Game Review: Villagers

Some apocalyptic event has occurred, and you’ve been tasked with building a prosperous village. While post-apocalyptic games tend to have a gritty bent, Villagers does away with most of the tropes and feels more like someone just hit the reset button on society. Throughout the game you’ll be creating production chains using the various villagers that become available, and whoever has the largest stockpile of coins at the end of the game wins.

To start, give all players a Village Square, eight coins, and a Founders card played down in front of the player with the 2 Coin symbol face-up. Separate the Hayer, Lumberjack, and Miners cards into separate decks and place them within reach of all players. Then, take the initial Road cards and lay them out between players. Next, shuffle the remaining villager cards and create 6 face-down stacks above the 6 Road cards. Each stack should have twice the number of players worth of cards in it. Place the First Market card at the bottom of the second deck and place the Second Market card at the bottom of the sixth deck. Deal 5 cards to each player and place the rest of the Villager cards next to the stacks as a reserve. Determine the first player and begin.

Gameplay occurs in two phases: the Draft Phase and the Build Phase. Players must draft cards from the central play area up to their draft limit (2 plus any food icons visible in their village up to a maximum of 5). Beginning with the first player, each player takes a card from either the face-up Road or the face-down stacks above the Road cards. Any card drafted from the Road is replaced by drawing the top card of the left-most stack above the Road and placing it face-up in place of the drafted card. Once all players have reached their draft limit, the Road is updated, and players take all drafted cards into their hands. The method varies slightly between a 2-player and a 3-or-more player game, but the result is to slightly update the game state before the next Draft Phase. Once this is done, players move onto the Build Phase.

During the Build Phase, starting with the first player, each player decides which cards they’re going to play into their village. The goal here is to build as many supply chains as possible, resulting in the generating the most coins. All chains start out with a basic villager, like the Miner or the Hayer, and then more skillful villagers are played down upon them. These more skilled villagers may, in turn, allow for even more skillful villagers to be put into play, or they may have some unique coin generating ability. In addition, some villagers allow a player to unlock other villagers. When playing a card with a Lock icon, check to see if your village has the required unlocking villager. If it does, take two coins from your supply and place it on the villager performing the unlocking. If you don’t have the unlocking villager but a neighbor does, their villager gets the two coins. If no one has the correct villager, toss two coins into the bank.

Once everyone has built as many villagers as they would like—up to their build limit of 2 plus any visible house icons in their village—the first player token is passed, and play continues. If either of the two market cards were uncovered during the Draft Phase and all decks to the left of that card are empty, then the round ends with a Market Phase before play passes. During the first market phase, all visible villagers with a Gold Coin icon allow that villager’s player to take coins equal to that value from the bank. If an unlocking villager has coins on them, the controlling player is also given coins equal to however many coins are on that unlocking villager. During the Second Market Phase, the gold coin values of visible villagers are awarded to players in the same way the First Market Phase awarded coins. Additionally, all Silver Coin icon abilities are resolved giving players additional coins. After the Second Market Phase is resolved, the game has ended and whomever has the most coins wins.

Villagers is a gorgeous game. All cards are illustrated beautifully, and the chipboard components are well-crafted. Also, the graphic design is stellar: the iconography is clear, minimal, and extremely informative. Each card has exactly what it needs to make sense and nothing more; exceptionally well-designed.

Villagers was a lot of fun to play. It’s a fairly quick game to pick up and run through, and doesn’t overstay its welcome in the least. It’s as if Oh My Goods and Machi Koro got shuffled together into something more intuitive than the former, and with far deeper gameplay than the latter.

Designed by: Haakon Gaarder
Player Count: 1-5
Playtime: 30-60 minutes  
Time to Learn: 10 minutes
Complexity 2.5/5
Replayability: 4/5
MSRP: $ 40

Am I happy I bought it?: Yes, Sara and I ended up ordering the expansion halfway through our first playthrough.

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