Radio Review #25 – Milestones

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(2012 – Stronghold Games, Pegasus Spiele)

 

“I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles….”

 

The strategic, engine-building mechanic is one that has been a common component amongst numerous titles throughout the industry, with games such as Puerto Rico, Le Havre, Glen More, and Race for the Galaxy, just to name a few. The engine-building mechanic provides players with the opportunity to pre-plan, produce, and execute a long term strategy. Usually these are built individually amongst players, with the most successful player by the end of the game, determined the winner.

Designer Stefan Dorra has been known to design strategy-based games that involve more interactive, communal based building (Medina and Buccaneer, for example). Milestones takes this idea of collectively building by having players expand an area of land with new roads, towns, and marketplaces. Dorra (with co-designer Ralf zur Linde) provides an engine-based mechanic in the design, but one that strays a bit from the general long-term, pre-planning, slow and progressive approach. Instead, players must pre-plan and execute in short burst, taking advantage of the opportunities before they are either altered by the expansion by another player, or their own personal resource pool/ base of workers are forfeited.

 

 

Components:

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– Milestones Game Board

 

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– Player Boards

 

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– Worker Tiles

 

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– Layer Tiles

 

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– Bonus Markers

 

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– Coins

 

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– Resources comprised of Stone (grey), Wood (brown), Sand (white), and Wheat (yellow)

 

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– Grain tokens

 

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– Road tokens

 

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– Milestone tokens

 

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– House tokens

 

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– Marketplace tokens

 

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– Player marker and Scoring marker for each player

 

In Milestones, players compete to settle and colonize a recently obtained area of a Kingdom. Players will hire workers (Quarrymen, Lumberjacks, Sand workers, Grain growers, and Coiners) in order to stock up on resources, then use these resources in order to build new roads, houses, set up marketplaces and deliver sacks of grain to those marketplaces. Certain areas of the new land are more valuable than others (represented by the various numbered milestone markers on the game board), so the players that can strategically plan their settlements around these areas will score more Victory Points. Bonus markers can also be obtained as well and added to a player’s personal board for additional in-game and end-game scoring.

 

 

Setup:

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The central game board is broken up into two sections. The Scoring track is represented along the left-hand side of the board. After player’s have selected their player color, each player will place their individual scoring markers on the beginning space of the track.

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The main section of the board is represented by the new Kingdom area comprised of various numbered milestones. Bonus markers are randomly placed face down on the various spaces in the Kingdom represented by a bush icon, then flipped up (I’ll explain the uses of these markers later). Next, a Marketplace token is placed on the initial Marketplace space. This will be the starting point of expansion for players.

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From the face-down stack of Worker Tiles, a number of these tiles are placed face up beside the central game board, depending on the number of players in the game (5 tiles for a 2-player game, 7 tiles for 3-player, and 9 tiles for 4-player). Starting with the player to the right of the player that will start the game, (and going counter-clockwise) each player will choose 2 of these Worker Tiles and place them in any of the designated section on their personal player board. This means that the start player will choose his 2 Worker Tiles last. The remaining tiles is then discarded from the game, and a whole new set of tiles are drawn and placed face up for the beginning of the game.

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For instance, Player A chooses a tile that contains a Coin worker and a Quarryman, and another tile that contains a Sand Worker and a Lumberjack. He then chooses where to place these on the upper section of his personal player board.

 

Finally, each player receives 1 Coin and places their Player marker in the Castle space on their personal Player Board. After initial setup, it should look something like this:

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Gameplay:

Players will work to expand throughout the Kingdom by building new roads, constructing towns, and setting up marketplaces. To do so, players will need to use the hired workers on their player boards (at the upper section of the player board) to gain the required resources needed for the actions along the bottom section of the player board. Starting the game on the Castle space, each player may move their Player marker in a clockwise motion along the different spaces of their player board, first moving along the top section from left to right, then circling around the bottom section from right to left, eventually leading back to the Castle space.

