5th land cover

Publisher: Golden Ratio

Game Designer: Andreas Katelanos

Artwork: Andreas Katelanos

Players: 2-5 Players

Ages: 10 and up

Playing Time: 30-60 minutes

Game Mechanics: Area Control, Economic, Wargame

Contents: 10 megatiles, 61 paper currency, 4 nation supply cards, world market board, 110 units, 20 markers, 3 dice, rule book

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99

Parental Advisory: Safe for children

Awards:

It is the year 2099; ten years ago the polar ice caps melted leaving the vast majority of the world covered in water. Five new nations arose from the ruins of the apocalypse and rebuilt what was left. In order to survive, they now battle over the Earth’s remaining bounty both militarily and economically vying to be the first to claim five land areas. Can you lead your nation to victory in The 5th Land?

Introduction

The 5th Land is an independent wargame recently launched on Kickstarter by designer Andreas Kotelanos out of Greece. This light, fast-paced wargame has a 4x flavor blending military strategy with a simple and often times frustrating world market economy that can benefit you, be used as a weapon against your foes or even against you. You will battle on multiple fronts both militarily and financially in this fast-paced, easy to learn wargame from Golden Ratio where you will need to conquer and control five land tiles in order to emerge victorious.

Summary of Content

My review is based on the prototype copy I received from the designer, a very nice prototype but not the final version. That is the goal of the Kickstarter, to provide funding for the final version to be made with over 200 wooden pieces and a 32” game board that looks really sharp. I’m anxious to see the game in its final form since the demo copy is one of the nicer ones I’ve played as a prototype.

The map is constructed from 10 megatiles, 4 diamond and 6 triangle shaped tiles that are randomly placed to create the world map. The board is designed to be different each time, claiming a total of over 11,000 possible combinations to play on. Each megatile is broken into a hex grid to easily plan and track movement with terrain features and resource icons throughout.

Map Tiles

The 5th Land Map Tile

 

The player mats were thick card stock, with unique and compelling art distinguishing each nations identity. The world market economy mat was of similar construction and includes a reference guide for turn actions, combat, movement and transport.

The designer explained to me that the final version of the rule book needs further development but I had no issues understanding the rules which seem to be in a pretty solid state currently.

As stated on the Kickstarter project page, the final version of The 5th Land will come with 5 Player sets, each with a Supply Card, 20 Wooden Meeples, 10 Wooden Sea Units, 10 Wooden Air Units; a World Market Board; 70 paper Money Notes; 16 Neutral Wooden Meeples; 20 Plastic Markers 3 Dice (D6,D12,D20) and a Rule Book.

Analysis and Evaluation

When I receive a new game, whether it is for review or personal pleasure, I almost always follow the same routine. Unbox it, punch it and start playing it while I follow the rule book as I go. This helps me get right to playing while also testing the designer’s ability to explain their game without confusion or boredom and most of the time it works pretty well.

The 5th Land is no exception here, I was immediately able to get right into the game. The rules are logically laid out with sequential directions that follow actions for each turn order, making it very easy to pick up and play. This game can be taught in about 5-10 minutes and after the first turn, everyone should know exactly what they’re doing.

Players choose a nation and begin the game with $75 million, two ground units and five of each resource; gold, food and oil. Each nation has a distinguishing national advantage with one set resource that gives them a nice bump at the beginning and an extra of that resource each turn. For example, the Demeter Federation begins the game with three extra food and earns one extra each turn.

Poseidon Empire Player Mat

Poseidon Empire Player Mat

After placing starting forces, a pair of neutral ground units are set in each of the remaining empty land tiles, leaving few if any land tiles uncontested. Much like in Eight Minute Empire, players will need to defeat neutral units to gain control of the land tiles for their resources, or they can be left in place to act as a buffer against your opponents.

Resources are in every one of the 18 land tiles on the board and 6 of the sea tiles, making for a very cramped board with five players. Players must use diplomacy as much as military cunning to take ground and claim resources in this game. Diplomacy is recommended and offering your nearest neighbor a non-aggression pact may give you some room to breathe, in the early going, but don’t trust them for very long!

Two resources can be extracted from each land tile but cost money to be recovered, if you’re unable to buy from or sell them to the world market because of high costs, you do have another option to boost capital. When finances run thin, you can take a loan of 50 million from the bank up to three times at an increasing and costly interest rate. Interest must be paid every round, failure to do so causes your financial expenses to double and incomes halved as a penalty.

