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Adlungland

Reviewed by Joe Huber

(Adlung-Spiele, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 30-45 minutes; about $10)

 

adlunglandThere is perhaps no publisher with a more clearly defined niche than Adlung. While the company started by publishing boardgames, for around fifteen years they have published nothing but small box card games. None have been enormous hits, but Meuterer, Verräter (featured in the Winter 1999 GA Report), Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg and Palastgeflüster (Winter 2008 GA Report) are all rated in the top 1000 on BoardGameGeek. Further, the low price of the games makes them an automatic purchase for many Essen attendees.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Adlung released seven games (plus a new version of Manimals, a series of animal-themed educational games which seem to be popular in Germany). Among those games is Adlungland, a game themed around developing an amusement park wherein each ride is based upon one of Adlung’s games. The game was designed by Silvano Sorrentino, best known to this time for Dancing Dice, a pleasant dice game from 2004.

In Adlungland, players are trying to be the most successful at developing the amusement park. Each turn, players have two actions available with two choices for each action. The first choice is to draw the currently available card. The next three cards available are always on display so, when choosing to draw, the card to be taken is known. The second choice is to build an attraction. This must always be built in an indicated direction from any current attraction; if a different direction is desired, one card must be discarded for each 90 degree clockwise rotation. The attraction to be built is then placed and the cost paid. Attractions have three potential costs: cards discarded, bribes paid (by handing cards to another player) and construction time (where particular attractions require forfeiting one or two future turns). A reward is now received, made up of cash earned (victory points), cards (either drawn or received from another player) and, finally, the opportunity to discard a penalty. After this, penalty cards are received if the new ride results in too much wait time, too much maintenance work and/or too many scary rides in this section of the park. These penalties result in reduced scoring or additional building costs. Finally, the direction indicator is rotated clockwise 90 degrees.

adlungland2The game continues until the deck of cards runs out. After this, each player has one final turn. Whoever has earned the most cash from the attractions he or she has built wins the game.

While it is easy to create a traditional card game with nothing more than a deck of cards, it is a much greater challenge to create a game that doesn’t feel like a variant of Rummy, Hearts or the like without some additional components. This is particularly true with the limit of approximately 66 cards that will fit into the typically small Adlung box. As a result, it’s a real treat to see one of the Adlung games provide the feel of a bigger game as with Adlungland. The game feels original. In particular, I don’t recall seeing anything like the penalty mechanism before and, while the card placement mechanism is familiar from such games as Carcassonne, the complete lack of edge matching here feels fresh.

Original or not, a game must offer meaningful choices and interesting actions in order to appeal. The number of choices is limited; essentially, draw or build. But the attractions vary by enough to create more choices than it would, at first, seem. In particular, the rewards offer a fascinating mix of fixed scoring, variable scoring based upon the adjacent attractions and card draws, providing players with a lot of flexibility as to their direction.

What really makes the game work for me, however, is the theme. It would have been very easy to have applied Adlung game names to standard amusement rides and then to have simply assigned a mix of scoring and penalty factors to the rides. Instead, the rides are well themed to the games and there are a nice series of in-jokes in the scoring and penalty factors. For example, the “Express” Coffee Shop has a wait time of the maximum three and the “Nix” ride is just an empty field.

The production of Adlungland is exactly what one would expect from Adlung: high quality cards, compact rules, and a well made tuck box. The English rules included are fairly clear if brief due to the limited space available. Those who haven’t picked up an Adlung game in some time should note that the English translations improved significantly some years ago now. And the cost is very reasonable as is customary for Adlung. Even without a US distributor, the game can be found online for about $10.

For me, Adlung games or rather, Adlung games aimed at adults and families, have typically been enjoyable but usually for approximately five plays. But as a result, I’ve played a lot of Adlung games and seeing them depicted in Adlungland helps to make the game for me. I suspect that the same is likely to be true for others as well. Those who are familiar with Adlung games will likely find the theme to be a draw and those who aren’t will likely find Adlungland pleasant enough but not a keeper. Of course, given the low price, it’s an easy enough game to take a chance on even if one just likes the idea of building an amusement park.

 


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