The year is wrapping up but there’s still plenty of chatter in the community. It seems we aren’t quite to list and recap season, I imagine in the next couple of weeks we’ll start hearing what people thought of 2014. What does everyone out there think, how did this year stack up?
Dragon Slayer Roundup
Games On Our Table
Fields of Arle – I’ve been waiting with much anticipation to hear more about the latest release from Uwe Rosenberg. I was introduced to him through Agricola, one of my all time favorite games. As I explored his other offerings I found that his designs have become more open with time. Unfortunately this diverged from many of the things that I like so much about Argicola. Ora er Labora and Caverna are great examples of this. Ora overwhelmed me with the sheer number of options available throughout the game. There’s an expansive conversion tree and the game doesn’t provide any direction for the players. Likewise, Caverna replaces your starting cards with an open market of buildings which opens up your available options significantly. However, I did end up really enjoying Glass Road despite being pretty overwhelmed during my first game at the prospect of picking 5 roles from a hand of 15 each round. I have faith in Rosenberg’s designs even if I’ve ended up passing on many of his newer games.
When Fields of Arle was announced I was very excited to hear that it was going to be a 2-player game. I’ve really enjoy Agricola: All Creatures Big And Small and having something meatier sounded great. At the same time it appeared to be more open than any of his previous games, perhaps this would appeal to me in the context of a restricted player count? When I found out that I had a copy on the way I was elated! I decided to celebrate by declaring Saturday Rosenberg Fest! I packed a bag with all of his games and set off to find opponents that would partake in his excellent games.
I had to start the day with the star of the show, Fields of Arle. This game reminds me a bit of a mix between Glass Roads and All Creatures Big And Small but quite a bit heavier. You’re managing a lot of different resources like in Glass Road and often give up points for the opportunity to get more points. It also has a random set of available buildings and expanding territory that make it seem like All Creature’s big brother. The decision tree in the game is very wide, there are a lot of actions to choose from and they are all available right from the start. None of the individual options are very complicated but they are interconnected. Yet the game didn’t feel overwhelming to me in the way that Ora et Labora did. The resource conversion tree is a lot smaller in scope and much more intuitive which makes it a lot easier to set goals and pursue them. If anything this is Rosenberg’s point salad game. Most of the actions will get you points or set you up to get points with your next action. There’s a great mixture of long term planning to get big point gains (such as purchasing buildings) and short term point maximizing. I was very impressed with my first play of Fields and look forward to trying it again.
Glass Road – We moved straight into my newest Rosenberg obsession. All of my recent plays of Glass Road have been solo which made the transition back to multiplayer more difficult than I was expecting. It seemed like I wasn’t reading the other players very well and hardly ever matched extra roles. On top of that I had key buildings that I was planning my strategy get purchased out from under me at several points during the game. I really enjoyed the game despite having many wrenches thrown into my normal solitaire strategy. I love how differently the game plays in it’s solo variant. Hopefully I can play again with real opponents soon!
Le Havre: The Inland Port – I recently acquired this one in a Math Trade after having enjoyed his other 2-player offering, All Creatures Big And Small. I finally got the chance to try it out and was blown away by how clever the design was. It’s very abstracted but that helps to keep it going at a quick pace and makes your choices very clear despite the number of options you have to choose from. The resource management aspect of the warehouse grid and the building activation wheel are both incredibly elegant design choices.