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On a player’s turn, he may stop on 2 different spaces and resolve the actions there. A player may place the marker on a worker to gain resources, or place it on 1 of the 3 buildings located along the lower portion of his player board. Remember that each time the marker is moved, it must travel in a clock-wise rotation around the player board. The player may choose to skip spaces when choosing which action to take, but must always stop on the Castle space once his player marker lands there (this counts as an action itself).

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For instance, during the very 1st turn of the game, Player A chooses to move his Player marker onto his 1st Worker space, which contains a Coin worker. He then receives 1 Coin from the general supply.

 

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Next, continuing in a clockwise rotation, he chooses to place his marker on the Trading House. After taking the Trading House action (which I’ll go over in a bit), his turn ends.

 

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On his next turn, he has another 2 actions to take. He wishes to move his Player marker to the Stone worker on the 1st Worker space, but he would need to pass by the Castle to do so, therefore he must stop there first as 1 of his 2 actions.

 

Let’s take a look at the characteristics of each of these spaces and what they do.

 

Workers:

Usually by landing on a worker, a player will gain 1 of that particular type of resource (Stone, Wood, Sand, Wheat, or Coin). However, it is possible to gain more than just 1 unit of that type of resource when landing on a worker. When a player moves his marker to a particular worker space, the player gains 1 additional resource for every worker that was passed that matches the worker that was landed on.

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So for instance, Player B has 3 sets of workers on his player board, consisting of 3 coiners, 2 quarrymen, and 1 lumberjack. If he moves from the Castle space to the right-most Coin worker, he will receive a total of 3 Coins from the supply since he landed on a Coin worker and passed 2 others in the process. If however, he was starting his turn on the 2nd Coin worker, and moved to the 3rd, he would only receive 1 Coin since he did not pass any during that movement.

 

Trading House:

The Trading House is the right-most building along the bottom of the player board, but the 1st one players have the option to interact with since they are moving in a clock-wise rotation.

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This location is the only place in which players can hire new workers, and exchange resources. Once landing on this space, and before taking any of these optional actions, players will first have the opportunity to earn a little bit of extra money depending on how well they’ve kept their crew of workers organized. Apparently, the owners of the Trading House respect a man that keep his workers in order, and if doing so when landing on this space, a player will gain 1 Coin from the supply. You’ll notice that there are numbers on the bottom of each worker. When landing on the Trading House, if the numbers on the bottom of these workers (that player’s particular player board) are of an ascending sequence from left to right, this will gain a player the 1 Coin bonus. In the above examples, Player A and B would both earn 1 Coin when taking an action in the Trading House since the Workers on their player boards are both in ascending order.

After this has been determined, players have 3 optional actions to take in which they can take the same action as many times as they want, or can take any number of different actions as long as they can pay the costs to do so. A player landing on the Trading House may do the following:

 

1.) Hire New Workers – The player may pay 2 Coins from his supply and choose a new Worker Tile from those currently face up beside the central game board. That player will then immediately place it on his personal player board. Note that you are able to cover up previously placed Worker Tiles and even offset the placement to order your Workers how you wish. Once a Worker tile has been put into place however, it can not be moved. Single layer tiles are included in the game in order to help balance and level out the Worker area when placing new tiles.

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Player A lands at the Trading House and gains 1 Coin since his Workers are in ascending numerical order. He then chooses to spend 2 Coins and hire a new set of workers. He decides that he’s going to need to get more Stone in future turns, so he decides to hire a tile that contains 2 Quarryman (stone). He places this tile onto his player board in order to make a combination in which he could possible gain 3 Stone in 1 turn, however he does this with the trade-off being that his worker are no longer in ascending order. Later in the game however, he can cover these and rework his set of workers to be in ascending order again.

 

2.) Buying Resources – A player may pay 2 Coins and choose any 1 resource (Stone, Wood, Sand, and Wheat) from the general supply.

 

3.) Selling Resources – At the same time, a player may place any 2 resources into the general supply (they do not have the match) and gain 1 Coin.

