Full disclosure: A review copy of Reykholt was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
Alright, I think this should cover it. Or, at least, most of it. I still have a few pre-Gen Con games that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet, but this should be the last of the major push that I’m doing, which is good, since I’m flying out to Gen Con today. It’s nice to have that sense of uh, continuity, in which one door closes and another immediately opens. Plus there are a number of Gen Con titles that are already at my house and that I’m already stressed about reviewing, so that’s fun. We’ll see what the future holds. Anyways, that has very little to do with Renegade’s latest title from Uwe Rosenberg, Reykholt! Latest being a particular sort of statement, since it kind of came out a while ago, but oh well.
In Reykholt, you are, of course, a farmer in Iceland! Using the power of geothermal energy (maybe I should move my HATSUDEN review to this week to have two games about geothermal energy), you’ve made great strides in vegetable farming, but the tourists are coming to see Iceland’s natural wonders and they’re hungrier than ever. You’ve gotta beat the rush and show them what a true farmer can do before your opponents can do the same. Will you be the one setting the table, or will you end up getting served?
To set the game up, turn the board to its correct side:
You’ll want to use the covering tile on the top row (bottom row, depending on your perspective) if you’re playing a 3-player game:
Next, go to the Greenhouse Cards:
Remove all the ones with backs that show a player count higher than yours. There’s one pile that should be Random Greenhouses; there’s an extra card that goes face-down on top (with its own symbol).
Choose a set of Service Cards to use (you may only use Set E with two-players):
Shuffle them and set five, randomly, face-up, near the board. Return the others to the box.
Stack the Round Tiles in ascending order and place it on the marked space. There’s an 8th one, but you only need it for Story Mode.
Speaking of Story Mode, here’s what the stack of cards looks like; you won’t need them until you’re experienced.
Get the goods and place them in their boxes:
Put the Goods Tiles nearby; they are just three of each Good:
Place a tomato on top of lettuce on top of a mushroom at one end of the Service Cards. More on that later.
Now, each player picks a color and gets a player card along with 3 Workers and a bottle:
Choose a start player and place your bottles in player order on the start table on the board. You should be ready to start!
A game of Reykholt takes place over 7 rounds. During those rounds, you work and harvest to help boost tourism, and then your workers return home to start again. After seven rounds, the player who has advanced the most on the Tourism Track wins the game! Let’s figure out how to do that.
During Work Time, you send your workers out to perform actions. You may, on your turn, place your worker on any Action Space without another worker. If you do, you must be able to perform the entire action on that space, as written. Some have more than one action; you may choose either of them.
Some actions are marked with a flag; you may only use one flagged action per column per round.
Let’s talk about these actions.
- Seed: You may plant a good in any Greenhouse you have that can hold it and that is currently empty. When you do, fill that Greenhouse with that good. Now you have a lot more of it. If you don’t have any empty Greenhouses that can hold any of the goods that you have, you may not take the Seed Action.
- Harvest: You may take a good from one of your Greenhouses and move it to your stock. If you Harvest multiple times in one action, they must all be from different Greenhouses. You may Harvest fewer times than allowed, but you can only take 1 Good when you Harvest from a Greenhouse, unless otherwise stated.
- Take a Service Card: You can take any of the available Service Cards. If you take one of the last three in the display, also take the topmost good from the stack you made during Setup.
- Immediately Advance: Move your bottle 1 table further along the Tourism Track. Normally, this costs goods, but you don’t have to spend them as part of this action.
During Harvest Time, helpfully, every player harvests 1 Good from each of their Greenhouses. You may choose any of the Goods in your Greenhouse to harvest (since they’re usually all the same).
Starting with the player furthest ahead on the Tourism Track, each player now advances. Advance as many tables as you want / can afford, with one caveat; you can also gain a bonus!
To advance a table, you must discard the pictured goods to the Supply. Once per round, however, you may take a Bonus instead, where you gain those goods. You can take it early or later on; up to you, you don’t have to stop advancing. If you arrive at a table with other bottles, put yours at the front. Once you can’t advance further or don’t want to, continue with the next player.
Every player retrieves their workers and then the topmost Round Tile is discarded. If the final one is discarded, the game ends; otherwise, move on to the next round.
End of Game
Again, the game ends when the final Round Tile is discarded. The player who has advanced their bottle furthest wins! If there’s a tie, the player at the front of the table wins!
Player Count Differences
The major difference is the board; there are a ton of actions at higher player counts. It’s still very blocking-focused (as most worker placement games tend to be), but I worry there might be too many actions at 3+ players? I’d honestly rather just play it at two because the larger board stresses me out, a bit. Plus, then you can keep all the Goods baskets on the board; it’s more efficient.
Personal preference is for two, but I wouldn’t go above three, personally; too much going on.
- The Service Cards suggest a strategy. Try it out. They usually synergize well with each other, if you’re paying attention. If you can capitalize on that and execute, you may be able to get a lot of extra goods (or something; depends on the cards). The more you get, the better your chances of winning.
