Quick Look: Villagers of the Oak Dell
Designers: Przemyslaw Fornal and Michal Lopato
Publisher: Two Acorns Games
Year Published: 2023
Villagers of The Oak Dell is a dynamic euro-style roll-and-write game in which players embark on the development of a new village. By constructing roads and structures, expanding the population, and mining precious resources, players compete to create the most magnificent settlement. Be cautious, though, as lurking marauders can strike your village at any unpredictable moment!
The game lasts for twelve rounds. At the start of each round, one of the players rolls four dice and then assigns them to specific sections on a special Dice Sheet with symbols. If any sword symbols are rolled (representing marauder attacks), all players mark them on their sheet. If players don’t recruit knights by the end of the game, these swords will result in negative points.
Afterward, players simultaneously and independently choose one die each, and after placing their pawn next to it, they use the resources indicated by the die on their Village Sheet. Each die can be chosen by any number of players. Unless the sword symbol is rolled, the die provides two resources, the first from the outer circle and the second from the inner circle on the Dice Sheet.
Throughout the game, players have opportunities to acquire additional resources by constructing buildings, finding resources in the mine, etc. Every few rounds, special actions are triggered for certain buildings (with red flags).
After twelve rounds, players tally their points, which are earned by building structures, gathering resources in the warehouse and achieving other scoring conditions.
Note: This review is based on a pre-published set of rules and graphical layout and may not accurately reflect the final version of the game.
There are a number of Roll-and-Write games currently on the market, so any new game must distinguish itself from the others. Villagers of the Oak Dell does this very well. As with most Roll-and-Write games all players have the same set of choices, so it is what each players does with their choices that makes or breaks their play. Villagers of the Oak Dell is an excellent game for people who like strategy and engineering long chains of linked actions. There are enough options each round to accomplish goals in a variety of ways. The player who is most efficient at putting actions together is likely to be the winner.
The rules walk you through the actions of the game, from setup to starting a round to the various actions that may be taken. The rules include plenty of examples of game play in case the rules aren’t clear. Teaching the game is fairly easy once someone has an understanding of the flow of the game. Players should catch on easily, and once a player has the basics of the game down each round should get quicker. There are a number of ways to earn points, and one way to lose points, and the rules explains each of those during the end game scoring section. In addition, the rules provide a description of each of the various buildings and areas of the player’s board.
The set-up is simple and only takes a few minutes. Each player takes a Village play sheet. The Dice Sheet and the 4 dice are placed in the middle of the table. And draw 3 objective cards and place them face up next to the Dice Sheet. The game is ready to begin.
In Villagers of the Oak Dell you are trying to build the best village you can. Each round you will gain a number of items (Villager, Road, Wood, or Pick Axe) which you will then use to build the village. Villagers can become Knights or Castle Workers. The Road lets you connect to various points in your village to collect Flags or other items. The Wood lets you build structures or the Boarder Wall. The Pick Axe lets you mine resources. The players that best utilizes these items to build a well-built village will be the winner.
The mechanic of the game is standard to a Roll-and-Write. Each round 4 dice are rolled to determine the available play options. Each player picks which die they will use as the basis for their turn and completes actions based on the die. The game has an engine builder feel to it, although it isn’t really an engine builder rather it’s a resource optimization mechanic.
Villagers of the Oak Dell is played over 12 rounds. Each round players take actions based on the die they chose and the associated items on the Dice Sheet. Players use the items gained to mark off an associated item on their Player Sheet. Marking off items on the Player Sheet can give the player more items to use elsewhere on the sheet, thus chaining mark off actions. Some locations give immediate resources while other locations will give a player at particular points during play. At the end of each round it is determined if any player(s) have met the Objective Cards, the first 2 to do so for each objective earn points. A new round starts with the rolling of the dice and their assignment to their associated items. After the 12 rounds are complete, each player totals the points they’ve earned and the player with the most points is the winner.
It’s easy to get tripped up when designing a game with a number of elements that have to interact, but Villagers of the Oak Dell delivers on that. There are many elements to the game, and they all interact with each other in a balanced and well-conceived manner. No part of the game felt missed or left out.
The game balances being able to chain together actions so no one move feels like it gives a player an advantage. There isn’t one action choice that guarantees a winning move, and completing one area of the game board doesn’t give a player more points than any other area.
Some may have an issue with the large number of places to cross off on the Player Sheet. To some having that many items to look at and choose a path to play that will optimize their resource use may be daunting. And if they play with someone who is good at resource utilization, at some point they may feel left behind.
If this game is distributed as a Print-and-Play, some may have an issue with the greater detail of the graphics needed based on the number of locations that may be crossed off. Saving ink by printing a smaller Player Sheet may make some of the graphics too small for some players. Not saving ink means higher printing costs for a single game play.
Also, given the number of choices, some may suggest laminating the Player Sheet to use dry erase markers. While this could be an improvement, it also brings in problems with accidentally erasing existing marks.
I really enjoyed playing this game. Some Roll-and-Write games are designed well but only really have one path through the game or limited options. This game felt like a Choose Your Own Adventure. Each choice could take me in a new direction, and many times there were many paths to take and they all seemed equally exciting. It was a blast playing with my group and getting insights into what path they picked and why. Everyone really enjoyed the game.
I will definitely be keeping this game in my library for those times I want to play a meatier Roll-and-Write. You could use this game to start off a game night before heavier games, but this game will do just as well being in the main lineup of games. If you enjoy games with lots of possible actions and outcomes, you will like Villagers of the Oak Dell.
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I grew up loving to solve puzzles, play games, and have fun. In my younger years I had fun playing pencil games, enjoyed the creativity of playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, and generally hanging out with others. My favorite thing to do was to make puzzles of all kinds, mazes, word games, picture games, etc.
Sadly my career took me in a different direction, solving computer problems rather than gaming problems.
Gaming came back into my life, though, in a big way about 15 years ago, and I have held onto it since. I still enjoy designing games and have 9 published titles, which I did through my own game publishing company, Toresh Games, prior to the Covid pandemic. Sadly I was not able to sustain the company through the pandemic.
I highly encourage people to play games, make friends, and have fun. As a game enthusiast, I would love to see a return to games as the best social media platform for the masses.
All of Thomas Shepherd’s reviews can be found HERE.