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Fields of Arle

Reviewed by: Chris Kovac

(Z-Man Games,1-2 players, ages 14 and up, 120 minutes; $79.99)

Fields of Arle is a two player game of resource collecting and management by Uwe Rosenberg following his games like Agricola, Le Harve and Caverna in scope and style. The object of the game is to have the most points after nine turns.

fieldsarle1In order to start the game, you will first have to sort out the many pieces to this game into distinct piles. This game has a lot of pieces (over ten distinct resources not including starting pieces) and requires some setup so having the pieces sorted does speed up the game. Most of these pieces are resources and vehicles which you build during the course of the game and are put on a separate resource board.

Each player starts with a home board used for animals, building tiles, fields, forests, dikes and moors. Each player also has a travel destination board with a top part for his one use destination tiles (more on this later) and the bottom part for his various vehicles he builds during the game. Finally each player gets an overview sheet, four worker pieces, and six goods indicators (food, wheat, flax, wool and hide) placed on their appropriate places on the resource track on the right side of your home board. On the appropriately marked spaces on your home board, you place three undrained moors, a wheat field, a field of flax, a small boardwalk (has four harvestable peat cubes), a stable for animals and five dike pieces. Finally you get a starting set of resources consisting of four clay pieces, four wood pieces and three peat pieces. There are also tool marker pieces for each player which are put on the starting space of each of the ten tool spaces on the main game board. Next, you set up the rest of the main board which means putting the various buildings on the left side of the board in the appropriate spaces. Some of these buildings are fixed sets and some are variable sets where you randomly choose a number from a set to place on the board. These buildings when bought during the game either give you resources directly when bought or give you extra resources during specific times during the game. Finally, you put the turn marker on the starting space of the turn track on the main board and you are ready to start the game.

The game alternates between summer and winter turns and ends after nine turns. During each turn, the worker markers of first player (alternating between seasonal turns) are put on top of the second player’s markers on each of the four spaces marking each turn. The turn consists of the following phases:

1. Preparation Phase (placing your workers on the appropriate turn spaces as already mentioned)

fieldsarle22. Work Phase. In this phase, each player alternates putting one of his worker markers on the fifteen action spaces available in the season (actions differ between seasons). A player can choose to use an action in the other season column but this makes the other player the first player in the next season turn. Actions break down into different types. The first category are actions which get you resources of various types (clay, wood, cloth of various types or animals) and are based on where you are on the associated tool track. For example the woodcutter action gives you three to six wood depending on where your marker is on the axe tool track. The next category of actions allow you to build buildings, build vehicles, make fields (if you have built plows) all of which cost you resources or harvest peat off of tiles (when all peat has been harvested the tile is removed from your home board and the space frees up for other tiles). A master action allows you to move tool indicators on the board which give you more resources when you use the associated action in later turns. Each of these moves costs brick or wood resources. The dike builder action gives you some resources and allow you to move a dike piece forward on your home track. For each set of three dikes on the same level you get three more fields to put tiles and animals on. Finally there are warden actions which allow you to flip over tiles with a flip symbol on them. Tiles which can be flipped by this action are either moor tiles which flip to there drained side which gives them peat cubes (when all cubes are used the tile is removed) and vehicle tiles which flip to the improved side (can carry more cargo). If you have build a vehicle which can carry cargo ( not plows or peat peat boats only generate resources) any time after you have placed a worker you can load the vehicle with wood or clay resource tiles, cloth tiles (wool, flax or leather) or travel destination tiles. Different types of vehicles have different numbers and size of cargo compartments with larger vehicles being able to carry more cargo. If you load resources they flip to there back side which show improved resources (e.g. clay becomes brick). Destination tiles show a number of resources of which one of each type can be used to generate food resources. These tile remain on the vehicle until the end of the turn.

3. Inventorying Phase. This phase takes place after each player has placed and performed an action with each of his workers.

The summer inventorying phase have four sub phases. The first is unloading vehicles where you get your improved resources, put your vehicles back on your barn spaces and flip the used travel tiles which you put on the travel tile scoring track on your home board. The second sub phase is the milking phase where you get food based on the number of cows and sheep you have, The third sub phase is the harvest phase where you get grain, flax and wood depending on how many grain fields, flax fields or forest you have. Finally you have a sustenance phase where you have to pay three food and two peat to get your workers through the winter. Shortfalls in peat are paid in wood or timber, shortfalls in food cost you two victory points.

In the winter inventorying phase, you have four sub phase as well. The first is the unloading phase (same as the summer phase). The second sub phase is the baby animal phase where you have at least a pair of animals in a stable you get a new animal of the same type (if you have four animals of the same type in a double stall stable you get two). The third sub phase is the sheering phase where you can get 1-3 wool for 1-6 sheep you have. The fourth sub phase is the sustenance phase which is the same as the summer sustenance phase except you only pay three food.

At the end of each inventorying phase, the turn marker is moved down space and you set up the worker markers on the next season’s turn spaces. After nine turns, the game ends and you have a scoring phase.

In the scoring phase, you get points for where your markers are on the resources tack, destination track and the various tool tracks. You also get points for improved resources, buildings and vehicles. You lose points for not moving your dike markers to the top of the board, for moor tiles and for any time in an inventorying phase you did not have enough resources in a sustenance sub phase. The player with the most points wins with ties broken by the player who was first player in the last turn.

With Fields of Arle, Uwe Rosenberg has refined his basic premise of giving players multiple choices but limited time and number of actions to link these actions into point engines to create the maximum number of points. Here, a player can choose from seventeen actions per turn which provides lots of opportunity to join these actions in various and varied combinations. In order to win at this game, you must create point engines which in turn convert resources efficiently while at the same time making you progress on several scoring tracks. Balancing all of these while your opponent is doing the same makes for an interesting and challenging game. The game is well produced with a very good rule book which is well illustrated. The only downsides are that it is only two players, the long setup (which can be helped by bagging all the resources separately) and the detailed rules which causes a bit of a learning curve.

Fields of Arle is definitely a gamers game with lots of interesting choices which makes it a fun and challenging. I give the game an eight out of ten.


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