Friday, April 15, 2016

Tabletopper Friday - Ora et Labora (2011)

My buddy Tom recently picked up a copy of Ora et Labora (2011).  We're fans of Le Havre (2008) and Caverna (2013), and others locally love Agricola (2007) which I inexplicably haven't played, so this game is long overdue for us to try.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
In Ora et Labora, each player is head of a monastery in the Medieval era who acquires land and constructs buildings – little enterprises that will gain resources and profit. The goal is to build a working infrastructure and manufacture prestigious items – such as books, ceramics, ornaments, and relics – to gain the most victory points at the end of the game.
Ora et Labora, Uwe Rosenberg's fifth "big" game, has game play mechanisms similar to his Le Havre, such as two-sided resource tiles that can be upgraded from a basic item to something more useful. Instead of adding resources to the board turn by turn as in Agricola and Le Havre, Ora et Labora uses a numbered rondel to show how many of each resource is available at any time. At the beginning of each round, players turn the rondel by one segment, adjusting the counts of all resources at the same time.
Each player has a personal game board. New buildings enter the game from time to time, and players can construct them on their game boards with the building materials they gather, with some terrain restrictions on what can be built where. Some spaces start with trees or moors on them, as in Agricola: Farmers of the Moor, so they hinder development until a player clears the land, but they provide resources when they are removed. Clever building on your personal game board will impact your final score, and players can buy additional terrain during the game, if needed.
Players also have three workers who can enter buildings to take the action associated with that location. Workers must stay in place until you've placed all three. You can enter your own buildings with these workers, but to enter and use another player's buildings, you must pay that player an entry fee so that he'll move one of his workers into that building to do the work for you.
Ora et Labora features two variants: France and Ireland.

It took us a little bit to get going with this game and after a false start we played through quite a bit of the Ireland version of the game, then packed up and went down the street to try out the France version, which we played through to the end.  One can see how the Harvest series developed in some very good ways by the differences between this game and Le Havre.  One can also see what was retained and improved.  Flipping counters is still used for materials/goods and the processes for doing this is tied to buildings, largely.  We liked the addition of the rondel and how it acted both as a market for supply and demand and a countdown clock, in that once something sat around long enough to get relatively valuable, someone was going to grab it.  Waiting too long for some particular resource meant maybe not getting enough of it for your overall plan.  While it might seem odd that each player has three workers throughout the game, even as their monastery grows, this works well for this game as an abstraction that helps avoid needing to regularly feed, a mechanic that Le Havre relies on heavily.   I also enjoyed the concept of clearing land and gaining some resources thereby as well as space to grow the monastery.  I had some trouble reaching a competitive victory point total this first time around but enjoyed how the game allows for gameplay to reward accomplishments individually for what a single player is building alongside rewarding overall play comparatively with victory points.

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unless they have a decidedly wargamey feel.
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