From the Uwe Rosenberg games I’ve played, I would say he fits easily into my Top 10 Designers list! Granted, not every game has been awesome and I have the occasional niggle with others, but Uwe Rosenberg does do well at injecting theme into his Euro games! Particularly those that focus on resource management!
My first encounter with him was the famous Agricola, a game which held a solid place in my collection…………..right up to the moment Caverna: The Cave Farmers came out! Yeah, if you’re going to release a better sequel, you have to accept that your previous venture might not get played again!
Glass Road was another good game, although I don’t like the character selection process in that you can get screwed by sheer bad luck of clashing with another player. The resource gathering and “farming” aspect of those games however is what draws me in, I think farming is a brilliant theme to use in a game as you can do lots with the subject area and you get a sense of creation and fulfillment with it. It’s not just Phase 1, Phase 2, rinse, repeat and nothing changes, you actually get to see something build up in front of you so at the end scoring you can sit back and go “I built this”. But what more can you do with the genre without falling into that sequel issue?
: Uwe Rosenberg
BGG Rank/Rating: 556 / 8.39
Back To The Fields of Arle. . . . Part III!!!
So here we have Fields of Arle, a new release from Essen 2014 which takes the concept of farming and resource management to the next level. The phrase I use to describe this to others is that it’s as if all of Uwe Rosenberg’s Euro games had a baby and then set up an arranged marriage with Stefan Feld. It bears all the hallmarks of his greatest hits whilst giving the player a ridiculous amount of ways to score points. It’s a game solely for one or two players that’s based on the history of Uwe Rosenberg’s parents. Arle was the village in which his father was born and his parents married and was known for producing some of the best flax in Germany.
You start off with a flooded moor, some fields and a few resources. Throughout the game in classic worker placement style you plant grain/flax fields, breed animals for milk and wool, improve your tools of the trade, deliver goods to the nearby village for food, harvest wood and clay for making timber and bricks, construct new buildings, weave cloth and make clothes…………..seriously I could go on, there are so many different things you can do it’s insane.
The game takes place over 9 half-years (essentially Summer/Autumn and Winter/Spring) and you have four workers per half-year which, in a new twist, never changes during the game – so I guess the only thing you’re missing is the ability to increase your family!
In each period, you make choices as to how to improve your farm, keep yourself fed and harvest victory points of which naturally the highest points at the end of the game is the winner.
To give a brief overview of what the different elements do, you have:
- Tools – these dictate how many resources/fields are produced from an given action. The more you improve these tools, the better the rewards of using that action in the future. For example, if you improve your axes, you can chop down more wood.
- Buildings – these grant immediate one-off bonuses or abilities that you can use as well as victory points. Some are fixed, every game, but others are randomised before the game begins. There is a “beginner” set that is recommended for your first game as advised by the rulebook as well.
- Animals – just like in Agricola/Caverna you can breed sheep, cows and horses for producing food and other resources as well as driving vehicles (horse carts) and amassing victory points.
- Vehicles – plows, peat boats and different sized carts can be constructed to improve certain resources (wood to timber for example) or trade with nearby villages.
- Cloth/Clothing – you can produce cloth from various means which in turn can be manufactured into clothing that either gives points or can be traded for food.
- Village Tiles – there are several different villages nearby with different requirements for goods. Shipping goods in your vehicles to these will earn you a substantial amount of food.
Why Is The Box So Big??? Lots Of Pieces!!!
Remember all the wood you got in Agricola? Remember the additional wood that you got in Caverna? Well this game doesn’t have as much wood in it, but there’s still a ton of components present. Animeeples make another appearance, but the rest consists of many large gorgeous boards and a ton of sturdy tiles. They all have good artwork and are of high quality, however, I do miss having all those wooden components from Caverna – but that’s only a minor gripe. It’s still high quality and you know why you’re paying the price premium for the game.
With that said, Fields of Arle is not as big of a table hog as you might think! Particularly, if like me, you use craft boxes for storing tokens and pieces. But, yeah, don’t expect to play this in a pub setting by any means! At £50-£55 ist seems a lot of money to spend on a game that’s only for 1 or 2 players, however stick with me for more on this!
Theme Oozing Out. . . Be The Farmer You Want To Be!!!
