- Designers: Tony Chen, Romain Caterdijan
- Publisher: EmperorS4
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 45-60 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher at SPIEL 2022
World Splitters is the second game from the Essen crop set in the same futuristic world. The other game has already been reviewed – World Exchangers. In this game: you, as one of the factions, are re-designing the administrative divisions of the New World with other competing factions. You will split and bid for the land while your goal is to obtain the highest influence in the enclosed regions. With that ambition in mind, are you able to intertwine multiple interests and make irresistible offers? You will place fences to divide the area into designated sizes for bonuses and auction the right to occupy the space besides.
The game comes with two double sided maps; you will choose one map each game and place it in the box bottom. Place fences and scenery bits on the slots with black outlines. The scoreboard is set next to it on top of the box lid. The favor tiles are placed on the map on the appropriate marked spots. The numbered enclosure bonus tiles and the enclosure markers are placed on the scoreboard. There is also a bonus tile specific to the map in play which is put on the scoreboard. Each player takes a screen, 8 explorer meeples in their color, and 9 coins. Coins are kept behind the screen and remain secret for the entire game. A start player is chosen, and then players place their Initiative marker on the track on the scoreboard in reverse player order.
The game is played in a series of turns, going until all of the Enclosure markers are placed on the map. Each turn has a number of phases: 1) Divide, 2) Bid, 3) Challenge, 4) Resolve.
1] Divide – the active player places a fence on a border slot in the board (not on the edge and not within a previously enclosed region) and then places the Current bid marker on that fence. If both spaces next to the fence have explorers in them, skip to the 4) Resolve phase. Otherwise… If this creates an enclosed region, if the number of spaces in the region matches an available tile, take that tile.
2] Bid – Every player other than the active player makes a bid in coins in a closed fist. Bids are simultaneously revealed
3] Challenge – The highest bidder becomes the First challenger (ties broken by the initiative chart). If the active player accepts the bid, the coins are paid to the active player and the First challenger places his explorer on an empty space next to the fence. If the active player refuses the bid, the active player pays the First Challenger the amount of the bid and then places his explorer next to the fence. If an explorer is placed in a space with a favor, that favor is immediately resolved. If both spaces next to the fence are occupied, move to 4) Resolve. Otherwise, the next highest bid is the Second challenger, and the process is repeated so that the fence has explorers on both sides.
Favors – red favors allow you to move forward on the initiative track. Yellow favors allow you to place a fence immediately. If you enclose a region, you can take a bonus tile now; but it will not be scored until the next phase. Green favors give you benefits that depend on the map (See the bonus tile placed on the scoreboard)
4] Resolve – If one or more enclosed Regions were made this turn, each is scored. The player who enclosed the region has already taken the numbered tile if it was available. The player with the most explorers in the region gains 3 VP per space in the region. The player with the 2nd most explorers gets 2VP per explorers in the region. Then remove all the explorers and mark the region with a checkmark token to show it has been scored. If there are 8 or more enclosed regions, the game ends (you’ll be out of checkmark tokens). Otherwise, the next person clockwise becomes the active player.
At the end of the game, there is some final scoring
- 12VP per set of red/yellow/green for favors and/or enclosure bonus tiles
- -5VP for the player with least money left over, +5VP for the player with most money
- Score any unenclosed regions at the end of the game. The player with the most explorers gets 2VP per space, 2nd place gets 1VP per explorer
The player with the most points wins. Ties broken by the Initiative track
My thoughts on the game
Our first game of this was a 3P game, and it went over pretty well. We really liked the decision making process. The active player had to consider a lot when choosing the auction site – where did the fence go; what spot/spots needed to be occupied… and how much were they worth? Our game started out with some furious bidding
In this first game, there seemed to be some questions about understanding what an enclosed area was – and this was likely my fault in the rules explanation. I did not stress enough that the rules state that the area has to be 8 spaces or less. And then, to compound issues, I think we applied the rule unevenly in that game.
