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Dale Yu: Review of Atiwa

  • Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
  • Publisher: Lookout Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 30 min per player
  • Played with review copy provided by Lookout Games

atiwa

Per the rules: “The Atiwa Range is a region of southeastern Ghana in Africa consisting of steep-sided hills with rather flat summits. A large portion of the range comprises an evergreen forest reserve, which is home to many endangered species. However, logging and hunting for bushmeat, as well as mining for gold and bauxite, are putting the reserve under a lot of pressure.

Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Kibi, the mayor is causing a stir by giving shelter to a large number of fruit bats in his own garden. This man has recognized the great value the animals have in deforested regions of our planet: Fruit bats sleep during the day and take off at sunset in search of food, looking for suitable fruit trees up to sixty miles away. They excrete the seeds of the consumed fruit, disseminating them across large areas as they fly home. A single colony of 150,000 fruit bats can reforest an area of up to two thousand acres a year.

Just like that mayor, in Atiwa, you know that fruit bats — once scorned and hunted as mere fruit thieves — are in fact incredibly useful animals, spreading seeds over large areas of the country. By doing so, they help to reforest fallow land and, in the medium term, improve harvests. This realization has led to a symbiotic co-operation between fruit bats and fruit farmers. The animals are kept as “pets” to increase the size of fruit farms more quickly. Tall trees are left as roosts, providing shelter for them rather than hunting them for their scant meat. However, if you have a lot of fruit bats, you need a lot of space…“

In this game, you will develop a small community near the Atiwa Range, creating housing for new families and sharing your newly gained knowledge on the negative effects of mining and the importance that the fruit bats have for the environment. You must acquire new land, manage your animals and resources, and make your community prosper. The player who best balances the needs of their community and the environment wins.

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To set up the game, place the main action board on the table, putting terrain cards above the board and location cards below the board.  The action tiles are shuffled and placed on the board as well.  Put the appropriate board extension on the right based on the player count.  Place all the pollution tokens in the bag.

Each player gets a supply board and fills it with their trees, fruit, families, animals and goats.  The night card starts empty and stays nearby.  Players also get a Village card and place it under their board, and this card is seeded with a family token.  You can have an unlimited number of rows under your board, but no more than 4 cards in any row.  The three workers (meeples) in their color are placed near the board, and the three player aid cards should be kept nearby.

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The game is played over 7 rounds, and in each round, players will get three chances to place a workers and take the associated action.  Possible actions include:

  • Take a terrain card
  • Collect tokens (goats, animals, trees, fruit, etc)
  • Collect a tree with fruit
  • Train a family token
  • Pay X to get Y
  • Collect X for each Y you have in your area
  • Buy a location card

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Terrain and location cards are important as these are the only places where you can play your tokens.  Cards are always placed upright, so that the title is in the upper left corner.  Note that some cards will have a leaf symbol in this space; these nature icons will become important for other actions.  Some spaces have preprinted icons on them; this tells you what goes there.  Empty spaces can be filled with anything so long as there is at least one other thing of the same type already on the card.  In general, when you place a token, you take the leftmost available one from your supply board.  If you spend or return tokens, place them on the rightmost available space.

Once the worker action is taken, you can take an optional fruit bat action – only if you have 3+ fruit bats, you have a tree on your board and you also have a space available for another tree. If so, place 3 fruit bats on your night card and then place a new tree on one of your cards.  (This represents the bat’s nightly search for food, then their pooping out the seeds and the growth of a new tree…)

Each player takes an action, then play passes to the next player.  This process continues until each player has had 3 worker placements.  Then there is a bit of maintenance.

1] Income – For each trained family token, gain a gold.  For each untrained family, draw a pollution token, gaining 0/1/2 gold as shown.  Then, place these pollution tokens, going row by row, left to right on the cards; filling in all top middle spaces first, then top right, then second row, and so forth.  If there is a token on a space that is filled with pollution, that token is lost.  The pollution tokens are never removed, so this represents a permanent loss of space on your cards.

2] Collect new animals, trees, fruit.  Look at your supply board, and you gain the stuff seen in the rightmost available space of each row on the supply board; do this from top to bottom.  If you have no available place to put the gained things, you simply don’t take them.  You can also choose to not take a token in order to leave an available space for a later token.

3] Fruit bats – return the fruit bats from your night card.  If there are not enough available spaces, return the rest to the supply

4] Feeding – Look at the bottom two rows on your supply board.  Subtract the number from the goat row from the number in the family row.  This is your food demand.  If this is a positive number, meet the demand by spending: goat=3 food, animal=2 food, fruit/gold=1 food, bats=1 food.  If you cannot meet the demand, lose 2VP for each missing food – mark this on the score sheet.

