Dale Yu: Review of Celtic

Celtic

  • Designer: Dirk Hillebrecht
  • Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played – 3 with review copy provided by Pegasus Spiele (I have played its predecessor, Wunderland, at least 20 times)

Celtic is a re-make of one of the games I have always felt never got enough attention, Wunderland.  We reviewed the game when it came out – https://opinionatedgamers.com/2013/05/26/wunderland-review/   In the original game, players are exploring the Hamburg indoor amusement park known as Miniatur Wunderland – https://www.miniatur-wunderland.com/  In fact, I bought my copy of the game from the giftshop there, a memento of my trip to Hamburg and the Kinderspiel des Jahres ceremony.

Celtic uses most of the same game ideas, but now with a different theme.  Surely, you’d think that the title portends exploration of Scotland or Ireland, no?  WRONG.  The board “depicts a Celtic Age meadowland in what is now central Germany”.  The players are vying to be the successor to the Celtic Prince of Glauberg, and they compete to see who has the most influence and who can generate the most trade in the region.

The game shows this meadowland with 50 round location sites and 7 diamond shaped trading posts.  There is a starting village found in the middle right of the board.  At the start of the game, all of the family members start here, stacked by color.

The Goal cards are shuffled – there are 2 different types.  Simple goals have 2 locations on them and provide 15 points.  Hard goals have 3 locations on them and provide 20 points. (Unlike Wunderland, there are no super-hard goals with 4 locations).  Each player is dealt a hand of 2 goal cards. 

On a turn, the active player must make a single move with at least one of his Family markers.  You simply follow the roads printed on the board between locations, and you are allowed to move either one or two spaces away from wherever you started.  You can move as many Family members as you want from the start location, but they must all end in the same destination.  After you make your move, any other players who had Family markers in your starting space can choose to follow you – if they follow, any number of markers that were in the starting space can move to the destination.

After you have moved, you can optionally complete a Goal card as long as you have at least one marker on every destination on that card.  To do so, reveal one of your goal cards and then remove one Family marker from each location shown on the card; these markers are returned to the starting Celtic Village. Then, draw a new goal card to bring your hand back up to 2 — unless this was your fourth completed Goal.  If so, you do not draw a new card and your remaining card is your final Goal.  Completed Goal cards remain face up on the table so that people can count up your points.  

You may also collect Trade Cards.  If you have any Family markers on the diamond trading spaces, you can choose to return the marker to the starting Celtic Village and collect a trade card from the location you moved from.  Trade cards are kept face down and they will be scored at the end of the game.

The game ends immediately at the end of a player’s turn when one of these two criteria are met: 1) The player finishes his fifth Goal card OR 2) The player announces and reveals that he has one of each of the 7 Trade cards.  The first condition is obviously mandatory as you must always show how many Goal cards you have completed.  The second is optional; you are not required to declare the game over even if you have met the requirement.  

For final scoring, players score points for their completed Goal cards.  Then, the Trade cards are scored.  This is somewhat complicated, and it may help to use the included scoring pad to track scores.  First, you check how many Goal cards you have completed, and this tells you how many cards you can score of any type – one more than the number of completed goal cards… .  Arrange your Trade cards by type and in descending quantity.  For the type you have the most of, score 1 point per card; for the next most type, score 2 points per card, for the next most, 3 points per card…

Sum up all your points for your final score.  The tiebreaker goes to the player who has the most trade cards worth 7 points.

My thoughts on the game

Celtic was a pleasant surprise to find on the SPIEL 2020.digital game list.  I had not realized that it was being produced, and I am happy that more people will get a chance to try out this game.   I have long championed Wunderland – I have always felt it was a superb light game, suited for families, and a really nice super filler for my game group.  Admittedly, in retrospect, some of my enthusiasm for the game is due to the fond memories I have of my trip to Hamburg.  It was quite exciting to take part in the festivities, and I’ll always remember the occasion when my brother won the Kinderspiel des Jahres.

