Villagers was a very solid game that our group really enjoyed! We tried something new for this review by filming a portion of our game, which you can find here once it uploads: https://youtu.be/Iewv5AbgDgo. We plan to make many more videos of us playing games, so if you enjoy this kind of content please consider subscribing.
Villagers is a card drafting game where players take turns drafting cards out of a market up to the amount of food symbols they have +2. Then, once everyone has drafted some cards, players build cards equal to the number of build symbols they have +2. These cards can either be new cards, or upgrades of previously built cards. Players can also discard a card to build the base tier villager, which helps them build the more advanced villagers later on. One interesting mechanic was the locking/unlocking mechanic that forced you to pay players who had special characters if you wanted to build a locked villager. At the end of the game, the player with the most gold wins.
Box and Components
The box and components are very nice. I especially love the dividers that make set-up extremely fast. The cards seemed to be fairly durable. Sinister Fish games also sent us a “coin chest” full of wooden coins, which were a very nice touch. There were plenty of player aides, and a lot of thought was put into the overall production. The rulebook was well put-together, though there were a couple of things that seemed confusing.
Jorge: I thought that Villagers was a solid game. I noticed that there seemed to be some luck in terms of the card you needed coming up at the right time in the market. That being said, this also meant that there didn’t seem to be a dominant strategy as it would depend on what came up. Personally, I went for a strategy of going for the “Hay” suite straight out of the gate, which was something I decided to do because a lot of those cards give you build symbols. These build symbols let you build more cards each turn, which I found to be extremely important. After the game, I reflected that while you could get away with low food (because your founder automatically will put you on at least 3, and you also start with a lot of cards in hand), it was a lot harder to create an engine without a lot of these build symbols. In this sense, it is theoretically possible for someone to get stuck if they do not have access to more build symbols early on. The special characters that unlocked others seemed to be extremely strong in the 4 player game, but might be less good with fewer players.
Erik: I felt that Villagers was a solid game with a good amount of variability in playstyles, but also required a bit of luck in order to win. The variety of card types and progressions allowed for a variety of ways to earn money, from focusing on cards that got others to pay you to unlock their cards to developing multi-step cards that got you a lot of money by themselves. You could also choose whether to diversify and get a bit of money from each different faction, or to focus on a single faction and use some of the faction-based gold cards to earn very high rewards at the end of the game. While focusing on a single faction seemed to yield much higher rewards, it seemed to be problematic if any other players focused on the same faction, and could easily be countered if other players took the cards in the production line for your later cards, though they would lose the chance to grab a useful card in order to do so. I feel that the endgame felt less exciting than the early stages, however, as everyone had already committed to specific engines and factions, and became more a game of waiting and hoping for the right cards, or just grabbing whatever could give you a small extra bit of money than continuing to build your engine.
Dennis: Villagers is very well made and perfectly combines luck and skill, as turning to luck is only used as a strategy. Although at first the game seems complex and drawn out due to the multitude of characters and cards, it quickly becomes surprisingly simple and fast paced. The large variety of cards are explained through symbols, and tells you what other cards you need before you’re able to use that card. Villagers thus takes you on a path to build your village, a path flowing with strategy and betrayal, as you attempt to accumulate wealth. Villagers is also designed very neatly and creatively, making it even easier to play. However, we did run into one card that probably should have had a lock on the top left corner. Overall, Villagers in an entertaining, fast paced, and aesthetically pleasing game that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a game filled with strategy, yet is easy to learn.
Aneirin: Villagers is great, and it’s probably my favorite engine-building type game to date. That being said, my experience was not without complaint. Maybe it was a symptom of how our group played in the early-game, but I found Villagers’s late-game to be, frankly, kind of boring compared to early-game. As the game went on, there were fewer and fewer “tension” points in my decisions. In the first few build phases, I constantly asked myself questions like “Is it worth it to give Eric’s carpenter 2 gold?,” or “Should I draft this special card to make tons of money first market phase, but leave myself at a disadvantage in extra builds?” These tension points are what really makes Villagers a lot of fun, and it is a shame that they seemed to disappear in the last couple of rounds.
Aesthetically, Villagers is definitely one of the prettiest and well organized games that I have ever played. I appreciated the little reminder cards for inventory-keeping. However, I believe our group discovered a mis-print on one of the hay suit cards. It had an unlock cost, but no padlock in the top left.
Rules are tight. I do not remember being confused for more than the time it took to look at the rulebook. The production chain concept makes for nice decision-making processes: more tension points in deciding whether or not you should cover up a card. Plus, the concept of stacking village jobs on top of one another to finally get to a complex job is really satisfying.
All-in-all, Villagers is a great engine building game, with a very satisfying flavor. All the game mechanics do a great job of making the player really feel like they’ve constructed a nice, bustling little place. Mechanically, Villagers’s greatest strength is giving players agency to make decisions on the little tension points that almost constantly pop up in the early to mid-game.
What kind of villager would you be? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading as always!