I’ve been asked to play a game of Greenland as my next game and I said “Sure.” So here’s my introduction.
Greenland is another game by Phil Ecklund, the maker of High Frontier, which you may remember from my earlier posts is a really freaking awesome game about monetizing our solar system (and possibly beyond). For those of you who read it (and if you didn’t, why don’t you go back and do so), you’ll know it’s a very intense strategical game where the randomness comes from the cards that are auctioned off each turn, as well as occassionally risking your spacecraft to see if you roll a “1” and have the thing blow up. Of course, there are several ways to mitigate these bits of randomness (patience will bring your “perfect card” to the top eventually and you can spend WTs to avoid rolling most dice) so you can say it’s a pretty tight game.
But not all of his games are like that.
In fact, some of his games come with 10d6, and expect you to be rolling them! Greenland is one of them. The others in the line include Neanderthal and the newly released Bios: Genesis.
Each of these games are played in “roughly” the same way, meaning if you know how to play one, you know the gist of how to play the others. In no way are they the same, though. In Bios: Genesis, you are trying to create bacteria and the sparks of life to eventually become a micro- then macro-organism. Neanderthal you are trying to open up various parts of your brain so you can eventually become smart enough to become tribal and build things. Finally Greenland has you surviving hunting in a world that is slowly freezing to death.
Not really the same.
But yet, the basic mechanic of placing a resource onto a tableau of cards, each resource equaling 1d6 you get to roll, low rolls will get you more of that particular resource plus possibly another kind of resource used in the game, be it Catalysts in Bios, Vocabulary in Neanderthal or Ivory in Greenland, then you spend those resources in very (often VERY) specific ways (for vitamins or genetic changes, to open up brain sections or to feed your livestock and trade goods with neighbors) and then move on to the next year where some outside event will mess with you. Lather, rinse, repeat.
This might sound boring or way too random. Some think it is. It surely is a lot of die rolling. However, the story that evolves (see what I did there?) as each tribe goes on their hunt (or each biont goes on its, um, squirm) is naturally fraught with danger, and being able to spend a resource and say “I automatically succeed” just doesn’t make sense. Mr. Ecklund always walks the tightrope between realism and gameplay, and the randomness is the grasp towards realism.
Blizzards happen. Earth will get whacked with a giant asteroid and make the moon. Your elders will die (a lot!). UV radiation will mess with your genotype. Your tools will rust away. In short: Life can suck. But it’s what we do with the time we have that makes it worth playing/living.
So as I go through Greenland, you may see it looking grim, swingy and not very fun (I have a habit of dying a slow and painful death in that game), try to focus on the struggle and how it’s that struggle that makes us who we are as animals on this little blue speck, and how we got to the High Frontier in the first place.
Now let’s go play!