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Games often grab your attention with their looks, be this the actual artwork or graphic design. We might not be bird watchers, but we can appreciate how good the art is in Wingspan. Villagers is a game that created an incredible amount of hype and had an incredible run on Kickstarter. It didn’t hurt that designer Haakon Gaarder also created some excellent character art and graphic…
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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Fast turns and only takes 30-45 mins total
  • Beautiful art and graphic design
  • Constantly engaging

Might Not Like

  • Low player interaction
  • Some randomness in the card draws
  • Potentially limited replayability
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Games often grab your attention with their looks, be this the actual artwork or graphic design. We might not be bird watchers, but we can appreciate how good the art is in Wingspan. Villagers is a game that created an incredible amount of hype and had an incredible run on Kickstarter. It didn’t hurt that designer Haakon Gaarder also created some excellent character art and graphic design on a stark white background.

Thankfully, Villagers has the gameplay chops to back up the great look. Like Wingspan some of the hype surrounding the game may have given the impression that it is more complex than in reality, but in the case of Villagers there is more than enough depth here. The game is a card drafting and engine/tableau building game where you are trying to rebuild after a plague. Cards representing refugees are placed in a central row called ‘The Road’ each round you will draft as many of these potential villagers as you can feed (indicated through clear iconography, with a maximum of five). Then you will build your village.

Building requires you to have enough building icons (again a minimum of two and max of five) and sometimes to unlock cards. If you have the unlocking card they will earn money from the bank, if another player has the unlocking card you will have to pay that card, otherwise you pay the bank. This is a key factor as if you snag a blacksmith early, that card can earn a lot of money and money wins the game.

To help make sure no-one gets left behind there are ‘basic’ cards that are pretty much always available and can be built ignoring the restriction. These cards are often the founding card of villagers cool ‘stacks’. Each card will be part of a chain or sequence. There are often multiple ways to chain these stacks, but you always must do so in the right order. This may sound confusing, but it is all laid out clearly on the cards.

Villagers is a great card game with a lot of content in the box. The game is easy to play but does need some decision making. The drafting and tableau building work really well and it’s easy to see why the game got so much hype.

Player Count: 1-5
Time: 30-60 Minutes
Age: 10+


Villagers is a card-drafting, tableau-building game for 2-5 players. You play as the founders of a new village during the middle-ages. Over the course of the game you will be selecting new villagers to join you. You’ll be building upon the skills of those currently in your village to make sure you’re increasingly prosperous as the game progresses. 


You’ll start the game with a hand of five random villagers from the deck, these will come from a variety of professions which are categorised by the types of materials they use; for example you’ll have ‘ore’ villagers, ‘wood’ villagers, ‘hay’ villagers, and so on…

The game will also begin with the ‘road’ which is a row of six villager cards in the middle of the table, and 6 stacks of cards which will work as the timer for the game. Each stack contains a number of villager cards equal to twice the number of players, and whenever a card is taken from the road, it is replaced with the top card in the left-most stack.

Each round of villagers consists of a draft phase, and a build phase. During the draft phase players will take turns selecting villagers from the road until they have taken two. Plus an extra one for each food symbol they have. During the build phase players may play two villagers from their hand, plus an additional one for each house symbol they have. After the second of the six stacks is depleted there will be a first scoring phase. After all six stacks are gone there’ll be final scoring and whoever has the most gold wins. The powers villagers have can largely be split into four types. Cards which provide gold (points) in both of the scoring rounds. Cards which provide gold in the final scoring round. Aswell as cards which give you food or house symbols. And, finally,  ‘special’ villagers which have a variety of different effects. 

Gameplay Thoughts:

One of the most interesting aspects of villagers is the way in which you play the villager cards into your tableau. Most of the villagers in the deck are part of a ‘chain’ of villagers. This means that the most powerful cards can only be played if they are covering up the cards which precede them, for example the Jeweller can only be played on top of a Spelunker, which can only be played on top of a Prospector, which can only be played on top of a Miner. Most of these chains begin with basic villagers which you can acquire for bonus actions in the building phase, but this does mean that in order the play the best cards you’ll need to make some highly strategic choices in what you choose to draft from the road. 

One of the strongest points of this game is that is plays relatively quickly, with most games running at around 30-45 minutes, and you’re constantly engaged during that time. The turns are lightning fast, and there’s always good cards you’ll want to draft. Importantly, you’ll really feel like you’re achieving something during the rounds of this game, as you build up your chains towards your strongest villagers, and expand your tableau to include a wide-range of gold-collecting powers. And as there are only two scoring rounds in the game, it’s over fairly quickly but still feels like the game has reached its natural conclusion. 

As this is mostly a game about building out your personal village, player interaction in this game is fairly low. There are two main ways in which players in the game interact. Through the common set of cards you’re drafting from. Or through some card which have ‘padlocks’ which may require you to give money to other players in order to play them. If you like games in which you’re mostly working on your own little area and there’s nothing that your opponents can do to mess that up, then this game is definitely going to appeal to you. 

