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



Carl Chudyk

IELLO 2012

No. of Players:
2 - 5



Once upon a time humans and dinosaurs lived together peacefully in the jungle city of Uchronia, and the great families of this civilization were competing to increase the glory of their kingdom by erecting ever more magnificent buildings and their city. This is the scenario chosen for Uchronia, and as might be guessed it will be up to the players to take the position of the noble houses of Uchronia to join in the competition to be the most successful house in the kingdom…

The buildings for the city are available in the form of cards. Each building has a number printed above its illustration, and this number represents both the number of resources needed to build it and the number of victory points it is worth once it has been built. The type of resources needed is specified by the building's colour, and so the buildings come in a total of five different colours, thus representing the five different types of resources available in the game. In addition, each building possesses a special effect which can be used by its owner when the building is completed, and as usual for such a mechanism based on buildable enhancements the special effects range from the generation of additional victory points to the possibility to perform a special kind of action. Thus, the players usually will try to finish buildings fitting to their general strategy in order to maximize their score of victory points.

However, as the background story of Uchronia focuses on the construction of these new buildings, the central part of the game is made up by an interesting resource-management mechanism which focuses on multiple uses of the resource cards available in the game. Unlike games like San Juan or Race for the Galaxy where the multiple functions of cards stem from the possibility to use them for building, as resources or for paying, all available functions of Uchronia resource cards are printed on the cards. So, the central part of each resource card shows an action, whereas the lower part of the card shows a resource and the upper part shows an action enhancing effect. But let's look at this with a bit more detail.

Usually the players will use the resource cards in their hand for triggering the action shown in the middle part of the card, and one possible action is the production of new resources. If a resource is produced, the active player is allowed to take one new resource card from an open display of resource cards (the "Forum") in the middle of the table, and this resource card then is placed below the player's playing mat so that only the lower part of the card with the resource on it is visible (thus representing the resource printed on the card). Likewise, another possible action to gain resources is exploring, but in contrast to production the resource card gained from exploring does not come from the Forum, but instead it must come from the player's hand.

Resources can be used for the construction of buildings, and a choice of new buildings is available from a common display on the table. If a player goes for construction, he may either chosen one of the buildings on display to start a building project, or he may move one resource from beneath his playing mat under one of his yet unfinished buildings, provided the resource matches the colour of the building. If enough resources have been moved under the building to equal its costs/value, the building is considered to be finished. Now its special function becomes available and the resources used for that building are discarded.

A second possibility for using resources is to go for trading. Here the upper part of the resources cards comes into play, since this action allows a player to change the positioning of a resource card beneath his playing mat so that now - instead of the resource on the lower part - the action enhancing effect on the upper part of the card becomes visible. From this point onwards the player will be able to perform the action shown with a higher efficiency, so that - for example - more resources can be produced or more resources can be used for construction. As a rule, each additional action enhancing effect increases the efficiency of the corresponding action by one degree, and the only limit to this is that a player never may have more action enhancing effects than is current total of finished buildings plus two. And, as a nice addition, the usage of resources to get action enhancing effects also lets the players go for a monopoly in each of the five effect-categories. The monopolies are an additional possibility to go for the amount of victory points needed to win the game.

This generally outlines the basic routine on which Uchronia operates, but the game is further enriched by a few additional rules which make the management of a player's resource cards even tougher. Thus, the Forum from where newly produced resources are taken is not replenished by randomly drawn cards, but instead the cards used by the players for triggering their actions will go into the forum. If a player should run out of useful cards, he also is allowed to abstain from performing an action for the whole round, and instead he may replenish his hand of resource cards to a total of five cards (or draw just one additional card if his hand already consists of 5 or more cards).

A bit of direct player interaction is caused by the fifth possible type of actions - the deployment of the Draconian Guard. A player who goes for this action reveals one resource card from his hand, and all players who have performed an action during their last turn must give the active player one card of this type from their hand (provided they have a matching resource card). In addition, the player also gains one matching card from the forum, and all gained cards now will be placed as resources beneath the player's playing mat. Like all other actions, the Draconians action also can be enhanced by an action enhancing effect, and in this case the active player can reveal additional cards from his hand, gaining him more cards from the Forum and forcing the other players to hand over a card matching one of the card types shown (thus broadening the chance to get a card).

During the first rounds the players face a moderate entry barrier because they first have to come to terms with the interrelation of the use of action cards and the "feeding" of the Forum, but once the rules have been grasped the threefold use of the resource cards is rather charming. As indicated earlier, here the game is both similar but also different to other games with multiple card uses, since the actions and their associated effects are unlike the card effects available in the aforementioned games.

Uchronia is one of these games which picks up speed quickly but ends too early. Well, it only ends too early from the perspective a player who wants to see his domain to prosper to perfection. Just like Race for the Galaxy challenges the players not to lose too much time on fancy projects, Uchronia rewards those players who keep their focus on efficiency and situational tactics. This gives the game a short-term orientation which is entertaining and addictive at the same time.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany