- Designer: David Chircop
- Publisher: Mighty Boards
- Players: 1-4
- Age: 14
- Time: ~25min/player
- Played with review/giveaway copy provided by publisher. >10 plays total now
Hamlet was a game that I was first introduced to at SPIEL 2022. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of the Founders Edition at the show, and we reviewed it last year. Below, I will copy my original review, and then add some thoughts that I have had since playing it a few more times.
I did just receive a copy of the retail version – which I will keep with me for the next week or two to teach at the game groups I go to – and THEN WE WILL GIVE THIS GENTLY USED COPY AWAY (details at end).
—(copied review below)—
In Hamlet (2022, Mighty Boards) – there is one central Hamlet that the players contribute to, with its own self-forming demand and supply economy. Villagers walking through the Hamlet, delivering food to households and building resources to construction sites. And one day, the Church will finally be built, and the once-little Hamlet has become a fledgling town. Who will be the biggest benefactor when that happens? Once the church is built, the game ends – mostly because you no longer live in a hamlet; the term being reserved for villages without a church.
To start the game, the church is placed on the table and the 5 starting buildings are placed adjacent to this – the roads must all line up from the church to the new tiles. Each player is given all of their pieces in their color (meeples, donkeys, flags to denote ownership, roads, and refined goods). Each player starts with one meeple and one donkey on the Church, and each production building starts with 2 resources on it. Donkeys and roads are important for the transfer of goods. Goods can be moved freely around the village on the road system to the next adjacent tile, and a donkey can move the good one tile further along the road system.
While there are some ownership markers; one of the interesting things about Hamlet is that most of the buildings and the basic goods are not owned by anyone; they are simply available for anyone to use. The refined goods are in the player color; and this is important for bonuses; but again, anyone can use the goods on the board. The most important thing to understand about goods is that they have to be able to be transported to the location where they will be consumed. Basic goods go back to the supply. Refined goods go back to the player that created it, and the owner will also get a bonus when their refined good is used.
The starting building tiles are placed in the bag, mixed up, and then 4 are drawn up to start the market (found above the scoring board). The awards and milestones are set to the side of the table where all can be seen. Milestones are awarded to the first player in the game to do certain things. Awards give victory points at the end of the game for doing the most of something. Finally, the Market tile deck is made up, and the first 3 tiles are placed on the Market building tile.
On a turn, the active player can do two types of things – in the order of their choice: 1) Move their donkeys, 2) take villager actions. Moving donkeys is simple. At any point in the turn, each donkey can move once, to an adjacent tile that is connected by a road. You can only do this action once a turn, so all your donkeys must move for the turn in one instance. Unlike donkeys, Villagers can move an unlimited distance along roads; they are apparently super fast. There are three options for a villager action:
1] Activate a building – move a Villager along roads to the Building tile you want to activate
- Production building – fill all the empty slots with basic goods, then gain the listed rewards
- Refineries – transport the needed basic goods to the refinery; replace the basic good with a refined one from your supply (black side up unless you have the corresponding Milestone – then white side up). Whenever anyone would use this refined good, the owner will get a bonus.
- Town Hall – you can buy a building tile here from the market and/or you can hire workers and donkeys. All costs per what is written on the tile
- Market – you can make a sale; transport the required goods to the market to match one of the sale tiles; discard all the goods and collect the bonus on the tile
- Church – There are multiple delivery spots; choose an unfulfilled spot, transport the necessary goods there, and build a church piece. Mark the delivery spot with one of your ownership markers.
Note that if you ever need an extra resource, you can buy it based on the chart printed on the Market – you do not need to have a meeple in the Market to do this. However, you can NOT use this to fulfill a Market tile. Also, any time you are doing something (other than a market tile) that requires multiple goods; deliver them one at a time as you will possibly gain rewards with each movement, and these can be immediately used for things such as buying resources from the market.
2] Construct a building – place your villager on a tile and then choose a tile you have previously purchased, and place it adjacent to the tile your villager is on; the tile segments must match. Now transport the needed resources for construction as printed on the tile. Gain the rewards for building the building tile.
- if you have built the first instance of any of the refineries, take the milestone for this type. For the rest of the game, when you refine this type of good, you will use the white outlined side, and your refined goods of that type will get double the bonus when they are consumed. The rest of the building tiles of this type are then added to the tile bag.
