LITTLE TOWN is a 2-4 player basic tile-city-building game for beginners.
It is published by IELLO and shouldn't be confused with TINY TOWNS from AEG (which is also a game worth looking out for). Designed by Shun and Aya Taguchi and finely illustrated by Sabrina Miramon. The UK translation is by Timothy Marcroft.
As this is a simplified version of a tile based city-builder, with mechanics that have been well used many times before, we, as 'experienced' gamers decided we could speed read the rules and the game would just fall into step with our obviously expert knowledge. Halfway through the first game we found the fault in not reading the rules thoroughly - we were playing each Round (a Round being when all players have placed/used each of their work force) just to ensure we had enough Food to feed those workers. It was NOT an error in the game's rules, it was most definitely our not hearing properly what was read out when going through the rules book. We began that first game playing that when we were gathering Resources we collected them from EITHER Forest, River and Mountain or by activating buildings within your reach, not both; when actually you do Gather and Activate as an Action. Why I am admitting to this incredible mistake is to ensure that my error sticks in your mind and you don't take the game for granted just because it's a 30 - 45 minute game and you do indeed read the rules thoroughly.
The game plays very much like the majority of building games in this genre. Each player has a number of Worker meeples and a number of houses; the numbers depend on how many players there are. Players are also given a number of Objective cards which, in the main, give additional VPs as they are completed. Unlike many games once an Objective has been completed you don't take another card.
At the end of each Round all players have to feed their workers. They require either Yellow blocks (Wheat) or Blue blocks (Fish) one of either per worker. It is generally easy to collect enough food but should you fail to have enough food then you lose 3VPs per unfed worker and that hurts because the game is so well balanced that in the majority of games we have played there has been a VP spread of only 4 or 5 between 1st and last place.
Each game consists of just four Rounds, marked by an easily distinguished wooden marker on a specific range of tree stumps marked 1-4. Each Round consists of a number of Turns depending on the number of players; 2 players/5 workers, 3 players/4 workers, 4 players/3 workers. The Round ends when all players have used all of their workers, either for Gathering and Activating (one option) or placing a Building (option 2).
When taking Option 1 players place a worker in an empty open field space (one that contains only grass) and collect from the supply any Resources that this worker is placed next to, including diagonally - thus potentially all 8 spaces around the worker. There are Resources shown on the board in the shapes of Trees, Lakes and Mountains (some doubled) from which one Resource per space adjacent to the worker can be collected. You can also activate any/all buildings within those 8 spaces, whether they are owned by you or not. If you don't own them you must pay one coin to their owner.
By activation it means that the effect on the lower part of the tile may be used. Some of these effects require payment of some kind, such as one Resource for another Resource etc, and other effects are simply collect the Resource/s shown. Coins can be used to activate effects of tiles, for buying Resources (three coins equal one Resource) and for VPs; having money left at the end of the game gives 1VP per three coins.
Buildings are bought from the supply/Market by placing one worker in the Construction Site and then paying the cost (in Resources) as shown on the tile. You then place the tile on any empty space (empty is the same throughout the game, no Resources, no workers, no buildings) and collect any VPs associated with it (shown on the top right corner of the tile). You cannot activate the effect of the tile when you place it. Tiles can only be activated by placing a worker next to them - if a worker is placed next to multiple tiles they can all be activated in that turn. Therefore the only purpose of placing a Building tile in the last Turn of the last Round of the game is to gain the VPs it gives. The game breaks down to either placing a worker and collecting Resources or placing a worker into construction and erecting a building.
The supply of Buildings changes every game. 12 Tiles are randomly taken from the shuffled 24 - the 5 Wheat tiles are not shuffled in with the pack and are instead always available. For the purpose of some of the Objective cards Wheat Fields count as Buildings.
There are four types of Resources; Blue (Fish) from workers being next to Lakes, Brown (Wood) from workers being next to Tree symbols, Grey (Stone) from workers being next to Mountains and Yellow (Wheat) from workers being next to Wheat Fields. Remember that although the players that Build the tiles on the board place one of their House markers on it (to show ownership) their effects are available for use by anybody's workers that are adjacent and the fee is paid.
Note: There are 15 pieces of each Resource type and this is a finite number. Therefore players can hoard Resources from Round to Round, though of course Fish and Wheat are nearly always available.
In our opinion LITTLE TOWN is an uncomplicated family game and should be played with a family-game attitude.
Experienced gamers will find it amicable but a mite too simple, especially as they will quickly recognise the possibility of monopolising Resources as there is no limit on the number (except there are only 15 of each as stated) you can hold, so it is possible to control the flow of Resources in and out of the supply.
Note: At the end of each Round the workers are returned to their owners, Buildings remain where placed. It is especially important to do this after the 4th Round if either or both the Castle and Watchtower are in play, as they score for the empty spaces around them.
Verdict: An excellent family game in the tile-laying, city-building genre. Due to its easiness of play and the short time it takes to complete it really is an excellent game for beginners new to this game style. At under £30.00 it is also very good value for money. With there being 24 Building tiles it is almost guaranteed to never be exactly the same every game (apparently there are 2.704.156 possible combinations of 12 - according to an online maths search)