This really is a game that hits you with theme at every step. All the action spaces make sense for what they give you; tanners give you leather from hides, sheep produce wool in the winter, cows produce milk in the summer for food, trading gets you food, woodcutters produce wood, bakers turn grain into food, weavers turn flax into linen, the list goes on and on!
But all of this helps you learn the game as everything just fits together and flows smoothly, never leaving you in a state of “Why does this do that”? The rules themselves are not that complex, with the small exception of the animal scoring which is a little obscure and may require a quick glance at a BGG FAQ to understand fully, but it’s a minor inconvenience at best!
Now that’s not to say I would teach this to a casual gamer! The wealth of options would simply overwhelm them and they might be better off starting with something like Agricola: All Creatures Great and Small, though even after that, it’s quite a step up. This is definitely aimed more at gamers and there’s a lot of choices in this game to tax their minds! You should most definitely expect a little bit of Analysis Paralysis in your first couple of games while you get to grips with what each element is used for. However, in terms of simply understanding the rules, you’ll have it down after one play easily as most of the rule book deals with the initial setup (Tip: – use a craft box for tokens and bag everything a player starts with in a single bag) and detailed breakdowns of what each building, action and vehicle does. It’s a pretty clear and easy to follow rule book to Z-Man’s credit, again bearing the animal scoring issue in mind.
We Have Agricola, Glass Road & Caverna Already. . . Is It Different Enough???
I own Caverna, but not the other two, and I feel that Fields of Arle is different enough that it can take a spot in my collection alongside it. There are some unique aspects to Fields of Arle such as the tool improvement and the ability to use vehicles and trade with the village that you just don’t get in the other games mentioned and it all adds to the theme! In fact, I think this takes the top spot for theme just beating out Agricola. Also the other games are better in groups than they are solo whereas Fields of Arle is more about the engine building and efficiency of your farm than the worker placement aspect. As such it makes for a great solo experience on those spare evenings and it won’t take very long for you to learn if you’re used to the other games.
In addition to that, I think I’m confident in saying that this has one of the most balanced scoring systems out of the collection, on par with the likes of Caverna which was already pretty well balanced! I had a game last night with my friend during which I went all out on manufacturing clothing – raising sheep, producing wool and hides, improving my loom and making leather boots and winter coats galore. He went for a more balanced approach except he didn’t do a lot with clothing, focusing more on getting his farm in good stead and mastering his tools. We finished with only 6 points between us (124 to 118) and I took the victory. But the score was so close despite me going for a specialist strategy and him going for a balanced one that it wasn’t anti-climatic – I honestly didn’t know who had won until I finished adding up the scores (Yes I know the score pad in the photo says 113, not 118, but it was late and I didn’t have a calculator to hand.)
And Now… For The Final Verdict!!!
This is a sure fire hit for my Top 10 of 2014 – When I played this for the first time I’d already handed in my nominations for the GamesQuest bloggers choice list, but I would have happily added this had I played it in time. However, I’m still yet to do my official Top 10 of 2014 on the Broken Meeple podcast and I think meeples will fly if it’s not on the list!
Fields of Arle is one of those games where you have so much choice and so many paths to victory. If you listen to the new Order of the Dan podcast that we’re planning to trial, you’ll know I love paths to victory in games – and here, I can try so many different methods of generating points! You rarely feel that you had a wasted turn due to the “point salad” nature of the game and you get to see the fruits of your labour at the very end.
The component quality is great and there’s a lot of replayability in Fields of Arle, hence the high price premium, but there-in lies the potential issue. It’s not a cheap game! Caverna costs more still, but you can play that with up to 7 players (although in my opinion you should never play it with more than 5… EVER!!!). With Fields of Arle though, you can only play it with 2 maximum so it’s going to be a game that you play with a gamer friend/spouse or by yourself. Even then, you have to accept that aside from the worker placement aspect it’s a light multiplayer solitaire. Now, I will actually clock in more games in solo mode I suspect, but that’s fine – I think it’s one of the best solo games for those who enjoy an in-depth experience or are a fan of Euro style games. So you need to ask yourself – will you play this game solo? or do you have someone to play it with regularly? If you do and you have any appreciation for Uwe Rosenberg’s work, then you cannot go wrong with the Fields of Arle!!!
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I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.