Despite that, we enjoyed the game, and looked forward to playing it more. The next game was a 4P game, and here we ended up with a more significant issue. The tie-breaker rule (as we interpreted it) was extremely harsh, and exceedingly unfair to the player who had the misfortune of randomly starting at the end of the tiebreaker line.
Unlike many other games which use a tiebreaker line, the player who wins a tie does not move to the end of the line; nothing changes. The only way to switch places in line is to place your meeple on a red token space on the board. On some boards, there are as few as 5 of these tokens. Thus, for the player in last to make it to the top, they would have to win at least 3 of these tokens; and hope that neither of the other two were won by the player behind them as they would then again lose ground. As this is the only way to break ties, it feels like a big disadvantage to have to work so hard. Also, as other players know how much you need those red tokens, they can hold it over you in the auctions.
You have to decide if this is something you’re going to fight for, as once the red tokens are off the board, there is no way to manipulate your tiebreaker status for the rest of the game. Given how large the difference can be in payouts for first and second (as well as second and third) in the area majority game, the tiebreaker advantage feels paramount to success in the game.
Online, the designer has confirmed that this rule interpretation is correct and has suggested that “If you are first player and start last on initiative, place your first fence next to a red favor. Pay the first challenger to place your meeple first (and take that red favor), or take the money from the first challenger which is likely good for helping you win an auction later on. An extra turn as the active player can easily be worth more than the initiative.” While I certainly have to defer to the much much greater experience level of the designer, no one in our games who has been the start player has agreed with the designer’s take on this. Perhaps it will change with future plays (if we in fact have future plays) – but it seems unlikely that I’ll even pull this out with 4P, and egads, most certainly not with 5P. (At least in a 3P game, even if you lose all ties, you’ll at least have a chance to get something out of most auctions…)
The components are… dodgy – though this appears to possibly be an issue with the factory that produced the game, and not with the vision the publisher had when sending it to the factory…. There was an included set of extra bits to fix some production issues with the current bid fence – instead of going into the board, it now uses two pieces to form a trellis-like thing that straddles the top of the fence to be bid on. Apparently one of the cuts wasn’t made deep enough in the current bid marker and it simply can’t stand on its own.
Hopefully the fence doesn’t knock it over as they are a bit too thin for the holes in the board, and as a result, they are leaning all over the place – never standing straight up. The final bit of advice is to use some alternative scoring system than the “scoreboard” provided. The track only goes to 20, and has chits that are reversible +20/+40. I really dislike chits like this as I find they can easily be flipped over accidentally. Also, to have a game where it is not uncommon to score 20 or 30+ points in a single scoring phase – to have a track that flips at 20 just is asking for trouble and mistakes. The track also includes a starting “0” space that you have to remember to skip when you flip over the end as the end of the track is at 20, which means the first space you need on the next lap is the “1” space, not the “0” space that comes first.
Those criticisms aside, the game has a lot of redeeming qualities. I love the decisions that go into deciding where to hold an auction. I love the opaque valuations of the meeple placement locations – given that the economy of the game is closed; if you spend too much and reduce your bankroll too much, you might end up being hamstrung for a round or two as you won’t have enough to bid well. And… if the other players notice how poor you are, you might also get less than market value when you’re the active player because they know you don’t have as much money to spend to reject their bids… or if you do pay out, then you just put yourself back in the hole again! I’d probably be willing to consider this at 3 players again; being sure to explain the tiebreaker permanence and my perceived level of importance that it has. I really don’t think that this is a game that I’ll try with 4 again until someone other than the designer can report back that they feel the tiebreaker thing isn’t broken. I really want this game to work, and I am hopeful that I will be proven wrong.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Mark Jackson (1 play): Some really great ideas that worked in a three player game – but Dale is correct about the components getting in the way of enjoying the game.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale (3p), John P, Mark Jackson
- Not for me. Dale (4p), Steph