Celtic is nearly identical to Wunderland, though obviously the theme has changed, and the super hard Goal cards were taken out.  Also, Wunderland makes the bonus card scoring a little easier by putting a simple flat cap of 4 cards per type.  Other than that, you have the same nice  (mostly) light game to enjoy.  

The key, at least for me, is trying to get benefit out of other people’s moves.  Each time that you are able to piggyback on someone else’s move, you likely gain a bit on your opponents as you have essentially gotten a free move.  Additionally, trying to make moves on your turn where no one else rides along has the same overall effect…

Timing can also be an important issue.  Trying to score your own pieces just after your opponents score is key as this will put your pieces back into the starting village at the same time that your opponents are there, and this hopefully will give you a chance to piggyback on their moves.  

You could also try to gamble and move all of your pieces a little ways from the start village (i.e. saving moves by moving multiple pieces on the same action) – and then hoping that you draw goal tiles that are close to the current position of your pieces.  Sure, you’ll lose out somewhat on the opportunity to get free movements from your opponents but you may save some time as you won’t have to start from scratch with the later goal cards.  Of course, if you draw cards with locations in different directions, you’re kinda screwed as there is no way to cycle the cards in your hand… you’ll just have to figure it out as best you can.

Sometimes it’s not just enough to get a bunch of free moves because each player will end up with a different minimum number of moves to complete their cards – this is due to the fact that some cards only have 2 locations and others have 3.  Furthermore, while I haven’t done the math to be sure, I’m fairly certain that the cards are not overly balanced in terms of having an equal number of moves from the start village.  Some of the cards that I’ve played with in my games seem closer than others (but again, i’ll admit to not having counted them out).

This brings up one of the chronic complaints about Wunderland that still exists in Celtic – namely, you don’t get to choose which type of Goal card you get – you simply get luck of the draw,  In at least one of my games, I snuck out a quick win  because I drew five of the 2 location cards and was able to rush the end of the game while my opponents only had 3 and 4 cards completed.  Though they had some 3-location cards done (which are worth 5VP more each), they simply couldn’t compete with my five completed cards – and this can be frustrating when you have no control over it.

The other complaint I have is that the trade card scoring is the only part of the game that isn’t easy to process.  In Wunderland, each side of the board has a very helpful chart where you can lay out your cards and score; here, you have nothing but the verbal description from the rules.  Additionally, the scoring is made a bit more complex with the (n+1) max on scoring cards based on the number of completed goals rather than the simple limit of 4 per type.  In addition to being more difficult to parse, it also takes away the possibility of sneaking out a win using the cards.  I’ve really only seen this work once, but it was an interesting idea.  Perhaps the designer/developer didn’t want a way for someone to win the game while avoiding the main strategic component (that is, fulfilling the goal cards) – and that’s why this rule changed.

Those things aside, Celtic is still a nice filler game.  My 3p games are still finishing around 30 minutes or so, so it’s definitely firmly in the filler category.  The game can be capricious – sometimes your success is determined by which goal cards you happen to draw, but that’s fine by me in a short game.  This is a good fit for family get-togethers around here as well as an opener/closer to game night.  If I didn’t already have Wunderland, I’d probably keep this in the collection, but due to the positive nostalgia I have for Wunderland, this is a game that I will pass on to a friend so it can continue to get some play.  

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

James Nathan: I liked it (but that isn’t my rating below). The following around bit is neat, and I even like the goofy scoring of the trade cards.  I like the path planning on the map, and while I never got around to Wunderland, there’s a nostalgia here for me in the mechanics and moving around the board in a way that it felt like many games were doing at the time. But. There’s a certain class of games where you have contracts to complete and you can accidentally help someone else score theirs through no fault of your own, and they’ll always rub me the wrong way.  I mean, here I at least know that I’m helping you, say, 8% towards your goal, but man, if that’s from 16% to 24%, I’m more ok than when it is 84% to 92%, and that’s the unknown that gets in my craw.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. James Nathan, John P
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2020, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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