New Bedford is a new worker placement game kicking around on Kickstarter from Dice Hate Me Games (purveyors of quality games with a fine blend of flavor and mechanics) and Nat Levan. In New Bedford you are a notable persona set within the historic whaling community of New Bedford. In order to stake your claim in this bustling town you must collect resources, erect buildings, and launch ships in order to harvest the bounty of the sea (in this case that bounty is whales).
Designer: Nathaniel Levan
Game Length: 75 minutes
Category: City Building, Economic, Whaling
Mechanic: Worker Placement, Tile-Placement, Harpooning
How Do I Play:
The game-play in New Bedford is broken up into four phases and played over twelve rounds.
- Action Phase: Players place their workers in turn order and take the actions from those spaces. They can place workers in the town, at the docks, or on any buildings owned by other players. All spaces are open with the first player to place their worker receiving a bonus.
- Movement Phase: During this phase all ships which are out to sea are moved closer to shore, players pay any taxes on the whales harvested once ship[s] return, and/or if the tax can’t be paid, whales are auctioned off to other players.
- Whaling Phase: Players pull a token from the ocean bag for every ship they have out to sea. Players further out to sea, get to choose first. The tokens consist of three different whale species and empty sea tokens which provide no points for the player.
- End of Round Phase: Setting up for the next round.
New Bedford is an enjoyable game at all prayer counts listed on the box which, honestly, is impressive. It plays well with two people and amazingly well at three or four. The worker placement mechanism is nice, friendly, and fluid, allowing for players to place workers on any spot without being blocked by more competitive players. However, despite this, the game rewards optimization with bonuses for the first players to pick a spot.
The most controversial (seemingly) aspect of this game is the whaling elements. However, the historical context makes this mechanism pleasingly accurate. As players hunt, the whales become scarcer and scarcer as the over-harvesting takes effect. If you bring too many whales into port and can’t pay the tax on them they go to other players. If you harvest responsibly, you gain points for yourself and leave the oceans fairly well stocked for future trips. While harvesting whales has become a major environmental topic. it is important to realize that New Bedford is taking a historic approach to the topic and not making any political or social commentary. That said, you can easily play the game and do well with minimal whaling if you focus more on town building.
The game plays surprisingly quickly with the first few rounds moving fast and ramping up to a crescendo mid-game when most of the ships are out to sea. This makes the game rather pleasing to new gamers with the first few rounds being a good time to learn the ropes of the game and get into the flow. This lack of a pivot point in the game allows for new players to enjoy the experience, learn the game, and do well enough that they feel the time was well spent. Compare this to Machi Koro, where the game-play is simple but there is a pivot point where you switch to more expensive cards and rolling two dice. If players miss the pivot, they fall behind.
What makes this game good for a library?
Generally, I don’t recommend Kickstarter games for a library collection, but Dice Hate Me Games has a track record of producing games with approachable themes (coffee, chemistry,throwing a party) and melding game mechanisms which really allow the theme to flourish and engage the player. In this case, the game-play with the environmental/historical themes would provide an innocuous setting for emerging gamer’s to explore both primary mechanisms (city-building and worker placement); providing a good second step game if they have grown tired of Carcassonne but aren’t ready for Suburbia. Add a bit of an auction and the game is well placed into a library environment.
Get over to Kickstarter and help fund and reserve your copy now!