It’s time for your little village to become a proper kingdom, so you’ll need to get the proper royal relics. And to do that, you’ll need some turnips! How you get them—by farming them yourself or raiding neighboring villages—is entirely up to you.
In “Reaping the Rewards,” I take a closer look at the finished product from a crowdfunding campaign. Village Pillage was originally funded on Kickstarter in the spring of 2018 and delivered to backers early 2019. It is now available for purchase.
What Is Village Pillage?
Village Pillage is a fast-paced card game for 2 to 5 players (or up to 6 with the mini-expansion pack), ages 10 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It retails for $19.99, and is available in game stores and online, including directly from Jellybean Games—and if you buy directly from the publisher, it includes the expansion pack. There’s also a free print-and-play available if you’d like to try it out before buying. I think the game is appropriate for kids as young as 8, though less experienced players may have trouble figuring out how to outwit more experienced players.
Note: Jellybean Games just successfully concluded a Kickstarter campaign for two expansions, Surf and Turf. I have not played those, so this review will focus on the base game and mini-expansion. However, if you’re interested, you can still go to the Kickstarter page to pre-order the expansions.
Village Pillage Components
Here’s what comes in the box:
- 20 Starting cards (4 each for 5 players)
- 20 Market cards
- 5 Bank cards
- 1 Chicken token
- 15 Relic tokens (5 each scepter, throne, crown)
- 72 Turnip tokens
The expansion pack includes:
- 4 Starting cards
- 4 Market cards
- 3 Relic tokens (“chicken” versions of the scepter, throne, crown)
I’m not entirely sure why there’s an extra set of relic tokens, but there’s one set that matches the base game, and one set that’s chicken-themed but it otherwise serves no special gameplay purpose. UPDATE: Apparently I got lucky and got an extra set of regular relics with the expansion pack; it’s supposed to include just the three chicken relics.
The cards have a linen finish, and I really love the way they look. The card backs have a sort of wallpaper-like pattern (with turnips, of course), and the character illustrations by Tania Walker are wonderful. The cast of characters is diverse in age, gender, race, and size, and the illustration style looks like something out of a comic book. I caught the Doctor Who reference (see the “Doctor” card in the photo above), which makes me wonder if there are other allusions that I’ve missed.
The chicken token is a large cardboard disc that you can flip for heads or tails to break ties when necessary—it’s pretty silly, but gives you a sense of the tone of this game. The other tokens—relics and turnips—are also cardboard tokens that you punch out yourself. The cardboard is fairly thin and the relics and turnips are pretty small, so I found that the leaves on the turnips were easy to bend up while punching. The wooden turnips in the current Kickstarter are tempting, though I don’t know if I really need the metal chicken coin that comes with them.
Overall, the components are fine but the cardboard bits are slightly disappointing. The game comes in a small box, though as you can see from the insert the box is still about double what is necessary. It does mean that you could probably remove the insert and put the upcoming expansions into the same box, though.
How to Play Village Pillage
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to be the first to acquire three royal relics.
Each player gets a set of four starting cards (marked with an egg in the lower right corner): Farmer, Wall, Raider, and Merchant. You also get a Bank card, and two turnips: one goes on your bank card, and the other goes next to your bank, in your “stockpile.” The rest of the turnips and the relics are placed in a supply. Shuffle the market cards into a face-down deck and reveal the top 4 cards as the market.
The 2-player game uses slightly different rules, so I’ll explain how to play with 3 or more players first.
During each round, players will follow these phases simultaneously:
- Plan: Pick two cards and play one face-down toward each of your neighbors.
- Resolve: Reveal all cards and resolve them in the order: Farmers, Walls, Raiders, Merchants.
- Refresh: Pick up your resolved cards and put them back into your hand.
The order of resolving cards is helpfully printed at the bottom of the Bank cards. Although the market cards all have unique names, they all fall into one of the four types, indicated by the card color and icon at the top left. Farmers typically let you gain turnips from the supply. Walls protect your turnips from Raiders. Raiders attempt to steal turnips. Merchants let you spend turnips to buy a relic or have other effects (like acquiring new cards from the market) if you can’t afford one. The specific characters may have other effects that tweak these basic concepts.
