Review: Sapiens – road through the valley

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Elder of our tribe stood up this morning and shouted: „Uu-ga-hara-mata-on-a na-ra-ta-ta-ta.“ At that moment, I immediately knew, we are doomed. It was the most bad news I have heard for a long time. So I had no choice, than to decide in an instant. Now I know, that the only solution is to escape. I will lead this tribe and rest its survival on my shoulders.

Or not? What if the bold chief got help in his path from us? Four tribes set out on their way to salvation in board game created by . This is a novelty for the year created in a small company , but the whole peripetia with publishing was taken care of by . Illustration were done by .

On the box, we can see members of our own tribe intently looking down from the cliff to the valley, which they have to cross. And we will be going with them. We will use range of tools and the main is scoring scale in the form of an elongated board. A lot bigger are then boards for individual players. There are four of them and each is divided into two parts, which together always snap together with notches. We find main valley map one them, composed of square boxes (size 8 by 5) with the values of food and terrain printed on each of them. On the borders of the whole valley, players can find waterfalls (in the corners) and caves. There is also some help for the players.

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Remaining components are also made of cardboard, but are much smaller. There is a particular strain of 63 tiles, each divided into two halves, such as the stone in dominoes. Each part has its own image scenery, which is also amplified by icon in the bottom left corner. It clearly defines type of the tile and its importance for the players. Remaining tokens are even smaller – pieces of the mountains, bears, steaks, but also colored kits for each player: struggle, food and shelter tokens.

At the beginning of the game, players each take two random maps of the valley and joins them together. This creates a unique combination every time they do so. Naturally, everyone will also select his own color and gets the necessary components. Everything starts with mountain tokens, which players deploy at random positions around perimeter of their map (on waterfalls and caves), while tokens of shelter and food are placed next to the scoring scale at the center of the table. By the beginning, each player also gets four tribal divisions and trio of battle tokens. Other small components create reserve. Tribal tiles are used based on number of players and five of them are revealed at random into an open menu.

At the beginning of the whole pilgrimage for salvation, players must take one of their tiles and place it over one of the boxes with cave. Icon of newly placed terrain must agree with the image, that was previously placed on those mountain space. For laid tile, player then immediately scores points. Everyone draws one new piece from the menu, so he has four again.

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From that point on, players will alternate in turns on a regular basis and always put a piece on the map. Laying has clear rules – the path must always connect to one previously placed tile. But above all, whenever player makes a new connection, scenery must match all fields in its neighborhood.

At that point, player earns food points in the value printed on the covered position. That’s not all, because every piece of scenery has a special skill, that can be used, when player links it with its identical twin. Thanks to this, player can lay a new tokens to get points of food or shelter, but also to exchange tiles or place his fight token on any position.

Road through the valley is not only about food. Equally valuable are shelter points, that have their own counter on the same scale. Such points can only be received, if players occupy caves on the perimeter of the map. Before the end of his turn, a player can still take advantage of mountain tiles, which he gained after connecting to cave or waterfall. Bonuses are again governed by an icon on the token and correspond to those, which can be obtained from regular placement.

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Course of the game can lead to a situation, where a player can not attach a new tile. Such route of tribe is lost and failed on its way through the valley. All player tokens are turned face up and made inactive. Connecting to them again will not bring more points. Player then starts to build a new route in any vacant cave. If that is not possible, tribe chief has been eliminated.

At the end of the round, player draws a new tile, so they have plenty to choose from in the next round. And efforts to connect all routes continues until there are no more tribe pieces left to draw. After that, all players must remove tokens, which climbed higher on scoring track (shelter or food). Its points will not be used. Winner becomes player, who has its second scoring token furthest down the scoring track.

Sapiens are the perfect replacement for dominoes. At least they seem like it, because you can only attach new pieces to the same images in here. And they all must follow each other with matching pictures. However, to get rid of the pieces is far from your objective. This game is all about positioning, planning and ability to create unpleasant situations for others.

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Big guns of this game are separate game boards. While the classic dominoes, that we will probably mention a few more times, everyone is playing pieces to common creation, here you have your own creation to be responsible for. It gives the players feel of more control, because there is noone else to spoil their route or turn differently, than they wanted.

With ease of origin and rules alone binds also modesty of the game itself. Its easy to learn even by complete beginners, although they will have to battle with special abilities of tiles for a while. Thanks to this, however, Sapien is very good family fun and enjoyable way to connect tokens with a little color tactics added. Variability here is undeniable, whether from randomly compiled maps, or from random distribution of mountain tiles.

Strength of the game lies in its speed. Single round lasts only a moment, because players can contemplate about their turn during entire round. Additionally, if someone likes harming his rivals, he can appreciate several elements in here – battle tokens or bears, which allow you to attack. If you will have time for such ideas, when planning your own path through the valley. Game is also fun with two players, because most of the action takes place only on individual boards (except chance to remove one tile from a common stock at the end of each turn – another tactical advantage specific for a duel).

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Indeed, plan itself is quite important. You always have a few pieces in your property and others are openly lying in the offer. Therefore, it is always possible to calculate with few following rounds and because of this, you can get into a blind alley (which could cause the extinction of your tribe) only by mistake or by true bad luck. Most situations are under control of the players.

Important for development of the game is also scoring system. It is not about chasing one kind of points, but players have to balance two ways of playing well. Winner is determined only by counting the token, that is farther behind. A this also affects the course of endeavor, where players try to expand their tribe paths to side, where they have to explore caves and waterfalls. Of course, nobody is forced to follow a straight line and path can branch out freely and reach combo in the form of connecting multiple tiles together at once. This can activate more bonuses.

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Sapiens is a pleasant surprise for us, that stops being „mere“ variation of dominoes and is developed as great fun. This makes it perfect for families and beginners. However, make no mistake, because Sapiens have simultaneously enough interesting elements to entertain even the experienced players. Additionally, it looks really nice, color and technical process works to perfection in every last token. Sapiens is a really good game and one of the biggest surprises of recent year.

DesignerCyrille Leroy
ArtistMarc-Antoine Allard
PublisherCatch Up Games, IELLO
Year Published2015
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4 players
(10 voters)
Playing Time45
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
User Suggested Ages8 and up
(6 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(4 voters)
CategoryPrehistoric
MechanicTake That, Tile Placement
ExpansionSapiens: Double Tiles, Sapiens: Mountains
FamilyDigital Implementations: Board Game Arena
Primary NameSapiens

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Sapiens – road through the valley
Final word
Sapiens belong among the games, that will attract you with box illustrations, but you somehow subconsciously expect it to disappoint you later. But that's not true! The game is smart and fun. It all starts with the fact, that each player connects the pieces on his own plan, which is also randomly composed and thus always different. Each turn provides a choice of several tiles, but at the same time is fast enough. Game is fun for all player types and numbers, because it even allows opponents to trample each other success. Sapiens is full of everything, any beginner would want, but maintains enough challenge for more advanced players.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
excellent also in two
beautifully processed game
clever variations on the dominoes
enough space for planning
quick turns
variability and deployment
scoring
possibility of an attack on rival
Cons
rulebook not well organized
4
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