- If you build a Landmark tile, place one of your ownership markers on it. At the end of the game, you will be the only person who can score the VP criteria on the tile
3] Build a road – you can connect the tile you are standing on to an adjacent tile that is not otherwise connected by a road. Transport the necessary resources to your current tile.
- Mountain to Mountain – pay 2 Wood, place your road down
- Forest to Forest – pay 2 Stone, place your road down
Though the road is in your color, all players will be able to use this for the rest of the game.
Whatever the choice, once the action is done, lay the villager down to remind yourself that it has taken its action. Once all of your villagers have taken an action, and all the donkeys have had the chance to move once if they want, your turn is over and the next player takes their turn. This continues until the Church building is complete. At that point, you finish the round so that all players have had the same number of turns, and then you move to scoring.
To score, consider the following things:
- Awards – look at the award tiles, and see who has done each the best. If there is a tie, split the points amongst all tied, rounding down
- Landmarks – each player checks the scoring criteria for any landmarks they own; scoring per the instructions on the tile
- Road scoring – score one point per road you have built; (doubled if you have the Planner milestone)
- Longest Road – find the longest continuous path in the village made up of pre-printed roads AND roads in your color that does NOT use the Church tile. Score 2 points for each building tile in that path.
- Gold – score 1 VP per 3 Gold left at the end of the game
The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the most Church deliveries. Further ties broken by the player who can chug a pint glass of milk the fastest (yes, that’s actually in the rules!)
My thoughts on the game
This was one of the games near the top of my SPIEL 2022 to-learn about list. A few of my friends had already mentioned in pre-show, and when I got a look at the beautiful game at the Novelties show on Wednesday, I was definitely interested in learning more. I do love me city building games (well, in this case, hamlet building games) – so I knew I was going to want to see more…
Here, you start with just a few buildings; an empty church site and a few starting buildings. The tiles are nicely labeled so you know where each should start – on the table to start, in the bag or off to the side to be placed in the bag later. You do have some latitude with how to arrange the starting tiles; but trust me, even if you just use the beginner fixed setup, most games will veer off in their own direction once you start expanding the hamlet!
The game flow has been markedly different in each of my games because of the luck in the tile draw. As I mentioned, as the game starts, there is always the same mix in the bag. But then once the first refinery is built, all of the tiles with that refinery’s icon on the back are then added to the bag. We have had games where one of the refined objects – i think wood planks – did not come out until nearly the end of the game, as the tiles from the other refineries built earlier kept diluting the bag with new tiles. The ability to buy any goods you don’t have helps keep the game from locking up – if you have enough coins, you can simply buy the things you either can’t reach or can’t make.
It is a satisfying thing to watch your hamlet grow on the table, and the oddly shaped pieces both give a unique shape to each hamlet as well as providing you with plenty of nooks and crannies to fit other tiles into – or perhaps inhibiting a particular large tile from being placed in a certain place. The paths that the resources will need to take will be different in each game – and you’ll have to adjust accordingly.
The whole game is about setting up your supply chain – by which I mean your donkey train. All of the resources are publicly available, and in order to do the things you want to do, you have to be able to get those resources to the places they need to go. I do like the way that the game incentivizes you with coins to generate basic resources; and thus far, none of my games has ended up in a standoff where no one has wanted to make goods. Anyways, as you get deeper in the game, you’ll likely have multiple workers, so hopefully you can time things so that you make basic goods early in your turn and then can immediately use some of them with your other workers later in the same turn.
The game is deceivingly simple – there really aren’t too many different actions to consider. You can produce goods, make refined goods, draw or build tiles, go to market/church to fill orders, build roads, get new donkeys/workers. All of your choices are pretty much printed on the tiles somewhere, so once you’ve started play; literally all of your options are in front of you. The one confusing bit is that the “goods market” is printed on the Market tile, but your meeple can NOT be on that tile to use it. It’s easy enough to explain this one anomaly in the rules teach.
I think it’s easy to get caught up with the moving of goods and doing things in your first game or two – but I always try to remind players that they win the game by scoring points. The landmark tiles tend to be overlooked, but they can be a significant source of points. Also, it helps to specialize to get at least one of the endgame awards as they essentially give you more points just for doing things that tend to score points.
The game plays well at all player counts, though I think my 3p games have given the best games – there is just a touch too much downtime at 4p. Early turn go super quick, and as you might expect; it just takes longer near the endgame as the decisions are a bit more important and also most players will have multiple workers at that stage as well.
