Game review: Ulm - make history as one of the city's most respected leaders
Posted April 14
How many board games out there have a three-dimensional church as part of the board? R&R Game's Ulm is a strategic festival of old-world city life. Gamers will love using the innovative tile push mechanism to become Ulm's most popular citizen.
The game Ulm is based on a German city founded in medieval times. At the center of the city is the Gothic Ulm Minster, a centuries-old church. The steeple of the church was rumored to be one of the tallest in Europe and on clear days, one might see the Alps.
In honor of this historic German city, R&R Games has published a wonderfully designed and beautifully decorated board game for two to four players. The board shows different areas of the city of Ulm where actions take place, but the design-pinnacle is the three-dimensional church that sits on the board at the center of the city.
In this Euro-style game, players are competing to gain the most victory points by game end. They will accomplish this task by sailing their boats down the city's river, using special abilities and collecting specific cards to form sets.
On players' turns, they take three actions determined by how they manipulate an innovative tile sliding mechanism. A three by three grid made up of action tiles is located on the board.
On his or her turn, a player draws an action tile from the bag and places it left, right, up or down on the sliding tile grid on the board and pushes the tiles in the grid the opposite direction. The three tiles moved by the drawn tile are now played. Actions include such things as gaining more tiles, moving a boat down the river or purchasing cards.
A player can play one card every turn. Cards do a variety of actions but also allow players to collect sets to earn tons of victory points at the end of the game. Cards have multiple uses that can deliver different points. For example, a card might be worth an immediate set of points but as part of a set at the end of the game, the set might be worth 15 points.
Another action players can take is a "seal" action. Around the board are a variety of locations in the city where a player can place one of the player's personal seals. Each of these locations grant a special power such as moving a boat on the river, collecting a coat of arms for points or collecting more tiles to use.
A certain part of the city has four special abilities available. If players time it right they can activate these special abilities and improve their gameplay. Eight abilities are available in the game to choose four from, so there is great replayability.
Turns go very quick in this game, so players will not get bored when it's not their turn. Players will consistently draw a tile and take three actions every turn. It has simple mechanisms that are easy to understand but great depth of strategy.
One of the cool aesthetic parts of the game is that players actually get to help build the three-dimensional church. Roof tiles are added each round until the game ends. It's a quick 10 rounds. The person with the most victory points at the end of the game from cards, seals and coat of arms wins. Gameplay lasts about an hour, but it is a very quick hour.
Ulm is the kind of fun strategy title Euro-gamers will love. The game's actions and mechanisms are fun to use, but the strategy of figuring out how to earn the most victory points is most challenging. There are simply so many things to do each turn and no time to do it. Above all, the unique mechanism of tile sliding to determine what actions may be taken is extremely innovative. This is a great game that many people will enjoy. Did I mention it has a three-dimensional church?