Updated: Oct 24
Designed by Thomas Nielsen and Kai Starck, with art by Alexander Jung, Vejen is a trading game for 2–4 players set in the late Middle Ages on the German/Danish border. In practice, it's an economic engine builder with a pick-up-and-deliver mechanic.
Vejen gives a satisfyingly broad yet not overwhelming array of options for what part of your engine you might want to build next: do you upgrade your movement, capacity or production? Even within these decisions there are many subtle considerations that need to be balanced against the opportunities provided by the board situation, the bonus cards, the round-specific cards, and the endgame bonuses. So long as you don’t get paralysed by trying to overanalyse it all, you’ll no doubt enjoy seeing your investments pay off and your plans come together, as your sales rise from perhaps 4 Kroner/Thaler (the fact that there are two distinct currencies in the game is perhaps the main unique selling point) to over 20 by the end of the game.
The game feels unrestrictive and fun to play: you’re rarely held back by arbitrary rules, and you can carry out most actions as much as you like in any order until you run out of movement and run out of goods/money! There’s always something exciting to aim for, and I don’t think there’s an optimal build order that all players should follow every time. That means there are genuine decisions to be made. The random elements are sufficient to stimulate interesting decision making without skewing the game too badly.
There are some potential drawbacks. The two currencies gimmick is intriguing, but only rarely does it make much of a difference or lead to tricky decisions. A few of the rules are counter-intuitive, particularly in the way that towns produce certain resources but demand everything, including the resource that they themselves produce: a German brick-producing town will pay you a fortune for Danish bricks. Although it seems strange in a pick-up-and-deliver game to be able to deliver anywhere you like, it’s probably good that this part is simple: the game would surely be overly complex were that not the case.
A lot of engine-building games feel like they finish just when you’ve hit your stride: in Vejen, with the right circumstances, you can feel like you’ve hit the finish line even when there are still a couple of rounds to go. If that happens, all you then need to do is go backwards and forwards repeating an efficient journey yielding 20+ coins, and you may be left thinking the game is just a little too easy. On the other hand, if anyone gets left behind, their score will not be even close: in Vejen there are no catch-up mechanisms if your economic snowball falters.
All in all, this is a fine game that feels exciting to play from start to finish. How much longevity it has is hard to tell; although there are a lot of choices to be made, there are not many long-term strategies to explore, and the variable elements are relatively minor. That doesn’t stop your first play being fun though, of course. If you like any of the core mechanics of this game, you’ll surely enjoy trying it, so I’d encourage you to check it out – you might find you love it!
(Review by Matt Young)