Friday, March 18, 2011

Glen More: A Wee Bit O' Scotland

Glen More, designer Mattias Cramer's first game, is set in the Scottish highlands.  In this game, two to five players compete to create the best laid-out countryside using tiles selected from a circular track.  The game is played over three scoring rounds and generally takes about 60-90 minutes to play in my experience.

There are several factors that make this game interesting to me.  First and foremost, there's the circular tile track where players leapfrog each other to grab the tiles that interest them most.  Some of these tiles must be purchased with resources, while others are free, and the tiles vary in ability.  Some are pure resource production tiles, others grant the player a new clan member who can rove around the countryside, while others give victory points for different conditions.  They increase in power as the game progresses over three scoring rounds.  However, the leapfrogging comes with a catch: skipping too far ahead may get you the tile you really need, but it will give other players additional turns and the opportunity to grab more tiles until they catch up to you.  Counter-balancing this is the end game scoring (see below).

Another factor that makes the game interesting to me is its spatial element.  Players place the tiles taken from the track in front of them, while respecting various tile placement rules that mainly center around how your clansmen wander from place to place.  I like the idea of creating my own Scottish countryside, replete with villages, fields, pastures, lochs, castles, fairs, and suchlike.  To some players, the fact that players have their own individual landscapes demonstrates a lack of player interaction, but I personally feel there is ample interaction on the tile track.  Also, I am always watching how my opponents are laying their tiles, because of the way scoring works and because it sometimes affects what I select from the tile track.

But more interesting to me is trying to lay my tiles in the best manner possible.  Placement is strategically important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that every tile placed activates the benefits of its neighboring tiles.  I like the fact that nice combos can be created by placing tiles next to each other that work in tandem, such as one or more wheat fields next to a distillery that produces whisky from the wheat, or a butcher next to cattle pasture.  Also, the placement of each tile can also affect how many times it can be activated in the future and also where subsequent tiles can be laid.

In addition to the tile track and placement mechanics, there's also the resource market where wheat, wood, ore, sheep, and cattle can be bought and sold in limited quantities.  As the demand goes up, so does the cost, with the supply running out after three resources of each type are sold.  The market is only resupplied as players sell resources back to the market in the opposite order they were bought, meaning the first resource sold of each type brings the highest price.  And since money is worth victory points at the end of the game, selling resources to the market can really help a player's position.  You really get a sense of supply and demand with the market, along with a realization that resources are not inexhaustible.

Lastly, I find the scoring interesting. Three times during the game, players earn points based on the difference between their acquisitions and those of the player with the least, in three different categories.  The greater the disparity in the number of clan chieftains, whisky barrels, and lochs/castles between you and the player with the fewest, the more points you'll score.  Gauging when these scoring rounds will take place can be important.  At the end of the game, additional scoring occurs.  Special bonus tiles add their points, leftover money scores points, and players take the difference between the number of tiles they own and the number owned by the player with the fewest, losing three points for each extra tile.  This penalty gives players the incentive to not build too far ahead of their opponents.  It can also create a strategy where one player may frequently take fewer tiles, forcing other players to lose points at the end of the game.

My only real complaint with Glen More is the downtime with four or five players.  Two or three players is the sweet spot, in my opinion.  With fewer than four players, the game adds a six-sided die acting as an extra player without adding any downtime.  I won't go into details, but it's cool how this works.  Beyond this, my only other complaint is that the printing and iconography on the tiles is way too small.

The love/hate divide on this game seems to be about 50/50 from what I have seen.  Personally, I like it a lot, though I don't love it.  I do think it's a great first offering from this new designer and I'll be interested to see how his future games play.


  1. I've heard some generally good buzz about this game, but you've really highlighted some specific things that have me pretty interested. The "leapfrogging" element sounds a lot like the "downstream only" element to the worker placement in Egizia, which was probably the coolest thing about it for me.

    I definitely need to give this a try if I get a chance! Thanks!

  2. Thanks very much for comment, Chris!

    I haven't tried Egizia yet, so I can't compare, but the term "downstream" is a good one to use. Like I said, this isn't everyone's cup of tea, so after you've played it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks again!