[Gaming transcends geographical boundaries and, recognizing this, Gamers Alliance is international in scope. Andrea “Liga” Ligabue is one of our valued contributors from outside the borders of the United States. He is an active participant in gaming in his native Italy, being closely involved with Club TreEmme, and a driving force, serving as Coordinator and Head of Program behind Italy’s large gaming convention: Play: The Game Festival. In addition, he is an active member of the International Gamers Award committee. Liga’s first contribution to these pages was in the Winter 2008 issue with his review of Race for the Galaxy. In this, his 8th review for GA Report, we meet with Liga At The Gates of Loyang.]
(Z-Man Games, 1-4 players, ages 10 and up, 90-120 minutes; $60)
Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
After the release of two International Game Award winners like Agricola (2008) and Le Havre (2009), I must admit I was really excited about the new Uwe Rosenberg game, At the Gates of Loyang. I was aware it was an old project, before Agricola, revised and published, and I was also aware it was almost impossible to equal the success of Agricola (2nd place on Boardgamegeek and featured in the Winter 2008 GA Report)) and Le Havre (6th place on BGG and reviewed in the Winter 2009 GA Report) and, for me, Rosenberg’s best! Anyway, it was a Rosenberg title and it was about trade with the usual amount of different goods (of course including beans!) and a nice market mechanic but … it wasn’t enough.
At the Gates of Loyang is set in the city of Loyang, China, 2000 years ago and it is all about seeding, selling and buying vegetables: wheat, pumpkins, turnips, cabbages, beams and leeks. Every player has a personal shop where seeds are bought and sold and a set of nine field cards. Every player will start with a small amount of money and a “home field” planted with wheat, pumpkins or turnips. The game lasts for nine turns. Every turn, each player will collect one vegetable from each field and will reveal randomly a new field card: there are two of each type of fields defined by the number of plants produced (from 3 to 6) and the type of seeds supported. You can have big fields of wheat and pumpkins but only small fields of the precious leeks and beans.
Then there is the Card Phase. Each player will draw from the deck four cards and, in turn order, has to decide which action to undertake: place one of his four cards in the Courtyard or take exactly one card from the courtyard and one card from his hand. It is really a nice mechanic because if you are lucky enough to draw two or more good cards, the opponents have the possibility to collect at least one of the two. When a player collects those two cards, that phase is over and he has to place all his remaining cards in the Courtyard.
There are 5 types of cards: extra fields, market cards, regular customers, occasional customers and helpers. All the collected cards are deployed near to the personal shop and are visible to all players. There is no limit to the cards you can collect but having too much market or helpers could be a problem.
The third phase is the Action Phase where most things happen. Players perform this phase in turn, starting from the one that last collected the cards in phase two. (There are special rules for 2 and 4 players but they are not relevant for the purpose of this review.) At the end of the game, a single player could really take a lot by performing all the actions and this can be a problem in 3-player games.
To collect money, you have to deliver goods to regular and casual customers. Regular customers have you deliver a pair of goods for 4 turns, paying more each turn. It is a nice business you have to be prepared to sustain since missing too many deliveries will cost you money. Casual customers will ask you for a single delivery of three goods giving you a lot of money but just for one turn. You also get extra money if you have more regular than casual customers. You have to balance the two kinds of customers to win the game.
You can also collect money selling goods to your shop but that is not a good option since it is much more better to plant the seeds in the fields (you have a new field each turn and can get more from the deck) or to exchange your vegetables in the markets to prepare for a delivery. Market cards allow you to trade goods with offers of three different goods, one of each, in exchange of one or two other goods. Since, especially in the beginning, you are able to produce few goods and buying from the shop is really expensive, it is vital to have at least one or two market cards. In the deck, there are also 20 Helpers cards that let you do special actions like restocking all your markets or selling something to other players’ customers or getting vegetables for cheap. During the Action Phase you can buy a “two pack” of two cards by paying as many coins as the number (higher) of market cards or Helpers cards you have.
In the last phase of the turn, you collect victory points that, in this game, are called Prosperity. Each turn, you can move your score up one level on the Prosperity track by paying just 1 coin. You can move one or more extra levels paying how many coins as the value of the level you are moving to. So, in the beginning, getting an extra level of prosperity is cheap but it is really expensive in the end. To win, you have to use your money wisely and level up as much as you can during the game since it is almost impossible to have a final rush of more than two levels because the winners usually score something like 16-18 Prosperity. (During the game you can ask for a loan of 5 coins but every loan is one level down in the prosperity scale in the end of the game.)
In my opinion, At the Gates of Loyang is a good game, well designed and pleasant to play but really nothing special when compared to the two IGA winners as evidenced by the fact that it wasn’t able to get a nomination at the IGA and was only mentioned in the Deutsche Spiele Preis (German Game Prize) for the nice rules sheet. How the market works with regular and casual customers is nice and also the card phase is intriguing. But there is nothing outstanding and I think it lacks interaction (but that is Rosenberg’s mark). It is much too long, with the final turns taking really too much time. I can accept spending more than 2 hours playing Le Havre but I can’t accept spending so much time At the Gates of Loyang.
Fall 2010 GA Report Articles
[Jeff Feuer is an active member of the Long Island Gamers, one of the longest continually running gaming groups in the United States, and, in real life, a mathematics professor. As he says, "I've been computer gaming since the Atari days (including having played many of the incarnations of Civilization as well as some Railroad Tycoon and the Age of Empire series) but, except for ...
[Gaming transcends geographical boundaries and, recognizing this, Gamers Alliance is international in scope. Andrea "Liga" Ligabue is one of our valued contributors from outside the borders of the United States. He is an active participant in gaming in his native Italy, being closely involved with Club TreEmme, and a driving force, serving as Coordinator and Head of Program behind Italy's large gaming convention: Play: The ...
