I am always looking for a great theme in a game. Something that stands out. Simurgh, by designer Pierluca Zizzi, really accomplishes that. As a worker placement game it feels out of place among your common Euro games about trading and mining resources. This one has dragons and spearmen!! The first thing that caught my eye in this game was the look, it stands out in the crowd. I just hope that the game play is up to the way that it looks. Let’s find out.
Publisher: NSKN Legendary Games
Designer: Pierluca Zizzi
Time: 90 min.
In Simurgh, you are the head of a family, training dragons and utilizing their special abilities to gain the most Power Points and be the greatest family in the land. You will have workers of two kinds and areas that are only revealed by your family. It won’t be easy and many of the decisions you make along the way will effect everyone and anyone. The game will be tight and unforgiving but in the end all your hard work could pay off.
Each player starts the game with a player board, 1 Spearman and 1 Dragon Rider. They also get a number of resources as depicted on their player mat. Each person will also get 4 different Action Tiles that they can play though out the game.
The game is played over many rounds. Players take turns doing a main action and then free actions to their liking. There is no round limit and the game continues until one of the end game conditions are met.
On a players turn, you MUST do a main action. This action is either place a worker out on an action space or take any number of workers back from the board. You could take one, a couple or all of them. You can’t do both of them. Getting your Vassals back is basically giving up your turn but it is necessary. You need to maximize all of your turns so that you can efficiently get things done that you need done. Before or after your main action a player can do any number of free actions. Free actions include using your dragon abilities, moving down on one of the Exploration Action tiles or place a new Action Tile out in the wilds. If you choose to put an Action Tile out in the wilds you MUST do that before your main action because it forces you to put out one of your workers on it. Since there are two different types of workers, they can only go on certain spaces. Dragon Riders can go to any space, but Spearmen can never go onto spaces where there is a Dragon Icon.
Placing Vassals on the board allows you to do many different actions. Most of these are simply trade this resource for another. One space allows you to get new Dragons, with special abilities. Another space gives you new Action Tiles that you can then use in the wilds. Another action area gets you more Spearmen or Dragon Riders, allowing more workers for you to utilize through out the game. Another area lets you choose end game Objective Tiles to put out for scoring at the end of the game.
Players will continue to take turns until one of two end game conditions are met. If there are 5 objective tiles placed the game will end. The other way the game will end is when there are 15 action tiles that have been discarded or put into the “Chronicle”. Objective tiles are gained only if someone goes there and chooses one of the tiles to put out. At the end of the game people will score points based on who has the most of a certain type of Dragon. Action tiles are added to the chronicle in a number of different ways. When there are no Vassals that are on the tile, it gets removed. When a Dragon Rider reaches the last spot on an Exploration Tile, you add it to the Chronicle. If there are too many Vassals on the tile, it gets taken off the board. The final way is if someone destroys one. If there are no spaces available, you can use a spear to destroy a tile to put one in its place. Once one of these are met, the game ends and the final scoring occurs. Everyone gets one point for every 3 resources they still have. Each Objective Tile in the game gets scored and the winner is the player with the most Power Points!
I often NEVER complain about a game being over produced but I have to say, Simurgh has done it. But I will not complain about it. Everything is top notch for this game. I love the plastic Vassals. It makes it stand out from the basic wood meeples. The Action Tiles could have been simply cards….but they didn’t. They are thick, thick cardboard. Cards would have been easier to shuffle but again….they are great. All the resources are very nice and chunky….maybe too chunky. The only issue I really have with the game is the player board and the resource slots. The spaces are way too small for the size of the resources. It makes me confused that they would go out of their way to make such great components then go cheap on the player aids. They literally need to make them an inch higher and two inches longer and they would have been perfect. I should also mention that the art work is fantastic and the board is beautiful!
There are a couple really neat ideas coming in this game. At first play, they seem out of place or awkward but after a few plays it all comes together. The Dragons that you collect and their special abilities are a key focus. If you are not getting dragons that you can use to help you along the way you are in trouble. You need some but not too many, due to the objective tiles. Plus they take quite a few resources to get them. Action Tiles being added by players is really fun. There is quite a bit of strategy of when to play tiles and how long to keep them out. There are two types of tiles that give you plenty of resources, meaning you are going to get the best spot but you are also allowing others to get things from it also. The other tiles give Power Points. The Exploration Tiles allow your Dragon Riders to travel to four levels gaining more experience along the way. The thing is there are 2 sides to the path and you can’t land on the same area as another. Also whoever finishes the path first will get the tile removed. If you don’t get as far as you want the other player will get more points by finishing it. Putting a little race in there is a great addition. The other Power Point Tile is Power Tiles, each player only gets one during the game and the rest are not added to the rest. When to play these to maximize the points for yourself is critical! The Objective Tiles are also a nice addition. You have to put a worker there but that also allows you to have some influence on what is scored at the end of the game. Most of the tiles have specific dragons on them meaning you need to have the most of those dragons to get the most points. There are 12 total dragons in the game with two copies for each dragon. You don’t want to put out Objectives too eary for everyone else to find those types of dragons but waiting too late might put you in a bind of not getting any of the objectives that match your dragons. The mechanisms play off each other like a well oiled cog in an old clock.
Again, replayablility is solid. Not only are there going to be different things to do each game but the objectives will change each game. There is also two different levels to play at. The normal game has a side on the player board that you are allowed to have 15 resources through out the game. If you decide to play the Dragon Lord variant then you only have 12 slots for resources. Just missing those three spaces makes a tight game even tighter.
I gave this a four even though there is quite a bit of randomness. There is randomness on what Action Tiles you get at the beginning of the game. What Action Tiles come out on the board through out the game and some randomness when choosing new Dragons and Objective Tiles during the game. That being said there are some really solid strategies in this game. When to play the Action Tile at the right time, so that you are the one that maximizes it the most without helping others too much. Getting a plan together to go though as many Exploration Tiles as you can. Making it difficult on others to get their engine going. Making sure you have all resources in hand in case you need something to do at any given moment. There is some randomness but the strategy out weighs it.
Final Thoughts: 16/20
Overall I was not disappointed with Simurgh! I can say that I am not very good at it. I have yet to win and it really hasn’t been close but I really like many of the things that it has to offer. I really like the two end game conditions and how you can determine what is being scored at the end of the game. I like the tightness of the resources and how you need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes up. If a game has multiple ways to play that gives it a different feel every time you play it, it is a keeper for me. I also didn’t mention that there are different lengths of the game that you can play, short, medium and long. Simurgh will be in my collection for the foreseeable future and can’t wait to get it played more. I am also looking forward to the expansion to add more great things to an already great game.