A to Z Gaming: Samara

The main Samara board is on the left, and along the right side are the boards with months on them. February is at the end of the main Samara board, marked "Now" on the main board. There are purple and yellow player pieces on the March space, a yellow piece on the April space, and yellow and purple on the May space.

We built up a settlement over time in Samara, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Board game box cover

Players: 2-5
Time: 25-50 Minutes
Designers: Corné van Moorsel
Artists: Philip Kustov, Josh T. McDowell
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games

Samara is a game where players are trying optimize how their workers spend their time to collect tools and build up their settlement. A worker by themself can only access a few of the available buildings and tools. Players must bring their workers together and/or strengthen the ones they have to open up more of the options on the board. Whoever can build up the most prestigious mix of buildings will win.

Table with Samara set up. Each player has a board - one in yellow, one in purple. The game board is at the top of the photo with building tiles laid out on all the spots - four rows with 6, 7, 8, and 9 columns. Along the bottom of the board are a series of boards with the months of the year on it, starting with January on the left side. Each month board has one month highlighted in pink.

Game play

The game is set up with the main board in the middle of the table. The building tiles are mixed up and placed out on the board randomly — the six leftover buildings will go back in the box. Then the appropriate number of tools for the player count are mixed up and placed out on the board in the marked spots. The month boards are placed below the main board with the current month placed below the “now” space, and the rest placed in order.

Each player takes a player board and the meeples of their color. One of the male and one of the female meeples are placed on their player board, the rest will go out on the month boards according to player order. In player order, players place their female meeples on the current month, then in reverse turn order they place their remaining two male markers, stacked on top of each other.

Each turn, the player with their meeple closest to the game board on the current month will play. On their turn, they will take the meeple closest to the game board and move it to another month down the track. Optionally, they can take additional meeples from the current month, and move them all together, but they must all come from the current month and all must go to the same month.

The main Samara board is on the left, and along the right side are the boards with months on them. April is at the end of the main Samara board, marked "Now" on the main board. There are purple and yellow player pieces on the April space.

Once they place that meeple or group of meeples, they can either take a tool or build a building. If they only placed one meeple, they can only take a building or tool in the spot closest to the month board. However, additional meeples will allow them to take buildings further up the board — one row further for each meeple. A meeple “stack” counts as the number of meeples in the stack. so at the beginning of the game, each player has one builder of strength two — that stacked builder by itself can take buildings or tools from the first or second row.

If they take a tool, that will be placed on their player board. The board shows the maximum number of each tool they can have. Additionally, they have to take the “glass A” tool before the “glass B” — these are the two blue tools. If they take a building, they’ll need the tools shown on the bottom of the tile to take it. Then, if the building has a special ability or condition, they’ll follow those instructions (for example, some buildings require that you give up a tool; others will allow you to strengthen one of your workers). Then, unless the building has a black ring around the points (in the upper right corner), the building is placed upside down on the player board in a stack. The buildings with the black ring are ongoing powers, so these buildings are placed near the player’s board face-up.

Instead of building or taking a tool, if the player’s current pawn is female, they can get a new worker. This is done by placing their pawn on the furthest pink month , along with a meeple from their player board. (If they don’t have one on their player board, they can’t take this action.)

Finally, if the player doesn’t want to take an action (or can’t), they can take a vacation, where they’ll simply move their current meeple to the next month where they have workers.

Then the next player with a meeple on the current month takes their turn. Once the current month is empty of meeples, the month boards slide so that the next month with meeples is next to the “now” space. Once one of the month boards is empty of meeples, the board moves to the end of the line of boards.

Play continues until players choose to pass out of the game. This will likely happen once they have no legal actions they can do. At that point, they’ll take all of their workers and place them on the right side of the main board. This will act as a tie-breaker, with the first player to pass out of the game winning in the event of a tie.

Then players count up the points on their collected buildings, and the player with the most points wins.

Player board with text along the left side describing the powers of each of the buildings in the game. On the right upper corner is a stack of tiles with a white goat on the back. Five of the six tool spaces are filled with tokens. On the right side is one building which gives the player a special power.

My Thoughts

I picked up this game after watching a playthrough, because I thought the placement mechanism looked really interesting. Unfortunately, we’ve had a hard time getting this one to the table with all of the flashier, newer games getting our attention.

However, with our few 2-player plays, I can say that the worker placement mechanism and the moving month tracks are really cool. It takes a bit more thought to set yourself up to have a bunch of meeples in the same place while not wasting their time just to get them together. During several turns my heart sinks as I realize that my carefully-planned turn didn’t take into account how many months the board would be moving before I took another turn.

We’d really like to try this with more players, since I think the interaction could be really interesting.

Close up of the Samara board at set-up. There are different colored tiles with buildings, people and landmarks depicted on them. On a few spaces are also smaller tokens showing different tools.

Three Quick Questions

How is it as a 2-player game? Samara works fine with two players; however, I suspect the interaction and jockeying for buildings and tools with more players would add another dimension to the game that we’re missing with just two.

How about the art and component quality? The player pieces, board, and building pieces are all fine quality. The player boards are a little flimsy, but they’re only there to hold pieces, so it’s not a big deal.

The art is okay — it’s not why I bought this game. However, the player boards are very handy — they spell out what each special building does and make clear how many of which tools you can have.

Will this stay in my collection? Yes, at least until we can get it to the table with a few more players. Also, the box is super small, so it may hang on just because of that. However, if it doesn’t hit the table more often, it will be a candidate for culling.

Samara board with many of the building tiles taken off.

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