Designed by Boris Durovic and published by Brave Giant, Vojvodina is a charming easy-to-play 2-4 player game from Serbia that attractively combines several different but familiar mechanics.
The game is played on an irregularly shaped board that varies in size according to the number of players. Players each start off with two two-square polygons and they have a hand of six cards. The cards show the name of a Serbian town, a symbol representing one of three regions, the amount of grain demanded by that town's market and the coins (dinars?) paid for supplying that market at the end of the round.
On your turn you can do one of two things. You can discard a card in order to pick up another polygon (these come in various shapes and can be up to five squares in size) or you can keep a card by playing it face down in front of you. When you do this, you get to place one of your polygons on the board, where each square of your polygon represents a field that will yield one bag of grain. When you keep a card, you are committing to supply the grain demanded for that town's market, and if, at the end of the six-turn round, your fields don't produce enough grain to satisfy a town's demands then its score is treated as negative rather than positive. This is a scoring mechanism that will be familiar from, for example, Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder).
After each turn, the remaining cards in your hand are passed on to the player to the left; so there's a card drafting mechanic at work here too. In choosing the cards to keep, you can be bold and hold those with high demands and high rewards, with the risk that you could get penalised for non-delivery, or you could be cautious and hold on to cards with contracts you are confident you'll be able to fulfil. This push-your-luck mechanic is supplemented in Vojvodina with a set collection element: a bonus for satisfying the markets on three towns from the same region or three towns from three different regions. This set collection bonus will be familiar to those who have played the standard version of Risk (Hasbro).
You get a bonus added to your grain yield for having at least three of your polygon tiles orthogonally adjacent but you don't have to place tiles next to those already in situ. A player that sees that an opponent has a pentomino tile to hand might deliberately place their tile so that the opponent has no valid way of placing out their pentomino. It's the tile placement and the potential to block rivals that offers scope for player interaction. In our Board's Eye View plays, we found some players were lulled by Andrea Schwartz' bucolic art into treating Vojvodina as a genteel game, but aggressive tile placement can make it quite combative. You get a kick out of blocking an opponent from placing out the pentomino you are pretty sure he needs to fulfil his contracts, and your opponent certainly feels that kick!
The game is played over 3 or 4 rounds (ie: hands of cards), depending on the number of players. Up until the final round, being stuck with a tile you couldn't previously play isn't necessarily a complete disaster because you will have that tile available to you in the next round. After a round, any squares on the board that weren't covered by a field have an uncultivated field marker placed on them. These don't block tile placement in the next round but they incur a cost of 2 coins if you want to place a tile in a square with a marker in it...
We've enjoyed our plays of Vojvodina, and we've learnt a little bit about Serbian political geography into the bargain. Vojvodina plays quickly, so experienced gamers will find it can be played pretty much as a filler-length game, but it's accessible too as a family game. The English translation of the rules could've been better: on an initial reading some players were confused by nomenclature that was used inconsistently; for example, 'rounds' is used to mean turns as well as rounds, and 'maps' and 'tickets' are used to refer to the town cards. However, the publishers have made available a very clear 'how to play' video, so we can forgive any shortcomings in the rulebook.
Vojvodina is live on Kickstarter right now. Click here to check out the campaign.