Landed: Review

What do you get when you take planetary terraforming and tile placement? Nope, probably not the game you’re thinking about. Today, Fairway takes a look at a recently delivered Kickstarter game about terraforming a distant planet: Landed

Landed is a two- to four-player tile placement and area of control by Argyle Game and designer Marcin Zarycki. In Landed, players are competing space-faring companies attempting to terraform a new planet to complete contracts and score points. I Kickstarted this game and had an opportunity to play the game with the designer at a Protospiel. I even have my own card in the game.

Initial Impressions

  1. Although the theme and other games in this category would suggest otherwise, the game is dead simple to learn. Players quickly picked up the strategies and objectives.
  2. The components were all nicely done: acrylic cubes, thick tiles, nicely finished cards.
  3. The art was a bit of a mixed bag. The game seemed to alternate between “photo” realistic and vector-style art. The tiles were nicely done and all though seemed to have a “direction”, they tiled nicely.
  4. This is a good intro into tile laying games.

Game play

Landed is quintessentially a tile placement game. Over a series of turns, players will place hexagonal tiles around a central starting tile to form a series of contiguous regions in an attempt to match high-valued contracts for points. Complete contracts for the most points and you win.

To start, a starting tile is placed in the middle of the table. This special tile has a zone of each type of terrain represented by the six different colors and textures: white, red, blue, tan, black, and green. All of the other terrain tiles are double-sided and consist of various arrangements of one or more those terrain types. They’re all stuck into a draw bag and mixed up.  Each player then draws four tiles from the bag.

In addition to the tiles, the game has a deck of “contract” and “satellite” cards.  The contract cards are the primary way of scoring points. Each contract consists of a series of point-scoring arrangements based on the number of contiguous tiles that match the requested terrain type. The more in a row, the higher the value.  In addition, each scoring arrangement includes a differential number of points depending on whether you are first or second company to claim a particular tract of terrain. The contracts also award a one-time bonus when they’re completed. The contract cards are shuffled and each player is dealt 4 and keeps two of the contracts to start.

The satellite cards are bonus cards. These are earned when a player places one of the terrain tiles featuring a satellite next to an already placed tile with another satellite. These bonuses are usually free actions usable in the future. These cards are shuffled and placed face down in a draw pile.

Finally, each player is given one set of color cubes (the number depends on the player count). Cubes are limited and signify when a player claims one of the contiguous tracks of terrain.

To play, the game is taken over a series of turns. On a turn, you do one of three things: play a tile from your hand, draw more tiles from the bag until you have four in your hand, or take up to two new contracts (but not more than three unfulfilled).

When you play a tile from your hand, you place it so that at least one side of the newly placed tile touches the side of an already-placed tile. The objective is to place a tile that advances at least one of your contract needs. And contracts require a contiguous chain of the same color.  Each tile that is part of a contiguous chain counts towards these numbers, regardless of how much of the tile is covered with that terrain type. The colors just need to touch.

Once you place a tile, you can then “claim” a region to complete a contract, if you want. To claim a region, you place one of your colored cubes on one of the terrains on the hex you just placed.  If you are the first one to have a cube in the contiguous region of terrain, you’ll score the points for the “first” place person for the number of connected tiles.  If another player has already claimed that tract of terrain, you’ll score the second-place points.

Play continues like this until all the tiles have been placed (or everyone has used up their cubes).  The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

On the green

Learning time and play time.  Players got the gist of this game really quickly: place tiles, make chains of terrain, claim them, don’t let other people do it first.  There are very few quirks to this which makes teaching the game a breeze. Also, the game went on long enough that everyone felt like they’d had time to develop their strategies but not so long that people were wanting the game to end.

The simple strategies and low-learning curve make Landed a good intro into tile-laying games.

Interesting scoring regime.  I think one of the real appeals to this game is how scoring tracts of terrain works. There’s an element of push your luck involved: going for high value contract tracts means risking losing some (or all!) of it. There were also “curative” options (satellite cards or contract completion bonuses) that also didn’t make it strictly luck based.  Big thumbs up on that front.

Related, we liked that the game limited your scoring opportunities. It wasn’t just enough to build a terrain, claim a contract. The number of cubes you could place during a game was also limited. This meant that you had to preserve them for your best opportunities, but you couldn’t wait too long or you’d run out of time. Clever.

Terrain art.  We liked the terrain art. The terrains were differently colored and textured distinctly. There was no confusion about what terrain was what. While we didn’t test it, this should be color-blind friendly for sure. Also, while some of the textures clearly had a “direction” (like the black mountains and blue water), the tiles looked cohesive and counting contiguous tiles was made easy by the thoughtful design. Again, this aspect of the game was really well done.

That said, we did have some questions about the overall cohesion of the elements which alternated between the stylistic, vector art and photo-realistic planetary art. For example, the box art and some of the backgrounds weren’t representative of most of the game elements. In the end, this was a minor concern, and the game does well with the nicely illustrated tiles.

Where it comes up short

Lower player counts. This game is really meant for more players. Although it was still fun, there’s not enough “competition” for terrain tracts with fewer people. It was also obvious (or more obvious) what the other players were intending when they got to play the tiles they wanted, where they wanted, in an orientation that they wanted. The default rules for lower player counts didn’t fix this issue. This is largely a byproduct of the fact that you got to place more tiles without interference whereas larger player counts meant others could disrupt tile placements before you got to place another.

Enough things to do?  Landed is mostly a tile laying game. And outside of cashing in on contracts or occasionally pairing satellites, there wasn’t much else to the game.  There wasn’t much in the way of decisions to do much more than to figure out how to maximize the contract in front of you. The tile laying limitations didn’t impose much additional decision-making criteria. Games likes Lanterns and Topiary have at least one other “reason.”

In the hole

Fans of tile-laying games are going to find a lot to like about Landed. The combination of a clever scoring regime that encourages players to press their luck with the fun of modeling a planet to serve corporate overlords makes for a compelling game. While we regret that it didn’t offer players something “more” to do, this is a small concern in the larger scheme of fun, easy-to-learn and quick to play strategy game. If you’re looking for a space-themed intro to tile laying games, Landed is a good pick.

Landed is in the hole for a par.

 

 

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