Credit to – Sinister Fish Games


Out of the box there isn’t a huge amount of replayability. After a few games you’ll have likely seen all of the villagers which the game has to offer. That’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds though.  In Villagers, having familiarity with the cards makes it much easier to discern which strategies you want to employ. Of which there are several which all seem very well-balanced. Also, I’ve brought this to the table many times since I purchased it. I’ve enjoyed each game as much as the last. Since this a card game with a relatively low cost, you should definitely get a good number of plays for your money.

Artwork & Components:

Another great aspect of this game is the cards themselves. The artwork is very clean and colourful, with a charming simplicity to the villagers. Perhaps more importantly, the graphic design is perfect. It’s very clear what each card does and which rules relate to it. This helps keep the gameplay nice and smooth, especially for teaching. The game also comes with cardboard coins to keep track of your gold scoring and some nice separators. All in a compact box

Final Thoughts:

Villagers really feels like it does something different from all the other cards games I’ve played. Its strongest points are that it’s fast, engaging, and looks great; which are three things I’m always looking for in a card game. It’s also easy enough that it can be played by less experienced gamers. However it still has some interesting decisions about which cards to draft and play. As a bonus, it also scales really well from 2 to 5 players. This is particularly due to the extra professions types you add into the deck for 4 or 5, although I think I like it best at 3 players. If you’re after a new, affordable, strategic card game then I definitely recommend this one. 

Villagers is a compact card drafting game that has a good amount of depth. Whilst it’s simple in theory, there are lots of ways to optimise your villagers, create synergy and get the most points. The villager chains are by far the best part of the game and when you can finally place your optimum villager, it’s a great feeling. Villagers has a nice solo mode too that’s a nice introduction to the game (which can feel a bit overwhelming to learn) and contains all the key components.

Humble Beginnings

I love games that create special components for solo play and Villagers is one of these games. You will be playing against The Countess, a royal relic holding on to the last remnants of the feudal era. There are two decks of event cards that The Countess will play every round (first from Summer then Winter) to hamper your village. This includes making you pay her money and stealing your villagers (which really isn’t cool and she won’t accept a basic villager). You also have a Joker card which is a one-time use card that lets you discard one of the Countess’ events when it’s revealed.

Otherwise the game proceeds as a multiplayer one, you set up the road that you can draft from. You replace those drafted cards from the row above it until the first and second market cards are revealed and you get a payout each time. After the second market phase, the game ends and whoever has the most money wins.

As it goes with the multiplayer game, after drafting you can build your village and create villager chains (e.g. Miner + Seeker + Spelunker + Jeweller) and you often need certain villagers to unlock others.

You can draft from the road, the row above the road or replace someone in your hand for a basic villager. At the end of drafting you have the option of placing a coin on a villager on the road and everyone else gets cleared and replaced from the main deck. The Countess doesn’t take this action. But it lets you save a villager for the future, and the coin won’t be discarded so they can indefinitely stay (though if the Countess gets the villager, she’ll also get the money).

The key difference in the solo game are the event cards and every draft the Countess adds someone to her village (ignoring chaining rules and padlocks). Depending on the gold value of the villager she drafted, she plays at least one event card (up to 3 if you reveal a villager with a gold value of 10). This is where things begin to snowball cause the events are pretty impactful and you end up giving a lot of stuff to her. Since she scores for all her villagers, perhaps it’s a good thing that you can choose a bad card for her. But generally I prefer when the Automa has criteria for how you choose their actions.

You should make sure you have a lot of space cause your village and the Countess’ village will end up spreading across the table. It’s nice that you still get to build your village as normal, drafting and building based on how much food and housing icons you have. Like in a multiplayer game, it’s great when you get your chains going and you finally get that villager that unlocks like 10 people. If you need a villager that the Countess has you have to pay her to use them. Otherwise you get the money if you have the villager.

You continue each round drafting and building until you reach the second market on the top row. Hopefully by this point you have lots of solid chains and will be making key decisions about the most profitable chains (as you won’t be short on cards). The solitary villagers continue to be useful and another note is that you don’t use Special villagers in solo play. In the second market phase you score both silver and gold coin symbols and once it’s all said and done you compare scores with the Countess and see if you’ve defeated her (and she’s no slouch). If you want more of a challenge you can give Countess more money or have her draw lots of event cards each time (but really there’s no need for that).

A Tale Of Two Villages

Despite being quite a compact game, you need a lot of space for the solo mode. This isn’t necessarily bad but there can be a lot of cards on the table and it may be hard to keep track of. The core gameplay is the same as the multiplayer game, with the key components that make it fun, namely the chaining of villagers. You can manipulate solo Villagers more than most games given that you draft for the Countess and you get first pick of the villagers.

There’s lots of space to learn and improve at the game as you learn the villagers and find out which chains are the best. Especially near the end of the game when you have lots of options but you need to pick the best ones. Villagers is a very charming game, and the cartoonish villainy of the Countess is fun to play against. You will probably start itching for a multiplayer game eventually (you can’t really replicate the competition for certain villagers), but it’s definitely a very serviceable solo version of the game.

Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Fast turns and only takes 30-45 mins total
  • Beautiful art and graphic design
  • Constantly engaging

Might not like

  • Low player interaction
  • Some randomness in the card draws
  • Potentially limited replayability