The game “A Fistful of Meeples” by Jonny Pac (Merchants Cove, Coloma, Unconscious Mind), published in 2019, is published under the name “For a Fistful of Meeples” (based on the well-known Western “For a Fistful of Dollars”) Asmodee now finally in German. The game uses the Mancala mechanism and complements it with worker placement elements. You can find out how the interesting mix ultimately performs in this review.
Things are going wild in the West! A handful of Meeples have gathered in the city. Including gold diggers who seek their fortune here; robbers who steal gold from gold diggers; Deputies who are on the trail of the robbers and craftsmen who go about their daily business. There are also explosive prison breaks and wild duels on the street. You can only find peace here with the landlady, in the town saloon...
The Mancala part of the game
The board of For a handful of meeples consists of 14 locations - 12 buildings, 1 saloon and 1 prison. The 12 buildings are divided into two rows of 6. Between the rows is the main street, which connects both rows with a showdown field at the beginning and end. There are initially 3 meeples in each building, and only one in the saloon - the so-called landlady.
On our turn, we take all the meeples from a location (building, saloon or prison) and place them one after the other on successive buildings in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. If we have taken all the meeples from a building on the main street, we have to continuously place the meeples adjacent to this building. However, once we have taken Meeple from the saloon or the prison, we are free to decide where to start.
Worker placement elements in the action phase
Once we have placed our meeples, the action phase begins. Our goal here is to draw as many dice (gold + stone) as possible from the bag in order to be able to build buildings or collect valuable gold bars that generate victory points. In order to be able to draw dice from the bag, we have to activate the meeple placed there for each field. These have a different action depending on the color. There are a total of 5 different meeples or actions:
The gray On Site Team builds up or upgrades the building in front of which he is standing. If the building space does not belong to anyone, we can place our shield tile on the space for the cost stated on the building. This gives us 5 victory points at the end of the game. Let's put that On Site Team to a building that already belongs to us or to an opposing player, the person may upgrade the building if they can pay the costs. An upgraded building gives 10 victory points at the end of the game.
The yellow ones gold digger activate buildings that have already been constructed. The person who owns the building may draw 5 or 10 dice from the bag, depending on whether the shield tile is on the 2-point or 4-point side.
The blue one Deputy Sheriff puts red robbers in prison. For every robber in the building in front of the Deputy Sheriff has been placed, the active player may draw 2 dice from the bag. The Reds Robber On the other hand, the gold diggers rob the building and receive 2 dice for each gold digger in the placed building.
Last meeple is the purple one landlady. She collects craftsmen and sends them to the saloon for an after-work beer. She receives one die for each craftsman in the placed building.
If you place a meeple on a showdown space to the left or right of the street, it prepares itself for a fight for life and death. As soon as there is another meeple opposite, there will be a showdown in this round. It is crucial here which type of meeples are facing each other, because they have different strengths and therefore give more or less bonuses if they are defeated.
Both people involved in the fight roll their combat dice. The person who has the stronger meeple can then roll the dice again in order to improve his result if necessary. Depending on the meeple's strength, the winner receives dice from the bag and sends his meeple to the saloon. The loser places his meeple on a grave in the cemetery.
The game ends when one of three end conditions occurs. All graves are covered with meeples; All gold bars were purchased by the players or three dynamite dice were drawn from the bag. You then receive victory points for every gold bar, gold throw and for every shield tile you own. The person with the most points wins.
Info about For a handful of meeples
|Number of players: 2 – 4
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Family game
Long-term motivation: medium
Classification: Mancala, Worker Placement
Author Jonathan “Jonny Pac” Cantin
Illustrations: Mihajlo “The Mico” Dimitrievski
Publisher: Final Frontier Games, Asmodee
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2023
Cost: 31,99 Euro
In our test games, a handful of meeples took around 30 – 45 minutes. The game develops a certain flow in which time flies. Everything feels nice and well rounded because it has a simple rule structure that requires a touch of cleverness every now and then. However, that also means that there is a lot of luck involved. If you're just unlucky and don't draw the right dice, you can quickly find yourself behind in a game. This can happen in all player constellations, but we had the feeling that games with three or more people are particularly susceptible to this. There is also the factor of the opposing players. Depending on which actions or fields you use, the game changes step by step. This makes it impossible to plan ahead and you are completely dependent on your luck.
With two people you can have a bit of an influence on luck, as you play head to head against each other and can also hinder each other in things here and there. This is where a handful of meeples unfold their full potential and are the most fun.
From a purely tactile perspective, the game is well positioned. Meeples, resource cubes and gold bars are made of wood. The bag for the resource cubes is very high quality and pleasantly soft. The signs and showdown markers are made of cardboard, but that's all you need here. The only thing that could have been used was wood for the plastic dice for the showdown.
The illustrations by The Mico (known for the West Francia and North Sea series) are also really nice and give the entire game more of a Western flair. The game also has no text at all and the symbolism is easy to understand. Therefore, in our opinion, from a purely gameplay perspective, For a Handful of Meeples can also be played with children under 10 years old.
In summary, with For a handful of meeples you get a rock-solid game that is ideal for 2 people for in between, but can also be played as a starter for a game evening. However, you have to like that luck determines a lot here. What you draw from the bag, how showdowns end and what opponents change on the field through their moves is all left to chance. However, in return you get a shallow game that casual gamers as well as those who play a lot can certainly play again and again.
|Final Frontier | For a handful of meeples | Family game |... *||30,99 EUR||Buy|
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