Menu

Felinia

[As one of today’s leading game designers, Michael Schacht games have often appeared in Gamers Alliance Report. This is the 13th time that a game designed (or co-designed) by Schacht has been reviewed – and review number 693 for me. – Herb Levy]

(Matagot, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 60-90 minutes; $49.99)

 

Reviewed by Herb Levy

Michael Schacht must love cats. How else to explain the theme of his new game where players are leaders of trading families in the city of Katzburg competing to set up trading posts on an island of cats which gives the game its name: Felinia.

feliniaboxFelinia comes with a double-sided board (the side in play dependent on whether basic or advanced rules are used). Each player begins with 10 merchants (wooden meeples), three bid tokens, a money marker and a player board in their chosen color. The player board is where players keep their merchandise tiles (all beginning with two specific tiles depending on the number of players) and chart their cash flow. (The money marker begins at 2 to indicate a starting bankroll of 2 silver coins and may not exceed 6.) There are 20 ship tiles. (Five of these are “blue-backed and go on the bottom of the stack. The rest are shuffled and are placed, face down, on top of them.)

The game board (regardless of side chosen) depicts the city of Katzburg and, across the water, the island of Felinia. Felinia is divided into five “territories” of different colors. Four ships are docked at the harbors of Katzburg, prepared to make the sea voyage from Katzburg to Felinia.

The ships are a nice piece of two part construction. In the first place, the ships are three-dimensional – made of sturdy cardboard that easily folds into position. Secondly, the top ship tile from the stack is randomly placed on the ship to complete it. It is this tile that gives each ship its color-coded destination and displays room for one or more merchants. It also shows which merchandise tiles must be exchanged in order for a merchant to board. Getting those necessary merchandise tiles is one of the key challenges players face.

There are up to five markets in the city of Katzburg (less with fewer players). At the start of play, each market is randomly sown with two merchandise tiles. In turn, players will place one of their bid tokens on the market. Subsequent tokens are placed on top of those already there and you may place more than one token at a market. There are also two other areas where bidding tokens can go: the Merchant’s Guild and on that player’s board (to earn 1, 2 or 3 silver coins). After all bid tokens are placed, players pay the required amount to claim merchandise tiles.

The cost of a tile is based on how many bidding tokens are at the market. For example, if three tokens have been placed, the player owning the top token may purchase one merchandise tile at the market for 3 coins. The player whose token is next on the stack has the option of purchasing a tile there for 2 coins and so on. Payment at the Merchant’s Guild follows the same procedure but, rather than collecting merchandise tiles, a player may either exchange a merchandise tile for one of another type (and receive one Spice from supply as a bonus) OR turn in one Gold and one Spice to pick up one of the Bonus chips that may still be available there. (Bonus chips increase scoring possibilities.) Once all of these actions are resolved, ships are boarded.

In turn, each player may turn in the appropriate merchandise tiles (as required by a ship) and place one of his 10 merchants on the ship. (Sometimes a silver coin rather than merchandise tiles alone is needed to fulfill the requirements.) If all spaces on a ship are occupied (or, if none are filled, then the ship with the earliest “departure time”), that ship or ships set sail for Felinia. At Felinia, a new set of challenges await.

The island of Felinia is seeded with 30 tokens in the basic game (in the advanced game 38 tokens – 8 of which are “specials”). They are placed face down (in the advanced game, face up). Upon landing, a merchant may advance three spaces onto the island after first revealing any two tokens in the area. Players have a dual purpose: to collect tokens of the same kind (which multiply in Victory Point value based on how many you have) and claim areas on the island, linking them if at all possible, to create a chain of trading posts worth VPs at the end of the game. If stopping to pick up a token (thereby establishing a trading post), that piece stays there for the remainder of the game. (If unable to create a trading post, that piece returns to that player’s holdings for future use.) As players move, they may cross certain spaces on the island which will bestow upon them Spice or Gold or extra silver coins to help them in their quest for success. Once done, players are allowed to keep up to three merchandise tiles (or four if they’re willing to pay 2 silver coins for that privilege) on their player cards for future use. Now bid tokens are returned to their respective players, any sailed ships return to port (and are “refitted” with ship tiles), the markets are refilled (so that there are now 3 merchandise tiles available at each open market) and we do this again.

The game ends when either one player has placed all 10 of his merchants on Felinia (in which case scoring occurs immediately) or not enough ship tiles are left to fill all the boats for the next round in which case, all ships, filled or not, sail and explore the island for one last time. Then, scoring occurs).