 

 

 

The Construction Hall:

The Construction Hall is where the actual building onto the main section (Kingdom area) of the game board takes place. Players can use their recently required resources to build Roads, Towns, and Marketplaces.

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As with the Trading House, players can take as many construction actions as they wish as long as they can pay the required resources.

 

1.) Build a Road – To build a road, a player must spend 1 Stone and 1 Sand. Each completed road is comprised of 2 road tokens and 1 milestone token, and must continue at the end of an existing road, or branch off from a Marketplace (white circular token).

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Remember that the initial Marketplace token was placed on the board during setup, so players can start completing roads immediately on their turn. When a road is built, 1 road token is placed on an empty line on the game board, followed by a Milestone marker placed onto the Milestone icon on the board, then another road token placed on the opposing side. The player will score Victory Points equal to the number located on the milestone that was covered.

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Player C is the 1st player to build a road. After spending 1 Stone and 1 Sand, he places a road token, a milestone token, and another road token in succession in order to complete a road. In this example, he would have scored 2 Victory Points, since his milestone token covered a milestone icon with the number “2”.

 

2.) Build a Town – To build a town, a player must spend 1 Stone and 1 Wood. Towns are actually placed inside of the triangle spaces outlined by the various lines throughout the Kingdom section of the game board. A town can be placed into an empty triangle space (spaces with Bonus tokens still count as empty), as long as it contains at least 1 bordering road. In the case of building a Town, Victory Points are scored by adding the empty milestone values that also border that particular triangle space.

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Player B decides to use his resources to build a Town. He can place a Town in the triangle space shown above, since it borders at least 1 road token. In this example, he would therefore score a total of 5 Victory Points, since they other 2 empty milestone icons that border this space total to 5.

 

3.) Build a Marketplace – Since roads can only extend off of themselves (they can never loop back onto themselves), marketplaces provide a way in which multiple roads may branch off and begin. A marketplace can also be useful when landing on the Mill space (which I’ll talk about next). By spending 1 Wood and 1 Sand, a player may place a Marketplace on any empty milestone space along a road, or at the very end of a road. When the marketplace is placed onto one of these spaces, Victory Points are awarded equal to the number on the covered milestone.

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The Mill:

The Mill works in conjunction with the Marketplaces, and is a way to sell Wheat for some immediate Victory Points while earning some additional income. When landing on the Mill space, a player may spend 2 Wheat and place a Grain token on top of a Marketplace token that currently resides on the game board.

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This immediately rewards that player 1 Coin. The player may also choose any 2 uncovered milestone icons that are adjacent to that particular marketplace, add them together, and score that many Victory Points. Note that only 1 Grain token may ever be placed on 1 single marketplace.

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Player A has landed on the Mill and decides to spend 2 of his Wheat resources to put a Grain token on one of the marketplaces on the board. He then gains 1 Coin. By the example shown above, he could also score 9 Victory Points, since a “5” numbered milestone and a “4” number milestone are adjacent to this marketplace.

 

 

The Castle:

Once you land on the Castle space, you must immediately stop and take an action here. If you currently have more than any combination (including Coins) of more than 3 resources, you must discard them until you are down to only 3.

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This keeps people from being able to stockpile resources and streamlines the flow of the game. As if those taxes weren’t high enough, the King also requires that you give him one of your workers, meaning that every time you pass the Castle space, you’ll lose a bit of your current workforce. This is done by placing one of the single Layer tiles on top of a single Worker (seen below). If you aren’t conscious of hiring Workers on a frequent basis, you may be faced with a tiny workforce after a few rounds of passing the Castle.

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Bonus Tokens:

As players expand throughout the new Kingdom, they’ll have the opportunity to acquire various Bonus tokens spread throughout the board. These Bonus tokens correspond to each of the different types of resources in the game, and can only be acquired if you currently have that particular type of Worker in your workforce. A Bonus token in a particular space can be acquired when either building a Town on that space, or when placing a marketplace token or milestone token on one of the surrounding milestone icons. Note that a town can only be built on the areas with Bonus tokens if the player can legally acquire that token (has a worker in his camp that matches the Bonus token). When a Bonus token is acquired, the player immediately scores 1 Victory Point and must place the token on a matching Worker of that type on his player board. From then on, each time that particular Worker produces a resource when taking his actions, he will score 1 Victory Point.

