Digital country life can also relax if it is convincingly designed, like the game from Germany.
It’s surprising that you can’t avoid the little indie game at the moment if you’re on Twitch and YouTube more often. Village romance seems to have just hit a nerve and has been awarded twice at the German Computer Game Prize. In my test, I didn’t have to search long for an answer to the question of why the game worked so well.
The biggest plus point of village romance is its apparent simplicity. Players strategically place hexagonal cards next to each other, which they receive at random. Elements such as houses, fields, forests, rails or rivers are depicted on them. The aim is to place these cards as closely as possible to one another. This is reminiscent of board games like The Settlers of Catan or Carcasonne.
More cards, more fun
There is no end. You play for so longuntil all cards are used up. If you place a card in such a way that it fits perfectly on all sides of the adjacent cards – forest to forest, house to house and field to field – you get more cards for your pile. So one delays the “game over” further.
You can earn even more cards by completing certain tasks. For example, some cards show a number. If you get a house card with the number 7, exactly 7 more houses must be placed in the area of this card in order to complete the task. If you draw a forest card that says 114+, you have to construct a forest with at least 114 trees.
Simple but varied
You start with 40 cards, after the active one you can only see the next 2 fields. So every lap is varied, as new landscapes can be created with the simple technique. As the number of points increases you unlock more and more fields, at the beginning this is about a locomotive, a boat and a water station. With these you always build new areas.
Occasionally, special fields appear like a church tower. They unlock more missions to put about 50 more houses next to each other. This ensures visual variety without overloading.
You get points for every card you put down and every task you complete. The number of points increases, the more perfectly a card is placed, i.e. the more sides there are on corresponding fields. In this way, players can chase their own high score with each round – this gives them an incentive to play a little more carefully next time.
Just one more round
All of this is neither new nor really exciting and eventful. So why do the hours I spend in village romance add up so quickly? The answer is obvious to me. A round lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. This is just the right thing to play “just ONE round”, which then turns into 3 or 4 without you noticing. As a Civilization fan with three-digit hours of play on several devices, I know the consequences of “one more round” all too well and village romance also easily picks me up here.
The game works perfectly alongside, for example while listening to a podcast. There is nothing to read, all information can be seen at a glance. You learn something new with every lap. You quickly place the fields intuitively and know how many points are to be scored.
Every game over arouses in me the need to optimize the areas more and more. Even so, it never gets stressful or frustrating. Instead, a good balance was struck between ambition and relaxation.
However, you cannot undo a placement. Once a card has been placed, it stays there. This punishes fast clicking and literally forces you to slow down.Since there is no time limit, you can create the landscape as quickly or as slowly as you want.
Playable shore leave
Only “beautiful players” who put in the aesthetic structure of the places in Anno and Civilization lessons sometimes have to put back here. Because in order to be able to play longer, you just have to stick to the rules: Lay perfect fields and complete tasks. That usually dictates where a card is placed and that has made me wonder at one point or another.
But I have found time and again that the well thought-out and beautiful design always makes my landscapes look appealing, no matter where I place my cards. Everything was kept in calm, toned and natural green, yellow and blue tones.
By chance, a meadow turns into dark stone and a deciduous forest takes on an autumn color, which offers variety. In addition, the scenery occasionally turns a warm pink, like a sunset. In addition, there is music that you would find if you were looking for sounds to “fall asleep and relax”.
Village romance does something that only indie developers dare to do: it has a functioning core mechanism and that’s it. There is (so far) only one mode in which you collect points. A creative mode is planned, in which you can also save the high score. Nothing is compared online, there is no artificial stress caused by time pressure. You just put cards together.
And although so little happens, or maybe because of it, after work it is better to play a round (or two) in village romance than an action game that is particularly exciting and gets your pulse racing. The combination of beautiful, calming, simple but clever is a sweet spot that appeals to a large crowd. And for village children like me who have moved to the city, there is probably a bit of nostalgia for this eponymous village romance.
For just 9 euros, Village Romanticism is currently still available in Early Access on Steam and GOG. On twitter the developers of Toukana Interactive, 4 master’s students from Berlin, have announced a mobile version.