Gutenberg review

Gutenberg is a medium weight euro game where you compete to be the best printers.

Game Details
NameGutenberg (2021)
ComplexityMedium [2.71]
BGG Rank1371 [7.34]
Player Count1-4
Designer(s)Katarzyna Cioch and Wojciech Wiśniewski
Artist(s)Rafał Szłapa
Publisher(s)Granna, Atalia, Boardgame Mall, HUCH!, Ingenio Games and Portal Games
Mechanism(s)Auction/Bidding, Contracts, Open Drafting, Simultaneous Action Selection, Solo / Solitaire Game, Turn Order: Progressive, Variable Player Powers and Worker Placement

You gain points by having high levels of certain skills, by completing orders, and by impressing your patrons. The person with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

The game plays over 6 rounds; each round, 5 actions are played through in order: take orders, buy inks, develop specialties, improve printing houses and patronage. Before taking actions you plan what you want to do by secretly bidding on each action – you have a set number of cubes you divide up between these actions. Once the bidding is done, bids are revealed and player order for each action is based on who has the highest bid. This means that, while you can do all 5 actions every round, some rounds you may choose to do only some of the actions to try to guarantee you get to do a specific action first.

Being first to do an action can make or break a game. Each action involves taking something from the board – and what is on the board is limited – if you aren’t first you may find that the ink colour you desperately need to complete an order, or the speciality you need to impress a patron, or the printing house improvement that will give you the edge this round, is already taken. When we played, it was action order in the last two or three rounds that determined the ultimate winner.

This bidding on actions is what makes this game what it is – absolutely superb. It’s a simple game to learn and play, but the need to carefully watch what your opponents are doing and being agile to changing circumstances, makes gameplay incredibly tactical. The placing of each bidding cube needs to be carefully weighed up against which actions are essential to go first and which you might not even do at all.

On top of this the components are brilliant. Aside from ink colours, everything has a cream or sepia look which really fits with the theme. The “typesetting” components are little wooden blocks with backward letters embossed on them, which really give the impression of printing blocks. Each player as a printing house board with space for three cogs (the printing house improvements) which you turn each round to give you different one-off abilities. These cogs turn beautifully (and add another element of careful planning as you consider which abilities you want this round and next – as of course they all spin in different orders). The game comes with six cardboard boxes, which look like chests, to organise components. So everything in the game adds to the theme.

I definitely felt the theme was very much integral to the game. Racing opponents to be first get the best orders or the best inks would certainly have been a reality in a time without the mass production of resources. The points represent how prestigious your printing house is. And money, often in limited supply, is needed to get the inks and typesets to be able to complete your orders. But to get money you need to complete orders so you often find yourself having to complete some orders just to get the money to be able to get what you need to complete the next.

So all in all this game gets a thumbs up from me and I can’t wait to play it again.

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