Greenland is a game by Phil Eklund, published by Sierra Madre Games. It is for 1-3 players. In this game, players will be representing 3 different tribes of people that are trying to survive in Greenland during the 11th-15th century. They will be trying to keep their families and livestock alive while will be collecting victory points for destroying opposing species and gathering resources. The player that can best survive in the harsh wilderness and collect the most victory points will be declared the winner.
In this review, I will mainly be discussing the basics of the beginner’s game. To begin, the event cards are separated and 10 cards are then randomly selected. Those 10 cards are then shuffled together and placed face down on the table. The two Biome decks are separated into North Greenland Biomes and South Greenland Biomes decks. These are then shuffled and placed facedown with the North deck being placed above the South deck. 6 cards from each deck are drawn and placed in a row to the right of each deck. The Markland card and Vinland cards are placed between the facedown decks and their respective rows; Markland in the North and Vinland in the South. Players choose a color and receive the Elder card and the daughter cards for their chosen color. Players also receive the 18 small cubes and big cube of their color as well. The big cube and 5 smaller ones are placed below the Elder card. The remaining cubes are set aside into a different pile. Players will also be given 5 orange, 1 white and 1 black disk. For the beginner’s game, the daughters, Norse Domestic Animals, New World and D and I cards are removed from the game. Play now begins.
The game is made up of turns. Each turn is one generation of people. Each turn consists of 6 phases. Those phases are event, hunter assignment, negotiate and attacks, roll for hunt, domestic animals and elder actions. The first phase is the event phase. In this phase an event card is revealed from the deck. The first player is then decided by checking the event card. The effects of the event are than applied to each player. There are lots of different events that can either be helpful or harmful. The event card is then auctioned off by bidding white disks that represent ivory. Only cards that have an image of an import are auctioned. The player that wins the auction is able to then place the card under their elder card with the purple side up.
The next phase is the hunter assignment phase. In this phase, players are able to assign any of their unassigned cubes on a card. These can be used to hunt biomes and promote hunters to elders. In the more advanced games they can be assigned to new worlds for colonization or for raiding or defending livestock or daughters. The cubes are assigned in player order and not all cubes must be placed. Once all players are content with their placement, the next phase begins.
The third phase is the negotiate and attacks phase. In this phase, players that have cubes on the same card as an opponent or that have placed cubes on a tableau card of an opponent are able to open negotiations with them. Basically this is where players choose to leave or ask other players to leave through bribery and haggling. Players can exchange disks, cards in their hand or certain letter cards in their tableau. They may also offer daughters for marriage or agreements about future turns. In more advanced games, hunters can be turned to husbands or attacks can be carried out on opponents cubes. New World cards can also turn hostile if there are more than 6 cubes on it after negotiations and attacks.
The next phase is the roll for hunt phase. In this phase, players make hunt rolls. These rolls are done by rolling one die for each assigned hunter cube. Depending on which side the card is on determines the necessary number for succeeding. Success are applied to the number of dice shown on the card. If the successes meet or exceed the number of dice shown, the hunt is successful. Once all hunting is over, players return their surviving hunter cubes to their unassigned pool. On a successful hunt, players may lose hunters but can also gain new hunter cubes as well. Players also are able to gain energy, ivory and iron disks as well. A player may also add certain cards to their tableau as a trophy for victory points. Some cards can even be taken into the player’s hand to be used later. Those cards are replaced by drawing a new card from the respective deck while trophy cards are not replaced.
The fifth phase is the domestic animals phase. This phase is only used in the more advanced games. This phase requires energy be paid for certain animals but can provide babies or even ivory.
The last phase is the elder actions phase. In this phase, players will perform Elder actions for their Elder cards based on the placement of cubes in the proper rank and if they are able to pay the correct resource cost. Players can add cards from their hand to their tableau, kill a cube in their tableau to either banish or burn a witch. They can also begin making tools, become an emissary to an opponents tribe or even convert opposing tribes to monotheism. Players can also voluntarily convert to monotheism as well which will change a player’s victory conditions.
The game continues until the last turn of the event deck or when no more warm or cold cards remain in either the North or South rows. Victory points are counted up for trophies, resources, population and representative cubes on an opponent’s Elder card. The player with the most points is the winner. If at any time a player loses all of their cubes by sending them to Valhalla, they are out of the game. Only the married daughters of that player remain in play.
The game comes with a lot of pieces for such a little box. There are lots of brightly colored wooden cubes as well as plastic disks in 3 different colors. These are all pretty much standard issue and get the job done. The dice are also standard issue and work like normal. The main feature is the cards. The artwork is really nice but I feel like the icons and information included on them make it a bit too cluttered looking. I understand that these have a lot of information to relay and they do so much but it’s just that there’s SO much on these that I don’t really know where to look sometimes. I’m not crazy about the design. I don’t really know what could have been done differently, maybe a board or something. However doing that would have made for a larger box and probably more dead space inside the box as well. In any case, the box is jam packed with a ton of game inside. Even with the business of the cards, I tend to like it.
8 out of 10
This is one of the most complex rulebooks that I believe I’ve ever seen. It’s a whopping 36 pages. 8 pages are simply endnotes about the history and such. There is a hunting statistics page as well as a very useful page full of the iconography of the game. You will definitely be using this one. There are more advanced rules than what I covered above as well as solitaire and cooperative rules as well. It seems like every page has a reference to another section or page of the rulebook. You will find yourself overwhelmed and a bit lost. I found myself trying to read over this thing several times before finally figuring out what I was looking at. It’s very intimidating at first glance. Thankfully there is also a great sequence of play section which references the specific rules to each section so you can kind of get a better feel for what to do. The examples and pictures are nice and give a nice feel to the book. The main thing is to not give up and let the wealth of information bury you. Once I understood that , I realized that it wasn’t as overwhelming as I first thought.
8 out of 10
There’s a lot of game packed inside that little box. The first play through you will definitely want to play the beginner game to get a feel for the mechanics. You’ll also want the rulebook right there beside you as well, as you will be flipping back through it numerous times. As I said earlier, don’t let it overwhelm you. The game looks really intimidating and scary, especially once you look through the cards, but it’s not that bad. Once you really get into it, it feels like a living breathing world that you’re taking part in. There’s a lot to keep up with and a lot of choices to be made throughout the game. You’ll also find that not only do you have to worry about your opponents but you also have to be concerned about the climate as well as the various events that can completely destroy you if you’re not careful. There’s definitely a lot to think about. It’s a very interesting game that will take a bit of time to play, especially the first couple of times. It was like 2+ hours for my first game. That’s a bit longer than I would have liked to spend on something of this caliber.
8 out of 10
Greenland is a fairly heavy game of survival. It’s a very complex game that has a very steep learning curve at least for the first few games. There’s even more strategy and decisions in the more advanced game. The artwork is nice however the cards feel a bit overwhelming and too busy for my taste. The game takes a fairly large amount of time to play especially the first couple of games. I would tend to think that this will not get any better with the advanced game as there will be even more things to keep track of and think about. As I said this game is a bit overwhelming especially at first. Younger players need not apply here. My 13 year old didn’t get it and he seemed confused the majority of the time. This might have been why the game took so long, as I spent quite a bit of time helping him to understand what to do. This is a game better suited for fans of games like Pax Porfiriana or one of Phil Eklund’s other games. It was not a game that was well suited for us. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good game for the right people. For me, I can enjoy playing solo or with some of my more strategic minded friends. In those cases, I recommend the game.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Sierra Madre Games at their site.