UWE ROSENBERG has pulled out all the stops to create a beautiful 1-4 player game that is both for the family player and the strategist. Pegasus Spiele have done an excellent job in its production.
The game takes its name and theme from the name given to unusually warm weather in what would generally be perceived to be a cold season. It plays in around an hour, hour-and-a-half, with a full compliment of 4 players.
It is a tile-laying game where Tetris-style tiles are played onto separate player boards, and indeed like Tetris the idea is to fit the pieces together on the board so that every square is covered. However, unlike Tetris, where the pieces can leave gaps formed by the way they fit together as they fall, INDIAN SUMMER has single square tiles (Squirrels) that are used to fill the gaps. Apart from the Squirrels and 20 other assorted animal tiles (in various shapes) the majority of tiles feature patterns of Leaves in their beautiful Autumn (Fall) colours. Each of the Leaf Tiles (aka Puzzle pieces) has a small hole in it which is what makes this tile-placement game different from any other I have played.
Each player has their own Forest Floor board on which they lay tiles to form the leaf-laden ground. These boards are different on both sides, giving the players 12 boards to choose from; boards can be selected, dealt randomly, with the choice of either side being used - once the game begins you cannot flip the board over (mainly because the tiles you place on it would fall off).
There is a quite unique (at least to me) way of the players gaining tiles after the initial random deal. All players are given a Backpack plus 5 tiles, 2 Green, 2 Orange and 1 Red. All Green tiles are designed to cover three squares on the Forest floor, All Orange tiles cover four squares and all Reds cover five squares - the colour of the tiles thus represents, 3, 4 or 5 parts of the ground but not all tiles of the same colour are of the same shape; the holes are in different parts of the tiles as well, even when the tiles are the same shape. Player tiles are laid to the right hand side of the Backpack. At game start they are placed in order, Green x 2, then Orange x 2 and then the one Red. Later in the game when tiles are collected from the pathway around the log-boards they are placed one at a time from the Backpack onwards, in the order they are drawn from the pathway.
There are two game-boards designed to look like logs; on their reverse side are the specific shapes for the Single-player game bonus tiles, and on the main side the spaces for the Animal/Bonus tiles for the multi-player game. At the beginning of the game these two log tiles are laid end to end in the centre of the table. At game preparation at either end of this log "table" you place the Squirrels, at one end, and the common supply of "Treasures" (all small tokens are generically called "Treasures") at the other.
To complete the set-up, all of the leaf-tiles are thrown (gently) into the box lid and shuffled together. Then take the Bush stand-up (two pieces of card slot together to form the likeness of a bush) and place it anywhere along the side of the log board, on the table next to, not on, the log-board. From a hands-width distance away from the bush start placing random leaf-tiles drawn from the box lid and continue to place them so they form a pathway around the log-tiles, passing on the outside of the Squirrels and Treasures; the remainder of the leaf-tiles are left in the box lid and are drawn out as replacements once the pathway has seven or less tiles left in it. As the tiles are drawn into player's backpacks so the Bush is moved up to show where the next tiles are to be taken from. You can use ANY tiles from your own path to place on your board but you may only take tiles from the main pathway that are adjacent to the each other, in the order they are displayed from the Bush clockwise.To complete the set-up, all of the leaf-tiles are thrown (gently) into the box lid and shuffled together. Then take the Bush stand-up (two pieces of card slot together to form the likeness of a bush) and place it anywhere along the side of the log board, on the table next to, not on, the log-board.
From a hands-width distance away from the bush start placing random leaf-tiles drawn from the box lid and continue to place them so they form a pathway around the log-tiles, passing on the outside of the Squirrels and Treasures; the remainder of the leaf-tiles are left in the box lid and are drawn out as replacements once the pathway has seven or less tiles left in it. As the tiles are drawn into player's backpacks so the Bush is moved up to show where the next tiles are to be taken from. You can use ANY tiles from your own path to place on your board but you may only take tiles from the main pathway that are adjacent to the each other, in the order they are displayed from the Bush clockwise.
Once the game is setup play starts. Once a player completely fills their Board the game ends. Play is simple; players can execute 1 Main Action per turn, but they can also execute as many "Special" Actions as they wish. Page 7 confirms that players have 2 possible Main Actions: a) Placing a leaf-tile from your own Backpack row onto your own Player Board, or b) placing one Squirrel from the supply onto a single square on your board - as this takes up a Main Action you should consider using it only when you desperately need to fill a single square.
The Forest boards of each player are, as you have already probably guessed, overlaid with a grid of 9 x 8 squares. These squares are set into their own sections of 12 (3x4) so that the board consists of 6 of these bordered by slightly more dense white lines. Also printed on each of the boards are 21 Treasures: Blue Tokens = Blueberries, Orange Tokens = Nuts, White Tokens = Mushrooms and Red Tokens = Feathers. These Treasures/Tokens are spread over the board in what looks like a random fashion, although I suspect that Uwe Rosenberg gave it a lot of thought prior to creating the boards. These Treasures can be spent advantageously during play, this is where me and the rules booklet have a slight disagreement. Pages 10/11 describe the effects of the Treasures and it is on these pages that we discover that only the Berry and the Nut are "special" Actions, the Mushroom and the Feather are actually "Alternative Main Actions" - my argument is that they should have been placed in the rules directly after the 2 Main Actions as they may not be taken as "special" actions, they count as a Main Action and thus as a player's turn.
