Today it’s time to address a designer who many are surprised we haven’t covered yet. He features on many a board game reviewers top designer lists, and has a huge number of titles to his name, perhaps helped by not one, but two publishers which have his name listed on their founders, Lookout Games and Feuerland Spiele. Perhaps his best known game, Bohnanza, doesn’t feature on our list, but this statistician turned his hand to game design very early on. Today, of course, he’s known for his farming games, full of cards and economics mixed in. Let’s turn the spotlight on Uwe Rosenburg.
Hallertau – Luke Pickles
I’ve played a few Uwe games in my time, nine I think at last count. A couple of the small puzzle-y games, like Patchwork, Nova Luna and Sagani, and a couple of the big box games like A Feast for Odin, Agricola and Nusfjord. And for such a prolific designer, with 258 listings on Board Game Geek (including expansions and promos, but still!), there was a surprisingly high miss rate for me personally. It wasn’t that I hated them, (well some of them, at least) they just never grabbed me particularly firmly.
Until I came across a playthrough video of Hallertau and I think I found the Uwe game for me. In Hallertau, you are building a community, through farming and trading resources. A classic Uwe worker placement game, you’ll take turns choosing an action, provided you have enough workers to take it. Then you’ll trade in the resources to move the various buildings along to bolster the community, gain workers and a lot of points.
What makes this game special is the interaction with the four decks of cards. Some give you quick wins of resources, some let you trade resources for others, some give you big end game points and others still allow you to gain some kind of income during one of the ten phases. Key timing is crucial to getting the community centre all the way to the end of the track, which you definitely want to do. There’s too many points there for you to ignore the community.
I really loved how this game feels to play. I get to watch as my choices build up and I get a satisfying return on the investment. There’s no negative points to deal with, no feeding of people… are we sure this is an Uwe game?
Uwe, Uwe, Uwe, where would we be without our Uwe. He has made so many games I adore and Le Havre is one of my favourites. It takes a very simple set of rules and crams them with choice and strategy. If you have played any of Uwe’s Euro style games you know what to expect, feed your people, gather resources, build stuff and all that Jazz. Le Havre does do it slightly differently though and especially at low player counts, is a jolly good time.
In Le Havre, you are together as players managing the building and usage of various buildings and collecting piles of goods around the harbour. Your turn is simple, either collect one of the piles of goods on offer or use a building. These buildings, which are built and purchased by the players, offer a plethora of services and can really change the flow of the game. You only have one worker too so the game does feel different and blocking each other does become a real thing. You may also need to pay to use other peoples buildings, which can influence your decisions massively.
As you build buildings and gather goods, you eventually, when the building appears, want to start shipping off goods for big cash sums. You can build ships, which also reduce your feeding costs, by either buying them or building them. Then, it's how you use the various buildings together to make the best good and therefore, bring in the most cash.
Le Havre feels distinctly different to Uwes other games, in both the game flow and the mechanisms. The variable setups and massive amounts of special buildings really give each game a different feel and how you manipulate all these levers and switches to make the most money really tickles my Euro fancy. Go Uwe!
Ey oop! Hold on to your horses, folks. Uwe Rosenberg is back. That means it must be time to feed my people! Tend my sheep! Breed, breed, breed! And in part that’s where we are heading. But this time, aside from a few goats masquerading as cheeky sheep, it’s all about the bats, ‘bout the bats, no trouble!
I love the drama hiding behind Uwe’s pastoral, calm looking euro games. Someone is always at risk of starvation or running out of room, or both! But in ATIWA, it’s out with the sheep and in with the shi…..ahem, poop!
ATIWA is a 1-4 player “advanced level” game based in the Atiwa region of Ghana and revolves around building a new community. But this one has a fruity twist! In ATIWA, you are establishing a village that exploits the eco-friendly relationship between fruit bats and farmers. Reforestation for roosting! Preservation for population growth! Poop for profits! But with limited space, the bats can’t have it all. You’ve got to factor in the needs of your people. So, you’ll be focussed on offsetting the negative effects of mining and bushmeat hunting by creating a bat boom whilst, of course, simultaneously enabling your newly founded settlement to thrive.
ATIWA is another I want to do everything but I will never have enough of anything game from the master euro-game engine builder-er,. The game plays well at 2P – the board has lots of opportunities to gain resources and carry out actions on each turn. But it also has a real spatial puzzliness to it too in the way you place bats, fruits, and other tokens on your own village tiles. And that feels different and fresh to the other Uwe games we have in our collection.
In 2013, Uwe Rosenberg designed a spiritual successor to Agricola: Caverna – The Cave Farmers. But Caverna is not a mere reskin featuring dwarves, though. Caverna plays 1-7 players (including a solo mode), but I’d never consider playing it at seven players! Like most Euro-style games, I prefer it at three or four, as there’s less down-time between turns.
Caverna leans on Agricola’s shoulders in a few avenues. It’s a worker placement game where new locations/actions get introduced each round. And, like other Uwe games, Caverna features accumulating resources in certain spots. If they’re left alone for a few turns, they become ever so tempting! A big part of the game is deciding to stick to your initial plan or changing your mind and gobbling up free resources-galore!
You begin the game with an empty grid of two stark halves. On the left is your plot of land; a 3x4 grid of forest, with huge potential for a thriving farm. On the immediate right is another 3x4 plot of land inside a cave, perfect for mining.
You’ll want to consider both parts of the game if you want to succeed. You need to fell the trees to make way for farmland, which you’ll then want to develop by filling it with animals and veggies.
You need to feed your people every so often, after all! Animal husbandry remains in Caverna, which is a way to both score points and keep people fed. If you have two animals of the same species in the same field, they do a happy dance and produce another animal. Animals score points at the end of the game though, so do you want to use them as a food source?
A major difference in Caverna is that there is no asymmetrical card play. You’re spinning extra plates though, thanks to there being opportunities to explore and build an interior cave network.
You’ll want to buy more bedrooms to house more family members. You can also build a plethora of specific rooms to generate an asymmetrical scoring system. Plus, you can convert tunnels into valuable coal and ruby mines…
To me, Caverna feels less punishing compared to Agricola. This is because one part of the worker placement allows your workers to go on little ‘quests’! They even ‘level up’ like in an RPG every time they quest and return with loot. Depending on what level you are, you get to pick what type of goodies you get. I love this addition because often I find questing like this gets me out of trouble. In particular if I’m struggling for food, or if other players keep nabbing the juicy worker placement spots!
Have you sat before and thought that you wish that you had an easier version of your massive Uwe extravaganza that you can share with your whole family? Or perhaps you are often a bit limited on time and want to be able to get a taste of your favourite farming experience? If any of these people are you, then perhaps I can interest you in Agricola Family.
This is a lighter, quicker version of the big box experience of Agricola. Now that is not to say that this is a kids game, it is not like Rhino Hero Junior or My First Stone Age, it is still a pretty complex game. But it does play much quicker and is less punishing in the way that it scores than the original 2007 Agricola.
During the game you will be doing all the typical actions you would expect in a farming Uwe Rosenberg game, but without the punishing scoring. This family weight version is suitable for players 8 and up and is playable with 1 to 4 players in around 45 mins. The game has been simplified by removing all the negative points, removing the vegetables and most importantly removing the boards. You have a lot more freedom in how you can build up the game, but the game is a little more scripted in the way that new actions are revealed after each round. On your turn you will place one of your workers onto an action space, and carry out the action immediately. You don’t get many turns, but are not restricted by having a board. You can do exactly what you like. If you like Uwe and want to excite others into the Rosenberg world, then I think this could be a great start.