Hamlet is a sandbox style game where a world is created each time you play. Tiles spread out from a central church tile and add to the capabilities of the hamlet. The game ends when the church building is finished being constructed because your tiny hamlet has grown into a town or village as it now the center of its own parish.
As a competitive game for 1-4 the game has its highlights, including the unique feeling pick up and delivery system. No player owns exclusive access to the resources on the board, they are available to any player on their turn. There are two types of workers in the game- donkeys and humans workers. The poor donkeys really get put to work in the game, but they are really what make it interesting. Whenever a player has resources, of which there are also basic and refined types, that they need to get from one tile to the next they must make sure the resources can be transported. Getting out of the starting tile for the resource is free, but each additional tile requires a donkey per tile to carry the resources. The final tile is where the humans do their work. Work for humans can involved going to the Town Hall and buying blue prints, building those blue prints, or turning stuff into stuff.
As each player does all this they will gain coins. Ultimately, the game becomes a race to build a church. Or at least it should. I witnessed one game where the players tried to build every available tile and avoided building the church for some reason. This lead to a runaway leader, but the game doesn't really play that way unless people are just really into the sandbox idea.
At the beginning of each player turn, each donkey may move 1 space. Human workers can move to any other tile connected by roads. Every human worker can do one of three things: 1. Activate the tile (following resource transport rules). 2. Build a road 3. Build a previously bought blue print. The market tile offers unlimited free market access to basic and refined resources at a cost of 3 or 5 coins, respectively.
Overall, I really like some aspects of the game. Once you get the hang of transporting items around the board, making use of roads, and all the icons you can start to have fun. That's the main problem though, the many things that get in the way of players learning the game prevents fun from happening fast enough. The icons are quite small on the tiles and the illustrations are engaging on the tiles but there is a lot going on visually so not everyone will be able to appreciate it. It's easy to miss the small white arrows which indicate gaining Milestones.
Then there's the solo game with an AI opponent called Botric. It's essentially a rotating player who will get in the way of you making the most efficient choices. I tried it twice and I didn't really enjoy the play as I felt like the dynamic choices of other human players with their own reasons for doing things were more exciting than anticipating the AI. I think some solo players will like the feel of the solo, but it wasn't for me as it destroyed what felt unique in the pick up and deliver game where players balanced out timing and anticipation of what other people might do.
Since no one owns resources, the game really enhances the choices of timing. Players who have Milestones may choose to make better Quality refined resources in the hopes of picking up points from other players using their resources or they could choose to make more Landmarks (a type of tile) and just hoard their abilities until they see the perfect time to build a part of the Church. Again, the rush to build the church should be pushing the players forward as it is the best way to get points quickly if people are paying attention.
This game won't be for players looking for a perfect rulebook, great iconography, or optimization of strategy over multiple plays, there are just too many variables with tiles coming out of the bag, other players' choices, and the spite plays that might just happen. It can also drag on if you have player who struggle with optimization and efficiency of turns.
For those who enjoy a really solid pick up and deliver game with a neat world building aspect, you might enjoy this tile laying game. Just don't bother with the insert, go ahead and bag everything up when you are done with the game.
Hamlet: The Village Building Game
Designed by David Chircop, Artwork by Yusuf Artun, Published by Mighty Boards
Time 25-30 Minutes PER PLAYER