Regular readers of the blog may know that I typically take most of the month of December off to recharge a bit and focus on Christmas-y things. And this year is no different – my last regular post just happens to be published on December 1. So let’s take a look at a couple more recent games, both with slightly punny titles.
Heaven & Ale is a 2-4 player game by the design duo of Andreas Schmidt and Michael Kiesling. It’s being published by eggertspiele and Plan B Games, with art by Christian Fiore. Set in an ancient monastery, this is a game all about brewing the best ale despite the competition from other monasteries.
Heaven & Ale comes with a main board, 4 player boards, 4 player figures, 4 brewmasters, 20 resource markers, 20 privilege cards, 12 large barrels, 12 small barrels, 100 resource tiles, 24 monk tiles, 49 shed tiles, 36 scoring discs, and 51 ducat tokens. At the start of the game, you’ll sort the resource tiles face down into I and II backs. 15 of the I tiles are placed on the track around the main board, face up. Six scoring discs will also go on this track. The monk tiles are also separated into I and II, with the I tiles shuffled divided into stacks of four, which will be placed on the board (the leftmost one will be revealed). You won’t use the II tiles in a 2-player game, and you’ll only use four of them in a 3-player game. The 12 small barrels are placed on the board with their matching large barrels on top. Each player gets a board, 5 privilege cards, a player figure, a brewmaster, one each of the five kinds of resource markers, and 25 ducats. The first player places his/her figure on the first player starting space, with the others filling in spaces clockwise (all other spaces have a reward).
You’ll player 3-6 rounds, depending on the number of players. On your turn, you’ll move your piece clockwise around the board. You can move as many spaces as you want, and you may also occupy the same space as another character. However, you may not move backwards, or cross the start space, or move to a space where you cannot perform the action. There are four types of spaces – resource, monk, scoring disc, and barrel.
RESOURCE SPACES: If you move here, you must buy at least one resource tile from the space. Unpurchased tiles are not removed at the end of the round, so there could be more tiles available after round one. The cost of the resource is dependent on where you place it on your player board – if you play it on the shady side, you pay the printed fertility number in ducats; if you play it on the sunny side, you pay twice the printed fertility number. You cannot place on shed spots, but if you place so that a shed spot is surrounded, you’ll add up the fertility numbers of tiles and receive a reward. This reward will be moving your brewmaster forward and getting a shed that may activate some of your tiles. Activated tiles give you ducats if on the shady side, and resources on the sunny side.
MONK SPACES: Here, you must buy at least one monk tile. The pricing structure is the same – the printed cost for the shady side, double for the sunny side. Monks do not have fertility numbers, so if they are included in surrounding a shed, they don’t count towards your total for the reward.
SCORING DISC SPACES: Here, you take a scoring disc and place it on an empty tile-scoring space on your board. The scoring spaces on the track are marked with A, B or C, and these will determine where you can place it. A spots will allow you to name a fertility number and activate resource tiles with that number. B spots will allow you to trigger monk tiles – triggered monks activate adjacent resource and monk tiles. C spots activate all of one type of resource on your board.
If both spots in an area have a scoring disc, you have completed a privilege pair and can play a privilege card, resolving its reward.
BARREL SPACES: If you land on a barrel space, you may take all barrels that show a goal you have achieved. You take a large barrel if it’s available, or take the small one if not. You don’t take a small barrel if you’ve already claimed its large counterpart.
Once your player piece reaches the starting area, you can claim any empty spot there and receive the reward (if there is one). You are then out of the round. The round ends when all players have gotten to that start space, and you start a new round. Monks and resources are added to every spot, and scoring discs are added to empty spots (for the final round of 2-3 player games, you’ll be adding extra scoring discs). After the final round, the player with the most points is the winner.
Michael Kiesling is a designer that I think has been mostly overshadowed by his collaborations with Wolfgang Kramer. The two have been quite prolific, and they produce a lot of well respected games. I don’t particularly care for most of them – they’re fine, they just tend to be a lot more convoluted and move a lot slower than I wish they would. But he’s really been flexing his design muscle this year – between Azul, Riverboat, and this one (and yes, there’s a co-design with Kramer called Reworld), I feel like Kiesling is going to get talked about more on his own. His 2007 game Vikings is one of my favorites, so I know he’s got chops. And yes, I realize that I’m focusing on Kiesling more than Andreas Schmidt, but he’s not quite as prolific.
