Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of My Village

My Village

  • Publisher: Stronghold Games/Eggertspielemyvillage-cover
  • Designers: Inka and Markus Brand
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Playing Time: 60-90 min
  • MSRP $59.95
  • Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
  • Game Played: Review Copy
  • Number of Plays: 5+

 

Introduction

An entire new chapter opens in the village chronicles as each player leads his very own village to fame and fortune. You start with a small farmyard and one villager of each of the 5 professions: abbot, councilman, traveler, craftsman, and merchant. You improve your village by adding buildings and fields, pushing on with your travels and attracting customers and monks, all while time ticks steadily away. Every now and then a villager passes away, leaving his profession unoccupied. And even though you can train a descendant to fill his shoes, soon you have to neglect some areas to focus on others. On top of this you may try to collect your village’s stories and protect their pages from recurring rat invasions. Once a certain number of villagers have passed away, the game ends. Then the winner is the player who gained the most prestige points from his buildings, fields, customers, monks, travels and the story points he brought to safety. (From the rulebook.)

Rules Summary

The goal of My Village is to earn the most prestige points. There are a number of ways to do this. Each player begins the game with a village board, a headman and disk marker in their player color, a grim reaper (a standup chipboard figure with space under it for the disk marker), one black marker “villager” in each of the 5 professions, and a number of black markers in their money barn according to their start position (i.e. 1 for 1st player, 2 for 2nd,…). (Note: black markers are generic, as explained further on.) The first player will get a start player hand marker.

myvillage-board1

Player Board

The player village boards are identical except for the two numbers in the white play banner (right side of board). Each board has a time track, a main house, a “?” black banner and track, a money barn, a story tree, a school, a play area, and 6 card areas, 5 of which must be staffed with a villager in order to add cards. Cards are added to the sides of the boards next to their respective areas. Starting from the top right of the board going clockwise, the areas (and villager professions) are: travel (traveler), crafts (craftsman), market (merchant), harvest (no villager), council (councilman), and religion (monk). The grim reaper starts on the bridge; the disk marker starts to the right of the bridge. The disk marker will move clockwise around the time track as the player spends time to complete actions. Once the marker passes the bridge, the grim reaper is placed on top of the disk until the end of the turn (i.e. it moves with the disk). At the end of the turn, one of the villagers passes away – a villager piece of the player’s choice is moved to a grave, then the grim reaper is placed back on the bridge. Finally the rat die is rolled and the rat marker is moved (more below), possibly triggering an invasion.

myvillage-board2

Main Board

The main board is put in the middle of the table. At the beginning of the game, there are a lot of cards to set up around it in the following areas: monk, church, council chamber, meeting place, field, customer, travel, and craft building. Each of these cards has two sides, one side has a either black or white banner and the other has a white banner and/or points. Banners are activated during player actions as described further on.

Also on the main board are: the book of chronicle graves, an area of anonymous grave spaces, and a rat invasion track. A rat marker is placed on the space indicated by the number of players: at the beginning of the game and whenever the marker is reset. When a villager dies, their marker is placed on one of chronicle spaces matching its profession, if one is available – the first space is worth 2 story points, the second is worth 1 – otherwise it is placed in an anonymous grave (0 points). The game ends at the end of the round during which a number of villagers have died, according to the number of players (there is a reminder chart on the game board).

There are two types of points in the game, prestige points, which are the only ones that count at the end of the game, and story points. Story points are “unsafe” points and will not score unless they have been moved to the main house. This happens by taking the “?” black banner action in the center of the player board and moving your headman into the main house (of course the headman marker must be on the space in front of the main house in order to move it into it). This moves all story points from the story tree into the main house where they are now safe and will score at the end of the game. Whenever the rat marker reaches the end of its track it triggers an invasion: all players lose half their story points, rounded down, in their trees.

Black markers are used for a variety of things during the game, depending on their location. They can be goods on craft building cards, villagers on villager spaces, coins in the coin barn, descendants in the school, or they can mark something as activated or used.

Each round, the first player will put a story point on the starting player hand marker then roll a number of dice, depending on the number of players. Most of the dice are white but there will be two or three black as well, again depending on the number of players. Going clockwise, starting with the first player, each player will choose 2 dice to add together and take an action. The dice will determine the banner number for their action(s) this round. A player may use coins from the coin barn to add or subtract pips. For each black die chosen, that player must move their disk marker 2 spaces on the time track. Unless other players chose black dice, the player selecting last will only have a choice of 2 white dice – the rest will be black.

