A close up photograph of a player's store card with 2 radishes, a cabbage, a bean, a pumpkin and a wheat token on it.

To Market, To Market!

Jobby and Sarah play another of their challenge games. This time, it’s At the Gates of Loyang…

…To Buy A Fat Pig

At the Gates of Loyang is an interesting beast. Designed by the venerable Uwe Rosenberg (the guy responsible for my favourite Agricola) it has the same growing vegetables vibe but this time the vegetables are going to be sold at market. During the game, players will need to sell their produce to regular customers (who get upset if you don’t serve them) and casual customers (who wait around for ever). There are some assistants to help you and some markets to help get certain veg.

Alas, despite my lovely titles there are no pigs. 🙁

Setting Out Our Wares

The game begins with players buying a veg and planting up a starting field. Each round players harvest veg from their fields and then get a new field. As the game goes on, players should be harvesting more and more and therefore should be able to keep more and more customers happy. I opted to start with a field of pumpkins while Sarah started with a field of radishes.

What feels very different in Gates of Loyang is the card play. Each round, players draw a number of cards and will get to play two: one from a pile in the middle and one from their hand. The pile in the middle is formed by players taking a card from their hand and adding it to the middle. This means an opponent can play one of your cards if you put it in the middle but if you want to play two cards from your hand you’ll have to lay one in the middle. It can make for tense times.

It’s these cards that provide players with the customers, markets and assistants that will help them to gain cash and score points. In the early part of the game, I seemed to hit the market cards which gave me plenty of options for switching one veg for another. Sarah was getting customers but was struggling a bit with timings: she just couldn’t seem to get the right veg out at the right time.

A close up photograph of a player's store card with 2 radishes, a cabbage, a bean, a pumpkin and a wheat token on it.
Lots of lovely veggies. Now what to do with them?

The Path of Prosperity

Scoring in this game requires buying your way to victory, literally. Each round, players can buy the next spot up the points track for 1 cash. They can also buy the following spots for the number on them. So to go from 3 to 5 costs 6 cash, 1 to go from 3 to 4 and then 5 to go to 5.

This means that buying extra spots early on will pay dividends later in the game. It gets you ahead on the track and later in the game it becomes very expensive for your opponent to catch up. I took full advantage of this and got a few extra spots early on. I’m certain this cemented victory for me.

A full view of a player's board in At the Gates of Loyang with 2 regular and 2 casual customers.
Ah-ha! plenty of customers for all that veg!

Keeping Those Customers Happy

So the crux of the game is keeping the regulars happy. Sarah had got out a couple of regular customers early on but was having trouble getting the veg ready for them. She realised that she needed to spend a turn planting some vegetables so she could have a regular supply. Sarah thought it was worth upsetting the customer once for this and she was probably right. At the Gate of Loyang rewards forward thinking.

Possibly because it took me a while to find a regular customer, I was better set up for when they did arrive. I did a pretty good job of keeping them happy. In fact, towards the end of the game I was able to use a card to supply one of Sarah’s customers – that’s probably rubbing salt in the wound!

As mentioned before, I bought a couple of extra spots on the Path of Prosperity early on in the game which I’m sure helped to demoralise Sarah. I made sure she had to work hard to keep up with me afterwards. In the end, I won 15 points to 13. We’ve not played this very much so I’m interested to see if the scores are always that tight. Still, game to me.

Results so Far

This brought us to no matches won yet and five games to me, four to Sarah.

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