At The Gates Of Loyang Review

At The Gates Of Loyang is a game by Uwe Rosenberg, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 1-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of farmer during the Han Dynasty. They will be selling and trading their vegetables at the gates of the capital, Loyang. They will also be planting fields in order to gain more crops with which to sell even more vegetables. Players will also use helpers to assist them in lots of varied ways. In the end, the player that moves the furthest along the Path of Prosperity will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Supply is created by separating the money, vegetables, Satisfaction markers and Loan cards into piles. The Action cards are shuffled together and placed face down in a pile in the middle of the play area. Each player takes 1 of the T-shaped boards and places it in front of them as shown in the rulebook. They also receive 10 cash, a Home field, a Scoring token, a Storehouse/Cart card, and a Turn Summary card. The Home field is placed at the top right of their board. The Scoring token is placed on the 1 space of the Path of Prosperity on their board. The Storehouse/Cart card is placed to the right of their board with the 1 side facing up. The money and Turn Summary card are placed to the left of their board. Players are also given 3 wheat, 2 pumpkins, 2 turnips, 2 cabbages, 1 bean and 1 leak. These are placed on the corresponding spaces of the player’s board. The 2 light colored spaces are left empty. Players also take 8 Private Field cards that consist of 2 sets of cards, each with 4 cards of 3, 4, 5 and 6 spaces. Each set is shuffled separately and then placed on top of each other to form the player’s Field pile. This is placed to the left of the player’s Home Field card. The Starting player is chosen and is given the larger Starting player token. The smaller Starting player token is placed in the middle of the play area for the time being. Players will now buy their 1st vegetable from their own player board, known as their shop, beginning with the first player and continuing in turn order. The cost for each vegetable is noted in the dark boxes of the player board beside each vegetable. Once the vegetable has been paid for, it is planted in their Home field. What this means is that it is placed on a Field card and all the other spaces of that field are then filled in within the same vegetable from the Supply. It should be noted that only the vegetables shown on the Home field card may be bought and planted and no more than 2 players may plant the same type of vegetable at this time. Once all this has been completed, play now begins.

The game is played over 9 rounds. Each round consists of 3 phases; the Harvest phase, the Card phase and the Action phase. The first phase is the Harvest phase. In this phase, each player will turn over the top field from their Field pile and place it next to their other fields. They will then harvest 1 vegetable from each of their fields. The harvested vegetables are placed on the the Cart of the Storehouse/Cart card. If there are any vegetables that had been left in the Storehouse, these are moved to the Cart as well. If a Private Field has the last vegetable on it removed, then the card is removed from the game. Common fields from the Action card deck are placed on the Action card discard pile when their last vegetable has been harvested.

The next phase of the game is the Card phase. In the beginning of this phase, a new draw pile is created by shuffling the discard pile into the remaining Action cards draw pile. Once this new pile has been created, each player is dealt 4 cards. Next, the Distribution round takes place. In the Distribution round, each player will have to play 1 card from their hand and 1 card from the “Courtyard”. The first player will begin this round by placing a card from their hand face up into the center of the table. This area becomes the “Courtyard”. Players will then, in turn order, take a turn that consists of one of the following options. They may place 1 card from their hand into the Courtyard, or they may take 1 card from the Courtyard and 1 card from their hand, playing both of them face up in the corresponding spaces of their own play area. Any cards remaining in the player’s hand are then placed into the Courtyard. This player is then unable to participate during the rest of this Distribution round. This continues until there is only 1 player that has not chosen 2 cards. When this happens, that player is no longer allowed to place any cards into the Courtyard, instead they must immediately choose from the available cards. It should be noted that if a player has only 1 card remaining in their hand, they must play it and choose 1 card from the Courtyard. They may never place their last card into the Courtyard. A couple of things should also be noted about the Action cards. When a Regular Customer is placed, a Satisfaction marker is immediately placed on the card with the blue side up. When a Market stall is placed, it is immediately filled with the vegetables shown on the card. When a Field Action card is placed, the player must immediately pay 2 cash for it. If the player does not have enough money, they are able to sell vegetables, use helpers or take out a loan to be able to pay for it. Once the last player has chosen and placed their cards, the Distribution round ends. The remaining cards in the Courtyard will then become the new face up discard pile. The last player to place their 2 Action cards now receives the large Starting player token, becoming the Starting player. The next to last player to place their cards takes the smaller Starting player token and becomes the 2nd player.

