Designed by Thomas Spitzer
Published by Capstone Games
Art by Johannes Sich at Jojosich.de
A Review by Eric Booth - @EricBooth
You can hear Eric's Review of Haspelknecht at the 44:49 mark on Week 99 of the What Did You Play This Week Podcast.
In Haspelknecht you are taking on the role of a 16th century farmer who, according to the rules, accidentally discovers coal on the surface of his farm. During the game you will be battling the ever present pit water that keeps seeping into your pinge, surface mine, and your actual coal mine shaft, preventing you from removing or mining that precious dusty, black gold. You will be acquiring new developments that will give you a one time benefit or some excellent end game scoring. Or these developments can be extra buildings you can add to your farm to make your mining endeavors more efficient. When you start the game you'll only start out with a Farmer, Farmhand and a Digger.
This leads to what I think is the heart of Haspelknecht, the action selection draft. There are 3 colored action discs in the game. Brown, Yellow and Black. You will be drafting these discs in two rounds and these will dictate what your workers will be able to do during the action selection phase. With the Yellow discs you can acquire much needed food. With the Brown discs you can acquire the much needed wood to build the supports in your pinge and later in the mine shaft itself. The placement of this wood will dictate where you will be able to dig out the coal. Then there is the Black discs that will let your workers either remove water from the pinge or to actually mine that precious coal. Now how does this work you say? Well let me tell you.
During the 1st round of drafting discs you will pick one of the Action Pools and pick one of colors of the discs and remove all of those discs and place them on the wheelbarrow labeled with a 1 on your player board. The disc you place on the wheelbarrow labeled 1 will dictate player order for the rest of the season, after the action drafting phase. During the second round you will pick one of the Action Pools and pick a color and take those disc and place them on the wheelbarrow labeled with a 2 on your player board to a maximum of 5 total discs unless you were able to get more than 5 discs on the 1st round of the draft. After figuring out the player order you will move onto the action selection phase. This will be when you get allocate all those wonderful discs you just received during the drafting phase.
Now let's talk about your initial workers. You have the digger that can only remove coal and pit water from your pinge. And this guy thinks a lot of himself as he requires either one yellow disc or one food or one Thaler to do his job. Where as the Farmer and Farmhand can use any of the discs you've acquired earlier. There's a few rules to placing disc onto workers. You can only place like colors on Farmhand and the Farmer to complete tasks with one exception. The Farmer is also able to acquire developments which use various combinations of discs. So if you're going to use the Development task of your Farmer you place the needed colors required by the development you want on the Farmer. When you're done allocating your discs, in turn order, you will take the actions in whatever order you want by removing those disc from your workers and returning them to the bag to be drawn later to fill the action selection pools.
OK, I think I've talked that action thing into the ground. Let's move on to what happens when you've removed all the easy to access coal on the surface in your pinge. Well this is where the namesake of the game, Haspelknecht, comes into play. As soon as you remove all the coal from your pinge you will move any pit water you have into the mine shaft. You will retire the bedraggled digger and bring in your miner and the hard to pronounce Haspelknecht. Now these two guys are just as greedy as the digger was, but more efficient. What can they do for you, you might be asking? Well, the Haspelknecht removes both coal and pit water, in fact he is the ONLY person who can remove pit water from the mine shaft. But he requires one of these 3 things. Either a yellow disc, a food, or a thaler. And the miner is even more proud of himself. He requires a food or a thaler but he is able to mine up to 3 coal from the mine into the mine shaft to be later removed by the Haspelknecht. Now your other two available workers are still able to mine coal but they are less efficient in doing it. And remember they are no longer able to remove any water from the mine shaft. That is a job for your Haspelknecht.
Wow that was all a mouthful. Now onto the developments. I'm not going to go into all the available developments you can get. But I would like to do a quick rules clarification how you can place your token on a development, as the rule book is just a tad confusing on how this is done. On the first row you can place anywhere regardless of adjacency. On any other row you have to place adjacent to one of your other claimed developments unless you are placing one of your tokens onto a development that an opponent has already claimed. You do not need to be adjacent to one of your other discs to do this but you will have to pay the person who was the last to claim that development a fee. That fee differs with each subsequent row. Doing this will extend your adjacency requirements for later developments. Now all this craziness you have to do has to all be done over 4 seasons and 3 years with the winter season being the coal scoring, pay the government, store you stuff, season.
Enough rambling let's move onto what I think of the game.
- Haspelknecht gives me that same feeling I get when I play that wonderful game Orleans. What I mean by that is every round you just get the feeling that you're doing something amazing but just short of what you need to accomplish everything you want to do and I love that in games.
- I really like how Haspelknecht truly gives you several different paths to victory and that was shown to be true in our last 4 player game. It was a very tight game and each of us went on several different paths during the game. One player was still in the running and did very little actual mining.
- I've played with all player counts and it played great at all player counts. The game scales very very well.
- The components are all top notch. Nice thick cardboard. No flimsy card stock. Cough, Terraforming Mars, cough cough.
- Now what did I dislike about the game? There's a few confusing places in the rule book like the placement rules on the developments.
- Some of the icons for the end game scoring are very small and can be hard to read.
- The only other thing I can think of is that the Action Disc Selection phase can be a little ap inducing. You are trying to see exactly what discs you can take to accomplish what you want to do this round and seeing what discs will be available the next round. Me, I just pretty much ignored the discs in the reserve pool for the most part.
In conclusion, I really like Haspelknecht. If you like what is lovingly called, point salad, many paths to victory, type games then this just might be a game for you. Now know that I didn't cover everything you can do but I hope enough that you a good idea of what you can do during the game.