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Haspelknecht Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Thomas Spitzer
Artists: Johannes Sich
Publisher: Capstone Games
Year Published: 2015
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Rules and Setup:

Setup is quick and easy. Each player will take their player board, eleven disks in their player color, and eighteen coal. The coal are placed on the coal icons on the board. The development board is then built by taking 3-5 tiles of each color or type and setting up a grid, using the assist tiles to help organize them. The year wheel is placed with the phase marker starting on Rain in the spring, the year marker on One the first year, a player disc placed on the 0-point space, and a disc randomly placed to determine turn order. Resource boards are then placed, and if playing with more players, added boards will be needed. Take the appropriate number of black, brown, and yellow disks according to player number and add them into the bag. Randomly place three disks in the reserve pools and six disks on the action pools for each resource board, and then it's time to mine!

You will have to mine the Pinge area (top left area) on your board before getting coal from the tunnel. Each area needs to stay free from pit water, which forms from rain or doing certain actions. If you have two or more water in the Pinge, you won’t be able to mine unless taking an action to clear it. In the tunnel, two pit waters means you won’t be able to transport the coal from the tunnel to the farm above. If you have five or more in the tunnel, you won’t be able to mine OR transfer the coal to the farm. You mine from left to right, and you will need to get wood indicated on your board to get the coal that’s located behind it. Once you have exhausted the coal from the Pinge, you will immediately be able to get coal from the tunnel. When this happens, your coal-digger won’t work in the tunnel and you will get a board that has a coal miner and a Haspelknecht, which will be explained later on.

The year wheel informs you of what actions you can take. The wheelbarrow means taking disks from the resource board. You take all of one color from one of the pools. Everyone does this and then takes a second action, taking only one color of disks and only allowing five disks total to be taken in the two actions. Turn order is redetermined by a formula of how many and what color disks you took in the first action. You then use your disks to plan and execute actions by placing them on your worker spots. You have a farmer, farmhard, and coal-digger (though you can only activate him with a yellow disk, food, or a coin). The farmer is different from the farmhand because he can help with development by placing the indicated color and number of disks required by the development type. You can only have access to the top layer of developments to start with, but as tiles are activated, you can have access to any further tiles that are touching that tile. You are also able to pay a player the indicated item (coal, wood, or food) to gain access to what they have done. Developments make things easier by giving you the ability to store more items, score points in a special way, stop pit water from forming when it rains, or by giving you coins. Each player then performs their actions, which can consist of producing resources, excavating coal, or removing pit water. The only resource that can be used immediately is wood. If both workers do the same type of action (both excavate coal, for instance), then there is a synergy bonus of performing an extra action of that kind. When the tunnel opens, you will have to excavate the coal to the end of the tunnel on the left and activate the Haspelknecht to bring the coal up to the farm.

Again, you will use to year wheel to know what phase is next. In the summer, if you use your yellow disks to produce food, you get bonus food. Winter is not for planning or taking actions, but is instead used to score points from coal excavated, pay leases to the nobility, and store units (remember that you can only store as many units as you have room to hold). If you cannot pay leases, you will earn a debt token for each item you could not pay.

You will do this for three in-game years. You will be able to score points by completing your Pinge in the first or second year, excavating coal in the tunnel, using certain resources you purchased, storing certain units each year, having a certain number of coal at your farm during the winter, and by being the first (and sometimes second or third as well) to buy a development in a certain row.

Theme and Mechanics:

In the 16th Century in the Ruhr valley of Germany, a shepherd made a campfire to stay warm. For some reason, his campfire seemed to burn longer than usual. The next day, he discovered shiny black stones amidst the ashes that were still glowing and burning. This shepherd told the farmer who employed him to help him. When the work in the fields were done, they dug in the Pinge for the black rocks. The deeper they dug, the nastier the pit water appeared, making it more and more difficult to dig. They discussed different tools to use to get rid of the pit water and go deeper to get the shiny black rocks called coal.

The game has many paths to victory, depending on what developments you make and how much coal you excavate from the land. The game uses worker placement in combination with a unique action point allowance system of colored disks. The game's player board is quite unique in its design.

The game encompasses the theme well, as you are trying to get your coal out of the tunnel (perhaps the easiest and best way to get points). The synergy bonus where the two people work together and can perform more work reinforces the theme. The year wheel especially adds an added layer to the game, bringing increased food in the summer time and rain in the early spring and early autumn.

Artwork and Components:

The artwork matches the style of game and incorporates a 16th century feel. The icons are done very well to help follow the game's style, and the design makes what seems like a very heavy Euro game into a great experience. See pictures to reference art.

The components are excellent with thick cardboard for the board and development tiles, wood resources, and wood disks to make actions with. The phase marker is nice to use in its tall form. I only wish the year marker was wood instead of a cardboard circle, but it doesn’t get use much in play.

The Good:

  1. The design of determining first player is great, as a player who gets three yellow disks will likely be last next time, and the player who got stuck with two blacks will likely get what they want next time.
  2. When first learning the game, it seems like a complicated heavy Euro game. After reading the rules and understanding the icons and design of the boards, it became easy to learn and play. Im not saying this is a simple game, but the design and icons make it very easy to follow the gameplay and make it more pleasurable.
  3. The game adds a mechanic not seen in other games, where you have to plan your developments due to the random setup and to acquire developments depending on what other developments you currently have.
  4. If someone wants to jump to a better development, they have to pay the player who lets them do so. 
  5. There are ways to play the game without playing heavy on excavating coal, but you will need to plan accordingly with the help of development tiles.
  6. Planning is very necessary, as you will only be able to store the number of items that you have storage available for. 

The Bad:

  1. With only a certain number of developments included in the game, players will start to go after the ones they know they want over time, and the game will seem similar. There are variants that change the orientation of the development board, but either some will not be included or it will become really hard to get developments wanted or needed. Overall, replayability is low.
  2. Sometimes, water builds up with it raining and taking disks that are needed. There seems like there should be a better way to get rid of the pit water besides hoping the bucket is available on the development board.

Final Thoughts:

- It’s very important to study the development tiles and the order they are in. You won’t be able to buy all of them, and you will need to determine which ones help with your strategy.
- There really doesn’t seem to be a better starting position, as the game changes enough that you can pick up bonuses in certain seasons or plan what moves you would like to do next season, since you knowing three disks that will be available.
- It’s important to know that the yellow disks and food are very valuable during the last year, as you can use them to do more actions
- Coins are very hard to get but are needed to pay leases for the second and third years.
- You score more points by being the first to buy a development tile from each row. It also might benefit you to pay another player a resource to jump them and develop further down.
- Remember, wood is awesome because you can use it immediately.

The game is wonderful, and I very much enjoy playing it. It worked well with both two and four players. With four players, all tiles will be on the board, whereas the available tiles are random with two players. Using a variant rule, you can add the effect of a tile that isn’t in the game for both players to have, which can help jump-start the game.

Players Who Like:

I would recommend this game to those who enjoy mid-heavy Euro games.

Check out Haspelknecht on:


About the Author:
Brody Sheard played board games with his large family growing up. He continues his love of games by teaching his family, local gaming guild, and friends about new and exciting games. Brody believes that board gaming keeps your mind healthy while also having fun interacting with others.
Haspelknecht Review Haspelknecht Review Reviewed by Brody on February 19, 2018 Rating: 5

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