Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ora et Labora: a very short review

We bought two new board games over the holidays.

One of them is Ora et Labora.

Ora et Labora is the latest game from world-famous board game designer Uwe Rosenberg, who is best known for his game Agricola, and whose other games include At The Gates Of Loyang and Le Havre.

Ora et Labora is a wonderful game. It takes many of the basic concepts of Agricola, and matches them with some of the best aspects of Le Havre, while also introducing a few innovations that simplify the operational aspects of the game.

From Agricola, we get the theme of medieval peasant farming, with its cultivation of grain and livestock and its progressive development of your farm into an estate. From the "farmers and moors" expansion of Agricola, we get the concepts of food versus energy, and the tree and peat cards as resource production.

From Le Havre, we get the various different types of basic and developed resources, and we get the introduction of buildings which can be constructed and developed on your estate.

An important mechanical improvement is the game wheel, which arranges for the introduction of basic goods into the game without the labor-intensive need to sprinkle game tokens onto the board at the start of each round, which occupies a lot of time in both Agricola and Le Havre.

As you would expect from a Uwe Rosenberg game, Ora et Labora is deep and complex, with lots of choices, and very sophisticated strategy and tactics. It is also superbly crafted: the pieces are well made, the rules are thorough and precise and clear.

And, like other Uwe Rosenberg games, Ora et Labora is designed to work well for two players, and also has a solo version.

Unfortunately, although we've had the game for six weeks now, we've not yet found the time to play an entire game through to conclusion; we're just too busy. But hopefully soon...

I suspect that Agricola will continue to hold its sweet spot in our hearts, as it was the game (together with Ticket to Ride) that got us back into board gaming about a decade ago after we had fallen off the board gaming habit.

But Ora et Labora seems to be a wonderful game and I'm looking forward to playing it more as time permits.

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