A player may activate either one black banner OR any number of white banners, as long as they match the player’s banner number that round. The “?” black banner in a player’s village may be activated by any number, plus one time, and moves the headman one space on its track in either direction. The coin space allows the player to put a black marker in the coin barn (representing one coin), the “3” story point space adds that amount to the story tree, and moving into the main house transfers all story points from the story tree to the main house.

The school is used to train new villagers (white banner, activates on 3/11). The play area yields one story point. It is activated by a white banner, with different numbers on each player board: 5/6, 5/8, 6/9, 8/9.

Activating most black banners will gain the player a card or cards, but many require additional resources and/or time. Cards do different things depending on their type. In general, you pay the resources and/or time then take the card(s) and place it into its respective area of your village on its flipped side. Some cards give you immediate one-time rewards, some are only good for end game scoring, and others allow you to do things on future turns, such as activate a white banner.

myvillage-szene

Craft building cards have black banners to purchase and white banners on their flip side that will provide various goods on future turns. At the beginning of the game there are a lot of choices for craft building banner numbers. Players may want to match banner numbers to ones they already have, such as in the play area on their board. This is one way to customize your banners and optimize your actions. Field cards have black banners to purchase and white banners (numbered 11) on their flip side; each will provide a coin when activated (add a plow good to the card to gain 2 coins).

Customer cards are purchased at the steward’s office (black banner 4/10). Players choose to spend 1 time for one card, 2 time for two cards, 2 time and a coin for three cards, or 3 time and a coin for four cards. The customer cards have white banners (various numbers, some wild) and usually require goods in order to be activated; they flip for points that will score at the end of the game. Travel cards (black banners, all 7) ramp up as they are purchased. They must be purchased in order (no skipping) and cost more as you progress through them, but they also generally provide an increasing number of points (they may overlap from one to the next). The higher point cards contain additional costs that must be added to the next travel card when activated.

Church cards (black banner, 12) provide each player with a unique ability. Each player may only have one per game. Monk cards (black banner, various numbers, must have a church card first) provide an immediate one time bonus then flip to add a window to your church for an end game bonus, which increases per window.

Meeting place (black banner, 2/12) cards are worth a couple points at the end of the game but also provide advantages during the game. It comes with a “2/12” white banner that may be placed next to another white banner, allowing that space to activate on a 2 or a 12 as well (costs still must be paid). Activating the meeting place when it’s on its white banner side allows the player to move the 2/12 banner if desired, gains them one story point, and provides one black marker to be placed on the card (if there is space). Each black marker may be used to flip one die during dice selection. Each player may only have one meeting place card per game.

Council chamber cards (black banner, 3) provide prestige points at the end of the game. Two of the cards provide prestige points in conjunction with either cards or villagers owned at the end of the game depending on where markers are placed. One marker comes on the card when flipped (white banner, 3 to add to another marker). For example if you chose the villager version and place the marker on the green space, if you have a traveler at the end of the game, it is worth 4 prestige points. If you later activate the card with a white banner action, you may add another marker to the card, e.g. in the brown space, which will give you another 4 prestige points if you have a monk at the end the game. The other two cards provide either coins or wild goods (white banner, 3) during the game (in addition to end game prestige points). Each player may only have one council chamber card per game.

There is also a black banner on the starting player hand marker (4/10). The player who activates it gets to take all the story points accumulated on it to add to their story tree and takes the starting player hand marker.

At the end of the round during which the specified number of deceased villagers has been reached, the game ends and each player counts up their prestige points. Story points in the story tree are worth nothing. In the case of a tie, add together each player’s number of goods, story points, and coins then compare again.

For full rules see the files section of the listing on BGG.

Thoughts

My Village is a dice drafting engine-building game in which players may customize their actions through card choices. There are several ways to gain points so there is a lot to explore. After one play, I immediately wanted to play again.

My Village is quite unlike its predecessor, Village. I don’t really care much for Village but I love My Village. Basically they took what was interesting from Village, namely the time mechanism, but left behind a lot of the luck/cube frustration and area majority issues.