5] Breeding – look at the current round space on the main board where there are 3 icons.  If you have at least as many things as shown, gain exactly one more of that type.

6] Return your workers to your area

7] Reveal the next rounds action space by sliding the token covering it one space to the left. 

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Repeat this procedure for 7 rounds.  At the end of the game, you score your area (using the included scoring pad to tally):

  • Gold: 1pt each
  • Cards: points are printed on the card (may be negative VP)
  • Supply board: score for the rightmost empty space in each row
  • Trained families: 1 point each
  • Fruit bats: 1 point each for every bat after the 10th
  • Missing food: -2VP for each food missed during the game

The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the least pollution.

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My thoughts on the game

Well, when I saw this, I thought to myself – hmm, well it’s just another Uwe Rosenberg farming worker placement game.  I mean, my game collection is littered with farming worker placement games; some set in medieval Europe, some in the Nordic countries, some on the Glass Road, but this is the first one in the African continent as far as I can tell…  

To start off, let me say that this game is very much on the lighter end of the Uwe Farming Worker Placement spectrum.  That alone might tell you how you’re going to feel about this.   Unlike some of the other UFWP games, this one has a pretty streamlined scoring system. Sure, everything kinda scores something in the end, but the bulk of the points come from the village cards that you build and the families that you have raised. 

Everyone has that same goal; but interestingly, there isn’t as much direct competition as you’d expect.  Each player has their own ecosystem of animals, trees, families and fruit – as well as their own cards for placing those things.  Sure, you compete somewhat for the actions; but there are a lot of action choices available to the players, and there is no competition nor interference once things make it to your little world.

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There is nice balance in your engine building.  You will generate a tree engine – whether it is from bats pooping out seeds to generate new trees, or maybe having a lot of wild animals in your area which also lead to trees in the income phase – but in the end, you need trees to buy more land cards, especially village cards.  Village cards provide spaces to house families, and as I said – this is one of the main ways to score points.   Of course, as soon as you add more families to your area, you increase your food demand and you also increase the chance of pollution taking its toll on your cards… 

Pollution is a big problem in the game because it permanently borks spaces on your cards.  I would definitely pay close attention to the topmost spaces on the cards you look to acquire – because if you play the game anything like I do, you’ll end up with much of that top row wasted by pollution…  It’s a definite struggle in the game – but sometimes you have to take the punishment in order to add families to your area.

Otherwise, the game is set up to reward you for success – if you have enough animals, you get trees.  When you have lots of trees, you get fruit.  When you have lots of fruit, you get bats.  The bats and fruit can be used in the next round to get you even more trees.  But, then, when you want to advance, you’ll need to spend those trees to get the cards; and then when you add families, they’ll eat all the animals.  So the game is one of ebbs and flows where you have periods of prosperity followed by times of regrowth.  

You definitely have to make the most of your actions.  There is no opportunity for bonus actions; so make the most of your 21 chances.  This also puts a bit of a premium on getting the start player marker as there is no compensation for going last during the game (though there is some compensation for the starting player order).  Timing is key – on so many levels – and figuring out when the best time to do things is the key for me in Atiwa.

The graphic design and iconography is very well done.  As we have played our first few games, the other gamers in my group (who did not read the rules on their own) were able to correctly interpret the icons on the player aids and the cards; this was very nice to see. And speaking of the player aids – though there are 3 cards worth – they pretty much explain everything that you need to know to play – and this really streamlines the experience.

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As this game is on the lighter end of the WFWP games – we’re definitely staying within the 30 min / player suggested time frame.   This game doesn’t have much in the sense of alternate setups.  There is one part of the board that changes based on player count; but this is mostly to even out the number of action spaces.  The six round boards are shuffled each game, and they slide along during the game – but otherwise, there isn’t much else that changes.  For me, this is no problem.  Firstly, I still haven’t proved to have a great grasp of how to succeed in the game consistently.  Second, the game design is solid to me, and I don’t need a different setup each time I play the game for it to provide an interesting challenge.  Third, the random deal of the initial landscape cards can definitely change how you might approach the game based on what things you have room to store…  After my first few plays, Atiwa is highly recommended – probably supplanting Nusfjord as my favorite light UFWP game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Lorna–  1 play I thought it was well done, there’s not much to say about the new Rosenberg. It feels like a Rosenberg from the start. I appreciate the change of theme and learning a bit about fruit bats. There are interesting decisions. It’s on the lighter side. The random pull for gold out of the bag feels like it was added to make it family friendly. I’m happy to play and see if I’m wrong but unlike Dale,  I don’t think it will supplant my favorite midweight Rosenberg which is Nusfjord.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y, Steph
  • I like it. John P, Lorna
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…


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