This brings us to the third phase, the Action phase. On a player’s turn, they may take any number of actions and in any order during their turn. Each action may be taken as many times as the player wishes. However, Buying a Two-Pack may only be taken once during their turn. The player has 8 different actions that they may choose from. Each action is also listed on the player’s Turn Summary card. The first action they may take is to Sow Vegetables as Seed. To do this, the player will take 1 Vegetable from their Cart and place it on an empty field. The remaining spaces on the card are then filled with the same vegetables from the supply. At the top of each field card there’s a reference of what vegetables may be planted on that field. Another action the player can take is to Buy Vegetables in the Shop. To do this, the player simply takes one of the vegetables from their shop, paying the cost on the dark price tag, and places it on their Cart. The player can also choose to Sell Vegetables to the Shop. To do this, the player takes a vegetable from their Cart and places it in the corresponding empty space in their shop. They will then collect the price in the lighter price tag. It should be noted that if there is no empty spaces for the corresponding vegetable, it may not be sold at this time. Yet another action that may be taken is to Trade Vegetables at a Market stall. To do this, the player places either 1 or 2 vegetables of their choice from their Cart onto the bowl in front of the vegetable that they would like to trade for, collecting it and placing it on their Cart. It should be noted that the number of bowls in front of the vegetable are the number of vegetables that must be traded for that particular one. Once a Market card is empty, it is placed in the discard pile. The player can also Play or discard a Helper. To do this, the player simply plays the card and takes then resolves the card’s text. Most Helpers are played during the Action phase, but some may be played in other phases. This is noted in the text of these particular cards. Once the Helper has been used, it is placed in the discard pile. Likewise if a player simply wishes to get rid of the Helper card without using it, they can simply discard it to the discard pile. One thing of note, some Helpers have 2 actions that a player must choose from. The player is only allowed to use 1 of these options for that particular Helper. The player can Deliver to a Regular Customer. To do this, the player will place the corresponding vegetables on the card starting at the bottom and working up each round. Once a Regular Customer has been started, each round the player must deliver the same vegetables for another 3 rounds. If the player can not or does not wish to, the Satisfaction marker on the card is flipped over to the red side. If the player can not or does not wish to deliver to this Regular Customer while the red side of the Satisfaction marker is up, they must pay a penalty of 2 cash to the Supply. Once the player makes a delivery, they will receive the payment for that delivery as noted on the card. Once the fourth line on the card has been filled, it is emptied and discarded. Another action that may be taken is to Deliver to a Casual Customer. To do this, the player need only take the corresponding 3 vegetables listed on the card and return them to the Supply. The player will then receive the price listed on the card. If the player has the same number of Regular and Casual customers, then the payment is the price shown. If they have more Casual customers than Regular ones, then the payment is reduced by 2 cash. If they have less Casual customers than Regular ones, then the payment is increased by 2 cash. Once the delivery has been made, the card is discarded. The final action that may be taken is to Buy a Two-Pack. This is the only action that may only be taken once during the Action phase. To take this action, the player will pay the cost and draw 2 Action cards from the draw pile. The cost is equal to the number of either Helpers or Market stalls in their play area, whichever is greater. Any cards covered by another Action card, do not count towards the cost. Once the player draws their 2 cards, they must place them face up in front of themself. They will then choose to keep one or both of these 2 cards, or simply discard both of them. Any cards not kept are discarded. If the player choose to keep both cards, then they must place one of the cards on top of the other one. The choice of which card goes on top is up to the player. The top card is placed so that the card below is visible. It should be noted that if a field card is chosen either as the top or bottom card, then the 2 cash must immediately be paid. As the game goes on, whenever the top card is discarded, the bottom card is immediately moved to it’s appropriate place. Any additional actions such as stocking vegetables onto the card or placing Satisfaction markers are done at this time as well. At the end of a player’s turn, they will then move any leftover vegetables from their Cart to their Storehouse. Any vegetables not able to be stored in the Storehouse, must either be sold to their Shop or discarded. At the beginning of the game, each player’s Storehouse will only hold 1 vegetable. However they may upgrade their Storehouse by paying 2 cash. The card is then flipped over allowing the player to store up to 4 vegetables. Finally the player moves their Scoring Marker. Each step on the Path of Prosperity costs cash. The first step each round costs 1 cash. Each additional space that the player wishes to move costs the same amount as the number of the space which they wish to move to. For instance, moving to space 4 from space 3 would cost 4 cash. Once a player takes all the actions that they wish to take, play passes to the next player. Once all players have finished with their turn, the round ends and a new round starts following the previously explained phases.

