Glen More is the latest in Alea's "medium box" range of games. Currently only published in the German language, it is expected to be released by Rio Grande later in the year.
In Glen More you are the chieftain of a 17th century Scottish clan. Starting with a single village tile you will be expanding your territory and your clan with the acquisition of further tiles, adding them to the display in-front of you. In doing so you will also be using the various abilities of those tiles to generate resources and transforming said resources into sources of victory points.
Glen More fills an interesting gaming niche. It is quite a thinky game, but unlike most such games it neither complex nor long lasting. This makes it a good game for filling those annoying spare hours at the end of an evening that are too long for a filler but too short for another heavy game. Oh and I should also mention that the game itself is very good indeed.
Lets take a closer look
How To Play
The board for Glen More is a rondel/tile-display. Various tiles will be laid out on this display, along with meeples representing each of the players. Meeples will be moving clockwise around this rondel, collecting tiles, with new tiles being drawn to fill in the gaps left behind. The display is initially seeded with tiles from the 0 deck. There are then three more decks of tiles which are drawn from as each deck is exhausted.
Each player starts with a single village tile, on which is placed a black clansman meeple. In addition each player starts with 6 coins. All the resource cubes (sheep, cattle, grain, stone, wood) and the whisky barrels are placed to the side of the board.
Whoever is furthest back on the track is the next player to take a turn. A players turn consists of:
1. Take a tile. You move your meeple clockwise around the track, stopping on one of the tiles you want to collect. You can move as far as you like, but the further you move the longer it will be before you get another turn. If one player gets left a good way behind as a result then he may get several turns in a row, raking in all the tiles that have been skipped. Although this may not necessarily be a good thing, as well discuss later.
Many tiles have a cost in resource cubes. To take a tile that has a cost you need to pay these resource cubes to the bank. If you cannot afford to pay then you can always buy cubes from the marketplace. This marketplace forms a closed economy between the players, with the starting money simply moving back and forth between the players and the market. I.e. if I buy a sheep from the market for 1 coin, a subsequent player may later claim that coin by selling a sheep back to the market.
2. Play the tile. Your tiles form a personal display, Alhambra style, spreading out from the village tile you start the game with. This starting tile has a road and a river passing through it, and any tiles you purchase that show a road or river must continue this feature. In addition you must place your tile such that it is adjacent to a tile containing one of your clansmen meeples. The village you start with comes with a meeple, and during the game you may get more by building further villages or castles.
Many tiles, when played, give you an advantage or power. This is enacted once, the moment the tile is played. In the case of the castles and lochs, you get a card to place in-front of you. These cards are a source of victory points during scoring, as well as explaining the effect of the tile just played.
3. Activate tiles. Most tiles have some ability that is enacted whenever the tile is activated. Production tiles produce the appropriate coloured cubes, distilleries turn your grain into whiskey, butchers and markets turn your resources into instant victory points, towns and castles allow you to move your clansmen meeples a space or send them to parliament for victory points, and so on. When you play a tile that tile is activated. As are all tiles adjacent to that tile. You can activate those tiles in any order you choose.
So it should now be clear what is happening. You are building a victory point generating engine. Produce resources, turn them into victory points. Careful placement of your meeples is required to make sure you can play the tiles in just the right spots to activate the combos you have established and/or to set yourself up for future placements.
4. Refresh the display. Any tiles that have fallen behind the last meeple are removed, then all the gaps are filled to just leave a single gap behind the hindmost meeple (so you know which one he is). Onto the next turn.
When the 1 stack of tiles is exhausted there is immediately an interim scoring. Likewise at the end of the 2 stack. When the last tile of the 3 stack is placed on the display the game immediately ends. There is another interim scoring here, as well as any endgame points.
During the three interim scorings you earn points in three categories based on how far ahead in that category you are than the player who is last. If you are only 1 ahead its a single victory point, but if you hit the 5+ threshold its a massive 8 victory points. The categories are number of whisky barrels produced, number of meeples sent to parliament (with some bonus to this coming from the special cards), and number of special cards collected (every loch and castle has a matching special card).
