Designers: Andreas “ode” Odendahl
Publishers: Stronghold Games
Time: 30-45 minutes
Times Played:5 (with review copy provided by Stronghold Games)
I wanted to start this review by making some kind of sweeping pronouncement about the nature of dice games versus games that merely use dice… and then I realized that:
- I was about to go down the metaphorical gamer rabbit hole, take a giant swig of “Drink Me” and end up being chased around by playing cards with lances
- I could not possibly sound more pompous and self-important if I tried.
So, instead, you get a relatively straightforward review of La Granja: No Siesta (The Dice Game) from someone who (gasp!) has never actually played the well-liked Euro “parent”, La Granja. (That’s right – never played. Wouldn’t turn down a game if it showed up at the table, but I’m much more likely to end up playing The Dragon & Flagon or Sentinels of the Multiverse.)
By the way, I’m going to call the game No Siesta from here on out… the full name of the game is a bit unwieldy for blogging purposes.
I never understood the popularity of Farmville on Facebook… then again, I never understood the popularity of badgering your friends to support your online gaming addiction. And while I’m a huge fan of Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola, I’ve always been kind of flabbergasted at the popularity of a game about medieval farming… or farming of any kind, for that matter. (For the record, part of the genius of Agricola is how well the theme of the game meshes with the design of the game.)
No Siesta is a farming game… and once again, I’m blown away that I’m actually interested in roofing my barn and getting my produce to market. Similar to Agricola, the gameplay is easily explained in terms of the theme, making it easier to teach to new players.
There are seven possible resources:
- Hats (yes, I know, a hat is not strictly a resource – but I take it to mean “hard work”)
Those seven resources are used to do six different things
- Finish roofing your barn
- Send your goods off-island (we’re on Majorca) for sale
- Cart your goods to the nearby market
- Hire helpers
- Store up resources in your warehouse and stable
- Advance your marker on the siesta track
As I pointed out earlier, all of that makes sense – and that melding of theme & game mechanic(ism) is a real plus in my book.
It’s Getting Drafty In Here
No Siesta itself is simple in structure – the active player (who is given a lovely little wooden pig meeple and a set of resource dice) rolls those dice (but not the pig) to generate a set of resources. Each player chooses one resource and marks it on his resource board. When all players have chosen one resource, the active player picks up the remaining dice and rolls them again. There is another round of drafting resources. After this, there will be a single die remaining, which is rolled by the active player – and all players mark the resource rolled.
Now players use their resources to fill in the various areas of their farm. (This can be done in turn order or simultaneously with more experienced players.) Resources are spent left to right and offer various benefits as objectives are completed.
- Roofs cost silver – and when finished provides both victory points and a one-use bonus of resources, resource manipulation or another victory point.
- Hiring helpers costs a various resources – and when finished allow players to recruit a helper tile that provides additional powers for manipulating and obtaining resources.
- Shipping good off-island requires a set of three identical resources (once per resource per game) – and when finished provides both victory points and a commodity (a wild resource that is marked on your resource board).
- Carting your goods to market costs a variety of resources assembled in order as well as the appropriate number of donkeys to pull the cart – and when finished gives victory points in a manner similar to Roll through the Ages monuments. It also gives a commodity and allows a player to lay claim to a market bonus scoring objective on the market board.
- Storing resources in your warehouse or stable provides a victory point for each complete set (olive/grain/grape or donkey/pig) at the end of the game.
- Advancing your marker on the siesta track costs hats – and each step on that track is worth a victory point. In addition, there are three spaces on the track that give a player an additional resource disk. Finally, reaching the end of the siesta track triggers the end of the game.
Players can save a single unspent resource on their resource board.
Honestly, that description makes No Siesta sound dry as unbuttered toast… but in practice, it’s a very enjoyable game that runs about 15 minutes per player.
I personally enjoy playing board games solo – especially if the designer/publisher has given a meaningful solitaire mode in the rules. (Excellent examples: the solitaire engine in the first arc of Race for the Galaxy expansions, the solo mode for the aforementioned Agricola, and the single player version of The Pursuit of Happiness.)
However, there is a tendency on the part of some players to assume that providing a solitaire mode means that the game is “multiplayer solitaire.” (To get the full effect, you need to say “multiplayer solitaire” in the most dismissive tone possible, as if you were talking to a small petulant child.) I’m here to tell you that, despite the solo mode provided for by the components and the rulebook, No Siesta is NOT multiplayer solitaire.
