Radio Review #5 – Glen More

Image

(2010  Alea)

 

“Come drive me down to the central station, I hate to leave my river tyne…”

 

Glen More is the 6th game in the Alea Medium Box series and one of the most notable alongside 2005’s Louis XIV and 2008’s Witch’s Brew. Designed by Matthias Cramer (Lancaster), Glen More contains a mixture of mechanics that include tile laying and slight aspects of timing and worker placement. Players take the role of 17th Century Scottish clan leaders seeking to expand their territories by producing goods, selling those goods to the market, building taverns, whiskey distilleries, and obtaining special locations such as Loch Ness. At the end of each round, player’s will compare their clan’s success in three different areas. What makes Glen More unique is the way that player order and actions are determined during a player’s turn and how activating those actions can lead to additional actions. But before we get into how the game plays, let’s break down the components.

 

Components:

In the box you will find:

GM_board

A player board containing the Warehouse (market), tile-laying area, and victory point chart

 

GM_Tiles

Tiles comprised of starting tiles (0) and tiles for Rounds 1, 2 & 3

 

GM_clansmen

Clan Members

 

GM_markers_die

Player Makers and 1 Die for 2-3 Player Game

 

GM_goods

Resource Cubes: Green (Wood), Grey (Stone),
Brown (Cattle), Yellow (Wheat), and White (Sheep)

 

GM_whiskey
Whiskey Barrels

 

GM_coins
Coins

 

GM_vic_points
Victory Point Tokens

 

GM_cheatsheet
Rule Summary Cards

 

GM_special1
Special Location Tiles

 

 

Gameplay:

Before we get into how to play the game, let’s take a look at the setup and how the turn order works.

GM_village
Each player begins with a starting Village tile that has a river running North and South, and a road running East and West, and places a clan member on the tile in their play area. The first player then places his/her player marker on any of the empty tiles spaces on the player board. Moving clockwise, each player then places their marker in clockwise order around the track. After all players have their markers on the board, all tiles from the “0” stack are drawn one at a time and placed in clockwise order starting beside the last player to place their marker. In games with less than 5 player’s some tiles will need to be drawn from the “1” stack to complete the setup. Leave the final space beside the starting player empty. This is the initial setup of Glen More. For the most part, the start of a 4 player game should look something like this:
GM_setup

 

Turn Order & Phases:

Glen More is interesting in that it’s turn order is not determined by a clockwise rotation, but instead works with a Rondel-wheel type mechanism. Meaning that on your turn, you may place your marker on any of the tiles around the board, thus taking that tile and placing it in your play area. By doing so, you will not be able to take another turn until all other players have passed your player marker (in a 2-3 player game, the die is used as a dummy player to move that many tiles ahead, take the corresponding tile and discard it). So you can essentially take the furthest tile away on the board, but the other players may take 2-3 turns before it will be your turn again. And while you would think that taking a bunch of small turns would be to your advantage, I’ll explain later why this is a terrible idea. So as you can see, there’s a lot of strategy built around just the determination of player order itself.

GM_setup2
(The Red player moves his marker to any tile and places that tile in his player area. The next tile is then drawn from the stack and placed as seen in the picture above)

There are basically four phases to each player’s turn. They consist of:

1.) Moving the Player Marker
2.) Placing a Tile
3.) Activating Tiles
4.) Drawing a new Tile

 

We’ve already discussed moving the Player Marker, so let’s move on to Step 2. After a player has placed their Marker on the board, the player will take the corresponding tile and place it in their player area. The player must be able to place the tile in order to take it. Here are the rules to remember when placing a tile in your area:

– A tile has to be placed in an area directly adjacent to another tile (not diagonally)
– A tile has to be placed adjacent to a clan member (can be diagonal in this situation)
– A river must connect to a river and a road must connect to a road.
– Tiles without a river or road must be placed in adjacent areas that do not connect with a river or road

 

GM_road
(Road tiles connecting East to West)

 

GM_river
(River tiles connected North to South)

 

When you place a tile in a legal area, you will activate that tile’s ability along with all other tiles that are adjacent to that tile (diagonally included). You can choose the order in which to activate tiles. So say for instance, you place a tile that activates both a Distillery (which its ability is to trade in 1 Wheat and receive 1 Whiskey Barrel) and a Wheat Field (which produces 1 Wheat), you can choose to activate the Wheat Field first, in order to obtain the Wheat before activating the Distillery.

 

GM_activate
(Placing the brown tile (Annual Fair) in the top right corner activates itself along with the Distillery, Village, and Pasture tiles)

 

After activating all the corresponding tiles (including the one placed), the player will then draw a new tile from the current Round stack and place it at the end of the track on the player board, so that there is still 1 space between that tile and the next player marker.

 

Tiles:

Let’s take a quick look at the tiles. There are four different types of tiles, and though their abilities slightly differ, they can be broken up into the following categories:

Yellow and Green bordered tiles include production tiles (Wood, Stone, Wheat, Cattle, and Sheep) and will produce 1 of these resources per activation (with a maximum of three on each tile).

Brown bordered tiles include different types of marketplaces and taverns and most include trading in different types of resources for immediate Victory points.

