Glen More II: Chronicles is a sequel to Glen More, expanding the gameplay substantially compared to the original game.
In Glen More II: Chronicles, each player represents the leader of a Scottish clan from the early medieval ages until the 19th century, a leader looking to expand their territory and wealth. The success of your clan depends on your ability to make the right decision at the right time, be it by creating a new pasture for your livestock, growing barley for whisky production, selling your goods on the various markets, or gaining control of special landmarks such as lochs and castles.
The game lasts four rounds, represented by four stacks of tiles. After each round, a scoring phase takes place in which players compare their number of whisky casks, scotsmen in the home castle, landmark cards, and persons against the player with the fewest items in each category and receives victory points (VPs) based on the relative difference. After four rounds, additional VPs are awarded for gold coins and some landmarks while VP penalties are assessed based on territory size, comparing each player's territory to the smallest one in play.
The core mechanism of Glen More II: Chronicles and Glen More functions the same way: The last player in line takes a tile from a time track, advancing as far as they wish on this track. After paying the cost, they place this tile in their territory, with this tile activating itself and all neighboring tiles, triggering the production of resources, movement points, VPs, etc. Then the player who is last in line takes their turn.
Improvements over the original Glen More include bigger tiles, better materials, new artwork, the ability for each player to control the end of the game, and balancing adjustments to the tiles for a better suspense curve. The game is designed to consist of one-third known systems, one-third new mechanisms, and one-third improvements to Glen More.
The "Chronicles" in the title a set of eight expansions to the base game are a major part of these new mechanisms. Each Chronicle adds a new gameplay element to the base game. The "Highland Boat Race" Chronicle, for example, tells the story of a boat race in which the winner needs to be the first to reach their home castle after navigating their boat along the river through all the other players' territories. The "Hammer of the Scots" Chronicle adds a neutral "Englishman" playing piece to the time track that players struggle to control to get an additional turn if they can afford him, that is, as he is paid using the market mechanism. All Chronicles can be freely combined, although designer Matthias Cramer suggests that players use only one or two unless they want a "monster game".
Another major change to the game is the ability to invest in famous Scottish people of the time, who are represented through a new "person" tile type. Persons not only have their own scoring, they also trigger one-time or ongoing effects on the tactical clan board. This adds a new layer of decision making, especially since the ongoing effects allow players to focus on a personal strategy of winning through the use of the clan board.
When a classic game is republished, all eyes are on the new version, to see if the gameplay has been sufficiently developed to make a new version worthwhile. This new version of Matthias Cramer’s Glen More contains much of the core feel of the original game, but does it add enough to make it worth replacing? Furthermore, does the game stand up to the test of time?
At its core, Glen More II is a tile laying game. Tiles are drafted from a rondel, and may be either territory tiles or person tiles.
Territory tiles are placed in the player’s play area, or clan territory, according to a number of placement rules. When a tile is placed, it “activates” (usually producing goods, or whisky casks, or trading goods for points), as well as triggering all adjacent tiles to activate.
If the tile which is drafted in a person tile, this is set aside, and used in scoring later, whilst giving the player the opportunity to place a marker on the Clan Board. This gives an immediate benefit, such as additional resources, scoring, or tile activation.
Intermediate scoring takes place at three points during the game, as well as at the game end. This is based on the number of specific tile types (such as person tiles) collected, and on the number of whisky casks the player has, compared with the player who has fewest of each. At the end of the game, the intermediate scoring is repeated, but each player is also penalised for having a larger territory than the player with the smallest territory; nobody wants the highlands overrun!!
Players start with a home tile, which contains both a castle and a village space, and have a scotsman meeple placed on their starting village. Each turn, a player drafts a tile from the rondel. Some tiles have a cost to draft and built, though the majority of tiles are free. There are two main types of tiles which appear on the rondel – territory tiles and person tiles.
Territory tiles are placed alongside the player’s starting tile. Some tiles feature a river – these must always be placed so that the river on the tiles is continuous. Other tiles can be placed elsewhere in the clan territory. The only caveat to this is that all tiles must be placed adjacent (orthogonally or diagonally) to a clan meeple.
Territory tiles all have a “type” – this either indicates which type of good they produce, or that they are a whisky distillery, or a market place/trading tile. Some tiles also provide additional scotsmen meeples, which makes future tile placement easier, and may impact on intermediate scoring. Some territory tiles also feature a landmark, which allow the player to collect a landmark card; these have several possible features, such as an immediate bonus, or ongoing benefits.
There are also overbuild tiles. These can be placed on top of other tiles of the same type – usually with a similar, but better, effect.
Person tiles have no direct bearing on the player’s clan territory. When a player collects a person tile, it is not placed in the territory; instead it is set to one side. Each person tile allows a player to place one of their own clan markers on the clan board. This usually gives an immediate benefit such as additional resources, or additional scotsmen meeples, although some give an immediate scoring bonus. Each clan board bonus can only be claimed once, so it can be a race to claim some of the most beneficial people tiles before other players.
When a territory tile is placed, it activates – and all adjacent tiles activate, in the order that the player chooses. Typically, activation means that the tile produces a good. Some tiles process grain into whisky (which means it can be prudent to place these next to a tile which produces grain). Other tiles award victory points in exchange for a specific selection of goods. And one final activation type permits the player to move scotsmen on their territory. This can be vital in making sure that there are scotsmen meeples on the tiles around the edges of their territory. It can also be a beneficial action when it comes to intermediate scoring.
If a player has a need of a particular resource in order to build a specific tile, they may be able to buy that resource from the marketplace, if there is one available. Equally, resources can be sold to the market place. Managing resources can be key to the game, especially as they can give points from specific tiles, when they are activated. The marketplace is a simple, but effective mechanism which simulates supply and demand.
There are four main measures used for intermediate scoring: scotsmen on castle tiles (so it pays to move your scotsmen onto the right tiles, as well as to the edge of your territory), whisky kegs, person tiles and landmark cards. For each of the four, all players compare the number of that item that they have; they score positively, according to how many more they have of that item compared to the player who has the fewest. So whilst you may not be worried about not scoring whisky kegs, because you are prioritising other collectibles, you are at risk of allowing another player to have a runaway score, if you don’t have any.
End of the Game
There is an end game tile which triggers the end of the game, once all players have passed it on the rondel. At this point, there is a fourth and final intermediate scoring, which is followed by a final territory size penalty scoring. All players compare the size of their territory. For each tile which a player has that is larger than the smallest territory, they are penalised three points. Allowing your territory to take over the entirety of the highlands is not a good thing.
Changes compared with Glen More
Whilst there are a few tweaks to the gameplay, when compared with the first version of Glen More, there are two things which stand out as being substantially different. Firstly, the clan board, which gives additional one off bonuses, is new to the game.
However, the biggest difference is the introduction of the Chronicles. These are small expansions, which can affect gameplay – some more substantially than others. But these alone give the game a lot more replayability.
I first played Glen More (the first edition) a few years ago. It was ok… nothing special, but ok. It was one of the first games that I saw using a rondel as the main focus of game activity. It didn’t feel like there was enough of a game there to make it interesting enough.
This second implementation, however, changes that. There are sufficient developments compared with the first edition to make it more interesting – the introduction of the clan board adds an extra depth to decision making. But the chronicles provide sufficient new options that the game now has a lot more variability, some very small tweaks, some of them more substantial, and increasing the game duration. The only complaint I have about Glen More II: Chronicles is the size of the box – it is enormous. This is something to bear in mind.