Village Review

Village board game in play

One game that I've been hearing about for a while now is Village.

In Village you're doing..... something... in order to gain the most victory points.  Specifically, you are trying to make your family rich and famous and whatnot.  In order to do this, each round will consist of various resources (cubes) being placed on the board.  Then, players alternate taking turns by selecting a cube from the board and following the corresponding action.  The actions can include collecting food, traveling, joining the monastery, getting married, becoming a village politician, selling at market, or performing a trade.  Some of these activities take a while to master - and this is indicated through each player's "time" track.  And, whenever a player makes a full loop around their time track, one of their oldest family members passes away and is either honored in the book of elders, or is buried in an unmarked grave (because there is only so much ink in this village - so once they write a couple of names down, they have to be very selective).  Each round is completed whenever all of the cubes have been taken - at which point a Mass is performed, and the player with the most monks in the monastery gains some victory points.  Then, the board is re-seeded with cubes and a new round begins.  Play continues in this manner until either the book of ancestors is completely filled, or until all of the unmarked graves are filled.  At that point, there is one final Mass, and then players check to see who has had the most successful family (by comparing what really matters to the people of Ye Olde Village - victory points).

Book of Ancestors in the board game Village
Those who have gone before - the book of ancestors
So, starting with the pros, the thing that I find most interesting about Village is that your people can die.  This is a fascinating new addition to me.  I have played a lot of worker placement games, and in many of them you can gain extra workers as you play.  However, I've never played one where you actually lose workers as well.  And, what I like even more about this is that it isn't necessarily a bad thing to lose workers.  In fact, having five of your workers in the book of ancestors at the end of the game is worth quite a few victory points (12 to be exact).  But, it is also good if you keep your people alive.  Workers in the church and in the council chamber are worth victory points at the end of the game - up to six points per worker!  So, there are interesting strategic decisions that you have to make about which worker you want to place, which are expendable, and when is it better to try to keep them alive (as much as possible).

The next pro that I have for Village is that I like the distribution of the resource cubes on the board.  These resources are not evenly spread - some actions will have drastically more cubes than others (the Market action only gets one cube per round).  And, the round doesn't end until all of the cubes are gone.  This provides a nice dynamic which forces you to either take advantage of a lot of different actions, or have an opportunity cost of taking a cube without performing an associated.  It also forces you to prioritize your actions as some of them may not be available later in the round.  So, the best players in the game will learn to gain at least a few points from actions that don't necessarily fit well within their overall strategy - or at the very least, they will take advantage of these extraneous actions to position some of their workers in different areas of the board in order to kill them and have them added to the corresponding section of the book of elders.

Along the same lines as the previous pro, I also appreciate that the distribution of "resource" cubes doesn't only contain resources - it also has plagues.  So, sometimes you have to make the decision between performing the action that you want, while advancing twice on your time track, or performing a different action and gaining a resource.  Where this becomes even more interesting is through an action that I didn't mention before - you can always trade in three matching resources in order to perform any action.  Which means that when there is a plague as the only resource available for an action you want, you can decide to spend three of your resources to avoid that cube.  Or, in another situation, if there are only plague cubes remaining, you can also decide it is worth your resources to circumvent the plagues (and even select an action that doesn't have a cube associated with it).

Picture of the church in Village board game
Sending meeples to Mass
Now with some solid pros listed, I have two specific cons that I will address.  The first con is that I feel like the first move of the game is too prescribed.  Specifically, I do not see a reason why anyone would ever choose not to perform a marriage action as their first action of the game.  When your workers die, you always have to lose the lowest numbered workers first.  Performing a marriage action first allows you to unlock a worker with a "2" on him - one that will die after all of your starting workers.  This worker, then, is able to be placed in a region of the board where you will want a worker to live a long time - possibly even all game.  I can see reasons why you may or may not want to perform a marriage action every round, but if you don't do it in the first round, then (in my opinion) you are handicapping yourself for the rest of the game - and if you don't perform it as your first action, then there is a good chance that it will not be available to you later in the round.  Now, I am admittedly writing this con out of my limited number of plays - feel free to share your experience with this and if you think that I am correct in this, or if you think that I'm off base.

The second con is this - the theme.  Or, perhaps I should say, "Theme?  What theme?"  I honestly had to look up what the theme of the game was before starting to write this review (after having played the game multiple times).  And, after looking in the rules, I'm still not sure what it is.  I think it is just that there are people in a village doing stuff, and they want to do it well.  The last sentence of the "Game Idea" section is, "Those that worked hard during their lifetime may find themselves immortalized in the village chronicle and thus increase their families' fame."  Yeah; so I guess you're trying to become a famous family.  Anyway, this didn't bother me especially much, as I enjoy a strong theme, but it's not a requirement for me to enjoy a game.  However, I can see where this would be a drawback to a lot of other people.

Overall, I give Village an 8.5/10.  I enjoyed my plays of it, and will probably keep playing it on an occasional basis - which, when you consider the number of new games I keep learning, is a pretty good feat!

If Village sounds interesting, you might also check out Kingdom of Solomon, In the Year of the Dragon, and Lords of Waterdeep.

I would like to thank Tasty Minstrel Games for providing me with a review copy of Village.


  1. Great review. I love the take on the theme.

  2. I've wanted to check this out for a while, so your review confirms that it will be worth a play if the opportunity arises

  3. Excellent game. It is a classic multiple paths to victory Euro game, with elements of both worker placement and resource management. Josh is right to say that the theme is weak. Maybe they will "re-skin" the game with a stronger theme.

    One thing Josh only mentioned in passing is the way the death of your workers is, far from being a bad thing, is actually a big part of game strategy. Not only are workers in the Book worth points, but filling the book (or the unmarked graves) is the game-ending condition. As a result, new groups will find that the "kill all your workers as fast as possible" is the most basic stratagem available. Your group will have to learn how to beat the "kill'em all" technique in order to explore the full possibilities of this game. It is kind of similar to how a group that plays Puerto Rico has to learn to beat the Corn Barron strategy in order to unlock the full possibilities of that game. It is not that that strategy becomes unplayable, but it takes some skilled play to avoid getting steam-rolled by a meeple murdering opponent at which point it becomes just another strategy.