This debuted at the Essen fair back in October of 2014. It was a huge hit! Then it was nominated for the Kennerspiel Award in Germany this year (it lost to Broom Service). Unfortunately for those of us who live in America, this was not available for almost a year. Sure, you could import it overseas, but not everyone is willing to pay the extra cost, and/or put forth the effort. Thankfully, Tasty Minstrel Games picked up the distribution rights in the States. It just became available here in America at the end of November.
Orleans plays from 2-4 players, takes about 90 minutes and is for ages 12 and up. Players are trying to achieve dominance in medieval France by employing various followers, and building trading posts along the map.
There’s a lot going on in this game, so I won’t go over EVERY little detail, but I’ll do my best to give you a good idea of how the game works.
Here’s what scores at the end of the game, coins, goods, citizens and trading posts that you build. There’s also a developmental track that you will have a chance to move up on that will act as a multiplier when adding up your trading posts and citizens. You will be able to collect these things by employing followers every round.
The game is played over 18 rounds (I know that sounds like a lot, but the game moves fairly quick for a Eurogame). Each player starts the game with a player board and a bag from which you will draw workers every round.
Everyone also starts with a merchant placed on the Orleans space on the map. This is where you will travel along the map, collecting goods and building trading posts.
There are 7 phases that take place during each round.
Phase 1: You turn over the top hour glass tile. This tells you what event will happen during phase 6 (which is sometimes good, and sometime bad).
Phase 2: Determine who has the most and least farmers, then the person with the most gets a coin, and the person with the least loses a coin.
Phase 3: Draw followers from your bag (either 4-8 depending on how many Knights you have employed).
Phase 4: Take your followers and place them on action spaces on your player board.
Phase 5: Take actions based on where you placed your followers on your board.
Phase 6: Resolve the event that was revealed in Phase 1.
Phase 7: Pass the start player marker clockwise.
Pretty straight forward game. The depth comes from the choices you have to make on your player board. Where to place the followers, and when to activate those actions. And depending on which actions you’re trying to do, determines which followers you need to employ.
Every time you hire someone, you move your player cube on that follower’s track. Then you get a benefit based on where your cube is on that track.
There are seven different followers you can employ.
Farmers (white) – When you hire one, you get whichever good on the track where your cube is at.
Craftsman (brown) – When hired, get a technology token (explained later).
Trader (black) – When hired, take a city tile from whichever numbered pile your cube is on the track. These city tiles give you more things to activate with your followers.
Boatman (blue) – When hired, take the amount of coins it says on whichever space your cube is on that track.
Knight (red) – This track determines on how many followers you will draw from your bag each round.
Scholar (Gray) – When hired, move the amount it says wherever your cube is on this track on the Development track.
Monks (yellow) – They give you no immediate benefit, but can be used as wilds when placing followers.
You will use these workers to place them on your player board to execute actions.
Here are the main actions you will get to choose from:
Hire a farmer by placing a boatman and craftsman.
Hire a Knight by placing a farmer, boatman and trader.
Hire a boatman, craftsman or trader by placing a farmer, boatman and craftsman.
Hire a scholar by placing a farmer, craftsman and trader.
Hire a monk by placing a scholar and craftsman.
Go up one on the developmental track by placing a knight and scholar.
You can move your merchant on a river path on the map to an adjacent town by placing a farmer, boatman, and knight.
When you move from town to town, choose one good that is on that track (if there is any) to add to your personal supply.
Here, you can move your merchant on a road (instead of a river), by placing a farmer, trader and knight.
……also collecting a good along that path.
By placing a farmer, craftsman and knight, you may build a trading station on the city that your merchant is on.
You can’t place a trading station if another player’s trading station is already there, except in Orleans. There, every player is allowed to build one trading station.
Here, you may place any follower (except one of your 4 starting followers). Then you may place them anywhere you like on the town hall board (as long as the space matches that follower).
These will give you benefits, like coins and moving up on the developmental track. Anytime a player places the final follower for a particular area, they get to take the citizen tile next to that area. You do not get these followers back.
When you activate any of those action spaces, workers are placed back in the bag to be used on future rounds (except for workers placed in the town hall)
Oh yeah, about those technology tokens. When you get one by hiring a Craftsman, you can place it on any of your followers spaces on your player board. This will count as that follower for the rest of the game.
And that’s pretty much how it works. The game ends after 18 rounds.
Some people complain about Euro games, stating that they are themeless. I can’t speak for all those games, but I will say that this game is NOT themeless. The theme is definitely there, and is pretty strong. However, the theme itself is actually pretty dry. It doesn’t help that the artwork evokes Eurogames that are 20 years old. This seems like a much older game. Definitely not current. However, I don’t really mean any of those things in a negative way.
Even though the theme is bone dry, I found the game really engaging. The mechanics have a really nice flow to them. This is a very smooth moving game. It’s not clunky at all. It all just works so well.
I love that you’re building your team of followers. YOU and only YOU get to choose who you hire, which makes every player’s team of followers unique. I’ve played this about 7 times now, and I have yet to get sick of it. I find more interesting things to try out each time. Do I focus on getting my developmental track up, do I try to move my merchant around as much as I can to get as many goods as I can (having lots of certain types of goods can give you an insane amount of points at the end), or do I concentrate on placing my trading stations? And there’s more ways to victory too.
What I really like about the game is this: Unlike a lot of Euro games, there isn’t much downtime here. When it’s not your turn, you are looking at your board, trying to figure out which followers you need, how you’re going to get them, and when to place them. Last year I played a game called Hyperborea, which has similar mechanisms (drawing different colored cubes from a bag, and placing them on your board to do actions), but had a fantasy theme. I really liked it, though it was a bit more clunky. Even though the theme in this game isn’t as exciting, I found the gameplay to run much more smoothly.
I like that you don’t have to use all of your followers during a round. You can save them for future rounds too. I also like games where it’s kind of hard to tell who is exactly winning the game. And then when points are all added up in the end, there may be a surprise. I love that in games.
Now, I did play the original version earlier this year. This new edition by Tasty Minstrel is identical gameplay wise. Nothing was changed. A few component changes though. The cardboard on the board and the tiles are a bit thicker, which is always nice. The coolest addition is making all of the bags a different color.
Much better than the 4 identical black bags that were in the original game.
Every person I’ve played this with understood the game within minutes. It’s really easy to teach and easy to learn. It is a bit heavier than your average gateway game, but I feel that this still could be accessible to some non-gamers due to the slick mechanics of the game.
Don’t let the dry theme scare you off, this is a really great game that features some great mechanics, smooth gameplay, and with some neat decision making. There’s something satisfying about reaching into that bag and seeing what followers you get to use for the current round. Even my friend Dan (who is a more casual gamer) asked to play this again the next day. In my opinion, I think this should have won the Kennerspiel over Broom Service (though I do like that one too). It also plays excellent with all player counts.
I highly recommend Orleans!