Uwe Rosenberg, one of the most well known designers of board games, has been at it again with his new game Hallertau. Published by Lookout Games we bought this game at the same time as we picked up another game from Uwe you may have heard of, A Feast for Odin.
What we were surprised was that the box was almost as heavy as the mighty 7 pound box that is A Feast for Odin. At nearly 6 pounds of game contents, Hallertau is no light weight game. Weight of the game boxes isn’t the only thing that makes these heavy games. There is a complexity of the rules and game interactions that are common to Uwe Rosenberg designed games.
However, is this really a masterpiece game? Let’s dig into the game and find out!
- Players: 1-4
- Playtime (with Setup): we find it around 90-180 minutes
- Publisher: Lookout Games
- Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
There’s A Story to Be Told
As with many Rosenberg games, there is a historical basis for the theme of the game. The Hallertau is an area of Bavaria, Germany that took off in the growth and production of hops. In today’s world, the region boasts of being the largest continuous hop planting area in the world.
The game is set around 1850 when the area was really starting to take off. You play as the leader of a small village in the Hallertau tasked with overseeing the growth, wealth, and prestige of your village over the course of the game.
Throughout the game, you will make key decisions on what crops are planted, how the crops are rotated in the fields, managing flocks of sheep, and growing your town center. This interaction with the game and the growth of your village become the focal point for this game.
A Heavy Box Full of Components
At almost six pounds, there is a lot of cardboard in this box. Most of the box is full of punch boards. The punch boards were easy to punch and really good quality. After a bit of time with just punching out all of those components we were pretty happy with the quality and care in the packaging.
The cards are pretty much what you would expect from a game like this. Generally good quality material. Most of the focus is on getting the message of what the cards are for and less on fancy art. Still, the cards match the feel of the other components of the game very well. If you are looking for flashy art of villagers working fields, making beer, and working at buildings that’s not what you will get in this box. Rather, straight forward clean art that clearly conveys what you the card does.
The wooden tokens are of various shapes and colors. They are nice for wooden components and certainly better than bland colored cubes. However, they are relatively basic in nature. Like the rest of the components that are in this game expect them to be nice, but don’t expect these to set any records for component quality.
The game plays over 6 turns. Each turn is broken into 10 phases. This may seem like a lot, but in reality most of the game is actually just the two phases in a turn. The rest of the phases are the various set up/clean up steps to get you to those phases and advance the turn.
In addition to all of the game phases, there are a number of cards that you will acquire during the game. These cards, for the most part, can be played whenever you meet the condition or are willing to spend the cost. These range from providing additional resources, creating income generation, and scoring end game victory points. There’s a careful balance that you need to strike with the cards you draw and play and the other aspects of the game.
Game Phases and Play
I feel it’s necessary with this game to break down the actual game play. The game turn breaks down to 10 phases. They give you a great player aid to help guide you through the phases each round once you know the iconography.
Most of the phases are there to guide you through the set up/maintenance of the game state. The first three phases are exactly this. Phase 1 you clean up workers from the main game board. Phase 2 you take a farmyard card off of your stable board and collect your workers for the round. Phase 3 if you have any income cards you will collect that income now.
This moves us to phase 4 where we have one of the biggest phases. During this phase you will select one of the action spaces on the main game board. There are three places to place workers on each action spot that increase in quantity of required workers from 1 on the bottom row to 3 on the top row. Once you place your workers you execute the action on that spot, typically collecting resources.
You’ll move onto another round of game state management tasks. Phase 5 you will take the farmyard card that is face down in your play area into your hand. Phase 6 any of your empty fields will increase their efficiency. Phase 7 you will harvest any planted crops and decrease the efficiency of that field. Phase 8 you collect milk for each of your sheep.
All of these game state phases lead up to phase 9 where the next big set of decisions need to happen. On your board with your townhouse you will have 6 craft buildings that need to be moved to the right. When you move all 6 of these craft buildings so that there is a gap between them and the townhouse will slide over. This will unlock more workers for the next round and potentially points! Moving these craft buildings will cost you resources and it’s a careful balance between all of those actions you want to take, cards you want to play, and moving these craft buildings that is the substance of the game.
There’s one final phase where you reset your boulders on your player board and move on to the next turn.
Immersion Into the Theme
To be honest, during game play I just don’t feel like I am running a small village or part of the narrative that the game tries to theme itself around. I find myself pushing bits of wood, collecting cards, and straining over whether the next action I should take sheep or if I should sow some fields.
While the game lacks that deep immersive feel. I do really enjoy the game play. There are mechanisms that if you have played other Rosenberg games then you will have seen them before. However, in this game they all flow together into a smooth, enjoyable game that you can really dig your teeth into.
This game sits as a solid 8 for me on BoardGameGeek. Not only is the box heavy and satisfying when you buy it, but the game has plenty of complexity and depth to see it come back to the table and challenge you and your friends.
If you like worker placement games like this one them make sure you check out Architects of the West Kingdom.