Although the game is driven by dice, there are ways to mitigate the luck. You may use coins to add or subtract pips, or if you have a meeting place card with black markers on it, you may use one of the black markers to turn a die to any face (or use two to turn both dice). The first player definitely has an advantage when selecting dice (going last is not a blast) but as the rounds march on, using an action to take the first player marker may well be worth it since you also get the bonus story points. The only thing in the game I believe is rather harsh is the cost of black dice. Two time units per die is quite expensive – personally I would have liked this to be one per die – but it is one way of rushing the death of one of your villagers, possibly creating a rat invasion and the loss of half of the story points in players’ story trees (for example, if one player has accumulated a lot).

Unlike Village, it is difficult to rush the end of the game, and you probably don’t want to (it’s one strategy in Village – and an annoying one at that). There are no majority bonus points for killing off the most villagers; you may get some points for the first couple that pass away but it’s limited to only two of each type, after that you get nothing. Also, losing villagers is harsh – it means you cannot gain cards or do actions in those areas (you can take goods already produced but that’s about it). In order to replace a villager you must use at least two actions in the school to get another on the board. The villagers do not have generation levels as they did in Village.

My Village is very engaging – lots of cards to check out, many goods to collect, and a strategy to plan… or re-plan as the case may be – sometimes the dice don’t cooperate or another player may beat you to a die or card you wanted. As long as no one is taking too long on their turns, the game moves along quite well. Many times you can plan ahead while others are taking their turns. Having different numbers on the player boards helps encourage players to consider taking cards matching those numbers so they can add that additional story point to those actions; this way there is less competition for cards you might want.

The traveling cards are somewhat balanced even though they offer differing number of points. Each card is worth a value in a range of points printed on the top. For example, the first travel cards are valued 2/3/4 prestige points. If you end up with the 2 point card, the next card has no additional cost; the 3 point card costs an extra gold to move on; the 4 costs two extra gold to move on.

I like the efficiency of using one type of marker in multiple ways: as goods, money, etc. Some people may not like this but it would be overly fiddly to have all those types of markers in the game – not to mention expensive to produce, driving up the cost of the game. You may have to take a little care not to bump markers since the same markers are used for different things. I didn’t find this to be a problem. Most games have markers that if bumped will mess up the game, e.g. on a score track.

The game scales well, although I prefer it with two or three players. In the two player version each player takes two turns per round so the player going last usually has only two white dice to choose from, unless someone took a black die earlier. Thus the first player hand marker is still desirable. Note: it may not be taken by the first player on the first turn each round but may be taken the second turn if the other player didn’t take it.

The rulebook was well written, with clear organized sections, lots of photos, and several examples. The artwork is colorful and functional; it suits the game nicely. The components are high quality: thick cardboard, wooden pieces, thick cards (the cards aren’t shuffled during the game so they don’t need to flex), and heavy plastic dice with rounded corners. I have heard complaints that some grim reaper assemblies come apart – they are two cardboard pieces pushed together – but none of mine have. If this happens, I recommend using a little glue to keep them together. There is plenty of room in the box to keep them assembled, which is what I do.

I’ve played My Village a number of times already, and I still want to play it. However, it seems that the only strategy that works consistently well is the market. Other strategies are more difficult to get to work. For example, the church and travel areas top out at a fairly low number considering end game scoring; you’ll need use other areas to win. I’d like to see expansions to the game that would make these other areas more viable on their own.

Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan Blum: I played this not long after it debuted at last year’s Essen. (I’ve never played Village.) I was underwhelmed; the game seemed as if it should be reasonably interesting, but it fell very flat. One problem is that as Mary notes it isn’t easy to push the end of the game, but I feel differently about this than she does. The game I played (with three players) took far too long for the amount of enjoyment it offered. Another problem (also noted by Mary) is that the different areas don’t seem to be very well balanced, which again seems to bother me more than it does her. General consensus of other people I saw playing it back then was much the same – too long for what it is – and I haven’t seen anyone play it since.

Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Mary Prasad
  • I like it:
  • Neutral:
  • Not for me… Dan Blum
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About Mary Prasad

More about me at: http://artbymdp.blogspot.com
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One Response to Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of My Village

  1. rprasadusa says:

    I’m with Mary;). I’ve played it several times. It is indeed long, especially with new players, but it does speed up noticeably with experience. Even when it runs long, though, I generally have found people to remain engaged with the game. I’ve not played a lot, but it’s been fun and I think the various paths have seemed to be fairly balanced.

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