LORREIN Sensalot Publications (an extended version of the review in Games Gazette 186)
The designers Arthur and Marleen Scholten have put a lot of thought into the production of this Dutch published strategy board game. For instance, the rules book is in Dutch, English, German and French, though, being picky, with today’s European board game market expanding as it is, I would have expected Italian in there as well, not that I'm complaining. I think it is great to have a multi-language book and think every European board game should have one.
There are lots of wooden pieces, small blocks (workshops) large crenulated blocks (castles), shaped and coloured pieces (Trees (Brown), Rocks (Blue), Cows (Green), Wheat (Yellow) and Lavender (Purple), along with a wooden bowl, some coloured (resource) beads and production cards to match the resources.
The wooden block, you will be surprised to hear, takes the place of dice. A number of resource beads are placed in the bowl at the beginning of the game (after 2 rounds a red bead is added to provide the hazard element - there is also a rule that allows a player to place a second Red bead in the bowl for one turn only) and then the bowl is shaken. The three beads that end up nestled in the indents of the bowl determine which resources the player harvests on his turn - the red bead costs resources instead of gaining them.
Each player has a mission card which they keep secret. The first player to complete their mission wins the game. These cards have two parts, top and bottom. If you are planning on a shorter game the mission is only to complete the top half. For a longer game (short games can be extended by mutual consent, and even played in two parts so you have 2 winners.There is a rule that allows you to exchange tyour Mission card should the one you have be impossible to complete because of the way the game has been played and Workshops and Castles built. Of course doing this late on in the game can also be a winning tactic if you are lucky enough to get, in the exchange, a Mission that is already completed by you. At first glance a few of the Mission cards are a mite confusing but commonsense and perhaps a pregame discussion (plus there are FAQs on Boardgamegeek on the topic) can determine the accurate instruction.
There are some similarities to Settles of Catan in as much as the players collect resources, either the wooden pieces of cards, and spend them to construct buildings, but unlike Catan the player whose turn it is almost always gains a resource, if not more than one. The playing area is constructed of separate small boards so it isn’t exactly the same each game.
Each player can build up to 3 Castles which must be set on spaces between 4 landscapes and Workshops can be built in these adjacent landscapes. Castles can sustain 2 Workshops while adding a flag to a castle turns it into a large castle that can sustain 4 Workshops. You need Workshops to get valuable additional resources and to process the resources you have.
Workshops are used to process the resources - Wood (sawmill), Rock (stonemill) and Cow (tannery) each provide one resource card. Weed (which is a mis-translation of Wheat - there are a number of translation errors (Boarder instead of Border is another common one) but they do not detract from the game in any way - in fact I am most impressed with the rules, especially their clarity) is processed at the Mill and gives 3 flour cards. Cows and Wheat are required for food. The Mill is very special. At the beginning of the game it is off-board and all players can use it, but once a player owns the Mill (it can change hands during play) they have to be paid for it to be used. Early control of the Mill can be a game winner. Any Workshop that isn’t on the board is in the public domain. If it is not off-board then Players that do not own the Workshop they need to use must pay to use it.
The Witchery is a special building and allows Lavender to be brewed into medicine plus it also blocks a landscape from being used by other players. Gettiong the Witchery as your first card, during the random draw and set up before play begins, does put you at an instant disadvantage so you have to work hard and fast and think a little more to catch up.
LORREIN is a very playable and generally well balanced game.