The game continues until the end of the 9th round. Once players have finished this final round, the game ends. Players that have taken a loan must then move their Scoring marker back 1 space on the Path of Prosperity for each loan they have. Loans may be taken at any time during the game and they provide 5 cash. However as just mentioned, they cost 1 space on the Path of Prosperity. Loans are never able to be repaid. Once all players have moved their Scoring markers based on loans, they will then check to see who is farthest along on the Path of Prosperity. The player that has moved the farthest is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This is an amazing looking game that contains a whole bunch of great looking pieces. There are cardboard boards and tokens, wooden pieces and various types of cards. First there are the cardboard pieces which consist of the T-shaped game boards, Satisfaction markers and cash coins of 1 and 5 value. The boards are brightly colored and have special spaces for each of the different types of vegetables, as well as the ascending Path of Prosperity. I like how that each vegetable’s space matches the shape and color of the wooden vegetable meeple. The Satisfaction markers are blue on one side and red on the other, both with a Chinese symbol. The coins come in a smaller silver for 1 cash and a larger copper for 5 cash. Each of these has some Chinese symbols on them as well. They also have a hole in the middle, which were used to hold them on a string in the days that the game was set in. The only thing that would make these better is if they’d been made of metal instead of cardboard. The game also contains a whole bunch of wooden pieces. There are vegetable meeples, Scoring markers and Starting player tokens. The vegetable meeples are all brightly colored. Each one is shaped like the vegetable it represents. There are leeks, beans, cabbages, turnips, pumpkins and wheat. These are great! I love wooden tokens like these. They’re fun to handle and play with. The Scoring markers are hard to describe. I guess the best way is to say they’re like a pawn with a Chinese hat on. They’re stained a dark brown, just as the Starting player tokens are. Speaking of which, there are 2 Starting player tokens, a larger one and a smaller one. Both are round wooden discs. Just like the vegetables, I really like these wooden pieces too. Finally there are the many types of cards. There are Storehouse/Cart cards for each player. These are double sided and where players store their vegetables meeples. There are loan cards which look rather like a scroll and explain how these work. There are private fields and lots of different Action cards. The Action cards consist of common fields, market stalls, regular customers, casual customers and helpers. Each of these cards are brightly colored. The artwork on each of these is a bit cartoon-like. The characters have a similar style and feel as the artwork on the front of the box. Honestly, I rather like the designs used here. They could have chose to use more realistic designs but the cartoon like art on these cards is very fun. It gives you a nice sense of amusement and light heartedness instead of being so serious. I like that this was the path chosen for these. The game also comes with some turn summary cards which are a great reference for the players to look back at and remind them of their options in the Action phase. Thematically the game gives a great feel of just exactly what it was going for, being a farmer in China over 2000 years ago. I really love the look and feel of this game. The artwork is amazingly light and fun. It’s a beauty.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is also a beauty. It’s got lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. The design and layout reminds me of the rulebook for Agricola. That’s probably because both are from the same designer. Everything is laid out really well and is easy to read and understand. There are special boxes inserted throughout the book that give a few changes for playing your first game, for different player counts and special details about the rules. These are nice additions that you don’t have to pay much attention to unless you have specific need for those rules. The rulebook also includes rules for playing the game solo, which is always a welcome addition to any game in my opinion. There’s also an appendix of the cards, as well as 2 pages of details about the different Helper cards included in the game. These help players to understand these certain cards a bit better, giving a more detail explanation of each. The book also has a few little notes about the back history of the game which is a nice addition that adds a bit of flavor. I can say that this is an excellent rulebook. It’s well designed, just as I expected it to be. I couldn’t find anything that needed changing or improving. It’s very thorough and the rules are easy to follow in a step by step manner. Overall I think the book is well done.