Hamlet: The Village Building Game Review
So here we are, near the end of #hamletweek and ready to dump our thoughts of the game onto the page for you to read. This won’t be a how-to-play – we’ve always felt that for more complex games like Hamlet, you are better off watching a how-to-play on YouTube rather than reading about it here! But what do we think of how the game works? Let’s take a peak.
The concept behind Hamlet is really good – you are working on moving resources from locations around the hamlet – using donkeys and roads – so that you can build a church at the centre. Once you have a church, you have a village, and the game is over.
The idea works. The concept makes sense. And for the most part, this all works fairly well. The question becomes – do the downsides of Hamlet outweigh the lovely and charming experience you are about to have? My answer to that is somewhat hesitant, yes.
Have you ever played a really good game with really bad components? Or ever played a really bad game with really good components? It’s hard to recommend games that do either of these things, and fortunately Hamlet isn’t guilty of this.
The component pieces, for the most part, are fantastic. The wooden tokens in each player colour are great, albeit a bit small. And that really gets to our major gripe with Hamlet – everything is just a bit small, except for the giant bagged tiles – those are huge!
When played at two players, the smallness of the icons on the tiles wasn’t really something that concerned me. In fact, I would generally play this on the same side of the table as the other player, so we could both have a good vantage point to view all the icons across the various boards. At 4 players though, everything just becomes a bit jumbled when you are dealing with so many tile icons, so many game pieces, and more.
Ideally, though, you will play this at three, and it wouldn’t shock me if at least one of those three people complained about how small everything appeared. Stuff being small doesn’t generally bother me, but the (fantastic) artwork on the tiles that really brings the look of the hamlet to life, also gets in the way of the experience. It’s weird to say, but the game is so beautiful, but to its own detriment.
Ok, I’ve griped. Now onto the good. The gameplay here is really good, and the more you play and understand the various tiles available, the less everything I wrote above matters. I think if you can look past the business of the tiles (and I think you should), you have a really good, more simplistic than you might think, resource and supply management game. Early turns go really fast, but as you expand your network across the hamlet, later turns offer you more opportunities.
For example, throughout the game you will be gathering and refining materials. Early on, you are likely to either gather something, or refine something. Rarely both. As you get more workers out onto the board and expand your networks, late game turns could involve both obtaining and creating, and if done right, even delivering items to the church build spot. Trying to figure that all out is really fun and engaging, and keeps you thinking.
I think the game does benefit from having a handful of very basic actions, so while explaining it might sound convoluted and intense, it’s actually not that hard to remember. Getting into Hamlet is actually quite easy, and I would never be concerned that even a bigger group of board game players couldn’t figure out how the systems worked. I often find the board game space lacks good quality games that appeal to a wide audience, but I think Hamlet can be that game. It’s the game one-step past gateway games like Ticket to Ride.
Hamlet is a gem. It’s got some printing issues that could be fixed in future iterations of the game, but the core concepts work really well. If the same group plays again and again, those issues slowly fade to the background before they won’t be relevant any more. If you want to take an easy to understand, potentially hard to master game for a spin, we recommend picking Hamlet!