Design by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling
Published by Eggertspiele
2 – 4 Players, 1 ½ – 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
Ever since discovering El Grande way back in 1995, I have been a fanboy of designer Wolfgang Kramer. Sure, there have been a few “misses,” but for the most part I have adored his designs. El Grande, Princes of Florence, Torres, Tikal – all are masterpieces. His collaborations with other designers—particularly Michael Kiesling—have also been wonderful. It is no surprise that I am eager to play and try any new designs from the master.
Reworld was released at the Spiel in Essen in late 2017 and is yet another joint effort from the duo of Kramer and Kiesling. It is quite a departure from their usual fare, as it has a distinct “puzzle” quality that is unlike any of the creations in their vast catalog. In a further departure, the game has a space setting, which I have always been told is not a popular theme amongst European gamers.
Set in the distant future when mankind is traveling the far reaches of the universe and attempting to colonize new worlds, Reworld is played in two distinct phases (“chapters” in game parlance). During the first chapter—which lasts five turns—players gather various modules, attaching them to the five docking rows on their carrier ship. Multiple modules can be attached to each row. During the second chapter, players will unlock these modules and send them down to the planet Eurybia. The challenge is doing this in the correct order, as the planet’s terrain must first be prepared and settlements founded before other modules can be offloaded. This takes careful and sometimes clever planning and execution during both chapters of the game.
The large central board represents the Colossus Station, where in each of the five turns of the first chapter 20 modules are placed, attaching one each to the station’s docking bays. Players will take turns playing Officer cards to claim desired modules, attaching those modules to their carrier. The main board also houses the 15 population ships, which represent citizens of earth who are headed to a new life on Eurybia. Players will claim ships and earn victory points by being the first to achieve the requirements listed on them.
Each player receives a carrier, onto which they will attach their claimed modules. Each turn players will also receive a hand of Officer cards, which will be used to claim the modules. Officer cards have values ranging from 1 – 5, and each turn a player’s hand will likely be different, sometimes radically so. One must adapt to the hand he is dealt.
As mentioned, during the first five turns of the game players will play Officer cards to claim modules from the Colossus Station. Each module is connected to one area where an Officer card (or cards) are played. Each of these spaces is adjacent to two other spaces, which is important when determining which Officer card(s) can or must be played. Simplified, the card playing rules are:
- If there are no adjacent cards, the player may play a card of any value and claim the connected module.
- If there is a card in one adjacent slot, the player must play a card with an identical value. For example, if an adjacent slot has an Officer card with a value of “2”, the player must play an Officer card with a value of “2” in the slot. It is important to note that a player may play ANY two cards as a wild card
- If both adjacent slots contain Officer cards, the player must play cards to match BOTH of those cards. Again, any two cards can be played as a wild card. So, if a player cannot match either of the two adjacent cards, he must play four cards in order to claim the desired module. Ouch.
When a module is claimed, it must be placed in the docking row matching the value of the Officer card played to claim it. So, if a “3” valued Officer card was played, the player must place the claimed module in row 3 of his carrier. Since modules must be offloaded in a specific order, extreme care and planning must be employed when playing cards and claiming modules.
A turn is complete when all modules have been claimed or all players decline to play further cards. Players earn one point apiece for any un-played cards, so sometimes it may be worth not playing a card or two. The board is reset and this process is repeated for five turns. This is my one major complaint against the game: these five turns feel very repetitive and frankly take too long.
After these five turns, the final chapter occurs, wherein players offload their modules and colonize the planet. Players alternate unloading one (sometimes more) module, sending it to the planet. A critical and often frustrating rule to follow is that only a module on the end of a row can be offloaded. This makes proper acquisition during the first chapter extremely critical.
Also critical is the order in which players unlock modules, as well as the type of module being unlocked. Terrabots must be sent to the planet first in order to clear the terrain and establish a city. There are five different types of terrabot, each of which can found a city. Thus, a player can establish up to five cities. Builder units (there are five different types) are needed to expand a city, but they must be transported via shuttle. Each shuttle can transport two builder units, which is the only way a player can unlock more than one module on their turn. All builder units of one type must be in the same city. There are incentives provided by certain population ships to have five different cities and all five different builder units. Satellites can either be used for planetary defense (again, there are incentives to contribute to the defense of the planet), or used to earn points from the satellite’s special task. The “tasks” translate into victory points for achieving or possessing various features in one’s cities: building types, size, terrabots, etc. Players should properly plan the offloading of these satellites so that maximum points can be earned. Offloading them to quickly will only yield a few, if any, points.
When a player offloads and places a module, he should peruse the available population ships, claiming any whose requirements he was the first to meet. These ships will earn the player victory points, generally ranging from 5 – 7 points. Again, proper planning in both chapters is required if a player hopes to achieve the requirements of these ships. Of course, one’s opponents are also attempting to claim these ships, so there is a race to be the first to meet these requirements.
Chapter 2 ends once all players have either offloaded or jettisoned all modules. At this point, the largest of the population ships is consulted to see who earns the bonus points it provides. These points, which range from 2 – 20 points, are awarded to the players who have the largest cities (each of the five cities are examined) and has contributed the most to the planetary defense system. The top three players in each category earn points.
Reworld is certainly different than games I have played. In an industry where trends seem to dominate—worker placement, dice selection and placement, action points, majority control—“different” is always refreshing and welcome. Indeed, this is yet another reason why I really appreciate the design talents of Herr Kramer: he has been a pioneer in designing games that use different mechanisms. Further, his originality has often been copied and sometimes began an entire new trend in boardgames.
The game encourages players to formulate a long-term plan, and then attempt to collect modules in the correct order so as to achieve those plans. Each turn players must very carefully assess the available modules and attempt to collect them so that they will be able to be offloaded in the correct order. Of course, this is far from foolproof, as the player must have the necessary Officer cards and hope that the desired modules not only appear, but that they are not grabbed by one’s opponents. There are so many variables and, yes, a fairly healthy dose of luck, all of which can be huge obstacles to achieving one’s goals. Thus, the true challenge of the game is to adapt to the uncertain circumstances and make the best with the situation at hand.
These uncertainties and vagaries of fate have proven a bit too much for some of the folks with whom I have played. These players tend to prefer games wherein careful plans can be made and executed without too much interference from luck or uncertainties. While I tend to fall into this category, I actually enjoy the challenge of having to adapt my plans to the uncertainties the game presents.
Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the problem I have with the game is that the first five turns are very repetitive and simply take too long. My mind keeps relating this to a game of basketball: the real excitement of the game takes place in the final quarter, with the first three periods being an often unexciting build-up for the conclusion. Now I realize that the early part of the game—both in Reworld and basketball—is important and part of an overall strategy. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it exciting. Plus, it really does have that “lather, rinse and repeat” aspect that can be a bit wearisome.
Reworld is certainly a fairly original and interesting game, with some clever puzzle-like aspects that require careful thought and planning. It certainly isn’t a bad game, but it also isn’t a terribly exciting game. It is one of those games that I would be happy to play occasionally, but it would not be one making a regular appearance to my gaming table. It is worth a try, but don’t expect it to achieve the level of greatness as many of Kramer’s outstanding designs.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it):
2 (Neutral): Greg S.
1 (Not for me):