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I have to say that this game has been on my want to play list for quite some time. It looked like a lot of fun with lots of bright colored pieces and plenty of challenges for players of all kind. Needless to say, I wasn’t let down at all. This is a very fun game. As the third game in designer Uwe Rosenberg’s Harvest trilogy, this game is an absolute classic. The reason being is that it’s just so much fun to play. I’ve enjoyed several of Mr. Rosenberg’s games, especially Reykholt, Patchwork and Agricola. This is another one to add to that list. The game provides lots of different choices and actions to take but you never have the ability to do everything that you really want to do. There’s always something that you wish you had just one more vegetable or one more coin for. Playing with other players, the game is full of tension and a mild bit of interaction, mostly that comes from the Card phase of the game. The Action phase is more like playing solitaire. Of course you’ll be watching to see what other players do on their turn so that you can try to pull ahead on the Path. One thing that I wanted to point out is that many times players are afraid to take a loan so as not to lose that space on the Path. Just because you take a loan, does not mean that you can’t win. In some cases, you pretty much have to if you want to get done what you’re trying to do on your turn. The main thing is not to be afraid of loans. As for the solo game that I mentioned earlier, it’s a definite challenge. You’re trying to reach level 17 on the path. But to be a true Master, you need to reach level 19. This can be rather difficult. For this version, the Card phase is a bit different, having the player buy cards from a grid of 4 rows and 3 columns. Cards can range from free to 2 coins each. Even more so than in the multiplayer game, cash is king. Trust me, it takes a lot to get that far. As tough as it can be at times, I’m always up for the challenge that this game provides. Needless to say, I enjoy the solo game just as much, if not possibly more, than the multiplayer game. Both have their own feel and charm that I like. Solo gamers will find plenty to love with this one. This is a game that I think a lot of players will enjoy regardless of their player count. Fans of any of Mr. Rosenberg’s games like Agricola or Reykholt should absolutely love this one. I definitely do. It’s one of my top 10 most favorite games. Once you’ve played it I’m sure you’ll agree. This is a game that I highly recommend.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
At The Gates Of Loyang is a game of farming and selling crops in Ancient China. It’s not super long. Most game sessions last from an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the number of players. The components are amazing. The wooden vegetables are fun to play with and the artwork throughout the game is light and fun as well. I still want an upgrade to metal coins for this one though. The rulebook is well written and designed. It’s easy to read through and very thorough. I especially love the added solo variant in the rules. The game itself is a lot of fun for groups of players and for playing solo. The multiplayer game has a great competitive feel to it as players race to get the farthest on the Path of Prosperity. The solo game has more of a puzzle feel as you work to align everything just so. Both are challenging but enjoyable. Fans of games like Agricola or Reykholt will enjoy the similar theme and challenge of this game. This is one that I think a lot of players will like. This is a classic board game that I highly recommend. If you don’t already own a copy, you definitely want to pick one up while it’s available again in reprint. It’s well worth it.
9 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Tasty Minstrel Games at their site.

 http://playtmg.com

 

 

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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