Essen Preview #27: White Goblin Games – Rules Previews of Essen 2012 Releases Part 2

White Goblin Games will be back in Essen for 2012 – I’ve been reading through the rulebooks, and I have already previewed some of the new White Goblin releases.  The releases for 2012 are like a travelogue – the releases from this year span the globe… Today I’ll cover two of the new games that both are set in Ancient Egypt.

Normally publishers seem to stray away from themes that have been used a lot in past years (even by other publishers!), but White Goblin is bucking that trend by releasing two Egyptian games on their own this year.  The games are quite different in style though, so I don’t see any issue with the similarity in setting.

Designer: Shem Phillips
Publisher: White Goblin Games
Players: 3-5
Ages: 12+
Time: 60 minutes

Theme – building pyramids in 2300BC Egypt
Main Mechanic – card auctions, resource management, worker placement

In setup, the board is setup with a number of pyramids placed on the board equal to the number of players plus two.  Each of these pyramids has different special abilities associated with its construction.   At the bottom of the board are two semi-circular tracks, one which marks the round – as noted by a die that travels on it – and one which is used to designate the status of the market.  Both of these tracks have a space under each warehouse: fish, linen, wood, gold and a “land” field.

The game is played over as many as 6 turns, each with 5 rounds each of which has:

  1. Market – auctioning off cards
  2. Production – buying goods
  3. Development – building pyramid levels

The Market phase only occurs if the die on the round track and the stall on the market track are under the same warehouse. In this phase, players use their goods to try to win auctions for Market cards.  These Market cards give their owners certain trading advantages, and they remain in effect until the next Market phase – when all previously acquired Market cards are returned and a new set of auctions is held. Players can win a maximum of 2 Market cards in this phase.  After the auctions are done, you move the Market stall based on a distribution card – there is 1 Market phase in turns 1-3, and 2 Market phases in turns 4-6.

In the Production phase, each warehouse gets 2 goods. In addition, the warehouse which has the die underneath it (on the round track) gets some bonus goods.  If the die is under the land space, each warehouse gets some bonus land tiles placed on it.  The quantities of bonus goods/land tiles is determined by the distribution card.

Next, threshold cards are drawn from the deck and one is placed next to each warehouse.  If the number of goods is equal or higher than the threshold, then goods will be sold from that warehouse.  Players then draw 4 influence cards and places one under each type of goods – these cards will help determine the distribution of goods. Once influence has been played, then players have the option of investing in the warehouses by adding goods from their own personal stores – this might be done in order to push a certain warehouse over the threshold.  Interestingly, the type of good added does not need to match the rest in the warehouse. In general, the player with the most influene at a warehouse gets all the goods though there are a few cards which change this.

In the development phase, players use their goods.  First, players can trade with their Market cards freely. Then, they can place their workers on the pyramids or they buy land.  In order to place a worker on a pyramid, you have to be able to pay the costs (seen on the left of the pyramid card), and the worker must start at the lowest level.  If the worker is already there, he can instead move up one level, again paying appropriate costs.  The number of spaces available decreases as you move up the pyramid, so there may not be enough space.  Each level of the pyramid comes with a specific privilege (special ability) that goes into effect as soon as the worker is placed. Finally, players can trade in 3 land tokens to move up one space on the land track – this directly converts to VPs at the end of the game.

At this point, the round is over, and the die is moved one space to the right on the round track. If the die is at the end of the track, it is replaced back to the first space, and the number on the die in increased by one – thus the die tells you what turn (out of 6) that you are in.  The game ends at the end of the 6th turn OR ends immediately in the event that a worker has reached the highest level in all pyramids but two.

Scoring at the end is simple – you get one point for each space on the land track that you have moved plus points for each worker in the pyramids.  The pyramids seem to follow one of two patterns: 1-2-4-7-10 or 1-2-4-6-8 (from lowest to highest level).

Impressions: This one is a bit harder for me to grok from the rules – the mechanics seem simple enough – get goods and then use them to place workers which then give you special abilities in later turns.  But, there seems to be a lot of churning – I’m expecting that any individual round to take a few minutes with not many decisions to be had – though I’d expect the little decisions to add up over the course of the game.

What I see is 30 iterations of goods production, influencing and distribution of goods and then worker placement in the pyramids.  These rounds will be punctuated by 9 Market phases where players can trade in their Market cards to change things up a bit.  Only an actual play of the game will tell just how repetitive it feels.  (To put this in perspective, many games of Settlers of Catan involve 50+ iterations of rolling a die, distributing goods, trading goods, and possibly buying things – and not many people complain of the repetitiveness of that!)

Another tough thing to foresee is how the special abilities garnered from worker placement will affect the game.  They don’t seem too complicated to follow, and each player only has a possible 4 workers to place, so there shouldn’t be too much information to track on this.  What I do like is that each game will be different based on which pyramids are randomly selected in each game. In a 5p game, only 7 of the 10 pyramids will be used, and I suspect that the effects of different pyramids will combine with each other in ways that players can turn to their advantage.

