Pen Sylvania: Red Writing Hood Goes to the Forest then the TownSeptember 2, 2019
Benny takes a look at yet another Dice & Ink Volume 1 game, Nat Levan’s Pen Sylvania.
Welcome to the beautiful and lush Sylvania where your pen will let you do so many things, you’ll never be bored! Dice and Ink continue to amaze me! This one is from Nat Levan, designer of New Bedford, Super Tall and many others. I’m always impressed with Nat’s games, he really has a strong grasp of euro game mechanisms and applies them in a fashion that creates games where the players are finding different ways to score points and maximize their abilities.
Pen Sylvania is no exception to this. Nat takes us to a village that is doing it’s best to prosper in the autumnal season. Players are tasked with cutting logs, hauling logs, building houses and other businesses, selling goods they’ve gained from the forest, and also preparing for the Great Bonfire!
Each turn, the starting player rolls the 5 dice and divides them into 3 lowest dice and 2 highest dice. Then the starting player takes one of those groups, either the 3 dice or the 2 dice. The other player(s) receive the remaining dice to use immediately. This creates an asymmetric state each turn.
Players utilize their dice on their own sheets. Those who appreciate games like Castles of Burgundy will enjoy this. A lot of the players’ initial effort is exploring the forest to collect resources to build businesses like the Lumber Mill, which automatically hauls 1 log each turn. Mitigation of luck is also present with the players crafting tools to help them change die values and harvest additional logs or mushrooms.
For me, Pen Sylvania is a lot of fun. It falls into that spot while playing it where the game itself is enjoyable, all of the actions make sense, nothing seems “tacked on” if you will. The theme integration could be developed further with a bit about how the dice represent your energy level for the day so as to guide what you planned to accomplish. In certain ways it can feel like Ora and Labora by Uwe Rosenberg, you are gathering resources, then using resources to build businesses to gain victory points or prestige for your town. I also felt the theme of autumn was well addressed in this game with certain events such as the Great Bonfire feeling like an end to the harvest season and a preparation for winter. Also the part of harvesting mushrooms and domesticating boars, those felt like autumn while playing.
I hope that you all do check out Pen Sylvania and the other Dice and Ink games in their Kickstarter (which has been moved to sometime in September). This marks the 3rd of the games from that collection I’ve played and like Flowers over Towers and Coral Relief I have found them all to be very creative designs with interesting play elements. I’m looking forward to backing myself so I can check out the other 7 games from volume 1 of Dice and Ink!
As you go forth into the wide world, please remember to be kind to yourself and to others as you are able to. Embrace that brave soul of Little Red Writing Hood!
Disclaimer: I received the files for this game from Inkwell Games. The components pictured are prototypes with placeholder art that may change. The game is still going through development and may change further. There are also pending solo rules that looked quite enjoyable!