Hacienda is a tile-placement game by Wolfgang Kramer where 2-4 players take on the role of ranchers and farmers working the pampas-fields of Argentina. The game was originally published in 2005 by Hans in Gluck and Rio Grande but this second edition, published by White Goblin, incorporates revisions as well as upgraded components.
Over the course of the game, players will place tiles representing livestock and resources onto the board in order to form groups and chains that score points due to various adjacency bonuses. The winner is the player who can make use of the limited space most effectively to maximise their points score.
Each turn consists of taking three actions: you can purchase a card, tile or hacienda; play a card; or draw income from the tiles you have placed. Each of these distinct actions can be repeated until you have taken a total of three actions.
The cards make up your hand, and represent the various resources and livestock to which you have access. The water tiles can be placed strategically to score big points and to affect the available space on the board, blocking off opponents. Your hacienda is used in tandem with your livestock tiles and scores points based on the number of livestock tiles of a specific type connected to it.
You can also draw income from those tiles you have placed. This income is then used to purchase more tiles/cards. The fact that actions are repeatable means you will have lots of choice each turn as to what you do and in what order. Indeed the order in which you take your actions is essential to get the most out of each turn.
Placing livestock tiles is the heart of the game and will occupy most of your thinking time. At the point you connect a chain of livestock tiles to one of the 'market' tiles on the board you will draw income depending on the number of animals in your chain. In addition to drawing income via the 'income' action, you have both a slow and steady income and intermittent bonuses. The length of your livestock chains, snaking across the board to various markets, will form the lion's share of your score most of the time, and planning what livestock to use, and how and where to connect, factoring in other players is the most enjoyable part of the game.
It is important to remember that none of your actions are happening in isolation. Even playing with just two players we found there was plenty of competition for space, and we often made attempts to block each other's moves. In a four-player game, you can expect this competition to be significantly fiercer. It is this that sits at the heart of Hacienda. It is a simple, face-paced game where space is at a real premium and you often have to work with cards and resources that are not ideal, especially if the player before you purchased those two cows that you needed to complete your chain and bring them all to market.
We enjoyed our plays of Hacienda. Publishers White Goblin have done a good job in the production of this newer edition: the cards, board and artwork are all of great quality, with a real vibrancy that stands out on the table, thanks in no small part to the art of Clément Masson. Gameplay is quick and fairly cut-throat, which we enjoy, with lots of different ways to score points and significant variety from turn to turn due to the repeatable actions. We did find some aspects of the rules to be a touch ambiguous, with some key terms being used but not defined clearly. However, there are a number of errata, explanations and clarifications available online that smooth these out.
All in all, a very solid fast-paced game with a great deal of depth. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who likes both euro-style games and tile-placement games such as Cottage Garden (Stronghold/Pegasus Spiele) or the more recent New York Zoo (Capstone/Cranio Creations).
(Review by Toby Hicks)