Review Sumer – When Board Game Meets Video Game
There is a huge following for those who enjoy board games, but applying these concepts in the video game industry has come with mixed reception. Classic strategy titles like Risk are popular, but finding a suitable level of interaction to keep a player’s attention can be hard to pull off. That’s why it’s exciting to experience games that blend elements of both industries into a unique experience. That’s what Studio Wumpus aimed for in their new indie title, Sumer, but does it actually work?
The premise of the game is overly simplistic. Sumer is a euro game, which means it’s a strategy game that focuses on resource management. The game can have up to four players, regardless of whether they are actual players or AI. Each player takes on the role of a noble, and the goal of the game is to earn the favor of your deity and rule the world at her side.
The primary resource for your noble are goats. These are the overall currency you use to do things. Each day, you can use your two workers to gather resources, like barley or clay, use the clay to make pots, or combine the two to make beer. There are goat gathering locations as well, and each day a new number is given that can be collected. All of this is placed in slots on a ziggurat that you must climb in order to send workers to their respective locations, or race to the top to turn these in.
Your deity, each year of the game, offers a goal. The year ends when these objectives are met, and each player then receives a score of favor based on how well they performed. If you turn in the final item to complete an objective, you receive a small amount of favor for it. If you have the most in a location, however, you receive a larger bonus.
This is where strategy really comes into play. If you know that a number of clay pots are required, do you rush to complete them first, or wait and work on other things? There are other methods to gain favor as well. One of which is a kiln that sits in the center of the map. Each year players can offer barley to it to make bread, and players can earn more favor by giving the most. Between years, players may also bid on a number of different things, such as work locations, hired hands, and statues. Doing this can really boost your game in the coming year, but if you trick a player into overbidding, it can harm them, too. Statues earn favor by being next to other slots you control, and when others use your slots, it helps you. Part of playing the game is identifying what to do and when, which is a lot harder than it seems.
As complicated as it sounds, it’s actually not. The game, at it’s core, is pretty simple. You simply need to consider how much you have to work with, what will best suit you each day, and race for the objectives you want to interact with. Some may try to finish a year quickly, while others may choose to make bread or stall key locations to let their statues farm favor for them. There’s a lot of ways to win. You just have to work with it.
While this sounds all well and good, however, how then does it stack up considering the price point? At around $15, it seems a bit much. Depending on your perspective, it actually can be. Part of the appeal of Sumer is to play locally with your friends. This kind of local multiplayer is a bit rare in days of online gaming, something Sumer doesn’t feature. It’s understandable considering the small studio, but the game might be better if it offered it. Gathering groups together to play the title might be hard, unless you consider marketing it to families, but even then, it’s not a game that many would want to play. Euro games require forward thinking, which means that younger kids might not enjoy it at all.
That said, playing it solo is also an option, and honestly, it might be the best one. Here’s where Sumer, for me, really shined, all things considered. Given that I spend more time playing my Switch on the go, having a small game like this to play when I have ten to fifteen minutes is kind of nice. The pace is steady enough that you can finish a match pretty quickly, and you can scale the difficulty and length to suit your play style.
Putting it all together, the game looks and plays pretty well. The graphics are smooth and I rarely had issues figuring out where I was or what I needed to do. Studio Wumpus did a good of building a game that looks and feels like you are part of an ancient culture. I can’t speak to any historical accuracy regarding the culture or it’s practices, but it looks good and plays well.
Ultimately, Sumer, however, isn’t something everyone would be interested in. For solo players like me who enjoy a board game experience on the go, it’s a good title to consider. If you have friends or a family with older kids or teens who enjoy euro games, it might also be worth the investment. Overall I have enjoyed my experience with Sumer, and I look forward to future matches when I have a little time to kill.
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