Neuland: First Impressions

Neuland Box Art

Game Info

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Year Published: 2004

Number of Players: 2 to 4

Play Time: 60-120 minutes (and up)

Set-up Time: About 20 minutes

Learning Curve: High

Ages: 14 and up

Table Size: Large

Review

Neuland is a Civilization-style board game from Z-Man Games, originally published in 2004.  We picked up the game a couple of months ago and recently cracked it open for our first session.  Despite experiencing a bit of burn-out from the amount of time we spent on the game, we enjoyed our initial run.

The contents of the box might be a bit overwhelming to people who aren’t used to these large-scale, German board games.  Included in the package are:

10 Hexagon boards (9 are double hexes)
1 Timeline board
2 Building repository boards
4 Player boards
32 Wooden workers
1 Time marker
1 Cloth bag
72 Coat of arms tiles
57 Building tiles
4 Wheelbarrow tiles
21 Mineral tokens
4 Wood tokens
4 Food tokens
4 Metal tokens
Rules

As you can see, this is no small operation.  Be prepared for a long night of board gaming, especially if its your first time playing.  The game has a listed play time of 90 – 120 minutes (for 2-4 players) but if you’re new to the rules andpicking up from scratch, be prepared to spend between 4 and 6 hours for your first play through.  My first play was with 2 people and it took us 5-1/2 hours, which is on the high end of the scale and could probably have taken less time iwth a bit more focus.  Much of the excess time was spent on rules discussion, since the game can seem complicated at first.

To be fair, once we got the hang of the game it actually flowed pretty smoothly.  I can see how a game might be finished in 90 – 120 minutes if you know what you’re doing (i.e. by the time you’re on your 2nd or 3rd game).  Unlike some games, there is a definite goal to achieve vicotry: be the first person to place all of yoru “coat of arms” tiles on the board.  Since there is no way to lose these tiles once they have been placed, it helps to ensure that gameplay doesn’t continue on forever.

Placing your coat of arms tiles requires you to first build an appropriate building, like a Church, Castle, or Academy, andthen spend the appropriate resources to claim the property.  Resources are depicted as various objects typical of this sort of building game: food, wood, metal, coal, textiles, etc.  In order to gain these resources, you have to build the appropriate manufacturing facilities: farms, mines, smelters, coinmakers, and so forth.  The core mechanic is actually broken down pretty simply: Item A is needed to make Item B and Item C.  Combine items B and C to make item D.  use item D to claim a building and place your coat of arms tiles.

The catch with Neuland is that the number of actions you get in a single round is not static.  There is a time piece that moves around the time board.  At the end of a player’s turn, the piece moves clockwise and ends on the nearest player.  Each player can choose the number of actions to take in a  given round, between 1 and 10 actions.  The more you take, the further away from the time piece you move.  If you choose not to take very many actions in a turn, it is possible to get two turns in a row (by ending your turn nearer to the time piece than any other player).  This has strategic advantages and disadvantages, which do make the game interesting.

Neuland is a complex game with a lot of small parts — both from a rules perspective and a game pieces perspective. Fans of strategy and civilization-building games will enjoy its action time mechanic, but casual players who want a light-hearted or fast-play exerience should look elsewhere.

Rating

3.5 / 5 stars     

About Jacob Wood

Jacob founded Accessible Games because he wants to spread the joy of gaming to everyone, including people with disabilities. He is visually impaired and knows what it's like to need to adapt, and he brings two decades of gaming experience to the table.
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