Hamlet Review

04 July 2023
Too twee, or not too twee, that is the question

Hamlet is not a game of madness, fratricide and the tragedy of a man who cannot make up his mind. Unless, I suppose, you have a particularly eventful family games night. This is ‘hamlet’ in the English sense – a village with a church.

When the game starts, your community aspires to become a hamlet by constructing said church. In game terms, this means that each turn you’ll be assigning workers to different locations to do the associated action, maybe filling the quarry with stone, or visiting the town hall to recruit extra workers or buy blueprints for new buildings, or constructing whole new areas to use in future turns.

Apart from money, all resources are communal. Produce grain at the farm, and anyone can use it in future turns. The only catch is they have to be able to transport the resources to where they’re needed – which requires an unbroken chain of roads, and donkeys.

Donkeys are the heavy goods vehicles of your bucolic utopia, and to shift materials you’ll need a donkey on every tile between the sources and destination, acting like a kind of bucket chain. If they’re in the wrong places you can move them – slowly – and over the course of the game you’ll need to acquire more as the hamlet-in-waiting expands.

Some buildings let you refine basic resources into brick, lumber, flour and milk, which you can sell at the market for money and victory points, or use in the construction of advanced locations, including the completion of the church. If you’re the first player to construct, say, a saw mill, you get a special milestone rosette that makes all the lumber you produce premium quality, meaning you get twice as much money and VPs when anyone uses it.

Hamlet’s production quality is gorgeous: colourful wooden meeples and resources, lavishly illustrated tiles, even a box insert that – after some assembly – allows seamless storage and retrieval of game components, massively cutting setup time. The solo mode has unique components and it’s own manual. Aside from quibbles around symbols on the tiles, which are a bit small, the whole package feels lovingly, skilfully put together.

It’s a shame then, that the tragedy of this Hamlet is not indecision, but a curious flatness and lack of tension. At the town hall, you can pay to hire extra workers and thus increase the number of actions you can take each turn. Despite the rulebook’s warning that, although this is a ‘safe’ option, doing this early is ‘not always the best’ move, in every game I’ve played it very clearly has been. Unlike in games like Caverna, where extra workers need to be fed, there is zero downside to acquiring more in Hamlet. Since you start off with a measly one worker, the instant you grab your second, you’re taking two turns for everyone else’s one.

This means that either everyone plays optimally, and the opening is a rote plod around limited buildings to gain the seven coins necessary for a second worker, or one player doesn’t, in which case they get thrashed, with no catch-up mechanism, and spend the rest of the game miserably behind. With extra workers you can claim all the lucrative money-earning actions and slow your opponent down even more (begging at the church for 1 coin is always available, but this is grindingly slow).

Claiming bonus titles and slotting them into the expanding landscape is mildly diverting, but there’s little urgency as similar tiles rapidly replace them. The order tiles come out in and the contracts at the market are the only variability the game offers, meaning one game feels much the same as the next.

Tim Clare


Ultimately, Hamlet feels like a tragically missed opportunity – a game that gives every outward indication of being rich, cosy and absorbing, but feels arbitrary, workmanlike and dull. Perhaps with more playtesting and some thorough revision, it could have been something beautiful.


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You can certainly find better evocations of bucolic community in the aptly-named Village and My Village, both of which offer subtly distinct twists on growing (and sometimes burying) a village. Of course, if tile-laying is your bag, you’d be best off returning to classic Carcassonne, which remains undefeated.

Designer: David Chirop

Publisher: Mighty Boards

Time: 50-100 minutes

Players: 1-4

Ages: 10+

Price: £40

What’s in the box?

  • 32 Refined material tokens
  • 24 Player markers
  • 24 Flags
  • 16 Villagers
  • 20 Roads
  • 24 Donkeys
  • 18 Raw material tokens
  • Starting player token
  • 30 Gold coins
  • 6 Church tiles
  • 9 Milestone/Award tiles
  • 12 Market sale tiles
  • 32 Building tiles
  • Scoreboard
  • Canvas bag


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