Review – Trollland – A satirical card game from Ludocortex

Review – Trollland – A satirical card game from Ludocortex

Please note that the generous folks at Ludocortex provided a review copy for this review

Designed by Bruno Cathala, Trollland is a set-collection game with a fantasy theme strapped on. There is a serious message in the design as the rules are written as a political satire of the current legal issues and approach many countries are using in dealing with illegal aliens. Fair enough I say. Game designers are allowed free speech as much as we are. The nice thing is that although the political message is clearly there and a little uncomfortable as it should be, it’s not so heavy handed as in perhaps other games and it does make you think. After all, it’s a game first and foremost.

The rules are reasonably translated into English and not bad despite a few minor glitches. It took a little extra time to digest the political message and some squirming to read it but actually it wasn’t an issue. We got the message and plowed on into the game.

Gameplay

And it is a very good game indeed. Surprisingly so, as at first glance, I wasn’t so sure how it would work. The mechanics work very well and smoothly. The players need to place cards representing different races onto vehicles (in cages!!!) to be deported out of the country. Any cards you can’t ship out go into your refugee camp. You gain points for being the last one to fill the vehicle up to its carriage allotment. Certain cards have bonuses and also special effects like being able to swap cards and play an extra card. It all works very well. After the first round or 2 were easily into the game.

There is just enough screwage and chaos represented by the troll cards to keep things interesting and frustrating in equal measure. Not a brain burner at all, but you do need to choose your placement carefully to try and avoid setting up the other players to fill the vehicles and take the points. It’s all about timing and choices of card placement as you fill the vehicles. Add to this the luck of the draw and the random chaos of the few troll cards and its all pretty good fun. Great artwork really adds to the game as the cartoon characters representing the races are fun. My gamer buddies particularly liked the “bimbos”… nuff said.

The political satire is there more in the rules but you tend not think about it during game play and some may find this a bit uncomfortable but I think that if it provokes players to think about the global problem of migrants, illegal aliens and ask questions about it, I am sure the designer will feel he has achieved his purpose.

Did it work for me?

On the whole, yes it did. As a game, it stands up very well with a solid design and is fun and relatively fast playing with little or no down time for players. The fantasy theme doesn’t impact play and you don’t get a sense of a fantasy world at all but it softens the political message just enough so that it’s not in bad taste and shouldn’t really put anyone off. It’s a poke in the eye of “the man” as it were, and if taken in this vein, players will find themselves really enjoying Trollland.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6-10 – solid design, fun to play. Well worth seeking out at Essen 2010 or ordering from Ludocortex if you can’t wait for it to be available at your Friendly Local Game Shop.

For more information about games from Ludocortex go to –

http://www.ludocortex.fr/trollland-ludocortex-editions,fr,4,Trollland.cfm

Family friendly?

I would say not really and it makes sense that it is for 14 and older. Certainly I would think that the political satire will be lost on young teens.

Comments from the Gaming table

Tony

My own fault for missing half the rules explanation, but it sounded rather complicated for what appeared on sight to be a fairly simple set collection card game. However, in practice the game was actually rather easy to get into, quite light and quick, but with a definite streak of nastiness needed to do well. The light nature of the game and the cartoon-y artwork of the cards, all made it seem rather incongrous that in the flavour text there is a definite dig at anti-immigration policy. There again, they do say that some of the most effective political commentary and critique is via the medium of humour…. So, better than I thought it would be, with some interesting mechanics, and a fair amount of fun. Nice quick filler, but the theme didn’t really grab me, and I do like my theme! 3/5

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