After a great plague, it's up to you to rebuild your little village again. Recruit workers from the road to join your village, and bolster it's ranks. Create a thriving community and strong industry, and try to make the most prosperous village to win the game.
20-60 minutes (depending on player count)
Artist: Haakon Hoel Gaarder
Publisher: Sinister Fish Games
Category: Card Drafting
Price: $25 (base game)/ $52 (Deluxe bundle)
Villagers tasks players with rebuilding their tiny hamlet after a great plague has wiped much of the population out; and while that description sounds dire, the plague bit is only mentioned in the opening lines of the rule book. The game’s bright, unique art and snappy game play will help anyone quickly forget that part and easily get sucked into drafting and planning their next move.
Villagers is a card drafting game with unique art and an original unlocking mechanic that helps keep players engaged and paying attention even when it isn’t their turn. Players each start with a small hand of cards, then during the Draft phase they get to take turns drafting two more, plus an additional one for each food symbol in their village (up to five). Then, in the next phase they can build (place in their village) two cards, plus an additional one for each build symbol in their village (up to 5).
Players draft from “the road” of 6 face-up characters, or take one off the top of any of the face-down stacks. If they try to focus on one area of industry, taking a face-down card for that group is a good strategy if no other perceivable moves are available. During the build phase players can also return cards they don’t want to the face-down stacks to get one of the basic villager cards (Hayer, Miner, and Lumberjack), which are double-sided. Basic villagers can form two different production chains.
Some villagers are part of a chain. For instance, if a player wanted to play the Fromager, she would need to have a Hayer in her village with a Grazier, and a Milkmaid on top (some special-suit villagers can substitute in as long as they aren’t the top card). The other thing to consider is if a villager has a padlock on them. Padlocked villagers need to be paid for, either to the owner if the unlocking card is already out in someones tableau, or to the bank if it isn’t. If the unlocking card is in a player’s own village, the money comes from the supply. I love this mechanic because it keeps people engaged when it isn’t their turn, and anything that keeps people’s interest up instead of letting them look at their phone is worth celebrating.
Play continues from Draft phase to Build phase until the First Market card is revealed. Then players receive gold for any villagers that have it on them, and play continues. The game ends after the Second Market card is revealed, and players again receive gold for their villagers, as well as any silver.
I really like how the drafting works in Villagers – no matter the player count, there is a system in place to keep the “road” moving, so no cards stay stagnant and unchosen. It’s something that Villagers has a leg up on over Clank!, which is one of my favorite games.
And while I don’t usually prefer solo mode for games that include it, I actually liked Villagers by myself as well. Solo mode pits you against “The Countess,” who quickly drafts and builds while you try to get your village up to enough steam to beat her, and even on easy, it really isn’t. However I think for me the best player count for Villagers is 3 – I like how refreshing the road works with the 3+ players rule, but it doesn’t take as long as playing with 4 or 5 would.
The review copy provided was the Deluxe edition of Villagers, which came with handsome wood tokens for the money chits and the Kickstarter expansion. The Expansion pack adds four new card types, all of which can be added or left out a la cart. Scoundrels, Saints, and Profiteers are all fairly self-explanatory (Scoundrels adds the most take-that cards) while the Developments expansion adds another phase to the game. Developments are special cards that are added next to the road, and give players a chance to earn extra gold for being the best at something. Most padlocks, most wood symbols, and most production chains are the types of things that will earn players more gold each round. If players are tied, then no one gets the extra gold.
Villagers is a top-notch drafting game, with unique art and engaging mechanics. I think it’s safe to say it is one of my favorite games of the year so far, and if you have the means you should definitely check it out.
A review copy was generously provided by Sinister Fish Games.
+ Padlocked cards create interactions outside of turns
+ Drafting allows for some planning with adaptation
+ Unique art style
+ Odd-shaped box for additional shelf appeal
- Not getting that *one* card that ruins your plan
- Other players can possibly draft what you need just to be evil