The major source for Victory Points come from collected trade tiles and merchant groupings. Trade tiles claimed on the island carry values of 1-4 or 1-3. For the 1-4 tiles, this means that 1 tile of that type will score 1 point, 2 of them score 2 points EACH, 3 of them score 3 points EACH and 4 or more will deliver a whopping 4 points EACH! The 1-3 tokens operate similarly with 1 scoring 1 point, 2 scoring 2 points EACH and 3 or more scoring 3 points EACH. This pattern is followed with merchant groupings. Merchants grouped together, whether in the same or adjacent territories on the island, are counted with a solo merchant worth 1 point, two linked together worth 2 points EACH and groups of 3 or more worth 3 points EACH. Bonus tiles that players may have picked up at the Exchange add to the VP totals of specific tiles. Finally, players also get VPs for gold (1 VP each), spices (1 VP for each 2), undelivered merchandise tiles (1 each). The player with the highest total score wins! (Tie? Then the player with the most silver gets the edge.)

The Advanced game plays essentially the same but introduces “food” (which allows a merchant to move additional spaces on the island), “mysterious places” (cards kept if you have a matching merchandise tile to “pay” for it and worth VPs at the end of the game) and eight special trade tiles (awarding VPs for food which otherwise have no VP value, allowing a merchant all alone to score 2 VPs instead of 1, earning additional gold when entering a gold space on the island etc.)

Graphic quality is a mixed blessing. The 3-D boats are pleasing to the eye and work well. (Those ship tiles fit in snugly.) The board is large and colorful. It is a nice touch to have a large cotton bag included to hold the merchandise tiles and a good idea to include icons on the tiles to help differentiate them. But the color choices used for the tiles are questionable. The darker tokens are much too dark making them much too hard to distinguish particularly in regard to which tiles are needed for which ship as the colors on the ships imperfectly match the tile colors. (We’ve considered adding stickers to the tiles and ships to make things easier.) This unwanted confusion undermines the strength of the design. The game is challenging enough without having to fight a “color war” while playing it. (Perhaps a second printing will correct these color problems. In the meantime, make sure you have the best possible lighting in the gaming area to help.)

Felinia is the third piece in Schacht’s “Gold Trilogy” consisting of Valdora (Fall 2009 GA Report) and The Golden City, adding exploration to a game of trade. The placement of merchants on the island (the exploration phase of the game) is handled very well. The color-coded ships will only land in the matching island area and movement restrictions (in the basic game) prevent you from crossing into adjacent areas. This forces players to make sure they board other colored ships so that they can build a “trading post empire” of three or more areas for, to do so, you need to cross area boundaries. This, of course, affects placement by your opponents who may sometimes have to delay forming their own group to insert their presence among your merchants to break up a potentially large score by the competition. (The additions presented by the Advanced game expand the game by offering more potential Victory Point streams. Food, by allowing merchants to increase their movement making territory border crossing easier, adds another bit of strategy to play. By introducing 8 special tiles, a certain degree of chaos is introduced but this randomness is mitigated to a certain extent because all 38 island tiles are placed face up. You know what is out there and where it is and can adjust your moves accordingly. “Mysterious places” are a purely luck driven addition. It is essentially a blind draw and, for some reason, only some of the cards require a merchandise tile, a curious design decision. And speaking of design decisions, what about those cats anyway? They have absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay. The game could just as easily have been about trading between the mainland and an island situated anywhere – off the coast of Europe, in a fantasy kingdom, somewhere in outer space.

Ironically, the most innovative concept in the game – the use of bid tokens to determine the sliding cost of goods – is one simultaneously and independently developed by Stefan Feld and used by Feld first in his The Speicherstadt game (Spring 2010 GA Report). Although the concept works here too, it loses some of its impact because of its familiarity to those of us who have played the earlier game.

Felinia has good player interaction, lots of choices and things to do and multiple viable paths to victory. If you can overcome the color problems with the game, you will discover that this game is solid Schacht – and that is high praise indeed.