[When it comes to games, Marty Goldberger has an impressive resume. He worked for SPI games in its heyday, designing Inkerman and serving as a developer on many SPI titles including the legendary Campaign for North Africa "monster" game. Marty is a Mensa member and adventurer, diving with dolphins as well as plunging into depths of over 800 feet in a submarine. Marty first appeared ...
[K-ban, aka Steve Kurzban, has been an active gamer for decades. Always a fan of sports games (with a strong affinity for baseball and race car simulations), K-ban has always been a strong influence in spreading the joy of gaming, from running backgammon and Strat-O-Matic Baseball leagues in the 1970s and early 1980s, to reporting on the New York International Toy Fair for GA Report, ...
[In those days before the internet, information about games was relatively hard to find. Game publications were few and far between and those that existed were either specialty publications limiting themselves to a specific genre or company or too short-lived to satisfy the need to know. So, with the supreme confidence of someone who doesn't know any better, I embarked on a journey to fill ...
[Frank Hamrick and games crossed paths at a very early age. From the time he was 7 years old - and taught Monopoly by his grandmother, the seed was sown and has since blossomed. From Monopoly, Frank graduated to wargames and, when looking for something lighter and shorter, discovered The Settlers of Catan and his fascination with Euros began. And then he went to the ...
The 47th Element This has been a long time coming. It takes many elements to put together an editorial, an issue, an organization. First of all is a love for the subject. From this love comes determination and dedication, additional and necessary elements in making the whole thing work. You also need an element of, for want of a better phrase, "reckless abandon". You can ...Read More
[In the estimation of many people (and I include myself in that group), Sid Sackson was one of the greatest game designers of all time. If he had only designed Acquire, that would have been sufficient to grant him legendary status. But Sid didn't stop there. His list of quality designs are staggering: Bazaar, BuyWord (named GAMES Magazine's Game of the Year), Holiday, Kohle, Kies ...
[Joe Huber is one of those guys who grew up with games. As he says, "I grew up playing Acquire and Civilization, and still enjoy both games today - if few of the wargames I also played back then. In 1995, I got back into gaming, discovering both German games (particularly Settlers of Catan and Auf Achse), 18xx (particularly 1830 and 2038), and TimJim/Prism games ...
[In our years of publication, games from Queen have frequently appeared. The first time was actually a "double dose". In the Winter 1999 issue, two Queen games were featured: Schnappchen Jagd (designed by Uwe Rosenberg who would go on to even greater success with IGA winner Agricola) and Showmanager (still my favorite design by award winning game creator Dirk Henn). This is the 12th time ...
[I first played this game at The Gathering of Friends and liked it enough to make this review number 677! - - - - - - - Herb Levy]
(Alea/Rio Grande Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, about 60 minutes; about $35) Reviewed by Herb Levy
The bonnie green fields of Scotland provide the color of the box and the setting for ...Read More
[Block wargames from Columbia Games have often been reviewed in Gamers Alliance Report. Ironically, the first Columbia Game to appear in GA Report was a collectible war-related CARD game - Dixie - in the Spring 1995 issue. This review is the 9th for Columbia Games and the 678th for me! - - - - - - - Herb Levy]
(Columbia Games, 2 players, ages 12 ...Read More
[Few people enjoy a better - or more well deserved - reputation than Greg J. Schloesser. Greg is a formidable force in the world of games. Starting and developing a readership as one of the most respected reviewers on the internet, Greg has spread the good word on gaming by being the driving force behind TWO gaming groups (the Westbank Gamers of New Orleans and ...
Reviewed by Nick Sauer
(Mayfair Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; $45 ) In Lord$ of Vega$, players enter the glitzy world of Las Vegas by building and fighting for control of casinos on the strip. The game is designed by James Earnest and Mike Selinker and published by Mayfair Games. The game's Las Vegas casino building theme may remind one of ...Read More
[Expect a spirited conversation when you talk with Ben Baldanza. That may be because, in real life, he is the CEO and President of Spirit Airlines. But even successful business executives need to relax and Ben has been playing and collecting games since playing card games with his family as a child. Ben plays regularly with gamers, formerly in the Washington, DC area and now ...
[Tasty Minstrel Games is a newcomer to the gaming scene. Their first appearance in these pages came with Homesteaders in the previous issue (Summer 2010). This makes it two in a row for the company and my 679th(!) review for GA Report. - Herb Levy]
(Tasty Minstrel Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 45-90 minutes; about $35) Reviewed by Herb Levy
If ...Read More
[Throughout our years of publication, we have been fortunate in attracting a diverse group of quality and insightful gamers from all around the world. One such person is Chris Kovac. As Chris, a Canadian, has said: "I have been a gamer since my University days in the 1980's. Initially a wargamer, I was converted over to Euro Games by a friend when he introduced me ...
[Game design is like magic: if you do it right, it looks easy. The reality is that a lot of hard work and dedication goes into making a game work. No one knows this better than Al Newman. Al started designing games back in 1973 and his credits include Super 3 by Milton Bradley, Babushka (Ravensburger), Match 3 (Nathan), Wacky Wizards (Western) as well as ...
[Larry Levy is one of the best known voices on gaming. His internet posts always attract attention for his insightful commentary and he has written for many game review publications. Not only that, Larry also conducts unofficial "game of the year" award tabulations, attracting voters and interest from around the world, with his highly entertaining - and thought provoking - The Meeple's Choice Awards. There's ...
[Few people have had such a broad experience in the world of games as Pevans. Pevans is the pen name of Paul Evans (well, a Paul Evans – hence the pseudonym). This Paul Evans is a British gamer who has been writing about games for well over 20 years. He was the founding editor of Games Games Games magazine and edited it for 12 years ...