Designed by Klaus Teuber
2-4 Players, about an hour
Reviewed by Ken Tidwell
Timberland is a game from Klaus Teuber's shady past, released a couple of years back, about the same time as Adel Verpflichtet. This offering by the master of the Spiele des Jahres doesn't quite match up to Adel or Drunter & Druber but has a number of interesting ideas.
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 isn't just Summer is beyond me). In the Fall, seeds are planted near existing trees. In the Winter, a 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.
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) which then drop seeds on the surrounding ground. In the Winter, a forest boar moves three times, each time the players bidding to control it. Each of the top two bidders then roll the dice and move the boar that many squares. Any seeds that the boar moves across en route can be placed anywhere else on the board.
Normally, players try to move their seeds into open fields and their opponent's into dense, dark groves where they will fail to sprout. The tough ones live to the Spring/Summer and grow into trees if they can get enough light. If a new tree should grow and cut off an old tree from the sun, the old tree withers and dies. Finally, the woodsman moves four times, players again bidding for control 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 the centre 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.
Timberland is a very handsome game complete with enamelled 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 do. 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've 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 and runs $30 a pop. In Europe, it is distributed by Haba Games of Germany and is priced at about £15- 20.
On to the review of Schmuggler an Bord or back to the review of Around the World in Eighty Days.
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