DESIGNER: Reiner Stockhausen
PUBLISHER: dlp games, TMG
AGES: 12 and up
TIME: 60 -180 minutes, depending on the scenario
TIMES PLAYED: 2, once through each scenario, with a copy I purchased
(note: This review is spoiler-free; I am not discussing any details of the stories.)
Orleans is one of those games that I played a couple of times at cons and enjoyed, but never played because I didn’t own it and no one I play with regularly does either. I always meant to pick it up, but then I got Altiplano , which filled the bag builder niche for me quite nicely, and I forgot all about Orleans. When I saw Orleans Stories I was intrigued by the concept of the stories, and decided to give it a try.
You first need to know that this is not a legacy game, which seems to be a common misconception about it. It is a scenario-based game. The game includes two scenarios, both of which could easily be played many times. You don’t destroy anything, and while you’d know the elements of the scenario story on repeated plays,the game play would likely be different and the game would still be enjoyable to play.
It comes in a fairly large box. Inside the box is a tray that holds many of the resources and workers and some of the components. There are also various modular boards, some of which are used in both scenarios and some of which are used only in one. Each scenario has its own small book, with one copy for each player, that takes you through the scenario and lets you know what gets added or what happens at particular points during the game.
The game board is the same in both scenarios, and is set up with terrain based on the number of players.
There is a common supply board that is filled and re-filled based on the story you are playing.
There is a supply of buildings that are divided by number; the buildings enter play based on the scenario you are playing.
Each player has a personal board and a personal supply of buildings as well as player markers in their color that indicate control and fortresses.
The rule book provides a basic overview of the Orleans bag-building system for those who are not familiar with it. It also covers the basic set-up and rules that are true for both scenarios, and then goes into the scenario-specific set-up. At that point, you use the book for that scenario to begin. The book will tell you what goal(s) you have to obtain to move to the next section. There is a copy of the book for each player.
The game play in both scenarios has many similarities to Orleans; you and the other players simultaneously draw a number of followers from your bag based on the scenario, and then assign those followers to the spaces on your player board or to the buildings you acquire over the course of the game or banish them to beneficial deeds, where you will get a bonus but lose that follower. In player order each player does one action based on how they assigned their followers; this continues until all players have passed.
What you are doing with those actions is similar to Orleans, and contains many of the same elements. You have the same followers, and there are still technologies, goods and beneficial deeds. Your objectives to win the game are different, though, based on the scenario, so some things will work a little differently or have a slight twist them.
The game continues to the end point specified in the scenario that you are playing and victory is assessed on that specific scenario.
The scenarios included in the box – The First Kingdom and the King’s Favor – are both very different. Both give you a story to follow and additional actions and rules that are included. Each has a very different feel, despite the fact that they are using the same basic gameplay.
That’s about as much as I can say without giving anything away.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
The box is large, but it needs to be to hold the included components. The tray that holds the resources is nice, but has a few empty spaces that I assume are meant for future components. The components are all of good quality. It’s a bit confusing to set up because you have to figure out which boards and components go with which scenario, but the rule book and the scenario books help with that and it was much better on the second go, after I invested the time to sort and bag a little differently.
The stories are very interesting and add to the experience of the game. The two that are currently included play out VERY differently; one is much more forgiving than the other. I liked that the experience was completely different. I would recommend starting with The First Kingdom if you are not an experienced Orleans player. First Kingdom takes longer to play, but is more flexible and forgiving, while The King’s Favor is more prescriptive and very unforgiving .
I think it will be harder to play this if you don’t have any experience with Orleans or at least a bag-builder. Even though the rules has a section that covers the basics, we had one rules question about a building that wasn’t explicitly covered in the Orleans Stories rules, but that we did figure out by reading the rules to Orleans and Orleans Invasion. It was minor, and our instinct about it was correct; I suspect someone with more experience with the original games would have known it. I don’t think it is impossible, though, as long as you are prepared for the learning curve. I would suggest reading through the bag-building section of the rules very carefully. I would also suggest you start with The First Kingdom in this case.
Each scenario is definitely replayable. It was fun the first time through when we didn’t know what would be revealed or happening in the next section, but the gameplay is still interesting regardless. I think one of the scenarios is especially replayable as there are more paths to victory; the other I suspect may have a clearer path that would reward a more experienced player. I do think eventually the stories will feel tired, though, so I hope there will be addiitonal ones released.
I like the game; I am looking forward to playing it again, and I hope that there are more scenarios being released in the future. It will not replace Altiplano as my favorite bag-builder, but the story arc is enough to keep me interested.
THOUGHTS OF OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS
Doug G: Shelley and I really like Orleans and probably enjoy Altiplano, its follow up, even more. The bag-building mechanism works very well, though Altiplano’s greater control since you don’t put used items back until the bag is empty makes it better IMO. That said, we have gone back to Orleans numerous times, especially with the additions of new expansions and scenarios.
All of that needs to be said because we were both looking forward to Orleans Stories more than most of the titles we brought back from Essen. However, I’m sad to report that this one went over like a lead balloon. The HUGE box (at least twice the size of the original) was initially off-putting for a luggage-limited traveler, but we made do…but then I read through the race-game-focused rules and the LOOONG playing time of the first scenario and I began to get worried. Unfortunately, those worries were realized as we plowed through that scenario, finding ourselves manipulated into playing a particular way due to the end-game conditions, and just hated the experience.
I wonder if flipping the two scenarios would help, especially for more experienced Orleans players like Tery alludes to, as the second one is supposed to play a LOT more quickly. That said, we just couldn’t stomach another go at this one – it made it to the ‘to sell’ table and has found its way into someone else’s hands who will hopefully get more enjoyment out of it. Shel doesn’t want to play Orleans for awhile (nor do I) because of the bad taste Orleans Stories left. We’ll be talking about the game more extensively on an upcoming Garrett’s Games podcast.
I loved it!:
I like it: Tery
Not for Me: Doug G.