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Urubamba Valley

This isn't our first board game visit to Machu Picchu, but with Jeffrey CCH's Urubamba Valley we're back in 15th Century Peru as Incan farmers planting out our crops in terraced communal farmland. Urubamba Valley is a tile-laying game for 3-5 players where the players are competing to end up with the most cash (and cash value in 'specialists') when the terraces have all been fully planted.

Turns are super simple, with a choice to take any one of four actions: Plant, Harvest, Purchase or Work. Plant means taking a seed tile from your player board and placing it out on the terraces. The amount of harvest points scored (ie: distance moved by your worker meeple along the harvest track) depends on your tile's orthogonal adjacency to matching tiles and alpaca meeples. Anyone can plant vines (which just score a straight 2 harvest points regardless of adjacency) but other seeds can only be planted if you have the matching technology (everyone starts off with the technology to plant a single different crop). Harvest just means cashing in your meeple's progress on the harvest track for its equivalent cash value. Purchase means spending your cash on buying seeds, technology or 'specialists' that give you a game-changing or scoring ability. You will hope rarely to be taking the Work action as that simply means collecting a single coin.

As you might guess, Urubamba Valley is a game that starts off slowly but which accelerates as the terraces fill and the potential is unlocked for relatively high yields from your Plant actions. It's a tactical game where you will try to plan ahead so that your Plant actions maximise your harvest points so that your Harvest actions net you a good amount of money that you can invest in making your next actions all the more effective. Because your Purchase actions aren't limited to a single buy, you may be tempted to hold off from taking Purchase actions until you have a lot of cash to spend. This is a tactic that may work in the three-player game but it's much more of a push-your-luck gamble as you increase the player count. Tho' turns are quick, with five players the state of play can change a lot before your next turn comes around so that seeds or specialists you were hoping to buy from the display may well be nabbed by other players before you get to take your next turn.

And tho' players aren't directly attacking one another, you can expect 'take that' interactions over players' Plant actions: cutting off large potentially high-scoring groupings of crops in which other players have technology and you don't...

There's inevitably a luck factor over which seeds get drawn from the bag but if your own seeds haven't come onto the market you can invest in the technology to plant other crops or you can acquire and plant vines that only give you modest harvest points but which you can use to limit other players' planting opportunities.

Urubamba Valley is easy to play and the combination of the art of Brendan J Lancaster and Roxy Dai art and Broadway Toys' production has ensured that this is a game with attractive table presence, thanks in no small part to the 3D terraces on which players are placing out their tiles.

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