There are a variety of ways you can impede the progress of the other players…
- Draft to Deny: Take resources in the draft that can assist other players. The most obvious use of this is keeping hats out of the hands of a player who is pushing the timer (see below).
- Push the Timer: Some of the longer-term strategies (shipping goods & taking carts to market) can be made less effective by a player pushing the siesta timer and hastening the end of the game. This must be done in tandem with some other way of gathering points (roof building, filling the warehouse & stable, etc.)
- Finishing Carts First: It can be worth it to sacrifice efficiency for speed in order to finish carts before other players. Not only does it maximize points, it also give you the first shot at the market bonuses.
- Choosing Market Options Wisely: While you can select bonus options to maximize points for yourself, you can also choose a slightly less attractive option if it will deny your opponent the ability to earn those points.
- Selecting Helpers: The advanced rules of the game have a common pool of helpers for all players, which can lead to drafting helpers not only for their value to you but the denial of that value to another player.
Variety is the Spice of Life (And Games)
No Siesta offers three different play “modes”:
- the base game for 2-4 players… each player had their own identical set of 6 helpers to recruit
- the advanced game… which adds 6 new helpers and uses a common pool of helpers for recruiting
- the solitaire game
We played both the base & advanced game – and found the advanced game to move slightly faster (due to the easier availability of hats for players that focused on those helpers). We’ve found that a number of different approaches to winning seem viable, which is always a good sign.
Another observation: the supply of helpers is “tighter” in 2 and 4 player games… meaning the friendliest version of the game is 3 player advanced.
Resource Manipulation Can Be Fun!
The rural heartbeat of No Siesta is about manipulating stuff to achieve your objectives. It’s a game about priorities and (mild) risk… and my boys and I found it be enjoyable and fast-moving. It’s not a particularly complicated game – I put it in the same difficulty zone as two other dice game adaptions: Roll for the Galaxy and Nations: The Dice Game. (I will note that Roll is much more difficult to teach.)
One final point: it’s a great game for your travel bag… you can reduce the size down from the not-overly-large box into a zip-lock baggie for easy transport.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Joe Huber (1 play) – No Siesta is yet another game in the “roll dice, and use them to accomplish goals (or at least get closer)” genre. In spite of what Mark claims, my play of the game felt very multiplayer solitaire – noting that I don’t see that as an issue. But it also felt a little bland. There are lots of things to do, and you can’t do all of them – but you’ll likely do enough of them to be in the right ballpark. To the extent there are better choices in the game – particularly in helpers – one is left with the feeling that there’s either an optimal set of choices (without the advanced helpers) or there is a race for helpers with no compensation for finishing second. The re-rolling of the dice after each choice has the unfortunate side-effect of simplifying choices, in many cases.
Having said that – it doesn’t make for a bad game. In fact, it’s quite pleasant; I’d have no issue with playing the game again. I just don’t feel compelled to go buy a copy. All of which leaves me in the neutral camp – if in the happier portion of that camp where it won’t bother me at all if someone else wants to play the game.
Finally – I did play La Granja, twice. It didn’t work for me, as I found the difference in the power of the cards made it unpleasant to play; I felt too constrained in my play options by the cards I saw. No Siesta is a completely different game – set in the same universe, but for me it does nothing to evoke the original. For me, that’s a positive thing; for others, I would neither be too optimistic based upon enjoyment of the board game, or too pessimistic in the reverse case.
Dan Blum (1 play): I have played La Granja a number of times, and while I like it better than Joe does, I agree with him that No Siesta is nothing like it; it has a few elements in common but it uses them in very different ways.
That being said, my main issue with La Granja is much the same as Joe’s issue with this game: as long as you do something reasonable you’ll end up with a decent score. (I am not sure I have ever played a game of La Granja with as much as ten points difference between first and last place.) This makes the decisions seem a bit meaningless in retrospect. No Siesta probably does have the same issue but I don’t mind that sort of thing as much in a shorter, simpler game.
Finally, while I’m rating it “I like it” that more reflects willingness to play it than desire to play it; there are just so many dice games out these days and this one doesn’t really stand out from the pack.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it…
I like it… Mark Jackson, Doug Garrett, Dan Blum
Neutral… Joe Huber
Not for me…