The components were both great and not-so-great. The artwork is pretty great, and the hamlet really does have a striking table presence. However, the art does at times obscure the functionality – we had issues at times seeing the stone vs wood borders of the tiles, and some of the “node clearings” weren’t big enough to see. To compound the issue – which could be an indictment of my poor eyesight or poor lighting in the gaming basement – the icons for brick and plank look A LOT alike and were often confused.
The tiles also do a great job of listing all the costs – both for building the tile as well as using the tile – but the font is so small that it was difficult for us to see details from the other side of the table. Likewise, the 3D church included in my KS box does look fabulous on the table; however, it pretty much obscures one to three tiles behind it, and we got so tired of trying to dodge our vision around it that we have packed up the 3D church forever and will only use the basic flat tiles to show our progress.
Finally, I am under the impression that the little tiles used for the buildings are only a KS bonus; and I can’t imagine how all the full sized tiles would fit in the bag nor how you would avoid drawing shenanigans when you could root around and feel for the sized building you wanted to draw out. (This means there is one win for the KS pieces – the drawing tiles – but one loss for the KS – the 3D church which makes it super difficult to actually play the game) I am guessing that the tiles are their current size because they might have to fit in the bag – which then makes them a bit small for the table. This is one rare time where I might wish for the components to be even bigger… because if you use the little tiles to stand in for the buildings, the bag has plenty of room.
In the end, Hamlet is a game which I really love the gameplay, but I find that the physical components could have been better. The gameplay has so far trumped the ergonomics as I’m at 5 plays and counting – the addition of a decent solo variant by Mr. Turczi has also helped in this regard. Many of the issues with readability go away when you’re the only player at the table and you can easily pick up tiles and examine things. The particular actions are pretty simple to learn, but the way in which each game plays out differently makes me want to play it again. This is one of the games from SPIEL 2022 which has already been granted a space in the permanent game collection; while it is not perfect (mostly due to components), it hits a lot of my sweet spots.
—(end copied review)
New thoughts about Hamlet – Well, first off, I have had a chance to play it a bit more (including a number of solo games), and this one is still interesting. Sure, it is still fiddly – but honestly the retail version seems to have improved things a bit. I actually prefer the plain cubes for resources, and I definitely prefer the flat 2D church pieces over the obstructing and wobbly 3D pieces in the Founders’ edition.
One thing, however, that is better in the Founders edition is the mini-tiles to throw in the building bag. It’s really hard to stick your hand in a bag of different sized building tiles and not feel around for the one that you want. I suppose that maybe this is supposed to be a feature of the game? But, since there are identical proxy markers in the Founders edition, I’m guessing not. Below are the set of tiles that go into the bag at the start of the game. If you really want the stonemason, it’s pretty easy to get it as it is the only tile of that shape, and the largest… In the end, it’s a minor quibble; though those proxy tiles are really the only part of the Founders Edition that I strongly prefer over this retail edition.
The other nice feature of the retail edition is the included punchout bits to allow you to build your own insert in the box to store the bits. I will admit that I didn’t build mine as I store my games on their side and this sort of setup doesn’t work for me – but the other gamers in my group were pretty excited about the nicely done insert (with reminder icons printed on the interior box bottom to make sure everything gets put away nicely!
Gameplay-wise, the game has grown on me a bit. There is a bit of an art to manage the shared resource situation. If you can set up the first production tile for a resource, you can often set yourself up for a nice kickback income from this. Alternatively, if the board allows, you might be able to set up this unique production center on the far outskirts of town giving yourself a monopoly on said resource for a few turns. While you won’t get as many kickbacks, you may get a leg up on everyone else on the engine building portion of the game.
I definitely concentrate on the landmark buildings; for me – this is the most consistent way for me to score points. However, this isn’t the only sucessful strategy that I’ve seen, and I like that variety in scoring options. The solo game has also been a good find, and after 6 or 7 games, I find that I’m still challenged by the bot, and I look forward to my next game in that format as well. At this point, I think the game plays best multiplayer at 3 (it’s a tad bit long at 4p), and the solo version is quickly vying for my top player number overall.
If you see me in June, I’ll likely have this copy with me and I’ll be ready to teach – and then I’ll give this copy away to celebrate the release of the game. See below for the survey to enter the giveaway!
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Mark Jackson, John P, Lorna
- Not for me.