when you can look back on a game and say, “Aww man! Remember when you did this and it was AWESOME?!?” That just didn’t happen.
Not every game I’ve enjoyed has this element. Eurogames have a tendency to lack these moments, but the good ones make up for it with an extremely tense (in a good way) strategic environment with either quick-moving or overlapping actions. Glen More just didn’t have a strong tension or a strong sense of completion when it was over. And there was a lot of downtime—even if you didn’t jump ridiculously far ahead, there were often long moments of simply waiting for your turn to come up again. That’s okay in some games, but there just wasn’t a huge amount to look forward to.
Okay, so it’s solid strategically and mechanically. I wouldn’t call any game with a tendency to force players to sit extended lengths of time doing nothing “brilliant,” but it works. If you’re a big Eurogame fan, you’d probably get some decent mileage out of this game. It’s certainly not the ugliest or dullest game visually that’s ever been made, so I’m sure many can look past it and get the good stuff that’s there. It just didn’t do it for me, not enough to be worth it to play this instead of other games I enjoy more.