Tho' this thematically evocative eurogame by Daniel Newman is published by the German publisher PD Verlag, it appears to be built around a pun that is perhaps peculiar to English. Set in the period after the Second World War, you are working at a Soviet watch factory but you are also watching your fellow workers and being watched yourself. It seems that during the War the factory was used to manufacture weaponry, and to score big points in this game you'll be trying to use the gears you are manufacturing to disguise and smuggle out crates of munitions.
That's the basic premise of Watch, which is played using a central watch-face board that's divided into quadrants around which a watch hand moves each round. Each quadrant has two spots at which you can place out your meeple, one of which is 'safe' and one that is risky. In this worker placement game played over 12 rounds, you choose the spot which determines the action you can take. The risky spots will give you the prospect of higher reward (for example, for smuggling crates) but you've a chance that your action has been watched. If it is, either by the game's random selection or by another player who has chosen the (safe) 'Watch' action, then you'll need to pay a bribe. Bribery is cheap early on in the game but the cost escalates as you empty your individual player board of markers. Perhaps you'll take a push-your-luck chance on pulling off a black market action in the hope that it isn't watched but if your gamble doesn't pan out and you don't have the cash to pay the bribe then you'll need to take a debt token, but that can be punishingly expensive to repay or it'll saddle you with a 10 point penalty at the end of the game.
There are subtleties in the way the worker placement rondel works - particularly over turn order. You need to take account of the movement of the watch hand because it is players' position in relation to the hand that determines the order in which players get to choose their next action. There are eight worker placement spots, and you can't remain in the space you were in, so in a four-player game you'll only have access to four of the eight spots because the others will be occupied. If a spot you want to go to is already in use by another player, you'll hope to time your action so that you get to nab that spot after the other player has vacated it. Canny players then will try to optimise their turns by planning ahead both in terms of action and turn order.
Yes, Watch is a eurogame so it is, as you might expect, something of a points salad. Whether you're selling cogs, coins or crates, or collecting document cards for their special actions and end-game set collection bonuses, or when you are successful in winning an area-control-style majority on the tracks on which you place out the discs from your individual player board, it's all about racking up points. But unlike many other eurogames, this point salad maintains its thematic atmosphere throughout. It's helped here by the bleak grey palette deployed by Harald Lieske for the artwork, but it's driven by the tension this game maintains through its surveillance mechanism. We'd describe it as fuelling paranoia - but surely it isn't paranoia if others really are spying on you...
Watch comes with rule tweaks to better facilitate play with two, and there are additional rules and components for solo/solitaire play, but from our plays at Board's Eye View, Watch is at its best as a four-player game because with four players, this game winds up the tension with clockwork precision.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)
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