I’m intrigued enough by this ruleset to want to play the game, but I really can’t tell yet whether or not I’m going to like this one.  I’m thinking that it will be my sort of game though…

Designer: Yannick Gervais
Publisher: White Goblin Games
Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Time: 60 minutes

Theme: building the great pyramid of Cheops
Main Mechanics: resource management, hand management

Players in Pyramidon are trying to supply the construction site of the Cheops pyramid with the necessary building supplies.  There are 8 different building sites, each with its own tile on the table. Each of the sites has a special ability associated with it that is triggered by cards.  Each player starts with a deck of basic character cards (2 Merchants, 1 each of Torturer, Negotiator and Goddess).  Each site has 3 values on it – minimum thresholds for Influence, Negotiation and Merchant points.

The game is played in rounds that follow this pattern:

  1. Renew boat cards – Make sure there are 5 boat cards available for the round
  2. Distribute Resources – look at distribution card, place resources as directed onto the 8 sites. Then draw the next distribution card so that people know what is coming in the next round.
  3. Negotiate for Resources – If you have a negotiator token on any of the 8 sites, you can take one of the resource tiles that is on that site
  4. Distribute character cards – each player takes their 5 basic cards and is given 4 more from the deck.
  5. Activate/Resolve the 8 building sites – in turn order, players pick a site to activate and then that site is resolved.  When a site is chosen, it is marked with a sundial tile so that everyone knows it has already been chosen this turn.  When a site is being resolved, each player has the chance to play a character card there or pass.  This continues in turn order until all players have passed.   As you play cards, most sites have special abilities that can be triggered by certain cards being played there.  Make sure to take your bonus if you are do it.  Then, you see if there is a revolt or not – for each revolt card played at the site, draw a Revolt token. Sum up the total of revolt points. Each player totals their cards up also, if their total is less than the revolt, they discard all cards. The player left with highest influence gets any bonuses pictured on revolt tokens.  Then, player with highest influence gets to place a torturer token on site.  Only one torturer token can be on any site, so if one was already there, it is returned to previous owner.  Next consider Negotiation points, the player with the most places a Negotiation token – again, only one per site is allowed.  Finally, look at bargaining points, player with the most gets all resource tiles left at the site.  For all 3 of these actions, the player with the most much exceed the limit printed on the tile – if this is not done, nothing is taken for that action.
  6. Adjust turn order – if Giza has been activated, player a Torturer card here allows you to take a turn order marker. Change turn order based on those markers
  7. Load boats – In the new turn order, each player can choose to load one boat. There are 5 boat cards available at the start of each turn (Phase 1).  To fill a boat, you have to discard all of the goods that the boat needs.  You then take the boat card and place it face down in front of you.  If you have a Torturer token on a site, you can use it now to take goods from the supply.  Each site makes a couple of resources, and you can choose amongst these if you use your Torturer.
  8. Cleanup – all players check their points – if someone has 10 or more points on their boat cards, if so, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins. If there is a tie, the most character cards left in hand wins.  If no one has 10, remove the sundial tokens, discard drawn character cards and go back to phase 1.

Impressions – so of the four WGG games that I have previewed thus far, this is the hardest one for me to grok from just reading the rules because it is just so hard to figure out how the cardplay will work out IRL.  Also, without being able to see the distribution of the boat cards (20 total in the game), it’s hard to figure out how many you need to win.  The one that is in the rules as an example appears to be worth 5 VP and takes 6 resources to fill.  But, it’s also hard to figure out how quick one can get resources because I don’t know what the distribution cards have on them either.

Example of a Politician character card

But, conceptually, this game still piques my interest.  There should be a goodly amount of tactical play – you get 9 cards each round (5 basic + 4 random) that you get to play over the round.   Your choice of which sites to play at will be determined by all sorts of things – what resources are available, whether or not you need the special ability granted by card play, whether or not other players are playing there, etc.  It will also depend somewhat on luck of the draw – since you pull 4 cards from the deck each turn.  Also, the shifting turn order situation (determined by cards played at Giza) may alter the relative importance of the different sites.

It will also feel a bit different based on the number of players. In a 4p game, all 8 sites will be activated each round while in a 3p game, only 6 will be active.  This will change how the special effects come into the game as well as how many cards you can afford to play at each site.

Of the two, if I had to choose one, I think I’d lean towards Pyramidion, but that’s because I have been able to get a better feel for it from the rules.  Lucky for me, I’m not limited to just one, and both of these games will likely come home with me from Germany.  Obviously, just reading rules isn’t enough to figure out a game, and both of these Egyptian themed games look like they merit the luggage space!

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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