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  €50.00 - €75.00 so shop around

There are dozens of man and resource management board games on the shelves of local game stores because they are big business and top favourites amongst home and convention players. So when Mayfair Games could no longer list Settlers of Catan in their portfolio they needed something to take its place and they settled (pun intended) for Tim Puls' "The COLONISTS" and they made an epic choice with this awesome epic game.

To ensure that you get to see the set up and the examples clearly the 20 page starter rules booklet has been printed in Landscape orientation which, I will admit, took a little getting used to as it's like changing months on a calendar. Before playing with your friends you should read through the Introductory Game which, is the full rules set out piece-meal as a walkthrough between two players named Alice and Bob. This allows you to play the game and learn the rules as you play so once you have read through pages 1-18 you should play through it, starting with the setup as shown but with the cards and tiles shuffled so that they don't come out exactly as they do in the intro game.

The COLONISTS is played over 5 years, each year consisting of the Summer Round and then the Winter Round. At the beginning of each Summer Round three new hexagonal "Places" tiles are drawn and placed face up next to the game board; these will be added to the game board at the end of the Winter Round, ensuring that they touch already laid tiles on two edges. The board consists of 16 hex-shaped tiles for the first year (pages 19 and 20 have "Medium" and "Hard" setups) and to allow players to understand the movement and other actions allowed on it for your first game you should follow the setup as shown on page one - one minor criticism is that the titles of the first setup tiles are a little hard to read under certain household lighting, but that's probably also a criticism of my ailing eyesight. Each year is marked on a Round card that has 10 circles, 2 columns of 5, to represent the Summer and Winter periods.

When placing tiles to enlarge the board they must, as I have said earlier, touch at least two sides of previously laid tiles, you may leave gaps which may or may not be filled with later placements, and you must ensure that all tiles are placed with their titles in the same orientation (ie at the top).

Each player has their own personal Community board on which they build additional storage units; at first storage management is a major part of the game play, later it is still important but if you have played conservatively you should be better set to handle the use and movement of your resources.

The hex tiles are various  industries, Builders, Developers, Joiners etc each of which offers some kind of resource or assistance. There are also Markets, double-tiles, which are very important for a couple of reasons; one being the three actions shown on the random Market card drawn for the year and the other use is for special movement. Normally the player's Steward (their pawn on the board) can only move one tile at a time and must be able to perform the action on the tile moved onto, they can always move to a Market though, even breaking the movement rule of not being allowed to move back to or through the tile they begun on. Markets therefore allow a Steward to move across the board (from a tile to a Market, not a Market to a tile unless it is another Market) and continue moving from there.

All of the tiles have some advantage or advantages for the players but some also have a price to pay, usually in resources, to be able to utilise that advantage/benefit. Players have a number of workers available to them and these are not used on the main board but on their personal boards to operate the farms and buildings that require them; note that most buildings will not produce unless they have workers on them, so if you can arrange to use your workers and Steward in tandem as it were, you have a better chance of doing what you want. Moving your Steward onto a tile with another player's Steward on it is legal but there is a cost which is paid to the other player. As everything in the game is tight and has to be budgeted for it is usually best to plan your moves so that you don't need to give anything to anyone, but it is an option and there are times when it is the most prudent action.

Rounds are, as noted, split into Summer and Winter with the player going first having three consecutive turns (moving their Steward on the main board) before the second player has their three turns, then the third player etc etc. and only once all players have had their three Summer turns does the Winter Round begin. 

The Colonists has sevarl elements similar to the now run-of-the-mill resourse and/or man management games but it is not a clone of any of them. It requires thought and planning as well as a little luck. Each time we have played at least one of us has said they would play their game slightly different the next time, mainly because they have seen something or something has "clicked" that they could have done or done better. This alone makes it the game to bring out when you have 2 hours plus to play and you want a more than halfway decent social but challenging game with your friends.

Once you have played several times using the 20 page starter rules it is time to move onto the 24 page actual full rules book and the Appendix which teaches you how to create and establish relationships with distant, different colonies. The game now takes a major jump forward from being the easy social game to being an epic strategy game designed for core resource and management game genre players who are looking for, and have now found, a completely different game.

On the cover page of the new rules book the full story behind your involvement in the building of a prosperous and thriving community is explained. Pages 2 & 3 show a complete and illustrated breakdown of the game's components and pages 4 & 5 introduce Colonies amidst the full game setup procedure. Some things remain from the starter game but there are many new inclusions that turn this game around.

I am not going to go over all of these differences because, in my personal opinion, The COLONISTS is a good enough game to play many times in its starter setting and this is what you should concentrate on and enjoy when playing with players new to the game or those who prefer a lighter but still thought provoking strategic game.

When you are ready for the full game, still using the setup for the starter game (or that of the Medium or Hard variation), then the Colonies and Diplomacy are what you have been building up to and waiting patiently for. The game now takes on its proposed epic proportion and you understand at last why you have so many pieces, counters, tiles, cards, that were alien to you in your earlier games. This is now the game that the box, with its weight, its appealing cover art and its retail price, has promised, now boys will turn to men and ladies will discover their inner business-sense that too many men seem to think only belongs to the male of the species; this is not a game where rash decisions are usually lucky.

The COLONISTS is a game that you can play and enjoy on all of its levels with great feeling and total satisfaction

  

Description from the publisher:

In The Colonists, a.k.a. Die Kolonisten, each player is a mayor of a village and must develop their environment to gain room for new farmers, craftsmen, and citizens. The main goal of the game is full employment, so players must create new jobs, educate the people, and build new houses to increase their population. But resources are limited, and their storage leads to problems that players must deal with, while also not forgetting to upgrade their buildings. Players select actions by moving their mayor on a central board.

The Colonists is designed in different levels and scenarios, and even includes something akin to a tutorial, with the playing time varying between 30 minutes (for beginners) and 180 minutes (experts).

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© Chris Baylis 2011-2015