Full disclosure: A review copy of Walking in Provence was provided by EmperorS4.
Alright, one last EmperorS4 game for a hot minute, or at least until we get closer to Origins / Gen Con time. This one, Walking in Provence, has apparently kicked off a “Walking in” series that started with Walking in Burano. They’ve got Maisherly on the art, and, I mean, exploring places is fun, so, let’s try it out and see what’s going on in the game.
In Walking in Provence, you’ve grown bored of Burano and its rivers and copious cats and moved on to France, where you’ve heard that Provence has amazing lavender fields. Rather than focus on houses, then, you’ve decided that you want to do more photography. And what better way to do that than with your photography drone? Or you can do it yourself, you guess. Unfortunately there are other folks who had the same idea, and you really don’t want to clutter the air with drones, so, only one of you is going to end up being the best. Is your walk through Provence going to be successful? Or will your photography just end up a flash in the pan?
First thing you’re going to want to do is give each player a starting card:
They’re double-sided, so set them face-up. Put your meeple on the scooter:
Add your Drone to one of the open meadows (with a tree):
Give players player markers in the same colors:
Now, set up the Photo Cards. Create a row of 2 A and 2 B Photo Cards:
Then, create a row of 3 C Photo Cards and finally, add two of the double-sided Goal Cards:
Set the guides nearby:
Set up the Scene Card deck by removing all the cards with player counts higher than yours, and dealing each player two cards:
You should be ready to start!
A game of Walking in Provence takes place over 10 rounds. During each round, players will add cards to their tableau, move around, take photos, and attempt to fulfill goals. After 10 rounds, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins! The easiest way to go through the game is round-by-round.
The Scene Phase is pretty simple. You take one of the two cards you have in hand and add it to your tableau, passing the other card to the player on your left. You can place the card above or below any card, as long as at least one square on the card is covered or covering another card. A couple caveats:
- You cannot place a card completely above or below another card.
- You cannot place a card such that it covers a spot occupied by your Photographer meeple or your Drone.
- If you cover a Church, you must cover both squares.
After all players have completed the Scene Phase, you move on to the Walking Phase.
During this round, you may move your Photographer and / or your Drone. You may move each one at a time, but they must be on different Meadow squares. That’s pretty much it.
Alright, now to take some photos. You may complete photos with either your Photographer or your Drone. A Photographer can complete a photo if they can capture the required features in a 3×5 area directly in front of their Photographer Meeple; use the guides to help. Similarly, you can use the Drone to collect photos in a 5×5 area, but it’s centered on the Drone. Good luck with that. If you collected a photo, add your Player Marker to the top available slot on a card. If you and an opponent both collect a photo in the same round, add your Player Markers to the same row.
As always, caveats:
- If Lavender is required, the squares must all be facing the same direction.
- All squares of a specified type must be orthogonally adjacent. Orientation doesn’t matter.
- If a Church appears, it must be completely in the shot. Both squares.
Draw a card. If the deck’s empty, well, you’re done. You only get to use the last card you were given.
After all cards have been played, move on to final scoring! Score in this order:
- Lavender: Score your largest horizontal and vertical fields. The larger of the two scores 1 point per square; the smaller of the two scores 2 points per square.
- Wheat Field: A wheat field scores only if you have at least two orthogonally adjacent fields. If so, all fields score one point per square in that field. If any of your fields comprise at least a 2×2 rectangle or larger, all squares in that rectangle score 2 points per square, rather than one.
- Sunflowers: Each Sunflower facing toward the Scene Deck (since that’s where the sun is) scores 2 points. Each Sunflower facing any other direction scores -3 points. Don’t do that.
- Towns: There are four different colors of towns. If you have 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 different adjacent shops, score 1 / 3 / 7 / 12 points. You may have more than one set of towns.
- Photos: Score your points for photos.
- Goals: Score the Goals. If there’s a tie, both tied players get the points.
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Not many, which is nice. The game does a pretty good job trying to scale with the player count, as it just adds 10 more Scene Cards every time. The things you’re going to see are additional contention around the Photo Cards as the player count increases and effects from variance, in that it’s easier for players to go deep on one thing since there are more cards with that feature total (even though there are the same number of cards per players). I appreciate that this scales up to five, though, and beyond noting those differences as you scale up the player count I wouldn’t say that I have any particular preference. I do enjoy this game quite a bit at two, though; it’s very tactical, since the card you don’t take immediately goes to your opponent, who may draw an even better card or use your card to get a bunch of points. You need to be careful when you’re playing at two. But yeah, I’ve got no major preference on player count for this particular game.
- You’ve gotta go for those Photo Cards early if you want to score them. Remember, they’re basically worth fewer points for everyone else once someone scores. Getting a bunch of them locked down early means not only that you can score big, but you can keep your opponents from equally-large scores, too, which is pretty ideal.
- Especially go for a Photo Card if you’re worried your opponent is about to score it. Yeah, like I said, snoop on your opponents; if they seem close to getting a Photo Card, try to sneak it from them so that you can make it less valuable for them. Worst-case, at least try to lock it down so that you both get equal points for completing the photo?
