I have played Hunters and Gatherers hundreds of times and that is no exaggeration. I love this game. My all-time favourite board game and one I have already reviewed for Zatu. This isn’t a blog to explain the basics of the board game and teach you how to play. I’ll need to assume you already know the rules as I am going to explain my experiences of how to really play this game and give you a much better chance of winning at the end count. I do give an overview of gameplay in my review, so perhaps go back to that and read that blog before continuing here.
I’m not sure why I feel the need to give away my game secrets, I won’t be sharing them in my gaming circles. But if you are a fan of Hunters and Gatherers like me you will likely benefit from this. So, my views on the best chance of winning this game.
Complete The Forests
This should be your first objective when playing this version of the game. You must try and complete (laying the closing tile) as many forests as you can and gain as many of the 16 bonus tiles as possible. These bonus tiles are extra turns and usually have a better than average points value attached with them. Lots of fish, bigger animals to hunt, or another special rule. If you get the majority of these tiles, you will have had more turns with the prospect of higher scores. My experience, particularly in 2 player games, is that whoever gets the majority of the bonus tiles usually (but not always) comes out on top.
Combine Your River Network With Your Hunting Fields
Where forests present regular quick scores, this is your longer play for scoring at the end of the game. When I’m looking to place a hut, start a river network, I’m also looking for the potential to create a hunting field along side this. So, I’m looking to build river pieces that have animals on them for hunting. At some point I will lay that meeple on his side next to my river network with a hut in it. Subsequent pieces laid then will add fish to my final score there and animals to my final hunting score. As my river network builds I’m also playing meeples to have the quick scores on the fish network. This can create three avenues for scoring in the game making full use of every tiles potential when being included.
Never go too early though on this strategy in Hunters and Gatherers, ensure you have at least a couple of routes for your fish network to grow and space so your hunting field doesn’t get blocked off.
Block Your Opponents Meeples
I love Hunters and Gatherers for having far less meeples than the standard game. Only 5 to begin with. If you can successfully block in an opponents meeple so that they cannot score it, making it trapped, you have instantly knocked out 20% of their scoring potential which is big! You make it that much harder for them going forward and so this tactic can prove so useful.
Protect Your Own Meeples
You must take care of your own meeples. Like, I just said about blocking an opponents meeple in, try and ensure you do not allow yours to become trapped. Equally, you don’t want to play loads of Hunters early on in the game because you completely limit your opportunity for quick river and forest scoring and you need that scoreboard to be ticking over regularly. In other versions you can be a little cavalier but not in Hunters and Gatherers.
Merge & Steal Opposition Points
If your opponents are developing larger forests and rivers, it can be a great tactic to sneak in before they complete to share the points. If they have laid four or five tiles and you just laid one or two tiles to share the score you come out on top here as you haven’t used as many turns to achieve that score.
Furthermore, if your opponents have built up a large river network or hunting field. Merging in to this late on in a game can be devasting to their final outcome and highly prosperous for you. If you can merge another meeple or hut in to gain full control you are laughing and in a game with 3 or more players this can prove to be of huge advantage.
Always be aware of what others are doing as sometimes focusing just on your own game will not be useful or, critically, high scoring. Sharing other peoples scores can very much keep you on top and is one of Carcassonne’s best features.
These are my key strategies to winning Hunters and Gatherers. I cannot guarantee it will win you every game. Adopting some of these plays will significantly enhance your chances of taking the W. I hope you find them useful.