- Get a diverse set of goods. You are going to need those if you want to make it further on the Tourism Track. If you go too hard on one type of good, you’re going to end up stuck in the back while all your opponents fly by. This is a huge problem if you overindex your greenhouses on producing one good, which can happen if you pick your actions poorly.
- Don’t forget to restock every few rounds. You don’t want to keep empty greenhouses for too long; you need those resources in order to move down the Tourism Track!
- Also don’t forget to get Greenhouses. The game is only 7 Rounds; you should do your best to make them count. I usually try to get a Greenhouse, get some Goods, and Seed before the end of the first round, if I can. Usually my opponents aren’t super keen on letting me do that, and I can understand that. If not, I’ll just get more Greenhouses and seed later.
- Plan ahead if you don’t want to waste your bonus. You should be using your Bonus to get hard-to-get items (Carrots) or to get enough of a Resource that you should be good for a while. Don’t waste it on an item that you’re just barely short on; then you’ll have way too many!
- Random Greenhouses aren’t the worst idea if you aren’t sure what you want. They kinda help you decide by making the decision for you, and that’s sorta helpful, in a way, right? I feel like that’s probably helpful. Plus, once you have one, you can always get the Greenhouses you still need later on in the game; it’s not like you can only have one of each.
- Like I said, it’s hard to get Carrots. They only grow in the smallest Greenhouse and you can’t get a lot of them at once, so make sure you try to get them whenever you can. Tomatoes and Lettuce will be easy (or at least easier), so if you can get a consistent source of these carrots then you’ll be able to avoid getting stymied at the threshold every time.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art looks really nice! Lukas Seigmon did an incredible job. It looks like a painting! I really like it a lot. It’s a bit green for my taste, but, that’s not terribly surprising given that it is a farming game.
- I love the components. All the pieces are so nice! I wish they weren’t so flat (they’re a bit challenging to pick up), but if that’s my one complaint I still can talk about how I love the shapes. I also really like the boxes for the goods! Very thematic and very cute.
- The inclusion of a Story Mode is delightful. I wish more games offered a campaign option, honestly.
- Surprisingly not challenging to learn. It defines a few key concepts and uses them consistently, making the end-to-end experience pretty straightforward. The strategy is the complicated part, which I really appreciate. I mean, Uwe’s a seasoned designer, but it shows, here.
- The Bonus is an interesting mechanic. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to really manipulate it towards my own ends, but I haven’t come up with a good one. It’s just … neat.
- It’s always hard to remember to advance the Round Tiles. We forget at least once a game, which causes some interesting problems when you realize you’re in Round 7 and the game is about to end but you hadn’t been accounting for that. Keep track of that one.
- Can’t say I love all the Service Card sets. I should be more careful about the ones I play with. Oh well.
- There are so many actions on the four-player board. I get stressed just looking at it; I don’t think it would be possible to avoid severe analysis paralysis on it. I am not interested in finding out which of my friends will get that kind of choice paralysis if we play it at four players; I’d rather just have the two-player board but you can choose certain spots more than once.
- Honestly, I think I’m disappointed that this had nothing to do with tile-laying. After Patchwork, I was sold on Uwe’s games. I know that’s not all he does, but I mostly saw his like, season set when Stronghold brought it over and assumed that Reykholt was about tile-laying, which it is definitely not. So, that wasn’t a great fit for me from the beginning, and that’s probably partially my bad for not doing more research.
- This is very Euro-y for me. I’m much more into games with like, silly themes and weird dexterity portions and confusing mechanical choices. This is just about farming, harvesting, and converting resources to resources. I honestly found it pretty dry.
- You might realize in the last round that you can’t win and that the round is pointless. That’s a bit disappointing, but at least it doesn’t happen Round 1 or something.
Overall: 5 / 10
Yeah, I don’t feel much about Reykholt. I think, to be fair, it was never going to be a fit for me based on the kinds of games that I like, and that I should have done more diligent research. I got excited about Icelandic farming and assumed there would be more volcanoes involved, which was probably a mistake. At least I avoided a bigger one by not doing the full Story Mode; we tried that with Rise of Queensdale, another very Euro-y game (lots of turning resources into resources) and my coworker hated it so much that I’m pretty sure he’s never going to forgive me. Nor should he; I made him play all 19 games of it. I understand and respect his lack of forgiveness. I don’t think this is the Eurogame that’s going to convert me, honestly, but there’s a lot here that I like! I love the art and the care put into all of the components and how they fit together. I love that there’s a Story Mode and they’re thinking outside of the box, pun intended. This one wasn’t quite for me, but a fair number of my more Euro-inclined friends liked it (with one notable exception, who can’t even talk about it). If you’re interested in resource conversion and you’ve always wanted to consider the rich farming ecosystem of Iceland, you may enjoy Reykholt? It just wasn’t my personal cup of tea.