Hacienda

Another review up: Hacienda.

Hacienda is a solo work from Wolfgang Kramer, published by Hans im Glück. That’s quite a combo: one of the esteemed professional designers and one of the most appreciated publishers known for quality games. This definitely sets up the expectations.

While Hacienda isn’t a particularly great game, it’s good. What Kramer has done is to take bits and pieces here and there — there’s little in Hacienda that feels fresh, new or unique. Yet the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Endless streches of land

Players build ranches and herds of cattle on the pampa of Southern America. The land scores points and some money, the animals make money and some points. Basically you’re building as long stretches of land as possible, while connecting the animal herds to markets to make money and points.

Getting land and cattle takes cards. Cards are drafted Alan Moon -style from closed decks or open selection. Drafting cards takes money, so there’s a bit of resource balancing going on. There’s also limited time. You’ve got just three action points each turn, and would prefer to spend as few as possible on resupplying instead of actually doing something.

Challenge and tension

I like the challenges the game offers. There’s a feel of urgency and tension, which is always good. Yet at the same time Hacienda still feels a bit too familiar. I suppose I would’ve loved this game few years (and hundred or two games) earlier. Now, it’s a good game amongst many other good games, and I feel little need to actually buy it.

The biggest flaws seem to be the openness of the boards (there are two different board layouts, which is nice way to spice up the game) and the power of long land chains. I have a feeling that both are remedied by more aggressive playing. Still, I would recommend Hacienda for four or more; with three, the board is quite wide.

Overview

If you’re looking for something quite solid and fun to play for four or five players, Hacienda is a good choice. Particularly for those who are not jaded by the countless flow of new good games… Hacienda isn’t a bad choice for less experienced gamers, either. The theme is fun and the rules are pretty clear. Me, I’m happy to play this at SpielByWeb every now and then.

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7 thoughts on “Hacienda”

  1. Mikko, if you’re not using the first variant outlined in the rules, I urge you to do so. It makes the game much more interesting and fixes the power of the long land chains. It’s clearly the way that Kramer intended the game to be played by gamers, but he and HiG decided to use a simpler set of rules for the base game to make it more accessible for families and casual gamers. But there’s no doubt in my mind which version experienced gamers should play with. You should also use the asymetrical board and not the “dog bone”–it makes for a much better game.

  2. I’ve tried both boards. I’m not sure which one I prefer. I’ll have to try the variant next time I play the game (too bad I just started a game today, without the variant).
    In general I don’t like variants like this, because it makes testing the game so much more complicated. Like in Kahuna — perhaps one of the variants might improve the game, but am I willing to try three subtly different variations of the game to see if one of them clicks? I don’t think so.

  3. And as for games with less players I recommend trying maps posted on BGG. 2-player map is great and makes 2p games very interesting. That is in my opinion one of the biggest advantages of Hazienda (over other similar games, which BTW you didn’t mention — which game in your opinion is similar to Hazienda?) — it’s easy to customize maps… In my opinion it’s better than Thurn und Taxis and it’s a shame that it hasn’t been even nominated to SdJ.
    BRegards
    Don Simon @ Poland

  4. Using custom maps requires that you have an access to colour printer and you don’t care about not having a mounted board… There’s a bit of a barrier, which I think most people aren’t ready to cross.
    The obvious comparison is to Through the Desert. There’s some point to it, too, as the chains of cattle and camels have some similarities and what’s more important, both games have similar pressure to act before it’s too late. In Hacienda it’s more complicated, as the money and resources are more of an issue.
    Then there’s the connection to Alan Moon games in the drafting mechanism. Union Pacific, for example.
    I’m not sure which is better, Thurn und Taxis or Hacienda — I’m not too keen on either, but I think both are good, but it sure is a glaring error when SdJ jury passed Hacienda completely. I think it should’ve been nominated.

  5. If I could state my thoughts in words, I would, but I know what I feel when I play. Suffice to say that I don’t get a nice, happy feeling when I play Hacienda. I don’t feel tension, I get frustrated when I’m trying to find the right animal chip (“Oh, it’s on the flip side of this one”), and I look forward to the end of the game.
    First time Kramer has left me feeling cold.

  6. HI
    I’ve just bought the German version of Hacienda but I’m now struggling to find an English version of the rules (RGG seem a bit twitchy about the subject).
    Can anyone out there direct me to a decent scan or doc file?
    Many thanks
    Nick

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