“You are a serious magistrate trying to build the best hamlet possible, but all this crazy stuff (dwarven larceny, goblin attacks, uncouth rats, etc) keeps coming up. How you deal with it will determine if you are a professional hamlet builder capable of success in the crazy world.”
That is the introductory statement for Hamlet Builder Pro from design team: Julian Harris, JT Smith, and Jamie Vrbsky).
Hamlet Builder Pro is a tile drafting and placement game that plays out over seven rounds. Over these seven rounds you will be working to adapt your hamlet to deal with the different happenings that will occur each round. The hamlets that you select and place will score you points as well as allocate you resources that you will need to build out your hamlet.
The setup of the game is very simple, separate the building tiles by the color/number on their backs. The green tiles are placed in the green bag, the purple tiles in the purple bag, and the black tiles are stacked face up in piles according to the building type.
Players are each given 25 coins, a player mat with scoring rings, and a reference mat. Each player then draws 2 random tiles from the green bag. On the player mat, scoring rings are placed at the starting values for military and culture, income and also their coin storage.
Next the year cards are set up in a sequence of groups that make up 4 years. There are symbols on the cards that allow for customization of the game to give a different feel and also allow for hints as to what kind of experiences the game will present for players in building their hamlets. As the years progress, the intensity of the events increases. The forecast cards are fanned to display the hints.
Each round follows these steps:
FORECAST A NEW YEAR CARD Draw the top card of the year deck. Read it aloud. Make sure to read the “LOWEST” plaque on the bottom of the card. What is read on the card will not happen until the end of the round, thus the term forecast card. So you have this round to adjust your hamlet to best deal with the situation on the forecast.
DRAW 3 TILES FROM 1 BAG INTO YOUR BUILD QUEUE You will then choose either the green or purple bag and draw 3 tiles from it. The two bags have tiles with different costs. the green bag has tiles that range from 1 to 15 coins, the purple tiles range from 15 to 30 coins. The tiles drawn are placed into your build queue and are not directly placed into your hamlet.
Once you place tiles in your building queue, you can spend coins equal to the cost of the tile. Once you have paid for the tile, place it into your hamlet. It must connect to a like-road…dirt road must go to dirt road, stone road to stone road, etc. No dead ends allowed. During this phase you may also buy one black tile and then place it directly into your hamlet. Some tiles have special rules as to where they can be placed. Once a tile has been placed into the hamlet, adjust any attributes on your scoring board.
GIVE ANY REMAINING TILES FACE-DOWN TO THE PLAYER ON YOUR LEFT You may keep one tile for the next round, but you must pass any tiles you choose not to play or cannot afford to play to the player on your left. The tiles are passed face-down. Once the tiles have been passed, you may flip them over to look at them and they are added to the build queue for the next round.
RESOLVE THE YEAR CARD Now you resolve the year card you drew at the beginning of the turn. Read aloud each section of the card and allow players to adjust their hamlets accordingly. Whoever meets the lowest plaque criteria gets the card, and then may add the attributes to their hamlet. There is criteria for resolving ties.
Pass the start player token to the next player clockwise.
The game ends after 7 years and you flip over the tiles in your hamlet and score those points, plus culture and military.
The winner is the player with the most points.
Hamlet Builder Pro is a euro-style game that focuses on tile drafting. The artwork is nicely done and the symbols can be referenced to a player aid. Gameplay is very straightforward and the rulebook even includes game play examples. Hamlet Builder Pro sets itself apart from other games in the fact that it not only has rewards for the winner each round, but also a “consolation prize” for the player with the lowest of a certain area. This can be used as a strategy by players to get bonuses for not playing to their full potential. The game puts pressure on you for coin storage. Without the ability to hold a lot of coins, it makes purchasing purple tiles difficult. The purple tiles do cost a lot, but they are worth the investment, so putting buildings into your hamlet that accommodate coin storage is key.
The players are faced with a lot of choices each round when making their tile decisions starting with what bag to pull from. Players need to be aware of the current year card and also be looking at what is coming. In addition, you have the tiles that have been passed to you in your building queue to choose from. So each round you need to be aware of the tiles that may be passed, so either build them, or try to keep the best one for the next round. Hamlet Builder Pro does allow for some forward planning, but it is primarily a reactionary game, where decisions are made mostly in the current round. With the year cards presenting different situations from round to round, the game causes a bit of chaos that may not appeal to some players. On the other hand, some players may be drawn to a game that has you living in the moment per se and playing a game that has you constantly making changes.
My opinion of Hamlet Builder Pro is that it is a unique game with some pretty neat twists with the year cards. I am a person who likes to be able to plan and have long-term strategies in a euro-style game, so this one was not really in my wheelhouse. I did not care for the lowest plaque rewards, because a player can choose to play badly that round and still get some benefit. I do appreciate what the game offers and I am sure that there are many who will find this game appealing. The game does offer the benefit of making you have to adapt to constantly changing situations and making the best decisions you can. If you are interested in this game, click the link and it will take you to the Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thegamecrafter/hamlet-builder-pro?ref=nav_search