Bitterly disappointing is the only way I can describe my immediate reaction to opening the box of Villagers. Looking through the cards there was no leather-clad bikers, American police officers, cowboys, or G.I.’s. Then I realised this was a game about village people, not THE Village People. At least it explained why Macho Man or Y.M.C.A. didn’t play as I lifted the lid of the box for the first time.
Okay, that was only written for click bait and merriment. I had done my homework and knew what to expect from Villagers really. I was delighted to see that my copy did come with the Kickstarter exclusive pack that includes (among other things) a wooden first player token in the form of a chicken. I was cock-a-hoop about the inclusion, but be aware it won’t be included in retail versions.
So, that’s my introduction to my review of the card game Villagers, quite something wasn’t it!
This is fairly straight forward and the card dividers included in the box really helps with this, especially if you are adjusting for different player counts or adding in the included mini expansions.
Set up and gameplay varies slightly between two and more players, but the rulebook is very clear around this. In fact, it has a most excellent double-page spread on how to set up the game, so I’m not going to waste your time talking about that bit. In synopsis you set up a “road” of cards, lay out some more cards and give each player some stuff. You’ll be a few minutes but it is nothing that arduous, assuming you were organised during the tear down of your last play and put everything back between the right dividers!
Players are looking to accumulate the most gold to win the card game Villagers.
Drafting from a shared pool of cards, players take it in turn to improve their villages. At the start players can draft two cards but this number changes up to five cards by the end of the game depending on recruitments. This draft phase is then followed by building your village tableau, again the number of cards you can play to your array starts the same but can be increased. That’s basically the game: hiring tradespeople that will generate money for your village, or unlock abilities to draft more cards or recruit more people.
Many cards can be placed fairly freely on starter cards that are always available to be swapped into your hand. Others require unlocking with other characters, in doing so the owner of the other character will gain two coins, or you’ll pay them to the bank if that card is not present around the table. Some other cards require being placed on certain trades, covering their abilities but building up the rewards as you work down the trade tree.
There are two market phases which allow you to cash in on what you have built in your village that happen when certain piles of cards are depleted. Count up your coins and see who has won!
What it’s like
Oh my gosh did I struggle to learn this one. I would always start reading the rulebook a bit too late at night and drift off. So much so, I turned to Rodney’s Watch It Played, but he sent me to sleep too (no offence Rodney – you’re brilliant). In the end, I got the game set up and learnt how to play while playing. As it was during the middle of the day, I was as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as I get. Turns out it was me and not the instructions or Rodney!
Villagers is surprisingly quick to play. So much so, you are left at the end saying, shall we play again? You’ll want to, because the drafting experience is really fun, as you build your card engines to maximise your score. I’ve found scores vary quite wildly between players and between games. This is explained by the variety of cards not used in every game and perhaps different strategies maybe not paying off as well as others. Gambles have to be made and I like that there are different routes to explore to garner points. I also like how a strategy for one game won’t necessarily work again the next, again because of the number of cards used in the game.
You will certainly find yourself contemplating hate-drafting a card that you know a competitor would bite your hand off for! But in doing so you might not get a card that you really want.
It’s nice that it plays well at different player counts. Although I haven’t tried the solo mode yet. There is a bit of down time between drafts, but this permits a moment to think about what you might do next. It is generally quite fast to play when you all know what you are doing.
The other great thing about Villagers is some of the different expansions in the box that can be added in whenever you wish. These add some interesting elements to the game.
Designer and illustrator Haakon Gaarder certainly has a signature style. I like the linear feel to the illustrations adorning the cards but art is subjective and it may not be for everyone. The iconography is clear and once learnt, makes the anatomy and potential of each card much easier to grasp. The player aids are good, although I would prefer them to be a bit bigger and have all the information on one side.
The box is of unusual outline for the industry and there is very little air in the box, which is a positive. The divides inside the box are really useful and it all just works together harmoniously. The only minor jolt to this accord is the rulebook which slots down the edge of the box. This can get a little bashed when placing the lid on but placed staples up it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
The cardboard coins in the game are fine. The Kickstarter exclusive wooden tokens are fantastic. Although largely superfluous to the game, I would miss them if they weren’t there.
The rulebook if not read at 11pm is good, I find the smaller format a little less friendly than a larger one, but not enough for me to say that it was a particular niggle, more just something to note. Out of the handful of plays to date, I think I have always consulted the rulebook at least once for clarification. In fairness, the answer has always been in there.
Final thoughts on Villagers
I enjoy playing Villagers very much. Harrison (14) and George (11) have both enjoyed their few plays of Villagers so far too. However, every time I play it, I feel like I am not clever enough for it! The scores around the table vary wildly and I have no doubt this is us rather than the game. I’d like to take on a Villagers stalwart, just to see what strategies they deploy, as I feel a bit like I might be missing something. I reinforce the fact that I still get great enjoyment from it, despite my bumbling efforts!
There is a lot to like about Villagers. Refreshing artwork, quick play time, straightforward gameplay and a smidgen of player interaction. Add in a leather-clad biker and a G.I. and it would be amazing, albeit a little less plague-ridden middle ages in theme!
Number of players: 1 to 5
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 10+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 10+
Playing Time: 50 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 4 minutes
Designers: Haakon Hoel Gaarder
Publisher: Sinister Fish Games
Villagers is a thoroughly enjoyable card game with plenty of different strategies to explore. It works for all different types of board gamer from those slightly newer in the hobby, to the more seasoned attendees of game nights. My only trepidation is how infrequently it may hit my table when it is wrestling with so much competition… only time will tell, but I hope my concern is unfounded!
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Fun drafting
- Refreshing artwork
- Great game to take on holiday
- Works well at 2-4 players
- Has a broad appeal
- Learning it isn’t as easy as playing it!
- Can be a little downtime between turns at higher player counts
Need more games?
If you already own Villagers and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Fantastic Factories
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