As for the game, this is something I initially skipped over because I’m not a big fan of the theme – I don’t drink and I tend to shy away from games that are centered around alcohol (like Vinhos or Viticulture). I am glad I looked into it further. It seems like a very interesting action selection type game where you’re choosing how quickly you want to go. It’s a bit reminiscent of something like Tokaido because of the “move how far you want to” vibe, though Heaven & Ale is not a time track game. The resource collection and tile placement fusion seems pretty well done, and the game looks like a good time. So it’s on my list to check out. Also, I should probably check out Vinhos and Viticulture.
Keyper is a 2-4 player game by Richard Breese that is published by R&D Games, with art by Vicki Dalton. It is the ninth game in the so-called “Key Series”, which started in 1995 with Keywood, and includes the game that is sometimes considered to be the first worker placement game, Keydom (1998). In Keyper, players are building their farm to build the best economy they can. But, as with many Euros, the theme is not really what brings people in.
Before I get too far into this explanation, be aware that there are a bunch of puns in the terminology, most of which involve the word “key”. Also, my spell check hates it, so if you ever see the words “keyless” or “keeper”, just know that that means “keyples” or “keyper” and I didn’t catch it. Thanks for keyping an open mind.
The game comes with 4 folding country boards, 4 player boards, 26 fair tiles, 48 home building tiles, 48 country building tiles, 6 boat tiles, 4 Keyp tiles, 4 waving keyper figures, 32 keyples in 7 colors, 48 raw material cubes, 48 finished good cylinders, 20 wheat tokens, 96 animeeples, 8 scoring markers, 64 gems, and a black cloth bag. One country board per player is laid out in the middle of the player. These are foldable, and each one should show 15 fields, including a two-square river and a keyp with the spring symbol. Eight spring country tiles are drawn from the bag and laid out in two rows. Randomly choose four boat tiles to use, with each showing their spring side. Each player gets a player board, a keyp tile, a keyper of their player color, and a team of eight keyples – one blue (boat), one clay (gold), one farmer (green), one forest worker (brown), one miner (black), one quarry worker (gray), and two generalists (white). In a two-player games, players will get a random ninth – a forest worker, a farmer, a quarry worker, or a clay worker. A player’s scoring markers go on the 0s of the ones and tens track. You also get 12 home tiles, which are lined up in two columns next to your board; three finished goods (brick, stone, and wood); and a fair tile from each of the spring, summer, and autumn stacks.
On your turn, you do one of three things: play a keyper, play a keyple, or lay down a keyple. There’s also an opportunity to play a keyple on another player’s turn.
If you choose to play a keyper, you’ll take your figure from your keyp tile and place it on one of the country boards. This claims that country board as your own, and you will get all keyples from it at the end of the round. If there are any keyples on your keyp when you do this, you lay them down at this point. This will give you resources.
If you choose to play a keyple, take it from your board and place it on a country board, or onto a building on your own board. The field or building must be empty or contain no more than one existing keyple. If the field is empty, you must invite other players to join you. If someone does (there can only be two of the same color keyples in a field), you both will get a larger benefit. If you remain alone, you get a smaller benefit. If there was already an existing keyple in the field, you can play your same color keyple and lay down the one that was there to get the extended benefit. This means that played keyples have the potential to work twice.
You can also choose to lay down a keyple. If it’s just a single keyple, you gain the single benefit. You can also choose to lay down two standing keyples on the same tile for the bigger benefit.
The round ends when all players have played all of their keyples and their keyper. Players can then display their resources at seasonal fairs, make sure their animals are being housed somewhere, and then claim their country board and all keyples on it. If you end up getting more than the max, you put extras on your keyp tile to be laid down in the next round for extra resources. All available country tiles that were not claimed are discarded, and a new set is drawn. The country boards are then refolded so the next season symbol is visible.
After winter, the game ends. The player with the highest score is the winner.
The only Key game I’ve played is Keyflower, which came out in 2012. I’m not an auction fan, but I really appreciated the novel mechanism of how the bidding was combined with worker placement. This one is more of a straight worker placement game, but has a semi-cooperative nature to it that seems pretty interesting. It’s not semi-co-op like, say, Legendary tries, where players have to work together to defeat the baddies but there is only one winner. Instead, this is a game where players have to work together so both can get big rewards. I think that’s a semi-co-op style I’d be more inclined to like. Also, the country boards seem really cool. They do seem a bit like a gimmick, but they also look very well-designed to keep the variability of the game system going. From the four-player image above, that looks like a lot of available actions, so there’s likely going to be quite a bit of downtime in the game. Nevertheless, it seems like a good addition to the series – possibly a keyper?
So that’s it. You won’t hear much from me over the next few weeks, but I’ll be back on the 25th with my Fifth Annual Post-Holiday Gift Guide. Thanks for reading, and have a great holiday season!