28 March 2019
Everything’s gone greenhouse
Given he created the mother of all farm-based worker placement games – namely Agricola – the idea of Uwe Rosenberg making another farm-based worker-placement game presents something of a double-edged shovel. He’s the master of earth-turning and meeple-plonking, so it’s got to be a surefire hit, right? But then, if we’ve already got Agricola (and for that matter Caverna), do we really need Reykholt?
The truth is, Reykholt was never going to surpass, or even match, Agricola. But few games will, whatever their theme or mechanism. More to the point, aside from the fact that it involves worker discs that gradually block out a limited menu of actions, and features wooden goods tokens, it feels significantly different.
The setting is modern-day Iceland rather than 17th-century Central Europe, and you’re not playing a family struggling to subsist, but a bunch of happy-looking gardeners hoping to most impress visiting tourists with the quality of your cauliflowers, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms and lettuces. You’re not ploughing fields; you’re seeding parcels in greenhouses. There are no animals you’ll have to slaughter to feed your starving children. And when you harvest during each of the game’s seven rounds, it’s not a question of survival but, surprisingly, of winning a race.
The major point of difference between Reykholt and Rosenberg’s other arable offerings is you don’t, well, score points. There’s not a VP in sight. Instead, the fruit and veg you yield from your carefully maintained greenhouse cards are used to pay your way around the tourism track at the end of each round; this being a chain of tables that rings the board. To advance to the table that depicts two carrots lying on its surface, you have to remove – that's right – two carrots from your stock. Then three tomatoes for the next table, three lettuces for the one after and so on, until you run out of veg and can go no further this round. Although, in a neat little twist, each player can claim a bonus and take the veg depicted once per “tourism time”, which only makes you think harder about your long-term veggie-growing strategies. Because the winner is, quite simply, the player who ends the game furthest around the track.
Every choice you make feeds into this slowly escalating table scramble. You can always look several tables ahead and plan out exactly what it is you need to grow, but it’s often a challenge to stick to that plan, especially when your options become limited by the kinds of greenhouse you’ve obtained and the actions your opponents take.
As you’d expect from Rosenberg, it all clicks together perfectly and, despite the gentle and cheery theme, once you arrive at the final round, it can become quite frantic as you see your lead slipping, or someone unexpectedly catches up with you.
With several different decks of bonus-giving strategy cards (which, interestingly, have to be shared with the player to your left or right in the three- and four-player version), a solo mode and a light-campaign-ish story mode, Rosenberg has also once again built added longevity into his game. While it won’t ever replace Agricola in our hearts, Reykholt does at least reaffirm the German design-maestro’s mastery of his craft.
PLAY IT? – YES
Another gentle winner from a Eurogaming giant, which enjoys more depth than Rosenberg’s recent tile-laying trio, but is lighter and quicker than his big worker-placement classics.
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Luka Siegmon
Time: 30-60 minutes
This review originally appeared in the January 2019 issue 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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