Review by: Jillian Schmett
Hey everyone! This may come as a shock to those who know me, but this week I wanted to talk about a game by Eric Lang I've been playing recently, Ancestree. It's published by Calliope games and was released in 2017. I must admit that I may have never even looked at this game if I weren't convinced to by a friend, and I'm happy to report that it's completely different than any other Lang game I've played/seen so far. (Sorry Mr. Lang, it's not you, it's me... I want to like your games... I really do, they're just not usually my style)
Ancestree is a tile drafting/laying game for 2-6 players in which you are trying to build the best family tree. Inside the box, you'll find 110 Ancestor tiles (colored red, yellow, blue, purple, or grey), 6 scoreboards, 96 Dynasty tokens (valued I, II, and III), and 110 Gold tokens. The components are of good quality.
Players will score points by collecting coins, comparing dynasties, and receiving end-game bonuses for the number of marriages in their tree. Family trees will be constructed over the course of three rounds with scoring in between each one, and followed by end game scoring. Each round, players will draft their Ancestor tiles by drawing 6 tiles from a common draw pile, simultaneously choosing one and passing to the player to their left during rounds 1 and 3, and passing to the player to their right during round 2. Players place their chosen tile face down in front of them until everyone has chosen one from their hand and passed the remaining tiles, and then everyone will reveal their tile and add it to their tree. This will continue until everyone has placed 5 tiles and discarded the 6th remaining tile from their last hand, at which point there will be scoring.
At the end of each round, players will be awarded coins (which are worth 1 point each at the end of the game), and points for having larger Dynasties (an unbroken vertical chain of touching Ancestor tiles of the same color) than the players directly to their left and right. At the end of the game, point values are assigned to the number of marriages in a family tree (i.e. 8 marriages = 30 points). The player with the highest score wins.
My husband and I got this game as a "mutual present" to ourselves for Valentine's Day (read as: my husband ordered this game shortly before February 14th, and then a couple days later realized that he could call it a Valentine's Day present) and we have played it a bunch already. Our son has really enjoyed it, and it plays in about twenty minutes which makes it perfect for after dinner/before bedtime routine.
So far I have played at 2, 3, and 4 player counts and enjoyed them all. There is a small scoring variant in a 2 player game, but the play feels pretty similar. One big difference with higher player counts comes with the fact that Dynasties are only compared to the players directly beside you, which I like because it works well here and is something I haven't seen in many other games.
There are plenty of tile-laying games out there that are perfectly fine games, but feel as though they could have any theme pasted on them and be just as good. Although that may be true with this game, I feel that the family tree theme is the best possible one that could have been chosen. It really feels as though you are constructing a map of a families lineages.
The artwork is fine and I feel that it fits the game, my only complaint being that there are not many different portraits, so a tree will end up having a lot of doubles/triples/etc. of the same picture and sometimes even a marriage between two identical looking people, which does take away from the thematic feel a little bit.
You'll like this game if you enjoy drafting, tile-laying, tableau-building, and quick gameplay. If you're looking for something on the heavier side, or don't particularly enjoy those mechanisms, this won't be the game for you. It does those things well, but doesn't do anything completely new or innovative.
As I mentioned above, I historically have not been an Eric Lang fan. When playing this game, you can definitely tell that he has imparted his style in it (hate draft, anyone?), but it's incorporated into a completely different game than I would normally associate with him. I love tile-placement and tableau-building, and this game is a welcome addition to my collection.
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