Ecology is an important and catchy topic these days. Board games like such threads because they attract a larger group of recipients. Unfortunately, often the themed game is not very playable. How is Naturally, the latest offer from Lacerta?
People destroy the environment and pollute beautiful landscapes with tons of rubbish and other pollutants. In Naturally, we find ourselves in one of those valleys that has lost its glow, and our goal is to bring animals to it and rebuild vegetation. By the way, we will collect some victory points, because in the end we are dealing with a board game. The quite nice cover draws attention to the designer duo: Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, who have many good titles to their credit, so I was calm about the quality and workmanship. Naturally, this is a game of arranging wooden dominoes that represent animals looking for a new home. In order for all of them to have a place to live, we will plant new plants in wastelands. And if there are so many of them, we have a chance to score points, because this is what it is all about.
Read also: Review of the console version of Chernobylite.
How should we arrange dominoes?
Before we start the game, we have to setup all the elements. We have nice, fabric bags for everything, from which we give players tiles, elements in selected colors and starting clouds. On the wastelands, we need to place the reward tokens depending on the size. The activity takes a while but does not present any major difficulties.
The players alternate their turns until all available domino tiles have been placed. Each turn consists of four consecutive steps. The first, the most important, is to put one of the three available domino blocks on the board, following a few important rules. We cannot place them on brown fields or put them outside the board. We must also remember that the new tile must be horizontally or vertically adjacent to at least one other tile and that it must match symbols with all adjacent ones. It is worth paying attention to which animal is a joker and its symbol fits all others. If we do not want to or cannot legally put anything out, we throw one of the bricks into the box.
If we managed to match the domino tile on the board, we can plant one of our plants in an available, adjacent wasteland field. If we have several options, we choose only one of them. Then we get one point for planting a new plant and one point for each other with less than or equal point value in that area. On our boards, the point values of each element are nicely marked. At the end of this phase, we check to see if we have closed any wasteland. If so, the place is scored.Tied players do not count towards the winner. Points are awarded for first and second place, however, when one monopoly player and all the items match his color in a given wasteland, he takes the entire pot and both rewards. The player who closes the area also takes a reward token. There are bonus points on the back, which are added at the end.
Finally, we choose one domino brick, if possible. During the turn, we can carry out any number of additional actions that require clouds. In two we can change the current joker to the chosen one. If we want to play an additional round again, we have to spend three tokens. We also have the option of taking one of our plants from the board as many clouds as its point value.
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At the end of the game, we resolve all wasteland with reward tokens, add cloud points and lose one for each unplanted plant. The person with the greatest value becomes the winner.
Is the game nice?
The illustration is by Dennis Lohausen, known for example from the Marco Polo game. Wooden components are impressive and eye-catching. Domino tiles, thick and solid, with great animal drawings, encourage you to play. There is also nothing missing from the plant elements. You can immediately see what is a bush and what is a tree. The cardboard elements of the clouds also seem neatly cut and should not deteriorate too quickly. The only thing that I have some reservations about are too large fields for tiles on the main board. Instinctively, I always tried to move them all together and holes were often formed in different places. It didn’t look aesthetically, but that’s just my feeling. During the game, the full board still makes an impression and often outsiders asked what we were playing.
How was it played?
Naturally, it is a very pleasant title that will provide a lot of fun games. The main mechanism, i.e. the laying of wooden domino tiles, works perfectly and makes us think carefully about our movement. We have three tiles at our disposal, and the number of places where we can add something is quite large. Each of them has its pros and cons, so it’s not always a simple and obvious decision. The gameplay is fluid and the rules are very accessible, so everyone, regardless of their board game experience, has a chance to win.
I also like the joker mechanism which makes the whole puzzle a little easier. At the beginning of the game, when there are not too many tiles yet, we use it sporadically. We still have quite a lot of options, so we focus on achieving the greatest benefits with the available funds. Later, when we have to match the symbols on the tiles, the help of a universal pet is invaluable and often saves our skin from an empty round.I honestly admit that I appreciated it only in the multiplayer game. Points for unused chips are always good, but often the ability to replay a turn is even better. In addition, we can potentially change the joker three times a turn, although we often won’t enjoy it for a long time, because our opponents also have the opportunity to do so. It is not so easy to get new chips, so managing their pool optimally is another interesting flavor.
An interesting solution is the area majority mechanics when closing wastelands with plants. Its idea is to score points for the values gained on individual areas on the board. Naturally, however, he adds a nice bonus here in the form of tied players. If we have the same number of points as a different color of pawns in a given place, both results are dropped and are not taken into account. The fight for the areas is already fierce, but an additional condition adds another, tactical dimension to the entire game. Everyone also has neutral plant elements, so you need to skillfully juggle the available options and create an advantage in the right places. Others are awake and are constantly trying to block us and limit our possibilities. Often someone will add a tile to us in such a place that we will not be able to add pawns in their color or at the last moment they will add a large tree, close the area and win a better prize.
Of course, it is best to use a full composition. The two-player gameplay is correct, but we lose a lot of the envelope associated with interacting with others. There is too much free space on the board, and the game usually looks as if everyone is doing their own thing and not getting in the way of the opponent too much. In our games, only the ending forced a fight for available places.
Some people may also be disturbed by a certain amount of randomness. We select one brick at random every round and we cannot manipulate the available options in any way. Sometimes nothing will suit us and we will be forced to play what is. Luck in picking is of great importance here and will often make our puzzle easier. After a dozen or so games, the game will not surprise with anything new, we will still be flooded with dilemmas where to put the brick, where to play a tree and where to get more points.
Naturally, it is a tactical game for the whole family, which attracts with its theme, quality of workmanship and satisfying gameplay. Arranging dominoes is very enjoyable and attracts everyone. Engaging gameplay presents us with a large number of dilemmas and decisions to be made. As it is in life, you need to be lucky sometimes, but the fun of the game compensates for everything. Naturally, it is a successful title worth recommending to every board game player hungry for good games.
Maybe you’ll be interested in our review of Wiedźmiej Skały?
You can buy Naturally here.