- You’ve also really got to avoid penalties. They’re not worth it. Penalties are the absolute worst. Do not go around picking up -3s; you’re going to get yourself clowned, score-wise. It’s tough to avoid with some of the lavender scoring, but you have some choices with Sunflowers; at least cover up the ones that aren’t helping you.
- Goal Cards are also pretty important! They’re not worth an overwhelming number of points, but often if you can get them to synergize with Photo Cards you’re going after, you can effectively gatekeep the Goal by virtue of making the Photo Cards not valuable enough to pursue. Then, players won’t go for them as hard and the points are yours.
- Try to remember how everything scores, if you can. There’s a lot to remember in this game; either try to keep it in your head, or use one of the player guides. You really don’t want to score 0 in some random category because you didn’t remember its scoring rules.
- Remember who you’re passing your next card to. Keep an eye on what your opponents are coming up with and what they’re going for. Sometimes it might be worth taking a worse card so that they don’t get access to a card that would be excellent for them.
- Wheat fields score double for 2×2 rectangles or larger. It’s worth it to have a few of those. Having a big rectangle is awesome; you can get tons of points. Just don’t forget that there’s an opportunity cost to playing all your cards on one particular spot. You can’t win the game with a 2×5 Wheat Field. You need to diversify.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I’m very pleased they kept the whimsical element of having weird aliens or Santa Claus or whatever in their games. Some aliens can be spotted leaving crop circles in the wheat fields, which I really appreciate. It’s a little weird, but it doesn’t take away from the overall pleasant aesthetic of the game, which is nice. It’s just overall kind of strange.
- I’m always a fan of card-based tile-laying games. Love Sprawlopolis, but this is definitely more Hokkaido in flavor, if you’re wondering. I’d say it’s Hokkaido with an even greater emphasis on that point salad, score-what-you-can-when-you-can element. It’s very good at what it’s trying to do, though! It’s a pretty solid challenge when strategizing.
- Pretty portable, if you don’t take the guides with you. The guides take up a lot of space; as you might guess, the 5×5 doesn’t exactly fit in a Quiver. Everything else will, though!
- Forcing players to think about scoring in two dimensions is pretty cool. Not just thinking about the direction of the lavender, but also thinking about things like whether or not the things you are trying to have groups of are proximal enough to the meeple / drone to actually be in scoring range. It’s a very interesting problem; haven’t seen a lot of games like this one.
- Nice art, as always. Maisherly continues to not disappoint; it’s very peaceful and a solid style for walking around and doing photography. It’s clean, elegant, and still a bit old-timey, which is nice.
- Cards are a nice quality, as well. They’re pretty thick, and they have a good weight to them. It’s nice.
- Giving players only two cards to choose from keeps the game moving. There are still tons of options (and it increases drastically as the game goes on), but you don’t want every player to have 10 cards in hand to try and decide between; that’ll take all day.
- The sunflower thing is interesting, but it’s also very easy to get wrong. Just pick a direction and make sure players are being consistent. Yeah I’m still not totally convinced I got it right in my photos; there’s a solid 50% chance I got it 100% backwards. I understand I can check examples before I commit too things but, honestly, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re consistent.
- It can be tough for new players to keep track of all the scoring opportunities. This is the main challenge of the game. It’s essentially a more advanced Hokkaido, in my opinion, with more configuration around the different ways to score (and more pitfalls for players that can’t quite get the scoring right), which is going to make it a lot tougher to learn. I’ve played with players who have pretty effectively thrown up their hands and given up because they misunderstood parts of the rules. Make sure everyone has a player aid, answer questions, and you might want to watch their play areas to make sure they’re not making difficult-to-correct mistakes if it’s a first game for some folks.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I’m pretty solidly sold on Walking in Provence! I think it is certainly very different than its predecessor, but they’re both neat little games that have a lot going on in them! I think I’d like to see a few additional Goal Cards for Walking in Provence, but I’m naturally extremely greedy, so that’s more of a me thing. Where Walking in Burano, I feel, appeals to more casual play, I think Walking in Provence is a bit more intense, strategy-wise. You have a limited number of turns, you need to maximize your score along several different dimensions that all score differently, and you need to make sure that your opponents aren’t going to undercut you and take away the points that you need to win. It’s pretty challenging! Naturally, that complexity is obfuscated somewhat by Maisherly’s incredible art, which I find amusing; you see such smooth, clean, and great-looking games that you want to try and when you engage with them you realize they’re more challenging than you expected. It’s a happy accident, from time to time. It may be a bit too complex for some folks on their first game, but I feel like starting with Hokkaido and leaning into this afterward might not be a bad idea? I do slightly prefer Hokkaido, for that; it’s simpler and a bit more straightforward, so I’m more likely to see it hit the table with frequency over Provence. That said, I have a lot of fun playing this one, so if you’re looking for a nifty card game, enjoy spatial games or point salad-y games, or you’re looking for a portable game with a nice bit of complexity to it, I’d recommend checking it out!