PLAYlist 34: Reykholt | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, January 15th, 2021  

PLAYlist 34: Reykholt

Feb 15, 2019 By Austin Trunick Bookmark and Share

The prolific and ever-reliable Uwe Rosenberg is far and away one of our favorite game designers, and it's been that way ever since we fell in love with his industry-shaking Agricola when it was released over a decade ago. Rosenberg’s games have spanned a wide number of settings, from the historical (A Feast for Odin, At the Gates of Loyang) to the fantastical (the dwarven cave-farming simulator Caverna.) Most of his games involve some form of worker placement and/or spatial puzzling, though the more surface-level connection gamers will draw between them is the frequent presence of little wooden livestock and vegetables.  If you’ve ever traded a tiny, wooden sheath of wheat for a bread token or counted out carrot meeples, you were probably playing an Uwe Rosenberg game.

Reykholt is his newest release, published stateside by Renegade Game Studios. Set in modern-day Iceland, players will harness geothermal energy to grow a variety of vegetables which they’ll then deliver, direct-to-table, to eager foodie tourists. Though a worker placement and resource management game, the most important element of a Reykholt player’s strategy is timing. With only seven turns to get ahead of your opponents on the game’s score track, you don’t have time to build much of an economic engine. Thus, it’s important to make sure you have the right vegetables on hand exactly when you’re going to need them.

Each player is given three worker discs, and in turn will place one of them on an open action space on the board. (The board itself is double-sided, featuring different numbers of spaces so that the game will scale to the number of players at the table.) These actions typically involve taking vegetable tokens or greenhouse cards, or seeding and/or harvesting those greenhouses. Reykholt’s iconography is some of the best-conceived in a worker placement game, making it pretty easy to know what a space does just by looking at the pictures on it. A player will only make three choices per turn from a limited number of spots; because these spots are for the most part straight-forward, it makes Reykholt a rather speedy game to teach new players.

Once the actions are done, players will quickly harvest any seeded greenhouses in their play area. (Greenhouse cards have three-to-six spaces, and seeding them lets you trade a single veggie for a bunch of the same type from the supply; the catch is that you’ll only gain one of those from each card at the end of your turn, in most cases, making this a long-term investment.) After that, you’ll take turns trading in vegetables to move up the score track which runs around the board’s perimeter.

Each space on the score track displays a number of vegetables, and that’s the price you’ll have to pay to move your score token onto it. It’s simple enough: if a spot shows three tomatoes, you’d better have three tomatoes if you want to get there. (The numbers increase as you get higher up the board, but it's only ever a single veggie type.) Here’s the kicker, though: once per turn, at any point during scoring, you can skip paying for a spot, and instead gain the vegetables depicted on it. It’s the game’s quickest way to get a bunch of veggies at once, and if you time things right you can use those veggies to fund the next step of your strategy. Deciding when and where you’ll cash in each turn is an absolutely satisfying little puzzle on its own. We’ll go out on a limb and say that Reykholt’s scoring phase at the end of each turn is easily the most brilliant element of the game. (And really, how many other board games are there where you can describe the scoring phase as fun?)

These phases repeat themselves over seven rounds, at the end of which the player furthest around the tracker is declared the winner. Reykholt is a quick game for its type, and can be knocked out in 30 – 60 minutes depending on the number of people around the table and whether or not they've played before. Like many faster-moving games, it really lends itself to back-to-back repeat plays. Reykholt is also among the more accessible of Rosenberg’s games. If you’re a fan of his work but have a hard time conditioning friends to the stresses of feeding their families in Agricola, we’d enthusiastically steer you toward Reykholt.

Reykholt comes packed with five small decks of service cards, and five cards from any one of those will be used for each game. These provide players unique special abilities or allow them to take powerful, one-time actions. These are the only things that change from game to game, but do help extend Reykholt’s lifespan and keep sessions from feeling too same-y. There’s also a solo variant that turns Reykholt into an interesting solitaire puzzle, and a deck of cards which add a story mode to the game, peppering in new objectives and challenges.

Uwe Rosenberg followers will likely notice that, despite its similar themes, this game looks very different from what we usually associate with his releases. Artist Lukas Siegmon provides Reykolt’s lush, painted setting, and his style is far more realistic than the iconic board game art of Rosenberg’s longtime collaborator, Klemens Franz. This gives Reykholt a distinctive feel and, as much as we love Franz’s work, helps keep Reykholt from too easily blending into Rosenberg’s prior output.

Siegmon’s stellar artwork included, the production value in Reykholt is very strong. The wooden vegetables are colorful and eye-catching. (This is certainly the first time we’ve ever come across wooden cauliflower tokens.) There are cardboard crates to keep all of them in, which still fit inside the box when assembled. The greenhouse cards are oversized, with a nice finish. For a game that could easily have been made more cheaply and sold for the same price, it’s really nice to see no detail spared.

Reykholt is published by Renegade Game Studios and retails for $60.00.

We obviously had to turn to Iceland for inspiration when it came to our playlist for Reykholt. The Nordic island nation has long been a hotbed for musical innovation, famously birthing such modern-day alternative powerhouses as Bjork and Sigur Ros. With a scene that’s especially vibrant in pop, electronic music, and heavy metal, Icelandic acts are frequently breaking out abroad and earning international acclaim. (It’s sometimes easy to forget that the chart-topping indie-folk band Of Monsters and Men hail from Reykjavik.) For your perusal we’ve assembled an hour of new music from contemporary Icelandic artists – enjoy, and perhaps consider a layover in the country during your next flight to Europe. (Lucky for you, longtime UTR colleague Laura Studarus has just written a primer for acing just such a scenario over at CheapTickets.)


Previous PLAYlist columns: PandemicEverdellKingdomino, CitrusHistory of the World, Altiplano, Pioneer Days, Crystal Clans, Jurassic Park: Danger!, PhotosynthesisIce CoolFood Truck ChampionArs Alchimia & LemuriaA Game of Thrones CatanTroyesTwilight Imperium: Fourth EditionFlip ShipsNMBR 9UnearthEscape from 100 Million B.C., Orleans (plus Trade & Intrigue)Whistle StopCaverna: Cave vs CaveTwilight StruggleHonshuBärenpark, Notre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.


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Rebeca Milan
February 21st 2019

Delightful playlist. I downloaded it on my phone, and now during classes, I always listen to him. But no matter how good the playlist is, i need help with trigonometry anyway. It is necessary to finish with the university to start recording your music, which I have been dreaming about for a very long time.

February 22nd 2019

really interesting post

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