With the world market in constant flux, you will find yourself borrowing to keep up with your opponents and to increase your military might. Being in debt at the end of the game is not a determining victory factor expect in the case of a tie, so there is no reason to not go heavily into debt in the later rounds of the game. It’s a nice option to have, this financial safety net.

Military units are procured through payment of cash and one resource or bought on the market at the going rate without any resources required. When the cost dips to a fire sale price of only one million per unit, it’s time to snatch up a bunch of units.

Three Player Setup

Three Player Setup

As I mentioned earlier, the map can get crowded quickly if there are a full complement of players. While there are no player eliminations in the game, if your forces get destroyed in the latter stages of the game you may find no empty land tiles on which to place new forces. With no capitols or safe havens in The 5th Land, don’t forget about using some politicking to keep your nation alive, it really adds to the gameplay experience.

The world market economy is the other battlefield in which you will engage players in The 5th Land. The economy constantly changes, reacting to the market as influenced by the players. As items are bought, the price increases, sometimes very dramatically. Likewise, when resources are sold off, there is a glut in the market and prices drop. Timing is everything when you want to exploit the market for gain or to inflict pain on your opponents.

Combat in The 5th Land is a very simple process, having greater numbers gives you a greater chance at winning outright but you still need the dice on your side. Attacking with 1-2 units allows you to roll one die, 3-4 units grants two dice and with 5 or more units you roll three dice. For every three points you roll, you as the attacker will choose which defending unit is destroyed. Likewise for the defender since rolls are simultaneous in their effects, except the defender does not decide which attacking units are destroyed.

To give an example, if I attack two units with three of my own, I roll two dice while the defender rolls only one. If I roll a 4 and a 1, only one defender unit is destroyed while they roll a six, destroying two of my units and force me to retreat! Combat is costly and attrition is high in The 5th Land but thankfully, units are infinite.

Poseidon Empire Battle Victory

Poseidon Empire Battle Victory

Ground units can be moved by air or sea and you can also employ air and sea assets to battle against land units, as long as they are adjacent to the defending unit and you have the resources necessary. Resources are life in The 5th Land and there are only so many to go around.

If you are besieged by a stronger player, you can always call for help from other players but any player who assists will have to pay movement and combat costs associated for their units. Once again, here is where diplomacy comes in. Since you are asking for help, you could offer to pay the supporting players logistical costs but remember that this moments ally could be next moment’s enemy. I love the interplay here; it adds so much more to the game as well as increasing table chatter, trash talking and all sorts of good fun!

I wouldn’t recommend The 5th Land for a group under three, while it says the game can be played with two players, the neutral units are not that difficult to overcome with just two players and there is no room for diplomacy. An aggressive player that uses their start bonuses wisely can win the game very, very fast. So as a two player only game, I wouldn’t see it being as enjoyable as it is with three or more players.

If you’re in the market for a fast playing, easy to understand wargame that also uses a basic economic model to provide multiple layers to keep track of, then go give The 5th Land a look on Kickstarter. I think you’ll like it.

Conclusion

For a fairly simple wargame, The 5th Land offers surprising depth, multiple layers of strategy and the opportunity for a lot of player interaction that gives it a middleweight game feel without the AP or brain pain. You will not only need to track the progress of everyone’s land, sea and air forces but also an eye on the world economy, constantly planning and adjusting those plans on how to benefit yourself while hurting others as everyone races toward taking that fifth land tile.

One of the potential drawback to designs like these are the chances of a player who feels they cannot win acting as kingmaker. With no player elimination, the chances of this are minimized because you’re never really out of the game, unless it is very late in the game. You can always limp back onto the board, as long as there is space, and build yourself back up as the stronger players will likely ignore you while they battle it out.

 

Club Fantasci Scoring (Based on scale of 10):

Artwork: 7

Rules Book: 7.5

Re-playability: 8

Component Quality: 7

Club Fantasci Overall Score: 7.25

This game is Club Fantasci Certified!

Club Fantasci Certified

I’m giving The 5th Land 7.25 out of 10 stars because it is a good example of a simple game design that gives you just enough to keep you busy, making it feel like a bigger game than it is yet you never feel overwhelmed. You’re always engaged in the game, even when it’s not your turn and a simple, yet effective economic model along with a fun combat mechanic. A solid first outing for designer Andreas Katelanos and Golden Ratio.

If you’re in the market for a fast playing, easy to understand wargame that also uses a basic economic model to provide multiple layers to keep track of, then go give The 5th Land a look on Kickstarter. I think you’ll like it.

 

Company Website: The 5th Land

Company Facebook: www.Facebook.com/The5thLand

Company Twitter: www.Twitter.com/The5thLand

 

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