18 June 2021
If you’re desperate for another worker placement game, look elsewhere
It’s an interesting aspect of the Eurogame scene that they seek to emulate such, well, boring facilities. In the case of Alma Mater, players are put into the erudite shoes of university headmasters in the early 15th century. The goal, become the most prestigious university by hiring professors, gathering students, collecting books, and most importantly, earning ducats.
Over the course of the game’s six rounds, each player competes in a simple worker placement game across the campus board with some simple but confusingly pictographed areas. And that one little gripe is what drags Alma Mater down like a lead mortarboard. A picture is worth a thousand words but it also means that nearly every student, professor, and campus area has to be repeatedly referenced in the index. Which is a damn shame because the production quality is frankly fantastic.
Mechanically, if you’re a fan of worker placement, Alma Mater does work fine. It takes a good while to learn what each of the different icons mean and even then some referencing is needed but the core game works. Unless of course you take the game literally and assume it can be played by two players. Which it can… with the help of a cardboard AI called Ignotus. And honestly, this analogue antagonist is such a pain, especially if you’re new to the game. To play with Ignotus you give him one of the unused player colours, set out the special Ignotus deck, and let him go first each round or he’ll take his books and go home because he’s a spoiled brat. His main purpose is to clog up action spots which is actually kind of important to the game, but still, long walk short pier.
If you’re desperate for another worker placement game, look elsewhere (unless you just want those beautiful book tokens, in which case, go ahead).
Designer: Antonio Tinto, Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, Stefano Luperto
Publisher: Eggert Spiele
Time: 90-150 minutes
This article originally appeared in issue 48 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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