Collecting Treasures and Bonus Tiles takes equal amounts of luck and planning. To begin with you have to place the hole in the tile over one of the printed Treasures and then place a Token of that Treasure over the hole - it doesn't fit into the hole but sits over it. When the section in which one or more Treasures lie is completed, even if there are tiles that lay across the line into other sections (the outer edge lines may never be crossed), the player may harvest the Treasure(s) from that section; this is done immediately a tile is laid that completes the section. The holes cannot produce anymore Treasure tokens but they still have an importance for when the treasures have been collected and if the holes are aligned correctly (this often means placing holes over leaves rather than treasures) then the player may take from the Log-board the same shaped Animal tile and any Token on the log associated to it; this tile is placed so that every section of it is positioned exactly over a hole.
Players spend the tokens they claim during their turn. A single Berry allows the player to refill their own path of leaf-tiles from the main pathway round the logs. Player's paths may never have more than six tiles (this is mentioned on Rules page 10) although they only begin with 5 tiles and always refill to 5 tiles - only spend a Berry if you still have tiles in your path otherwise if your path is clear you may immediately refill to 5 tiles for free. A single Nut lets you buy a Squirrel, thus, if for example you have two empty single spaces on your board, you could take one Squirrel as your Main Action and then spend a Nut as a "special" Action to buy a second Squirell and then fill up both spaces on your board.
If you spend a Mushroom to the general supply you may take one leaf tile from two other players - the tiles you take must be the first one's to the right of the backpack of two different players (this is why you must keep the Leaf-Tiles in the order you collect them) but you must be able to place them directly onto your board. Thinking about placing tiles on your board, you do not have to position them next to already placed tiles, you can put them anywhere on the board where they fit, but care should be taken as you are trying to complete your board and it is generally ideal to build as you go because trying to fit tiles into spaces between two or more islands of tiles can be frustrating and difficult, leading to you spending a lot of turns and Nuts on Squirrels.
INDIAN SUMMER is a very special and enjoyable game. It is clever and somewhat intellectual yet it can depend on luck as much as skill and strategy. It is extremely pleasant but also frustrating at times, especially when an opponent steals the very tile from you that would have been perfect for your plan, but that's all part of the fun. The theme is unusual as well as being beautiful and the randomness of the boards, the tiles being drawn from the box-lid prevents all games from being the same, thus making it difficult / almost impossible to find a winning formula/way of playing that works every time. We have always played with the Mushrooms being what we considered to be the correct way up - i.e. the stalk is under the head (like a blunt arrow). However there is nothing in the rules to state that this is the correct way to position the boards which means there are 12 possible boards each with four possible orientations. My maths isn't good enough to formulate the exact number of possibilities the boards can be played in especially as it changes depending on the number of players, so let's say that there are a lot, a large lot.
There are so many things to consider when playing, such as where to put the pieces on your board, when to collect Tokens and more importantly when to spend them. There is no point in saving Tokens, in fact the players who spend their Tokens regularly but wisely most often tend to be the game winners. The only reason to stockpile any Tokens is because the Tokens can be swapped to get other Tokens in a regular boardgame manner: 2 Blues will get you a Nut, 2 Nuts equate to a Mushroom, 2 Mushrooms equate to a Feather, or if you are really desperate, you can swap 1 Feather or 1 Mushroom or 1 Nut for 1 Blue. The latter trades may seem a mite unlikely to occur but there are those special times when you are desparate for a Berry (to bolster your leaf-tile path for example).
INDIAN SUMMER requires a fair amount of table space so it isn't a game to try to play on a train or a coffee table or any similarly. It says it's for players aged from 10 year olds and upwards and I think that's probably about right. It doesn't have the intensity of a wargame or computer arcade or action game but it does have the fun aspect of boardgames such as Tetris, Skirrid, Blokus, Callisto and Puzzle City on the Nintendo DS. Personally I can't praise it enough. It looks so simple and the game's mechanics are certainly not complex or complicated. The rules, in my personal opinion, could have been written a little more logical (at least my version of logical) but it's only the positioning of the sections already mentioned, the rules themselves make sense and allow for a game to begin not long after punching out the pieces for the first time.
The Winner is the first player to have completed their Forest Floor (no blank spaces)when all players have had the same number of turns - with ties settled by the highest number of Nut tokens held by the tied players, and (Games Gazette home rule) if that's still a tie then the player with the least Squirrels wins.
There are rules for a solo game but as usual I am not too keen on playing solo board games, I have enough electronic games that need my attention if I am to play alone. Therefore I cannot comment on this as a solo game, but as a multi-player game I will say that it is a superb, wholesome, pleasant, family or thoughtfully, frustrating, strategy game, good enough to keep tactical players happy whilst being easy enough for families to enjoy.
Uwe Rosenberg is a renown designer of Euro-Games. Boardgamegeek.com have an abridged listing of his successes and I have borrowed that list here:
- 1997 Bohnanza
- 2007 Agricola
- 2008 Le Havre
- 2009 At the Gates of Loyang
- 2010 Merkator
- 2011 Ora et Labora
- 2012 Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
- 2013 Glass Road
- 2013 Caverna: The Cave Farmers
- 2014 Patchwork
- 2014 Fields of Arle
- 2016 A Feast for Odin
- 2016 Cottage Garden
- 2017 Nusfjord
As you can see, he has a lot of popular games to his credit but much as I like those on the list I have played (Bohnanza, Agricola, Caverna and Patchwork) only Caverna comes close to being as fulfilling as INDIAN SUMMER.
Quality components, strong cardboard pieces and not a die in sight. If this doesn't get into the Top Five board games of 2017 then something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Prices online vary from €19.00 through to €45.00 so check out your local game store and your favourite online shops and get the best deal on it that you can, but get it you should.