 


Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


Summer 2011 GA Report Articles

 

[Jeff Feuer is relatively new to the World of Games but that hasn't stopped him from voicing a knowledgeable opinion. In real life, Jeff is a professor of mathematics and he brings that analytical nature to his game playing and reviews. Jeff first appeared in the Summer 2007 Gamers Alliance Report with his review of Age of Empires III. Now he's back and, with his ...
Read More
[David Rapp started out gaming with the Long Island Gamers and was a stalwart at our weekly gaming sessions for a number of years. An early contributor to the pages of Gamers Alliance Report, Dave made his GAR debut in the Fall 1999 issue with a review of Brawl from Cheapass Games. Dave would continue to be a steady contributor over the next several years ...
Read More
[We are very pleased to have Larry Levy as part of our 100th issue celebration. We've said this before - and it's worth saying again - that Larry is one of the best known voices on gaming, sharing his expertise and insight throughout the world via his internet postings and writings for many game review publications. And more! Larry helped open up our 25th year ...
Read More
[Gamers Alliance is international in scope, both in readership and contributors. Andrea "Liga" Ligabue is one of our valued international contributors hailing from Italy. Liga's first contribution to Gamers Alliance Report was in the Winter 2008 issue with his review of Race for the Galaxy. In this, his 11th review for GA Report, Liga races back to the galaxy to explore new (alien) frontiers.] (Clever ...
Read More
[Games designed by Friedemann Friese have often found a place in the pages of Gamers Alliance Report. This review marks the 5th game designed by him to appear here - and my 691st (!) review for GA Report. - Herb Levy] BLACK FRIDAY (Kosmos/Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 13 and up, about 60 minutes; $44.95) Reviewed by Herb Levy The Long Island Gamers, my ...
Read More
[Numbskull Games is a relative newcomer to the gaming scene. Their first appearance in these pages came with Last of the Independents in the Fall 2010 issue. This is the second appearance for the company here - and my 692nd review for GA Report. - Herb Levy] (Numbskull Games, 2-6 players, ages 12 and up, 90-180 minutes; $49.99) Reviewed by Herb Levy 2011 marks the ...
Read More
[Joe Huber is one of the few: a recognized voice in the worldwide gaming community as well as a published game designer whose credits include Ice Cream, Scream Machine and Burger Joint (the latter receiving an International Gamers Award nomination for best 2 player game of the year and cited as "Best In Category" for family games in the December 2010 issue of GAMES Magazine) ...
Read More
A Tale of Two Cities for This Century One of the most famous novels by Charles Dickens, legendary 19th century author, was A Tale of Two Cities. The two cities of the title were London and Paris. A best seller when published, required reading in schools across the country, even a pick for Oprah's Book Club over a hundred years after its initial appearance, all ...
Read More
[As one of today's leading game designers, Michael Schacht games have often appeared in Gamers Alliance Report. This is the 13th time that a game designed (or co-designed) by Schacht has been reviewed - and review number 693 for me. - Herb Levy] (Matagot, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 60-90 minutes; $49.99) Reviewed by Herb Levy Michael Schacht must love cats. How else to ...
Read More
[No Gamers Alliance celebration would be complete without something from Sid Sackson. Sid was a valued contributor to these pages for over 9 years. So, to mark our 100th issue, we are going back into the files to reprint a review Sid did of a quality abstract game - still available - in which he not only discusses the game but, in typical Sackson fashion, ...
Read More
[Another one of our international contributors is Chris Kovac. Chris, a Canadian, has been a part of Gamers Alliance for years, doing his first review (of Byzantium designed by Martin Wallace) in the Spring 2006 issue. With this, his 24th review, Chris shares his view of a game by another successful designer, Stefan Feld, who is evidently a little "moonstruck".] (Z-Man Games, 1-4 players, ages ...
Read More
[Marty Goldberger is no stranger to these pages having contributed reviews over our two and a half decades. Marty's reviews are an example of quality over quantity. First appearing in the Summer 1997 issue, he last graced our pages with his 5th review in the Winter 2010 issue with his review of Back to the Future: The Card Game when he helped kick off our ...
Read More
[I've written this before but it's worth repeating: Few people enjoy a better - or more well deserved - reputation than Greg J. Schloesser. 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 the East ...
Read More
[Looney Labs can always be counted on for a freewheeling gaming experience, particularly when it comes to cards. And so it is with Seven Dragons. Seven dragons for them, 694 reviews for me. - - Herb Levy] (Looney Labs, 2-5 players, ages 6 and up, 10 to 30 minutes; $15) Reviewed by Herb Levy Looney Labs has been around for over a decade now and ...
Read More
[The Settlers of Catan was first reviewed in Gamers Alliance Report a decade and a half ago, in the Fall 1996 Gamers Alliance Report. Since then, it has blossomed into a sort of cottage industry unto itself. Here, we take a look at the latest addition to the line in review #695 for me. - - Herb Levy] (Mayfair Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!