A Real-Time Board Game About Goats, Offerings And Bread

A Real-Time Board Game About Goats, Offerings And Bread

Originally funded through Kickstarter, Sumer is a digital board game that mixes real-time action with worker placement, auctions and resource gathering. It’s a little Agricola, part frantic bidding and a ton of double-jumping to please the gods first.

It launched in Early Access almost a year ago, and was released on the Switch earlier this month. It’s a local co-operative game for up to four players, with adjustable AI difficulty and game lengths. A game running two years (or rounds) will take about 10 minutes, with a six year game clocking in at about half an hour.

Each player starts out with a room in a ziggurat, beneath the goddess Inanna. Players can assign two workers every day to various activities: gathering resources; gathering goats, or investing resources gained from earlier days into sacrifices, rituals or other offerings (such as bread).

The major difference with Sumer is that most of the action happens in real-time. After pressing a button to wake your avatar up, everyone races to place their workers. If you’re quick enough (or the building you’re after happens to be closer) you can lock out others from taking advantage of that particular space. That’s especially important with the rituals, as the round ends after both rituals have been completed.

Players then gain favour through various means – who completed Inanna’s rituals first and who sacrificed how much, as well as other bonuses like baking bread – with the winner having the most favour at the end of the game.

Available on Steam for $US15 or $18.15 through the Nintendo eShop, Sumer is a fun little ride for anyone who wants a snappier take on Euro-style worker placement games. Haoran, one of our resident devs and board game contributor to Kotaku, recently got a code, so we gave it a go.

Alex Walker: So: thoughts on Sumer?

We’ve only played for about an hour, and I thought it was a shorter mix of real-time Agricola with a cool auction phase in between rounds. It’s not immediately clear visually what correlates to what – I had a lot of goats and no idea Why Goats Were Good – but after a few playthroughs, like any Euro game, it started to click.

Haoran Un: Yup. Even though it’s on a Switch instead of on cardboard, the game immediately felt familiar. The theme calls to mind to many of classic euros set in antiquity, such as Tigris and Euphrates to more modern games like Imhotep.

It’s worker placement, which one again is a well-mined mechanic, but real-time worker placement is not something that’s done very often (the only example I can think of is the simultaneous variant of Carson City). Here, it adds a video-game component which is nice.

I’m a big fan of auction mechanics – it immediately adds conflict and neat psychological mind games. I love the simultaneous auction mechanic here, as well as the option to overbid.

Real time worker placement also removes the otherwise ever-present threat of analysis paralysis.

Alex: The real-time auction mechanic is great. Some of the information could be displayed a little better – it’s not immediately clear that you overbid with the amount of favour saved, and spend the amount of goats you stored up – but the tension of pushing someone to bid just that bit extra is great.

And control-wise, it’s pretty fluid too: just move the left stick. The only kicker I had with the controls was that the double jump felt a little inconsistent. Maybe that’s partially because of how we were playing, a touch of input lag perhaps (I was watching on the screen that was previewing OBS).

Haoran: Yep, I found double-jumping erratic. And the button to select/interact I needed to double-tap sometimes.

Alex: Would you recommend Sumer?

Haoran: Sumer is great for when you want to do some strategic tabletop gaming with your video gaming crowd. There’s all sorts of really familiar Euro-style mechanics such as worker placement and auctioning but without a 2 hour playtime.

It’s not for everyone and not for every occasion, but if you’re a board-gamer trying to ease your video-gaming friends into playing Agricola with you, here’s your perfect game.

Sumer is available through Steam and the eShop now.

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