At the end of the game some of those special cards award for points for different things (for example one of the castles gives you 3 victory points for every village you have built). Every coin you have is also worth a single point.
There is one final, and very important, piece of scoring. At the end of the game everyone counts up the number of tiles they have played. Every player LOSES 3 victory points for every tile they have placed in excess of those the player who played the fewest has. In other words, every tile you take is worth -3 points to you. So just gathering a pile of tiles because you can isnt necessarily a good move since unless those tiles can generate points youll be making a loss.
Most victory points wins.
What I Thought
Glen More is a very entertaining light brain-burner of a game. Every turn will give you interesting decisions to make. Which tile to take. Where to place it. If activating it allows you to turn cubes into victory points do you do so, or save the cubes for something more important. When activating the villages where do you move your meeple to set up subsequent turns, or do you sacrifice the valuable meeple by sending it to parliament losing flexibility but earning a trickle of victory points. As is usual in this sort of game youll never be able to do exactly what you want to do, so which area do you sacrifice?
However despite all this its not too heavy either. You dont have to plan all the way to the end of the game, just come up with a strategy and then play it through as best you can. The game is very easy to learn, although I suspect there is quite some advantage in knowing all the tiles that are coming up.
Initially I suspected that one of the tiles, Loch Oich, may be too powerful. In the first game I played it turned up just as I was taking what would probably be my last turn of the game. I jumped all the way to the end of the track to take it, and generated a big pile of victory points which probably gave me the game. However having played a few more times I think I just got lucky to have a strategy that matched one of the endgame tiles whilst my opponent didnt get so lucky. Once people get to know the game they will plan based on those endgame tiles rather than playing rather randomly (as we did in our very first game).
Obviously there is a little luck in the game, but the track is long enough that taking the lucky draw usually comes at the cost of taking fewer actions during the game.
The scoring seems nicely balanced across the different sources of points. Getting five or more ahead on one of the interim scoring categories will earn you 8 points each times (although unlikely to achieve the full points for the first scoring) however getting there will be at the expense of building a victory point engine on your tiles.
I have played with 4 players and with 2. Both numbers of players work well. I am sure 3 will works too. I am not so sure about it as a 5 player game, but havent tried yet. I suspect the downtime may be a little too much sometimes, especially on those few turns when you jump a way ahead of the other players on the track.
In 2 and 3 player games there is a ghost player who moves around the track based on the roll of a dice (numbered 1,1,1,2,2,3), removing the tile that it lands on. This nicely simulates the effect of an additional player in the game without causing too much chaos. Obviously if it were a real player you can apply a little logic in working out if the tile you want will be taken on that players turn, but youre never 100% sure. So it works fine.
In the 4 player game in which everyone had played at least once before, and thus knew the rules, we finished in about an hour exactly what it says on the box. Since the number of tiles, and thus the maximum number of turns, is fixed I dont expect this to vary too much by number of players although the 2/3er ghost player may shave a little time off this.
It is hard to comment on the quality of the rules since our playing is based on the rough English translation produced, along with all the rules questions threads and discussions based on that translation. I even put the document through Google Translate myself to check something that was unclear in the translation. However Matthias Cramer has been quite active on the BGG forums clearing up any problems people have been having. This is always a nice thing to see from a designer, regardless of language considerations.
The components are probably the games weakest point. They can best be described as functional. The board is flimsy card but it does the job of holding the tiles. The tiles themselves are also better quality card, but the icons and text on them are very small. I suspect those with poorer eyesight will find themselves peering at the tiles from time to time. Theres also the case where the greyed out resource icon with a question mark in it is sometimes used to mean Any X cubes and other times used to mean Any X different cubes. The resource cubes in question are the standard euro-game size cubes, the whisky barrels are of the same style as the barrels in Puerto Rico. The meeples are generic meeples - unfortunately without kilts! :p
So in summary Glen More is a fun and well balanced game. Easy to learn, but with the combinations of tiles generating the depth of game play thatll bring you back for more.
Reviewed by Graham Charlton.