Review by Ken Tidwell.
This offering from the master of the Spiel des Jahres, Klaus Teuber, doesn't quite live up to Adel or Drunter & Druber. The game centers around the management of a plot of forested land. Play proceeds through four cycles: Fall, Winter, Spring/Summer, and, oddly enough, the Woodsman (why this isn't just Summer is beyond me). In the Fall, seeds are planted near existing trees. In the Winter, the boar runs around moving seeds. In the Spring/Summer, if a seed is not overshadowed by trees it grows into a tree. If this new tree causes an old tree to be cut off from the sunshine, the old tree withers and dies. Finally, a woodsman runs around cutting down all the trees in his path.
Two to four can play. The players throw dice for four stacks of cards. Each card has a Roman numeral that identifies its stack, an Arabic numeral which gives its value, and a compass which is used when controlling the woodsman. At the close of each year, the card stacks shift to the left so that no player has the advantage of having the "best" set of cards for the entire game.
In the Fall, players use cards from their hands to bid for playing order. High bid plays first in the Fall and Spring/Summer - low bid plays last. Then, in this order, the players place trees (during the first year) and then their trees drop seeds on the surrounding ground. In the Winter, the forest boar moves three times. Each time the players bid for control of the boar. Each of the top two bidders then rolls the dice and moves the boar that many squares. Any seeds that the boar moves across can be placed anywhere else on the board. Normally, players try to move their seeds into open fields and their opponents into dense, dark groves where they will shrivel and die. In the Spring/Summer, the seeds grow into trees if they can get enough light. If a new tree should grow up and cut on old tree off from the light, the old tree withers and dies. Finally, the woodsman moves four times. Players bid for control of the woodsman on each of these moves. The high bidder rolls the dice and moves the woodsman in any one direction that is shown on the winning bid card. (One note - the directions are given as North, East, South, and West but there is no notation to show how these directions correspond to directions on the board. It's pretty clear that the artist was meant to include a clearly labelled compass in the center of the board but that they decided it was just for show and stylized it to the point of uselessness. Sigh.) Then the year begins all over again. The grand goal of the game is to have the most number of trees, in clumps of four, if possible, at the end of the game.
It's a very handsome game complete with enameled wooden trees, seeds, woodsman, and boar. But it's a pretty slow slog through the game. There's lots of time spent waiting for everyone to decide what to bid. Then the losers get to sit around while the winners decide where to put trees or seeds or where to move the boar or the woodsman. And none of it is very exciting. When you're done you're left with a bit of the patented Siggins "Is that all there is?" feeling.
Timberland is distributed by t.c. timber, Haabermass Corp., Skaneateles, NY 13152, runs $30 a pop, and was released sometime in 1991, I believe.
Copyright 1993, Ken Tidwell
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell