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Java is a fascinating island with great potential for development. Of special interest is the undeveloped area of central Java with its fertile soil and rich natural resources. These riches are much desired by the rulers of the regions that surround central Java.
Each player is one of the Javanese rulers, who wants to claim and develop the region for himself. Each player wants to bring his culture and control to these undeveloped areas. The players irrigate the land and cultivate new rice fields. They found villages, build palaces to create cities from the villages, and arrange festivals in the palaces. Each player desires to be the dominant force in the development of this new area.
Players earn fame points for building and enlarging palaces, for creating irrigation systems, and for arranging palace festivals. They record these points on the scoring track. The most points are earned in the final scoring. The player with the most fame points after the final scoring is the winner.
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 90 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 2,240 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
- 1 game board
- 56 3-space land tiles
- 20 2-space land tiles
- 12 1-space land tiles
- 8 1-space land tiles
- 40 palace tiles
- 16 irrigation tiles
- 30 palace cards
- 12 extra action tokens
- 48 developers in 4 colors
- 4 scoring markers
- 4 action summary cards
Average Rating: 3.8 in 21 reviews
You might notice that this review comes much later than the last one. I just had a gaming session where we played a War Game, Java, and a Light Strategy game. It became clear that Java is a truly deep, deep game, and I don't believe that anyone will realize this by just playing once or twice. It is not really fair to dismiss it as too complex for no return. I think the people who do that are/were looking for another Tikal or Mexica (Light, family strategy type games) which this is **absolutely** not. Just because there are so many different scoring strategies does not mean that one of them is not the best, on the contrary, the game becomes more like chess or go because you have so many different choices, but there is, in fact, a best move, and you probably WONT find it. I believe the beauty of this game, if it is EVER really discovered en masse, will become apparent some time later if people start to take it seriously. There is only a slight element of luck, that in the draw of the festival cards, so it is not a purely strategic game, but the luck gains and losses tend to be rare but dramatic. I think this just makes it FUN.
Without a doubt, analysis paralysis can make the game really drag, meaning that you have to be 'in the game' on everyone's move as much as you continue analyzing in chess or go.
Lets just look at the options in a turn:
6 action points
Actions you might take:
1. Enter a developer
2. Move a developer to a different terrain
3. Place a 3 hex tile
4. Place a 2 hex tile
5. Place a 1 hex tile
6. Place a Palace
7. Enlarge an existing palace
8. Place an irrigation tile
9. Draw up to 2 festival cards
You can take any action in any order.
By placing one tile you can break up a villiage or city, add to a villiage, join two villiages, join a villiage to a city, join two green areas, break up a green area, surround an irrigation tile, connect to an exterior area or increase the size of an exterior area, and usually 2 or 3 of the above PER TILE.
By moving/entering a developer you can move to an irrigation area for scoring, block a 'road' of single type terrain, position for palace building or improvement or scoring, block an area from being developed (you can't place a tile on a hex with a developer in it).
Build or enlarge a palace.
For comparison, chess has 32 pieces and 64 squares, go has 19 x 19 board (361 possible moves)while Java has 9 TYPES of move each with HUNDREDS of possibilities (a single 2 or 3 space tile can be oriented in six (hex) directions, and placed in approx. 70 positions (don't know the exact number)) times 6 different actions in one turn.
Java is a master level game. The players will separate very quickly into scientists and tinkerers. Successful patterns will develop, counter-strategies will emerge and the game CAN grow.
Unfortunately, the game was marketed to players of Mexica and Tikal as another game in that series. The 'rub' is that a casual player will have no chance whatever beating a serious player just like in chess and go, and the casual player will either lose interest or become serious. Given the number of games and the target market - losing interest is the path of least resistance.
It is impossible to talk about effective strategy in the space provided. The basics of the strategy belong in a book entitled 'Java: Basic strategies for the beginning player' and/or 'Java Openings' and/or 'The Middle Game in Java.' And so on.
Too bad the rating system only goes up to 5.
I agree with the previous reviewer. This game should not be pulled out when the group is half in the bag, munching on greasy pizza, and banging the table.
But I disagree with the most of my fellow reviewers who describe this game as an anxiety ridden experience with lots of down time. Yes, there are a number of strategies and variables one needs to consider in tile placement and developer movement, but you should be able to think about this while the other players have their turn.
I guess slow gamers try to think about the ideal placement, when in fact there rarely is one. There are variable strategic choices which have some immediate effects and some unforseeable effects down the line. Part of the pleasure in playing a game such is this is watching how this process unfolds. Another pleasure is in watching the individual who constantly takes 5-10 minutes for each turn, end up losing to players who simply choose a strategy and enact it. The only cure I've discovered for slow gamers is to put them on a timer. Can't finish your turn in two minutes? Fine, next player's up. That really gets their a$$ in gear.
There are so many considerations when contemplating ones move. Some games you get to know over time and eventually the best move seems clearly obvious, but Java is very intricate with may things to consider:
- Building brand new palaces
- Budding new palaces by chopping existing ones
- Upgrading palaces you're already in
- Using developers to block the veins of movement
- Taking the high ground for end-game positioning
- Maintaining festival cards
- Surrounding the valuable water tiles
Many more excellent options exist though they are too complicated to sum up in a blurb. To me the makings of a good game is diverse options and intricate game play. Java's got it!
Tikal and Mexica (brother and sister games that also use the action point mechanic) are good measures for how well you'll like Java. I love all three games and really enjoy contemplating my most efficient moves. If you enjoy this mechanic in one of the aforementioned games, I have no doubt Java will pleasure you the same.
If you read a lot of my reviews, it sounds like I love most games I play... I don't. I am lucky to try most games before I buy them, Java was the exception. I jumped into it blind (took a chance), a chance that was well worth it. I LOVE THIS GAME. It can be easily described as board game Tetris! The game is well balanced, and an absolute pleasure. IF I had an issue with the game, it is that the endgame scoring may be a bit unbalanced. This is a "must own" in my gaming closet. A WINNER.
BAD THINGS FIRST:
- It's hard to get a quick overview of the game.
- A 'miss' in the rules: Do you only change the festival card when a player picks the card, or do you change it after each festival?
- The theme is light or nonexistent. I could as well be running a forest, or placing mining colonies on an asteroid. I've got absolutely no feeling of making cities and planting rice.
GOOD THINGS LAST:
- Very high replayability.
- Simple but hard to master.
- Nice layout and good materials.
- Lots of player interaction, which I think is very important. Actually, I think the world has lately suffered from lack of good new games with player interaction.
Once again I am drawn to a game where the mechanics in themselves are not too difficult, but the playing possibilites are enormous.
Each game of Java has had some variation in initial strategy, which does make it different from many games with more proscribed openings. One reason for this is the open access to the board for all players. Although there are some better starting goals than others (get water before it goes away), there is still a great deal of variety in the placement of tiles.
Strategies for use of tiles, building palaces, and hosting festivals allow for enough good moves at any one round, that your head is likely to explode. I found this similar to games like Stephenson's Rocket for the vast number of good choices presented each turn.
In my opinion, Java is just a great all round game for those who love strategy games with cool components.
I've listened to all the negative reviews and I can't help but think that this is one of those examples of what I call 'Hollywood hatred'... ie because these designers have been successful in the past, let's hammer them rather than give a good game the credit it deserves.
Yes, this game is a combo of many, although I don't see much of a resemblance to Tikal beyond the superb graphics. The components are beautiful and the game has been played more in our group than Torres ever will (although we do like that as well). The game rewards forward thinking and a solid interpretation of the rules--the reviewer that referred to scoring points by surrounding the irrigation tiles has missed a big scoring point of Java.
Firstly, suppose you have a 10 hex city, with the palace at one end--with clever tile placement you can sever the original palace along with a scoring hex or two from the remainder of the city and simply build another palace in the large chunk that remains, which in turn can be built up etc. Once built, there is no requirement for palaces to remain attached to the city to get the points at the end. Also, clever use of the small supply of personal one- and two-hex pieces can allow you to cut someone else off from a city in the endgame and let you steal the points for yourself.
All in all, this is a very clever game that has some hidden depths--don't write it off simply because 'it looks so gorgeous it must be crap'.
The negative comments about this game seem to have centered on the 'down-time' waiting while another player optimizes their move. These comments are correct as far as they go. What is left out is the fact that optimizing is what this game is about.
The chance factor is less than even the auction version of Tikal, less even that the card drawing versions of Torres. Roughly half of your points are scored during play, as players also jockey for position. The other half are scored on each player's last turn where, as in Tikal, each player in turn may score for the same cities. This demands optimization. If that is a problem, I would say to avoid Java. But if you like that kind of analysis, then this is the game for you, possibly even more than the other two.
A-P is short for Analysis Paralysis, that malady common to strategy gamers where you survey the board for minutes on end, calculating your best move, trying one permutation after another. While it can be interesting to be in the midst of this analysis, it is painful to watch in another person, especially when you are waiting your own turn.
Java is the embodiment of A-P. Every turn reveals such a plethora of possibilities that it becomes almost impossible to analyze them all. Irrigate? Move into an existing city? Start a new one? Buy festival cards? The possibilities are almost endless.
The game is a joy to behold, trading on its similarity to Tikal. The tiles are the thickest I have ever seen in a game. This is one class act.
Still, it may be too deep for casual gamers, and more dedicated gamers may find it simply too infuriating to play.
Recommended, but only with the right crowd.
I really enjoyed this game... it is a very calm game (when you're not in the mood for world domination a la Settlers of Catan). You need to carefully read the rule book (we played the couple of games without endgame scoring). While this is not as great as Settlers, this game is right up there with Torres in my book. Recommended.
From the previous reviews for this game there's obviously not a lot of middle ground where Java is concerned. I happen to fall in the thumbs up group, as I find it pulls from the better aspects of both Tikal and Torres to produce an excellent game for those who enjoy abstract strategy. Where Java is certainly not a new concept, it effectively combines the primary elements of Tikal and Torres to produce a unique hybrid that veterans of these games will appreciate quickly.
For those familiar with the gameplay in basic Tikal, you are aware that the random factor inherent in laying the tiles often dictates the strategy. If you pulled a large temple you were almost obliged to play upon it, the same being true for trinkets. Java is an improvement in my opinion because the tiles played are determined by the player, not fate. This results in a two-edged sword in that the game becomes cerebral to the point of driving away the casual gamer, where the more hard-core strategist will certainly appreciate the numerous options available to him.
This game plays well with the two player minimum or the four player maximum, which I found to be a plus over Torres, which I thought to be weak in a two player version. For those familiar with Torres' scoring system Java will prove the easy pickup.
In summary, if you like the predecessors and want a slightly more meaty game then Java will fit into your collection nicely. If Tikal wasn't your cup of tea then you will certainly not find this enjoyable. I give it four stars instead of five because the game itself doesn't have the replay value of those games which reinvent themselves with each incarnation. The mapboard is laid out in such a fashion that although every game will be different they'll all start to look the same over time--but this game should still provide an entertaining evening for all, provided you know your tastes going in. I'll have another cup.
Java is a hurt your head game. As in Torres and Tikal, Java is a game that rewards players that are good with tactics. I find Java even better in some respects, as it rewards players who look at long term stategy as well. This is not always the case with Tikal or Torres.
Having only played once, I can say there is no sure-fire path to victory. The game we played was incredibly balanced. Invariably, the player in last place was the person taking their current turn and jumping into first place. This made game play tense and exciting.
The main drawback on this game is down time. As a 'hurt your head' game, it does require a lot of thought. Unfortunately, not all players are fast thinkers.
Oh yeah! The bits in this one are even better than Tikal--the tiles are as thick as any I've seen! Very pretty game!
So... to summarize, Java is a very good hurt your head game that should be a Spiel des Jahres nominee. I like this one!
The middle release of Kramer/Kiesling tile-laying trio of games proves to be quite challenging, but subtly so. Java starts out rather benign with players racking up big points. As the board fills up with tiles it turns into a real brain-burner. By the end of the game players are trying to eek out an extra point or two where they can while trying not to set up opponents for big scores.
Tactics in Java are deep but strategy is shallow. Let me explain. Each player has 6 action points to use each turn, this leads to agonizing tactical decisions on how to score the most points each turn. On the grand scale, or strategic scale, it is hard to set yourself up for a big score in later rounds, as each player after you is free to do as they wish. The best you could normally hope for is to put the player after you into some disadvantage after making a big score yourself.
I haven't yet played a game that lasted only the 90 minutes advertised on the box, add one hour to that. It does little good to plan for your turn while others are playing, as their actions will affect your choices greatly. There is much down-time while others agonize about the best use of their action points. There is no way to avoid down-time other than to play with a get-it-over-and-done-with attitude. If you find yourself playing with that attitude it is a sure sign of a bad game and Java is not a bad game.
For me Java causes a bit of a conundrum to rate. I found Java to be quite dry. There is little fun interaction with other players, but it is challenging and will be a game I suggest playing in the future. Each turn is more of a puzzle to figure out how to maximize points. It isn't multi-player solitaire, but close. I would normally rate a game as dry as this as a 2 or even 1 star, but Java has an appeal that I can't quite put my finger on. It may not stand up well after a dozen plays, but for now it is intriguing.
Java is not a game for casual gamers. It will only be enjoyed by true gamers and not all of them to be sure.
Do your research before buying this one. Java is not for all tastes.
Ok, a bad play on words... now back to our regularly scheduled program. I bought JAVA after reading several reviews from the game mags... I have played it a few times, mostly 2 handed. The board and bits are first class, the finished game looks just like a tropical island.
But how does it play? I enjoy the game reasonably well with 2 people... little down time except towards the end; 3 handed still manageable and a bit more competition with the festivals; four handed can last long enough to allow an oil and filter change while waiting for your next turn.
Overall, a decent pastime; I have not played Torres or Tikal but have played El Caballero (which I like) so in fairness I cannot offer a direct comparison as has been done previously. It does appear that several gaming mechanisms have been combined, but that the linkage between them is not always clear.
I think that if this game had a bit more interaction or a dash of spice it would score better... and the end game scoring can cause a first-timer to be unwittingly slaughtered... I think it needs a bit of tweaking and when I think of the solutions, I may offer them at one of the gaming websites. All in all, 5 stars for bits, 3 stars for play. A decent effort with high marks for its ability to be played two-handed.
My choice of that Bob Dylan classic for this review serves two purposes. First, coming off winning their second Spiel des Jahres in a row, W. Kramer & M. Kiesling may have been on a bit of a high when putting Java together. While W. Kramer's past sequel game of El Cabellero from El Grande worked, Java doesn't. It's not that Java is such a bad game, but it leads to the second correlation to my song choice. Java brings to mind the children's story of 'Stone' soup (Get it?! Stoned? I know, it's weak). Anyway, the story basically is about the con artist's scheme for a meal. He starts out with a pot of boiling water and a stone in it. As passing villagers curiously look at the pot, they each put in a vegetable from their garden until the con artist has a stew filled with all kinds of goodies. The design process of Java follows the same line. Kramer & Keisling took stuff from everywhere and threw it into Java. Tile placement & exploring/developing from Tikal, Stacking and height dominance of Torres, even some one upmanship card play aka Taj Mahal are a part of the mix. Unfortunately, it creates mish-mash scoring/stacking system, and whereas the card play of Taj Mahal is central to the game, here it seems like an afterthought way of putting points on the board aka 'festival'. Same goes for the irrigation tile points. All thrown into a game filled with excellent graphics, lots of pieces, and a beautiful gameboard layout. Still, you can't help think, 'I've been done this road before' with better results. With Knizia's Lord of the Rings ruling the sales charts and receiving strong reviews, this next year could be his for a long overdue Spiel des Jahres.
If you are one of the non-trivial number of people who remain rather mystified by the apparent popularity of Tikal (and I must admit to being in that camp myself), I think it's rather unlikely you'll like Java. It has many of the same elements, and the play feels very similar in many ways. Probably the fatal blow, though, is that it's actually much slower between turns as there are now a lot more options on your turn and a lot of things to worry about. It's no Modern Art, that's for sure.
If you did like Tikal, though, it's probably worth checking out. It's definitely a more challenging game, with a lot more stuff going on, and players' moves affecting each other more.
I guess my point is just that Java is clearly designed to cash in on the commercial success of Tikal, so using your feelings about Tikal to guide you on Java is probably a good start.
I can't say that this is a bad game but it certainly was not for me or my gaming group. The art work is fantastic but the mechanics are maddening - i.e.the scoring track. One hit (some of us have a beer or eat a slice of pizza so board hit sometimes happen) and there goes all the point pieces. In any case - we vowed never to play 'that one' again and nursed our bruised brains. Starfarers of Catan came back out and the fun began again. You really need to be into this type of tile placing game to enjoy this one... can hurt your game buzz.
I really wanted to like Java. Based on the previews, it had all the makings of a great game: An adventure/building theme, a talented design team, fantastic production quality for the money, and was heralded as a 'best of both worlds' combination between Torres and Tikal. Instead, it's a dull race to surround water reservoirs, with very limited options and absolutely no sense of accomplishment. It was a boring re-hash of Torres, with none of the excitement of discovery and mind bending resource management that Tikal had. If you own Torres, you already own Java. If you own Tikal, play it and you'll have more fun than Java. I expected better from Kramer and Ulrich. Java represents what happens when two successful game designers rest on their laurels.
I am one of only a few gamers, it appears, that didn't like Tikal. I did like Torres though, but his game stinks to high heaven in its own right. Confusing rules, badly designed tiles and an outright attempt to commercialize on the success of Tikal (which in my mind is like coming out with a sequel to Spam). Not my cup of tea (or coffee).
I got excited about this game because it could be played by two people, but the excitement soon gave way to disappointment once we started playing. My opponent absolutely hated it. Just a dull little exercise in tile placement basically. Later, I felt like I wasted time even trying to learn the rules. One of the more annoying things about it is that you're not supposed to place the exact same shapes over each other, but because there's nothing distinguishable about the tiles once they're all laid out we constantly had to move them a bit to see what the shape was underneath, which of course, kept constantly making a mess of the board. Just a poorly thought out game.
Take the best mechanisms of the superb Torres and Tikal, and what do you get? Last year's Best Advanced Strategy Game, which is still fertile ground for clever strategists who relish the challenge of spending their few Action Points on a rich array of choices. Place land tiles on the board, or even atop one other to allow your ambitious Explorers to climb both geographically and socially. Earn Fame Points by building a Palace in an area of connected villages where your Explorer stands highest. Buy Palace Cards, and use them in Palace Ceremonies where discarding the most cards of a randomly determined symbol earns further Fame Points. Position your Explorers on the highest peaks within villages to earn bonuses when the last tile is placed. The highest score wins. This is Kramer and Kiesling at the height of their powers!
The rich, fertile island of Java awaits your guiding hand. The thick, sturdy tiles you place on the board (and sometimes on other tiles) represent villages, rice fields, and irrigation. You can place a numbered palace tile on one of a group of contiguous villages and hold a festival. At the festival, players compete to see who has the most of a specified symbol on their palace cards, with the winner scoring half the points of the palace tile. All of your activities, from placing tiles to building palaces, must be paid for with action points, which (as usual in such games) are barely sufficient to do half the things you'd like to do. When all tiles are used, the players whose developer tokens stand on the highest tiles within villages get extra points. Highest score wins. Java is truly a refreshmg, stimulating brew.
Ahhh--another game from the team of Kramer & Kiesling, by far my favorite design team. Their most recent collaborations, Tikal & Torres, were smash hits and personal favorites. So, it was with great anticipation that I awaited this latest release. OK, so I'm a bit biased--but not too biased. There are games from Kramer I am not terribly fond of, including Magalon.
One glance at the game and you immediately think 'Tikal'. The appearance is very, very similar, even down to the box cover artwork. That's not a bad thing in my book as I thought the artwork in Tikal was simply superb.
The theme is also similar: Java concerns the development of the interior of a remote island, while Tikal dealt with the re-discovery of a lost Mayan civilization. In Java, players must lay tiles to form the interior of the island and then send their developers into this newly discovered land to erect cities, build palaces, sponsor festivals and gain the most influence. The theme is certainly enticing, but it doesn't seem to evoke the same exploration and discovery atmosphere that is so prevalent in Tikal.
One can't quibble with the components, however; they are incredible. The 'heft' factor tips the scales as the hexes are some of the thickest pieces--1/8 of an inch--I've ever seen in a game. The pawns are lifted straight from Tikal, while there are four player aid cards which use similar graphics to help explain the actions a player may take on his turn. Further, there are 'extra turn' tokens and palace cards, each with appropriate artwork.
The board itself is yet another masterpiece from illustrator Franz Vohwinkel. The exterior of the board displays the 'known' jungle and mountain areas, while the vast interior is predominately plain turf with a few previously discovered lakes. The edges of the board are rimmed with the scoring track, illustrated with a motif relevant to the theme.
Players have six action points per turn, with a variety of actions available to them. These actions can be performed in any order, and players may perform the same action multiple times during their turn.
- Place Tiles(s) : A player must place a tile onto the undeveloped portion of the board. Each player begins with an assortment of 2- and 1-space land tiles, but all have access to a common stack of 3-space land tiles. As the game proceeds and the board develops, it becomes increasingly obvious that the 2- and 1-space tiles are extremely important and should not be squandered early. Thus, most players opt to place the 3-space tiles throughout much of the game.
- Move Developers : Players each have 12 developers which must be present to construct and upgrade palaces, hold festivals and gain influence over irrigation and city developments. This action allows players to move their developers onto the board from the developed section of the island, and/or around the newly developing section.
- Constructing a Palace : If a player has a developer in a village and if the developer is located on a higher level than opponents' developers in that village, he may construct a palace in that village. The size of the palace is dependent upon the number of village tiles in that village. The palace's value must not exceed the number of village tiles located in that specific village. So, if a village consists of four village tiles, the maximum value of the palace which can be constructed is '4'. Palaces are available in 'even' values (2, 4, 6, 8 & 10), so villages must grow if they wish to contain higher valued palaces.
- Increase the Value of a Palace : A player can increase the value of an existing palace, but must follow the same rules as outlined in action (3) above. A new palace tile with the correct value is placed directly atop the former palace. The old palace is not removed. This is important as there are a limited number of palace tiles, so players must be wary of this ever decreasing stockpile.
- Irrigation Tiles : Players may place irrigation tiles onto the board, but these tiles must be placed directly on the board and not atop any other tile. When irrigation tiles are completely surrounded by other tiles, fame points are scored for the player(s) who has developer(s) located at the highest level adjacent to these tiles. 3 fame points are earned for each irrigation tile enclosed.
- Draw Palace Cards : Players may draw one or two palace cards into their hand at a cost of 1 or 2 action points, respectively. Cards can be drawn from the face-down deck, or a player can take the lone face-up festival card and reveal another one in its place. Palace cards are utilized when competing in a festival.
- Hold Festival : At the conclusion of a player's turn, he may elect to hold a palace festival at the cost of zero action points. To sponsor a festival, a player must have at least one developer in the city where he wishes to hold the festival. All opponents who have developers in the city may also participate in the festival, if they desire.
The tiles depict either rice fields or villages, or a combination thereof. Tiles can be placed anywhere on the board--even atop previously laid tiles. There are some placement restrictions (not covering palaces, not covering a previously laid tile with the same size tile, not joining two cities, etc.), but there is enough freedom of placement to allow a wide range of strategies.
Movement is a bit different than in most games, although, it is somewhat reminiscent of Warfrog's Lords of Creation. Developers may move along the same type of terrain (rice fields or villages) as far as they want for free (no action point cost)--provided they remain on the same type of terrain throughout that movement. Elevation doesn't matter. If they move onto a different type of terrain, however, they must expend an action point for each change of terrain. So, by carefully laying tiles and planning the land's development, it may be quite possible to zip a developer great distances without utilizing any action points.
New developers can enter the board from the already 'developed' area. If they enter from the plains, there is only the cost of 1 action point. If, however, they must cross a mountain range, the cost is 2 action points.
Once a palace is placed in a village, it becomes a city and earns the developer fame points equal to half the palace's value. This is one method in which to score points.
Players earn fame points for increasing the value of a palace in the exact same fashion as listed above.
The festival procedure is quite simple. One palace card is revealed at the beginning of the game. Each card depicts one or two symbols (drum, mask, etc.). To participate in a festival, a player must play a card containing at least one symbol which matches a symbol on this revealed card. Then, each opponent who is participating has the option of playing a card which matches one or more of these symbols. If he cannot, or chooses not to do so, then he retires from the festival. When play returns to the player sponsoring the festival, if there is another player who has played an equal number of symbols, he can offer that player a joint sponsorship, in which case they split the resulting fame points. Or, the player can opt to play another card which has a symbol matching the revealed card. This procedure continues until either one player wins the festival, or a split is agreed upon. In any case, all played cards are discarded, whether the player won the festival or not.
Fame points earned from hosting a festival range from 1-5 if won alone, or from 0-3 if split with a fellow player. These values are determined based on the value of the palace located in that city.
As mentioned, players normally have six action points they can utilize in a turn. However, each player does possess three special tokens, which can each be surrendered for a further action point, but only one can be surrendered per turn. As with your 1- and 2-space tiles, use them wisely.
Play continues until all 3-space land tiles have been played. The player who placed the final 3-space tile completes his turn and takes his final scoring, after which each opponent may take one more turn (but are not required to place a land tile during this final turn) and takes their final scoring.
The final scoring is similar to Tikal, but in Java, only the palaces are scored. Players score points if they have developers in the highest or second highest 'rank' in the city (based on elevation). Points are scored based on the value of the palaces--full points if you are in the highest rank, or half points if you are in the second rank. After each player has taken their final turn and tallied their final scoring, the player with the most fame points is victorious.
So, after that lengthy description, just how is the game? Very enjoyable and quite tense, especially in the latter stages. With so many placement options, the game can develop in a wide variety of ways. My first game developed very slowly, with players content to found their own cities and to avoid interference with each other. To be honest, I found the early part of this game to be, well, underwhelming. It seemed that everyone was going for the quick score--placing a tile or two, get a developer into position, construct or upgrade a palace for quick points and host a festival. Further, the game was speeding along and I began mentally questioning the stories I'd heard about 'analysis paralysis' setting in, thereby extending the game to two or more hours.
However, as the board began to develop and the placement and movement options became much more varied, tough and downright agonizing. There were just so many ways in which to play and overlap tiles that it often boggled my mind. Some have made the comparison to the same thought processes as those required in El Caballero (Kramer again!) and I have to agree. I also found 'thought' similarities to those used in Torres. Instead of simply analyzing the consequences of one tile placement, you are forced to think about a series of placements and moves and the consequences these will deliver. It's certainly a 'thinking' game, one with rich mental teasing and corresponding rewards.
Subsequent games have developed quite differently. Players immediately began adding layers to previously laid tiles and the rush to upgrade palaces and hold festivals was intense. No one seemed content to settle for a 2 point palace, but were actively seeking ways to increase palaces by several levels and gain huge amounts of victory points. This made these games much more intense from the beginning. This intensity does take its toll, however, as the game takes considerable longer to play as players must analyze so many possible options before completing their turn.
Does Java have the same 'problem' that Tikal does? That is, is there significant 'downtime' between player's turns while each player studies the board and calculates their action possibilities? Yes, and it seems to be even more pronounced here. There are just so many options and possibilities to consider that even a normally fast-moving player will be forced to carefully analyze the ever-changing board before executing his moves. However, truth-be-told, I've never been overly bothered by this "problem'' with either Tikal, Torres or El Caballero. I consider the actions and placements an opponent makes on his turn vital to what I will do on my subsequent turn. If I don't watch carefully, I may well miss what actions he elected to take and thereby miss valuable scoring opportunities. So, I intently observe my opponent's actions and am keenly interested in what they do. I don't consider this 'down-time', but rather an essential component of playing these games well.
Now, I'm not saying that the wait between turns couldn't be excessive. If playing with excruciatingly slow players, I'm sure it could be. However, my tried-and-true method of warning players in advance of this possibility usually keeps the game moving along at an acceptable pace.
However, if you were one of those folks bothered by this 'down-time' problem in Tikal, you won't find relief with Java. On the other hand, if you are willing to utilize this down-time to your favor as mentioned above, then you will likely be well pleased with this new Kramer/Kiesling effort.
There are some things to watch for in the game. For one, as in games such as Fossil, one must be very careful not to set-up an opponent for easy scores. It is quite easy to play a few tiles, make a move or two and enlarge a palace, coming away feeling quite satisfied at the points you've earned. Then, to your horror, the next player swoops in with a brilliant play, which increases your palace to maximum capacity and earns double the points you worked so hard to achieve. Caution is paramount, as it is difficult to plan for long-range scores as it is quite easy for an opponent to swoop in and claim those points.
Further, the final scoring round can be extremely dramatic. Points come in avalanches. A comfortable lead can be shattered during this final round when scores of 60 or more points are not uncommon. So, it is vital that players keep a careful eye on the positioning of their developers, insuring that they are in the proper position to reap huge victory point benefits during this final round. Failure to do this will result in certain defeat.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, try to resist the temptation to use your 1 and 2 space tiles early. Although the scoring opportunities may seem too good to pass up, it is wise to hold onto one or two of these tiles for the final few turns of the game, especially the final scoring round. Often, the placement of just one of these tiles can spell the difference between victory and defeat.
My good friend Al Newman has used the phrase 'rich gaming experience' to describe such games as Torres and Tikal. I think that phrase applies to Java as well. It is a game which forces a player to study carefully, ponder various options and perform at a peak level throughout. It's certainly not a light romp or something you pull off the shelf for an evening of social gaming. No, this is much more than that. It is a test of one's skills and mental capacities. I don't want to make every game I play such a 'thinking' experience, but when I am in that mood, this game will rank right up there with those few games I bring to the table.
Could it be '3-in-a-row' for Kramer & Kiesling?