Design by Reiner Stockhausen
Published by dlp games
2 – 5 players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
I enjoy when boardgames teach me something new. I grew-up in the hobby playing wargames, and remember the thrill I would get from reading the often extensive “Historical Notes” booklets included in many Avalon Hill and SPI games. I often enjoyed those history lessons more than the game itself! I recently learned something new from Bohemian Villages, the new dice-rolling game from Reiner Stockhausen. This new tidbit of information is that there is a German saying: “This is like Bohemian villages to me.” The background of this saying is provided in the introduction to the rules and harkens back to the days of the Thirty Year’s War when German troops encountered a foreign speaking population living in Bohemian towns with confusing names. The resulting confusion led to the “Bohemian villages” term, which is the equivalent of the English saying, “It is all Greek to me!”
This interesting little bit of information likely served as a bit of inspiration for the theme and title of this latest Stockhausen design. Players roll dice and attempt to inhabit various businesses and buildings in villages in hopes of achieving wealth and riches. Each of the nine village boards depicts various buildings upon which players can place their dice, effectively inhabiting those buildings and deriving any benefits they may confer. The objective is to generate the greatest wealth through a variety of building occupations.
A player’s turn consists of rolling the four dice and arranging them to create one or two totals. In order to be valid, a combination must include at least two dice; a single die is not considered a combination and a player cannot use it to place a figure onto a building. Once the player forms these combinations, he may place figures onto buildings that have the corresponding value. For example, if a player forms a “9” and a “5”, he may place figures on an inn (value 9) and a tailor shop (value 5). He may choose any unoccupied building in any village, splitting the two placements as he sees fit. It is then the next player’s turn, who repeats this process.
It is possible to displace another player’s figure from a building, but there are restrictions. First, no figure can be displaced from a building if there are still vacant buildings of that type remaining in any village. Manors (value 12) are safe and a player cannot be displaced from these grand estates. A player may only displace a figure from a shop (bakery, butchery, dairy or tailor shop) if he doesn’t already own one of that type. These displacements can have a dramatic impact on current conditions and end-game scoring.
Some building give immediate benefits when occupied (usually money), while others provide ongoing benefits (again, usually money) or score at game’s end. Some (flour mills and glass factories) score when all buildings of that type are occupied, after which they are vacated and once again open for occupation.
The game continues until at the beginning of her turn a player has no figures remaining to place. Players begin the game with 10 or 13 figures (depending upon the number of players), but these can get returned fairly regularly as they are bumped from the buildings. Plus, when a player has no figures after her turn, opponents usually conspire to try to oust that player’s figures from buildings so that the game can continue. Eventually, these conspiratorial efforts will fail and the game will end, which usually takes 30 – 45 minutes.
As stated, the objective of the game is to maximize one’s wealth by occupying the buildings that you feel will generate wealth, both during and at game’s end. Most buildings have a unique ability, while some (the shops) are gathered into sets for end-game scoring. There are a variety of ways to earn money (money wins) and there doesn’t appear to be one dominant strategy. That is a plus.
Of course, you must realize that this is a dice game, so “strategy” often gets tossed out of the window thanks to the vagaries of the dice. You may want to place a figure on that much-needed, church, but your dice rolls won’t allow you to do it. There are no mechanisms in the game to allow you to manipulate the value of your roll. One can use two dice to take a special action tile, which can be used on a future turn to reroll one or more dice. This can be helpful or not…depending upon how lucky one is with the reroll!
Bohemian Villages is a game where figures can be displaced easily and quickly, particularly when playing with four or five players. So, it is likely that any planned strategy or goal will be sidetracked often as you attempt to regain lost buildings. There are very few certainties here or long-term leases on buildings.
The rules regarding the replacement (or bumping) of an opponent’s figure from a building can be initially confusing, particularly for someone new to the game. The rules explain this, but the player aid is completely silent on this matter. This omission transcends the merely inconvenient and actually causes repeated questions and confusion. This information should have been included on the player aid charts.
Bohemian Villages is a light, dice-rolling game that, due to the nature of dice, has often quick and dramatic changes of fortune. Such is the nature of many dice-based games. This should not be looked upon as a flaw, as it is part of what the game is designed to be. Folks who do not enjoy such quick fluctuations in fortune or some bad dice rolls are best advised to avoid visiting this village. All others, however, may find the new twists to make for an entertaining game. I fall into this latter group and am enjoying my exploration of this village.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it): Greg S.
1 (Not for me):
Nice review! This game introduces some longer-term thinking which is nice in a dice game, and it’s nicely balanced. The lunch hour group I belong to at work has enjoyed it over a few plays so far.