Up to six players compete to win glory by building a productive village over the course of a year. Use workers to bid on valuable properties and boats that come in each season to replenish supplies.
|Keyflower||Game Salute / R&D Games||Board Game|
In The Box
This is the kind of game that really wows you during the first unboxing, and that will put a smile on your face each time you open the box for another round of play. Our favorite components are the game screens, designed to look like quaint little houses of brick, wood, and straw. As an indication of how hard the game’s designers worked to establish a theme, the back of each screen is beautifully illustrated to show the contents of your home.
A large number of hexagonal tiles represent the buildings that are available to add to your village, with new tiles appearing each season. There are also boat tiles that bring new resources to the village and homes tiles that allow you to upgrade buildings and transport resources. Wooden “meeples” are the workers that do the heavy lifting throughout each season, and cardboard tokens show special skills you’ll need to produce certain resources.
Along with a cloth bag for drawing meeples during the game, the final detail is a batch of wooden resource counters standing in for the four key resources used in the game: Gold, iron, stone, and wood. An ample supply of clear resealable bags come with the game, and allow you to keep seasonal tiles and other grouped components separated for storage. We weren’t sure exactly how to store the screens, since the bendy nature of the relatively thin card stock makes them easy to damage. We suggest having them assembled and lined up on the bottom of the box, which should keep them in good shape as long as you store the game box flat instead of on its side.
How It Plays
The instructions for Keyflower are presented as a wonderfully oversized 12-page booklet complete with entries explaining every village tile and boat tile you’ll have a chance to bid on during a game. At its heart, Keyflower is a game about resources. In the beginning you’re given a randomly drawn home tile and eight randomly drawn workers. The game smartly adjusts to match the number of players, so the boat tiles that bring workers and supplies each season are more plentiful in a larger group. This definitely changes the dynamic and the strategy for larger versus smaller groups, all the way down to a two-player version that is minimal but still extremely fun.
As you begin, the board includes randomly drawn building tiles for your village in the spring. You and other opponents can “bid” (place the most workers next to a tile) on buildings you want in your village and use any available tiles to produce resources. At the end of the game you score points for upgraded buildings in your village, and upgrades require resources. This means you’ll occasionally want to use a building tile to generate resources, rather than expend workers on bidding. Winter comes soon enough, so it isn’t as if you’ll have more than a few times to use a building anyway. Tile abilities range widely, but most come down to producing resources, including more workers. In all cases you need to put at least one worker on a village tile to use it, and any one tile can only be used a few times during any season. A limited supply of workers and the requirement that players match the color of meeples already placed on or around a tile keeps things interesting, not to mention the fact that each player’s supply of resources is secret, hidden behind those screens.
At the end of each season you’ll add village tiles won during bidding to your growing town. Other players can use your buildings but end up sacrificing their workers, and will also have more challenges transporting any resources they generate. Transport and upgrades play a big role in scoring points, and you quickly figure out that most resources have to be moved before they can be used for an upgrade. Players score at the end based on a combination of building upgrades, stored resources, and collected meeples. Even though it sounds like there’s a lot going on in the game it is extremely simple to learn. The challenge is deciding which combination of bidding and production will net you the most glory, then planning how to wisely deploy your workers before the year runs out and the game ends.
Finding the perfect mix of workers and crafting a productive village makes for a highly strategic and windy road to victory. Although the order of seasons stays the same, there is always a fresh mix of tiles to keep things interesting. The possibilities for expanding this game are especially exciting.
The seasons are an amazing touch. The resource production reminded me of Catan, and I like that Keyflower plays great with as few as two people. You can build a small village or bid for lots of village tiles, but you need to focus on upgrades if you want to score points at the end.