In future world where the icecaps have all melted, new global alliances have risen up and vie for control. That’s the backdrop of The 5th Land, a new board game from Prime Alien Watch Squad, which is now live on Kickstarter.
The beauty of The 5th Land is that it blends economics, combat, and resource management together into a fun and engaging game, that doesn’t take too long to finish. The game board, which is made up of multiple hex tiles, has over 11,000 different configurations, which means the world map can be different essentially every time you play. The goal of The 5th Land is to occupy 5 Land Tiles or to eliminate each of your opponents. Each round is divided into 5 actions. Would it be any other number, really? Most of the actions go by quickly enough, with little downtime between each player’s turn. The rulebook for The 5th Land can be downloaded here, but I provide an overview below.
Players pick one of the 5 available Nations to control and each Nation has a unique advantage. Each player starts the game occupying two land spaces. A neutral nation occupies all non-player controlled land spaces, so the amount of neutral units in the game will vary depending on the amount of players. The neutral nation only has land units, but players may purchase air and sea units in addition to more land units. Since most of the earth is underwater, having ships and planes is crucial to obtaining a swift victory.
Economics comes into the game in the form of a World Market. This is where players can buy and sell resources, including military units. Buying and selling a particular resource affects the value of that resource. The World Market has starting values, determined by dice rolls, but it is ultimately controlled by the players as they buy and sell items each turn. Buying low and selling high becomes the name of the game during the 4th Action Phase, which is actually called World Market Trading. Smart players can really excel at this part of the game, but turn order (which rotates each round) will also play a big role in what happens during this phase.
If it wasn’t apparent, money is a big part of The 5th Land. Each turn you’ll have to pay for your troops as well as the effort to gather any resources. Can’t pay the cost to maintain a military unit at the start of your turn? That unit will be removed from the board. But hey, military upkeep is the 2nd Action Phase. Lucky for you during the first Action Phase you can take out a huge loan, which you’ll have to pay back with interest.
Attacking other players, and/or the neutral nation, is fairly straight forward. You’ll spend resources to move and also spend them to attack. So in addition to managing your finances, you’ll also have to manage your consumable resources, which consist of food, oil, and gold. These resources, along with military units, are what can be bought and sold on the World Market.
But enough about the game, was it fun and do I recommend it? Yes and yes. My wife said she enjoyed it more than she thought she would based on the premise, and that it was more fun that it looked. I enjoyed it as well and found the mix of combat and resource management quite entertaining. The rules and mechanics are so straightforward that even though there are a lot of phases, and potentially a lot going on, the game never felt clunky. No one had a hard time comprehending the rules or understanding what was going on at any given time. Set up is fairly quick and playing the game only takes around 30 minutes. The game is decent with two players, but isn’t as direct combat focused. So if that is your thing, you’ll want to play with 3 or more players. At four (and five) players the board is decently crowded and direct player confrontation is inevitable.
Attaching a player controlled economic element to a combat/area control game is awesome. This adds a lot to the game and really has an effect on the employed strategies. Replayability is high and because of the easy to learn mechanics, not to mention relatively short playing time, this game has a lot of appeal. Players that don’t normally enjoy games that feature direct player combat will make The 5th Land an exception. Go check out The 5th Land Kickstarter page, lend your support, and help make this game a reality.
((A prototype copy was played for the purpose of this review. All components pictured do not depict final quality and are subject to change.