China, 2000 years ago, farmers assemble at The Gates of Loyang to sell and trade their harvested vegetables. Regular customers come back to purchase from you again and shoppers just passing by might buy whatever you are selling. You can plant more vegetables in your field to increase your harvest, you can trade and you can buy vegetables. You also have some able-bodied helpers that can you help you in your vegetables farming/selling endeavour. The Path of Prosperity represents your status as a successful farmer.
At The Gates of Loyang is a one to four player card drafting and set collection game from Uwe Rosenburg and published by Tasty Minstrel Games. As with many Uwe games Loyang has a strong farming theme/mechanism cantered around its core gameplay.
In Loyang you are a farmer planting various goods in your fields and selling them to future customers to gain money and work your way up the prosperity track. Fields, customers, helpers and market stalls are represented by cards and players receive two of these each round. Players will draft these cards, plant vegetables, fulfil the customer's requirements and gain money.
Set-up is quick and straight forward. Each player receives their player board, 10 money, one home field, a scoring marker, a storehouse/cart, vegetables in their shop and eight private fields. Each player decides which of the vegetables they want to sow, takes it from their shop (paying its costs) and plants into their field filling up the field with the same vegetable from the supply.
At The Gates of Loyang lasts nine rounds and each round consists of three phases.
1) Harvest Phase
In the harvest phase each player turns over the top card from their private field deck. The fields range in size and the types of that can be sown in them. Each player has the same fields in their deck, but they will come out in a different order.
Each player then harvests one vegetable from each of their fields and places it in their cart. Once the last vegetable has been removed from a private field it is removed from the game.
2) Card Phase
At the start of this phase the discard pile and the draw pile are shuffled together to create a new draw pile.
Each player receives four action cards. Each player then does one of two things. They can either place one card from their hand in to the supply (called the courtyard) or take one card from the courtyard and one card from their hand. Once a player has taken a card from courtyard and one from their hand their remaining cards are placed in the courtyard and the player takes no further action in this phase. Each player will continue to either place cards or take two cards until everyone ends up with two cards in their hand.
In a two-player game the active player may decide to reveal the top action card from the deck and place it in the courtyard.
All players will now place the two cards into the relevant areas of their player board paying for the costs of fields, adding vegetables to any market stalls and placing a satisfaction token on regular customers.
The last player to take two cards during this phase becomes the starting player.
At The Gates of Loyang - Front Cover Artwork (Credit: Tasty Minstrel Games)
3) Action Phase
In the action phase a player may take actions in any order, any number of times. This is apart from the "Buy a two-pack action" which can only be taken once. The following actions are available:
- Sow vegetables.
- Buy vegetables from the shop.
- Sell vegetables to the shop.
- Trade vegetables at a market stall.
- Play or discard a helper.
- Deliver to regular customers.
- Deliver to casual customers.
- Buy a two pack (once per turn).
At the end of the turn players move left over vegetables from their cart to their storehouse. The storehouse can hold one vegetable to begin with but can be upgraded to hold four. Players can also pay one money to move their scoring marker one space. If a player wants to move another space, they pay money equal to the value of the space they are moving on to.
At any point a player can take a loan of five coins if they need to. Loans can't be paid off and count as one step backwards on the prosperity track.
At the end of the ninth round the player whose scoring marker is furthest along on the prosperity track is the winner.
Final Thoughts on At The Gates Of Loyang
At The Gates of Loyang is 10-years-old now. However, it feels familiar and fresh. It has the Uwe Rosenburg farming feel to it and it still feels like it could have been released last year. The game is super tight with there usually only being a point or two in it. Every action that you perform, every card that you lay and every vegetable that you plant feels tight and agonising, but in a good way. Money is also tight and you are constantly trying to grab one or two extra so that you can move the one extra space on the prosperity track.
The card phase has a push your luck/bluffing feel to it, especially when you get two cards in your hand that you want. To be able to get both of them you have to play one into the courtyard and hope that your opponent doesn't pick it up. You feel the tension when you place the card or the card you want comes out of the stack. You just hope that it is still there when it comes to your turn.
The helpers are very useful and can change your game plan based on their abilities. They can get you out of bind or help you get the extra money or vegetable that you might need to complete a regular customer and the choice of which cards to take is a hard one.
I think The Gates Of Loyang has "aged" very well and can go toe to toe with modern day releases. It is super tight, every decision matters, and you have a limited amount of actions and time available to you. You must plan effectively and use the card drafting phase wisely. One wrong move or misstep can set you back. But this tightness and limitations of actions is what makes this game so enjoyable for me.