Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Thomas Spitzner


No. of Players:



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Thomas Spitzner, author of Schichtwechsel, is well known for games in the Ruhr area. With Ruhrschifffahrt , Kohle & Kolonie and The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade he has invented much more than one successful game in the last years. Much more interesting for me as a native of SPIEL’s capital Essen are his strong thematical background stories of the rise and fall of the Ruhr area, with Essen in the heart of the Ruhrgebiet.

It’s this Ruhr area that was and still is in a far-reaching structural change. Over 100 years the region was dominated by the age of the Coal. Prosperity and mighty family dynasties like the Krupps or the Thyssens dominated the land, and still in my younger years coal mines and steel factories characterized most of the landscape. That time has ended, and in 2018 the last coal mine (Prosper-Haniel) in the region has closed its gates. Time for a changing – Schichtwechsel.

The game Schichtwechsel takes up this changing process and starts its story in the year 1950, the post-war climax of the coal period. The players take the role of coal mine managers who lead the mining process, the water management in the tunnels as well as coal conversion and the selling of the coke.


Click on image to enlarge!

Each round of the game comprises a preparation, an action and a scoring phase. But let’s focus on the set-up first. Each player gets her own player board. This board is divided into sections, following the coal processing. We begin the coal digging in the tunnels where we find the mine cars that have room for one or two coal and spoil tokens. These materials then have to be transported to the surface, separated in railroad cars for further transport as far as the coal is concerned, and a pithead stock for the spoil. After that the coal leaves our personal board and moves over to a section on the main board where it is converted to coke. Unlike our personal board, this section is public. and - as a result - we must get our will against our competitors. Finally, the ready-made coal is transported to our personal board again and can be sold using our available truck spaces.

You see, the manufacturing procedure is quite long and there a many steps before you can sell the coke. But we have only 5 rounds for that, so time is always a limiting factor in the game. Luckily, selling coke is not the only way to score, as you will see. Each round has its own scoring conditions and there are a lot of scoring opportunities on the main board too.

The preparation phase of each round follows exactly six steps: First of all we can extract coal in our mine. The starting player randomly draws coal and spoil tokens from a token bag and distributes the acquisitions among the players where they are placed in free mine cars on the player boards. After that it is time to choose one of the bonus tokens for the round. All effects are unique, but a bonus is more useful in the one situation while another in a different situation. As the bonus tokens are exchanged with the token a player took in the round before, it is time to plan ahead.

The third thing that happens is the rising of the pit water in the mines. As you will expect, high water stages are not what we want in our mine. You better care for low water soon again. Depending on this water stage as well as some other influences, we take white action tokens in the next step. Finally, it is time to sell coke (if we have them ready on the trucks), and use activated bonus spaces on our player boards.


Click on image to enlarge!

What follows after this preparation phase is the main action phase. Each of our action tokens can be used once. There are a lot of different actions, most of them can be found on cards that are arranged around the main board, depending on the number of players up to 21 cards. A lot of these cards can only be used once in a round with the first player occupying the card until the end of the round. Other action cards can be used multiple times, but they are more “expensive” to use. To understand this price mechanism, you must know that there are not only white action cubes. Instead, each player has an action cube in her player colour and there is another currency, the “Deutsche Mark” (the German currency before the Euro) that is worth most.

There are quite a lot of different actions. About one third of the actions has to do with the coal processing, i.e. the transports from one space to another. Of course there is an action for managing the water in the mines too. And then there are quite a lot of action that have effects on the main, circular part of the main board. First of all there is a miner‘s action for advancing your miner figure further on the central miner shift. Each of the 14 spaces of this comes with a different advantage. For example there is a space that let‘s you lower the water level in your mine, or another one that will bring you VP or a new „Deutsche Mark“ coin.

But additionally to the miner‘s shift, you also find three tracks for the transportation infrastructure. Railroads, canals and streets are needed to transport the coke, and players who contribute to construct this infrastructure will participate in form of VP too. Last but not least you can choose actions to place headframes for further bonus earnings and secure pithead buildings for the final scoring. The last action on the same unlocks bonus spaces on your personal board, because the pithead buildings are taken from that board to the main board.


Click on image to enlarge!

All actions are chosen in a kind of worker placement mechanism. In the final scoring, all tracks contribute to the total VP, not only the sold coke. The miner’s track, the railroad, street and canal track as well as all the pithead buildings. Thus, the game has a lot of interesting options to chose from, with a strong thematic background and different strategies to follow. As you can see in the pictures there is a lot going on, but still the game can easily played in about 1-1,5 hours.

For me – as a native of Essen – the game is a clearly a must-have, but of course, I’m not totally neutral in this. I mean, would you ignore a game that takes place in the time and region of your youth? Still, I think that the game is definitely worth much more than a try-out for all experienced gamers that love worker placement games, and do not totally hate the coal theme. Thomas Spitzner has already proven that he knows how to design games and this one is especially interesting to my mind.

By the way: English rules are also available on the homepage of the publisher. As the game components are language-independent there is no excuse not to play the game without German knowledge.

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright © 2021 Ralf Togler & Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany