Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Walnut Grove: The Wheel of Farmland Management

There's a lot of really good parts in Walnut Grove. In fact, the game has at least 1 weird similarity to Race for the Galaxy, in that most of the actions happen simultaneously across all players. The result is a surprisingly fast-moving game. 

During each of the 8 rounds you expand your territory, produce resources, sell them at market and even buy upgrades for your empire. And the whole thing takes about 45 minutes, unless there's extra rules-explaining or a deep-thinker holding up the show.

The wheel of modifiers
Each round is described by one of these circular tiles you flip over at the beginning of the turn. They are nice, simple, graphic representations of the various modifiers to be aware of during the round.

1) You start the round off with Spring, which in true xenomorphic fashion is denoted by the color pink. In this case, you draw 3 tiles from a bag a la Carcasonne, and place one of them.

3 tiles to choose from

This how a player board would probably look on the second turn. You don't have to match up the terrain on each tile, but it helps to do since this matters for production.

Placing workers and producing resource cubes

2) You follow Spring with Summer, when all the resource cubes are generated. I put my yellow farmhand down on the wheat field (since I'm going to want a little wheat for him to eat) and my farmer on the wood so I have lumber to light my fires during winter. Because there is a wood bonus this round (per the wheel) I get an extra cube of wood. Normally I would get 2 because my wood field stretches over 2 tiles. I have to put my 3rd wood cube into my barn storage, because the field can only hold 2 cubes.

3) During Fall you go to town. Fall is where you will spent the most time during your game, since all kinds of decisions have to be made. It's  like an entirely different game, and I'm going to do an entire post on the Fall actions of Walnut Grove.

Feeding Time! Time to Eat the Wheat
4) Finally, winter comes. This is where most of the resources you generated (only moments ago!) get consumed. I pay my wheat to my wheat-eating yellow worker. I heat my property using 2 wood, which I calculate by adding the fire icons (1 on the wheel and 1 next to yellow farmhard's covered wagon).

If I had a white farmhand, he would have devoured TWICE as much milk as normal. A pretty scary thought, but luckily you can see this extra payment before you plan the production part of your turn. Hopefully there would have been a way to squeeze out some extra milk somewhere.

The 3 seasons I just described all happen simultaneously. And the decisions are usually pretty simple and straightforward. Anyone you teach this game to will understand most of it very quickly.

But you'll notice our player board has lots of empty spaces. That's because you can build houses for your workers, add more barn space, and buy victory point increasing upgrades.  You can  sell some of your resources for money. And you can also buy more workers to occupy more of those covered wagons. All of that happens during the fall going-to-town season. Actions are no longer simultaneous. And things get crazy. 

Stay turned.

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