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Player B has built a Town and received a Sand Worker Bonus tile. He places it on the 1st of 2 Sand Workers (seen below). During a later turn, he moves his Player marker from the left-most Stone worker all the way to the right-most, 2nd Sand Worker. He would collect 2 Sand resources and also 1 Victory Point, since that particular Sand Worker produced a resource that turn.

 

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Bonus Tokens can also be extremely important in determining majority amongst the Worker types for end-game scoring purposes, which I’ll cover next.

 

 

End-Game Scoring:

Taking a closer look at the Scoring track, you’ll notice groups of people standing on the 51, 59, and 67 Victory Point spaces, respectively. These represent the end-game Victory Point condition depending on the number of players in the game.

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– In a 2-player game, the game will end once a player crosses the 67 point space.

– In a 3-player game, the game will end once a player crosses the 59 point space.

– In a 4-player game, the game will end once a player crosses the 51 point space.

 

Once that player crosses the designated space for the game, he completes his turn, then all other players receive 1 final turn. A player can also trigger the last round of the game if instead, he takes the final Worker tile from the draw area (though it is more likely that the game will end by the Victory Point condition).

After all players have completed their final turn, end-game bonus Victory Points are awarded for players having a majority of Worker types on their player boards in the following way:

 

– The player with the highest value of Quarrymen receives 5 Victory Points

– The player with the highest value of Lumberjacks receives 5 Victory Points

– The player with the highest value of Sand Workers receives 5 Victory Points

– The player with the highest value of Wheat Workers receives 5 Victory Points

– The player with the highest value of Coiners receives 5 Victory Points

 

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A worker’s value consist of the number of individual workers of that type on a player’s personal board in addition to any bonus tokens located on those workers. So for instance, Player B has 2 individual Lumberjacks on his player board, plus a Lumberjack bonus token. Therefore, his Lumberjack value for end-game scoring purposes would be 3. If there is a tie amongst players for a particular worker type, all players involved in the tie receive 2 Victory Points instead of 5. If all players in the game are tied for a particular worker type, no one scores any points (since it would be redundant to do so anyways).

After all bonus Victory Points have been accounted for, the player with the highest total wins the game. If there is a tie, the player with the most leftover resources tokens still in his play area (Coins, Stone, Wood, Sand, and Wheat) breaks the tie and wins the game.

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Thoughts:

The adaptive mechanics that make up Milestones makes for an interesting, controlled-chaos type atmosphere. Until the latter parts of the game (because of end-game scoring), choosing worker types is more about strategic planning in accordance to how they will help a player in the next few rounds, rather than a long-term scheme, because of losing them so frequently to the King. Furthermore, players must alter their strategy based off of the placement by opposing players of Roads, Towns, and Marketplaces. Since there are strict restrictions to where these items may be built and placed, players must be able to set themselves up to grab an opportunity when it presents itself.

After subsequent plays, it has become clear that the Bonus tokens are a bit more important than they seem at first glance. Placing these on a player board and being able to keep that worker active until the end of the game will not only give a player an opportunity for additional Victory Points each turn, but also will increase their chances at gaining the bonus 5 for the majority at the end. The goal then is to work towards these different tokens on the central game board, while doing so without allowing opposing players to gain them ahead of yourself. A particular Bonus token if placed and used correctly can determine the outcome of a game.

Having said all this, Milestones is quite intuitive and easy to grasp a hold of. The rules are straightforward and simplistic. While developing an in-depth strategy will come with multiple plays, it is not far-fetched to assert that Milestones can be taught to new gamers with ease. Those that enjoy controlled chaos and short-term adaptive strategy will find what they are looking for here.

 

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