Grey bordered tiles include villages and when first placed in a player’s area will allow them to place 1 new clan member on the village. Each time it is activated afterwards, it will give 1 movement point to any Clan member to move around the tiles (diagonally is acceptable). This is important when trying to expand your territory. Also, while you always have to have at least one Clan member in your play area at all times, you can choose to use 1 movement point to move one of your additional Clan members off the play area and set it to the side, essentially turning this into a Chieftain. Chieftains will be compared during end of Round scoring.

Special Locations are tiles that include Castles, Lochs, and an Abbey (represented by a red stamp in the bottom left corner) and include special abilities (some immediate, some throughout the game, and some at the end game scoring) and when chosen, player’s will take one of the Special Location tiles matching the smaller tile and place it to the side of their play area. This will be used at the end of each round’s scoring.

GM_special2
(Special tiles are marked by a red insignia in the lower left corner)

 

Warehouse:

Some tiles will cost resources (shown in the upper left corner of the tile) and this is where the Warehouse comes into play, as resources can be bought and sold here. You’ll notice on the player board that each resource has a 1, 2, and 3 next to it.

GM_warehouse

When buying a resource, this is how many coins you have to pay in order to purchase 1 of these resources. You would then cover up that number with the same amount of coin and take 1 of the corresponding resources to use that turn (you must immediately use a purchased resource, they can not be hoarded). When selling resources, you would do the opposite. You would instead take the amount of coin that is furthest to the right, and trade in 1 of the corresponding resources for that amount of coin. As you can see, this is a very nice way to represent a supply/demand element to the game. If coins cover all of the areas on a particular resources track, you can no longer purchase that resource (it’s out of stock), if no coins are covered on a track, you can not sell that resource (it is overstocked and not in demand). You can optionally use this warehouse to pay for tiles that you might not have the resources to otherwise place.

 

 

Scoring:

Tiles will be placed and actions taken until a player has placed the last tile of the stack from that particular Round onto the board. When this happens, an immediate end of Round scoring takes place. Player’s will be comparing their successes in the following 3 areas:

Whiskey Barrels (compare the number of Barrels to the player with the least amount)
Chieftains (compare the number of Chieftains to the player with the least amount)
Special Location tiles (compare the number of these tiles to the player with the least amount)

 

GM_vp_chart

 

Player’s will score victory points according to the difference between their own success in these areas to the player with the least success shown in the table below. So for instance, if Player A has 5 Whiskey Barrels and the player with the least amount of Barrels overall is Player C with 1, Player A will score 5 Victory Points.

Points are scored in this way at the end of each of the 3 rounds (when stacks 1, 2 & 3 run out). Finally, immediately after the end of the 3rd Round is scored, an additional End of Game scoring takes place which includes points for the following:

 

– 1 Victory Point for each coin left in a player’s area

– Victory Points for any Special Location tile that gives Victory Points during end game scoring(for instance, Iona Abbey gives 2 Victory Points for every yellow tile in the player’s area)

– Finally, player’s with more tiles in their area will lose 3 Victory Points for every additional tile they have when compared to the player with the least amount of tiles. (This is why it is a bad idea to load up on tiles throughout the game).

 

Thoughts:

Glen More is a masterpiece. It’s extremely simple to understand, but quite difficult to master. There’s so many little mechanics going on here, but instead of getting in the way of each other, they all flow together smoothly like a well-oiled machine. Analysis Paralysis-prone players may find this a bit mind-numbing, but only because there are so many paths to victory and multiple choices each turn. If you can avoid that, and simply take the opportunities that present themselves, the game should play with minimal downtime.

The game plays remarkably well with 2-5 players (though 5 can run a bit long). I think the implementation of the die for 2-3 players is a neat idea that throws in a bit of randomness, which is much needed when there are only a couple of players choosing tiles around the board. I’m not sure if this was added after play testing, but I sense a game of 2 players would be a bit duller without it.

GM_in_session

There’s a strong sense of variety in the tiles. Production tiles, Marketplace/Tavern tiles, Village tiles and the Special Location tiles all feel very different from each other, yet they feed off each other very well when activated together. There are advantages and disadvantages to taking each tile, and you’ll really need to look at how your territory is going to benefit the best as to what tile to take.

The implementation of the Warehouse offers yet another element of strategy to the game. Players can really get into a tug-of-war with the supply and demand mechanic of selling and buying goods, and while I ignored it early on, setting yourself up with a chunk of coins at the end of the game is a great way to rack up on Victory Points. You can’t rely on the Warehouse as a full on strategy every game, but keeping an eye on what other player’s are doing with it is worthwhile.

Realize early on that it’s almost more important to focus on what surrounding tiles you want to activate in your play area, over which tiles you need to take from the board. The weight of these decisions, along with the risk/reward element in deciding when to skip ahead for a great tile and when to hold back to get a few extra turns in are quite engaging. With the end of Round scoring, trying to stay somewhat successful in all three areas is quite a balancing act, especially since there aren’t going to be a ton of points handed out during the game.

I will say, for the theme-oholics out there, the whole 17th century Scottish clan, territory expansion is more of an ideal than it is pure subject matter. Whiskey distilleries, castles and Lochs are about as much theme as you’re going to find here, but the game is so rewarding and fun that it’s hardly an issue. I only mention it for those that may be heading into it with the idea that it’s a heavier themed game than it is.

All in all, Glen More is an outstanding game on so many levels. It’s a light-medium game that is easy to learn and not difficult for new players to understand, yet it has the Euro-ness of deep, underlying strategy that can be discovered through multiple plays.

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