Alma Mater has players serving as a headmaster of one of the independent universities in the 15th century. Players seek to strengthen their school's reputation and standing. To achieve these goals, players need to recruit the best staff and students, exchange knowledge with other schools, and become experts in the school's four disciplines!
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There are some game designers that command immediate attention when they have a new game coming out. Such people are the Italian game design team known as Acchittocca, creators of the stand out mid-weight Euro-style games such as Lorenzo il Magnifico, Coimbra & Grand Austria Hotel. When the designers of those game put out something new, you really need to take note. Could Alma Mater be one of the big hits of 2020?
Alma Matter is a worker placement and card drafting game for 2-4 players with a player-controlled economy. It is themed around running your own university. Straight away the look and general feel of the game smacks of the excellent dice placement game, 2018's Coimbra. Due in no small part to the shared artist, Chris Quilliams.
During the game, you will be recruiting students and hiring professors into your university in order to gain victory points. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Alma Mater is somewhat of a point salad with lots of ways to get points as you gain new cards and access and use actions on both your personal player board and the central board. Filling up your tableau will give you more instant and ongoing ways to access resources and points.
When set out in front of you Alma Mater is a little on the intimidating side. With a central action board for placing your “master” meeples, a host of student and professor cards to recruit and use, various tracks, piles of little plastic books, and a lot of iconography. But, if its predecessor Coimbra is anything to go by then a quick practice round will get everyone up to speed on what they can do and when.
During a turn the player can place a “master” meeple on a board space to take an action or spend a professors action. Actions include options such as recruiting students, taking income, gaining textbooks or hiring new professors.
One of the unique aspects of Alma Mater is the economy. Players gain an income based on the number of books on their shelf. Also, as the game plays out you will need access to a range of books to recruit professors and students. The price you have to pay for those books can be affected by the other players.
Say if you are the red player, you could use red books to set the price for a professor. That means if your opponents want to hire that professor they will have to buy more red books form you giving you both money and victory points.
At first glance, Alma Mater appears to have a lot of moving parts. But these designers have a track record of creating relatively easy to follow Euro-style games. The book based economy is unique and the theme stands out from the more common “Trading in the Mediterranean” or Farming themes common-place in Euros. Alma Mater may just have the potential to graduate top of it's class in 2020.
Pre-orders are open now.