While I had plenty of thoughts on the box size of Glen More II the other week, I hadn’t had a chance to actually play it just yet. And since that article the board gaming world is very different! Thankfully the weekend before social distancing went into place I was able to remedy that and get the game to the table. Granted this is just based on a couple of plays, but I wanted to share my impressions as to whether this physically massive sequel fills the shoes of its predecessor.
First, a brief summary of the game for context. In Glen More players are each building their own village constructed from tiles selected from a central market board. Each time players place a tile, they activate it and all other tiles around it. So essentially, placing a tile adds to a sort of engine that players are building, while also simultaneously running that engine. So far so good. There are countless games like this where players essentially build up a play area of cool stuff, often called a tableau. While it is cool to build your own little village, nothing about this is unique. So what makes Glen More so special?
One key aspect is that central market board I mentioned earlier. Essentially it’s a big loop of great looking tiles, and each turn the player at the back of the line gets to pick up their meeple and select any tile they wish. They can grab the very next tile available all the way to the most recent tile placed, way on the other end of the loop. However, players ONLY go when they are at the back of the line. If you select something far afield, other players may be selecting other tiles for a while before it becomes your turn again. This is a game designed for players to have an uneven number of turns, and different sized villages. But for the right tile, jumping far ahead might be the right move to make.
This then ties in with the scoring, which is also unique for the genre. Instead of doing your own thing and tallying up points at the end, you actually score points in Glen More based on how you do in comparison to the other players. Specifically, how much better you do than the worst performer in each of four categories. For example, one of the categories is the number of all important casks of whisky you have produced. If one player had only produced one cask of whisky, everyone who made more would score an increasing number of points based on how many more they had made. In this way, you are driven to always keep up with the other players, because if you are the one trailing the whole group they are essentially gaining free points on you. This comparison scoring creates a sort of constant arms race between the players, which in turn pushes players to make that leap ahead on the market board, in order to even the race just that little bit.
These two elements are key to Glen More plus a whole host of other cool design decisions, but so far I’ve essentially been describing both Glen More and Glen More II. So what elevates the new version past it’s older brother, and what’s new?
For one thing, there’s simply no going back in terms of component quality. The beautiful tiles and lovely meeples with varying designs and kilts are simply too charming. Eye candy does go a long way, but in this case it is helped by having a tested and proven design under the hood to go along with that new coat of paint. There’s no denying that the new version has a better table presence.
In terms of gameplay there are a few major changes. In Glen More II there is a new type of tile called Person tiles. Unlike the usual landscape tiles these are paintings of famous people from Scotland that don’t go into your village. Instead they allow you to claim bonuses on a Scottish Clan board that is also new to the game. These can be be one time resources or scoring opportunities, or ongoing abilities for the rest of the game. Additionally, these person tiles are a new category of comparative scoring, expanding that to four categories vs the original game’s three. These are a cool addition to the formula, and can help make the game feel a bit more flexible than the original.
Speaking of flexibility, the new version of the game is also a bit less picky about tile placement. The original had road tiles running north and south, river tiles going east and west and regular tiles. All roads had to be part of your existing road, rivers part of the river etc. What this meant is sometimes you could not draft a tile that you needed because of these restrictions. In the new edition this is reduced to just the river tiles, which makes it quite a bit easier to build your little village tableau the way you choose.
Finally Glen More II also comes with eight miniature expansions called Chronicles built into the box. While I haven’t gotten to play with these yet they definitely will help the game from getting stale. However, I am pretty happy with the variety of the base game thus far. I am bummed that I won’t be getting Glen More II to the table at a game night any time soon, but if you’re curious the game is free to play at Tabletopia in a virtual implementation. You can play at https://tabletopia.com/games/glen-more-ii-chronicles but remember with these online versions players need to enforce the rules of the game themselves! I highly recommend this board game trip to Scotland.