Review of Uwe Rosenberg's Reykholt
Reykholt in two words? Straightforward and streamlined.
Fans of Uwe Rosenberg will glimpse some familiar parts of other games such as Agricola and At the Gates of Loyang. Rather than building on earlier ideas by adding complexity, Reykholt has streamlined the worker placement of Agricola and the fields and harvesting of At the Gates of Loyang, making it a good introduction for newer gamers, as well as an after-dinner length game for more experienced players.
Reykholt’s artwork is very inviting, and the rules are very approachable. It can be taught easily at a game night. In both price and complexity, Reykholt is similar to Catan. While it has a full-sized box, in terms of game play, it is more similar to Caverna: Cave vs Cave over Caverna, or Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small over Agricola.
The game box lists the playing time as 30-60 minutes, which is a bit surprising for a full-size Uwe Rosenberg game. One of the ways that’s possible is with a simple setup. The action spaces are pre-printed; you don’t have to arrange cards or tiles like in some of his other games.
The first time you open the game, you’ll need to sort out the components and build the crates, but the second time the game is played, setup should go quite quickly, especially if you play at the same player count.
Reykholt's tables replace Loyang's customers
The track of tables around the edge of the board is another way Reykholt streamlined some of the ideas of At the Gates of Loyang. Rather than having customer cards, the tables are your “customers”, so that you know what to plan for and what to expect.
The vegetables on each table are the cost to move to that table. If I have a tomato, I can move to the tomato table. If I have a cabbage, I can move to the cabbage table.
Reykholt has a “freebie” mechanism that helps the game to be a little forgiving for newer players, and which can be used to its full advantage by more experienced players. In addition to paying to move my piece, once per round, I receive, instead of pay, that cost. To move along the first three tables, I could pay a tomato, get a cabbage, and pay a mushroom.
This means that if someone struggled that round and was not able to come up with the cost of the next table, they get to move to the next table and they get some vegetables to help them in the next round. They are not stuck on the same spot while everyone else moves ahead.
The tables reduce randomness, components, and setup time, and increase a player’s ability to plan. They are the turn order track and the end-game victory conditions. What at first might seem like a simple score track is really much more.
Reykholt remembers the importance of details
What struck me most about Reykholt’s components was the attention to detail. For example, there is a stack of tiles that keeps track of the current round. They could have been simple squares with numbers, or a printed track with a wooden cube, but instead they are large, illustrated tiles with a gracefully curved edge.
The inside of the box, which could have been plain, or a simple pattern, has a lush scene.
The player tokens have optional stickers with detailed art.
The crates that hold the wooden components have edges that suggest boards, and the parts that fit together have waves to keep everything in place. There are even little bits that punch out for the handles.
The wooden vegetables each have a different color and shape, so even if someone has trouble remembering what they are supposed to represent, it won’t affect game play. Cardboard 3x tiles are included, in case you run low on wooden pieces.
The vegetables start with the common tomato, and progress in rarity to the carrot. We found it helpful to arrange the crates in “rarity order”, but it’s not necessary. You can always refer to the tables on the board, which are presented in order of rarity.
Reykholt is very teachable
Reykholt has four phases, without a lot of rules exceptions or hidden things to remember.
The first phase, known as Work Time, is the worker placement phase. Players take turns placing a token on a space on the grid of actions. The only special case in this phase is the premium spaces, marked with a flag, where you can only use one in each column per round.
The second phase is Harvest Time, where you harvest one good from each greenhouse.
The third phase is Tourism Time where you move forward on the tables. You must discard the vegetables on the next table to move there. Once per round, you receive (rather than pay) the vegetables, and this can happen in any order with your payments of vegetables.
The last phase is Homecoming Time, where players retrieve their workers. The round tile is changed to the next round, and the start player card moves to the next player.
After the last round, the player who is the farthest along on the tables is the winner.
Loyang’s field cards are now Reykholt’s greenhouse cards
The greenhouse cards, in sizes 3, 4, 5, and 6, will be familiar to players of At the Gates of Loyang. Only common vegetables can be planted in the larger greenhouses, with a corresponding decrease in size and rarity. The rarest item, carrots, can only be planted in the smallest greenhouse.
The cards have a golden box around the rarest vegetable on each card, to help show you what is different about each card, and also to make it easier if you have a helper card that gives you a bonus of the rarest vegetable for that greenhouse.
Reykholt has variability in setup and game play
While Reykholt has simplified setup and game play by printing some things directly on the board, there are parts of Reykholt that change from game to game. There are sets of helper cards, known as service cards, that give bonuses to the player. 5 cards are randomly selected from the set to be used in the game, and any unused cards are placed back in the game box.
In addition to the known greenhouses, there is a stack of random greenhouses from which players can purchase. Buying from the random greenhouses might be necessary if the stack of greenhouses of the size you want is empty.
Reykholt also includes a “Story Mode”, with 5 scenario cards, 13 event cards, and 16 service cards. In Story Mode, a scenario card is chosen while setting up the game, and the event cards are shuffled and placed next to the game board. The additional cards can also be used in the main game, without playing in Story Mode, if you prefer.
Reykholt scales for the player count
Reykholt’s components change with the player count. The most obvious change is the two-sided game board. The side for 3-4 players has more action spaces than the side for 1-2 players. There is a covering tile for 3 player games. This keeps selecting an action space a carefully-weighed consideration, especially since there are certain premium spaces that are limited per round.
The greenhouse cards are marked by number of players, and any cards with a higher player count are removed from the game. There is also a special set of service cards that is only available in the 2-player game.
Reykholt is easy to get to the table
One of the deciding factors in which game to get off the shelf is often setup time. Reykholt is a game that is quick and easy to set up. It doesn’t require a lot of rules-relearning between games, or take a long time to teach new players. Reykholt got rid of almost all of the in-game maintenance, yet still manages to offer options for variety, and to leave room for future expansions.
If you’re a worker placement fan, or you’ve been looking to try one out, the only question is which Uwe Rosenberg game is right for you.
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