Each card may have one or more effects listed, along with icons next to them. The effect your card has depends on what card is played against it by your neighbor. For instance, your basic Wall card usually allows you to gain 1 turnip and bank 1 turnip if it’s played against a Farmer, Wall, or Merchant. However, if your neighbor plays a Raider against your Wall, you get to steal 1 turnip from your neighbor, and bank 1. (Serves them right, those sneaky thieves!) Your bank stores up to five turnips, and typically those turnips cannot be stolen, but you can spend them just as you spend turnips from your stockpile.
The Merchant cards are crucial for winning the game—each one allows you to buy a relic by spending turnips: 8 for the scepter, 9 for the crown, and 10 for the throne. The relics must be purchased in order. If you played a Merchant and you can afford it, you must buy a relic; otherwise, you must use the alternate effect of the card. The basic Merchant allows you to buy a card from the market: you can purchase from the face-up market, and then refill the market. Buying more cards, of course, gives you more options to play against your opponents.
The game ends at the end of a round when a player has collected all 3 relics. If more than one player reached 3 relics on the same round, ties go to the player with the most turnips remaining, and then to the player with the most cards in hand.
For a 2-player game, you use the back of the Bank card, which is marked “Duel” and has only 4 spaces for turnips, and cheaper relics.
On your first turn, you play two cards against your opponent, but you line them one in front of the other. Each round during the “resolve” phase, you only reveal the card in front and resolve it. On future planning phases, you add one card. Essentially you are programming a move one turn before resolving it. The rest of the game remains the same.
Village Pillage is GeekDad Approved!
Why You Should Play Village Pillage
I’d missed the original Kickstarter for Village Pillage, but was introduced to it at Gen Con this year and given a review copy. I was immediately drawn in by the fun artwork and intuitive gameplay.
I’ve always enjoyed simultaneous selection games: you and your opponents have to decide what you want to do, and then you’ll find out when choices are revealed who was able to out-think the other. Games like Go Nuts for Donuts use this to great effect, because even though it’s a very simple instruction (“choose a donut”), there are a lot of implications for what happens based on who chooses what. In Village Pillage, that decision is a little more complicated because—at least if you have at least 3 players—you have to think about both of your neighbors simultaneously. Is one of them going to raid you? Better play your Wall. Is one of them going to use a Farmer? Maybe it’s a good time to raid them instead! But what if both neighbors raid you? You only start with one Wall, so you might be out of luck.
Although the ultimate goal is to acquire the royal relics, buying more cards from the market can definitely give you an edge, so playing your Merchant even when you don’t have enough turnips to buy a relic is often a smart idea. The problem, of course, is that the Merchant is also vulnerable to Raiders, so timing is important. The basic Farmer gives you 3 turnips, no problem, but they’re easy to steal; the Raider lets you steal 4 turnips, which is a better return—but only if your neighbor has turnips to steal and if you don’t run into a Wall.
Once you get beyond the starting cards, there are a lot of really fun effects. The Mason is a farmer-type, but if played against a Wall, he lets you steal turnips from the Wall. There are cards that let you exhaust your neighbor’s card (so it can’t be played for a round), steal from a player’s bank, or gain more than a typical Farmer. Each card has its uses, but it all depends on what your neighbor plays against it. It’s definitely helpful to have an idea of what cards your neighbors have when you’re choosing what to play.
One nice aspect of the game is that the game doesn’t get too much longer with more players, because the only players you can affect (and be affected by) are those sitting directly next to you. In a four-player game, the person sitting across from you can’t do anything to you (except perhaps throw you some nasty looks), so you don’t generally need to take them into consideration as much when planning your cards. If your group enjoys meta-gaming, though, this is where you start making deals with your neighbors so that they attack that far-away opponent instead of you.
What I love about Village Pillage is how easy it is to get set up and playing: the game is very easy to learn, but still presents a fun puzzle to figure out what the best move is each round. It’s a pretty short game, so it’s great for kicking off a game night, or you can play a couple times in a row if people want a rematch. The expansion pack lets you play with up to 6 players, which is great, and throws in a few market cards (one of each type) with some wackier effects.
On top of all that, I just enjoy the artwork and the silliness of the theme. I don’t think I’ve played any other games with a turnip-based economy, and I love the wide variety of characters that Tania Walker has illustrated.
If you enjoy mind games and trying to outwit your opponents, give Village Pillage a try!
To subscribe to GeekDad’s tabletop gaming coverage, please copy this link and add it to your RSS reader.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.