i surprised myself by delivering this video at a mere 15 minutes, when there seems to be so much going on in Orléans. You won’t get an explanation of what each of the game’s place tiles do, but it’s no sweat – the rulebook is very clear. All in all, it’s a very breezy game to teach, with a lot of interesting strategic decisions in store for your and your friends. Be sure to check out my unboxing reaction to the two expansions, Orléans: Invasion and Orléans: Trade & Intrigue if you want to see what’s up next.
Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Orléans, a deck-building… well, more accurately, a bag-buidling game for 2-4 players. Let me show you how to play!
You and your friends play leaders of different communities in medieval France who are striving to prosper in tough times.
You have a bag filled with little discs, each one representing a different member of your community: a boatman, a farmer, a craftsman, and a trader. You put those people to work training and attracting more and different community members, like knights and scholars, who go into your bag as well. Each round, you pull out more and more people from your bag, who help you strengthen and grow your community, branching out to different cities, building trading stations, becoming more educated, and attracting noble citizens. Eventually, the people from your community will go on to perform great deeds, like defeating the plague or building a cathedral. At the end of 18 rounds, the player who has amassed the most points by earning money, collecting goods, building trading stations, attracting noble citizens, and doin’ some book-learnin’, wins the game!
HOW TO PLAY
The best way to approach Orléans is to look at the endgame scoring conditions and work backwards from there.
The game has five different types of goods, which ramp up in value in this order: grain, cheese, wine, wool, and brocade. Each of those goods tiles you collect is worth this escalating number of victory points at game end. Every coin you hang onto is worth a point. Your biggest points will probably come from how many trading stations you build, plus the number of noble citizens you attract, times the number of stars you earn for educating your community. Now, let’s begin at the beginning and talk about how you get there.
The first four people you pull from your bag go in this area on your personal board, which is called the market. These four starting characters are special: they have your player colour on them. Whatever else happens in the game, you can never lose (or get rid of) these four characters.
Every round, you’re only allowed to pull up to four people out of your bag, and you’ll use these people to attract more and different people, who go into to your bag, making it more likely that you’ll pull out those people on a future turn. Your board contains a list of places, and each place is like a recipe that gets you something. So if you put your your farmer, your boatman, and your craftsman in the village, you can add one of these three character discs of your choice to your bag.
The character discs all come from the common board. You start with a cube on the first space associated with each character type… and as you conscript the characters into your bag, you’ll move your cube up on that character’s track. Each character you buy not only gets you a new disc, but a special perk unique to that character.
Here’s how to get each new character, and which perk each one gets you.
Place a boatman and a craftsman in the Farm House to gain a farmer disc. With each new farmer you hire, you move your cube ahead on that track, and you get to take a commodity tile above the space you move into. Naturally, these goods get more valuable as you go.
Fill up all spaces at the village to gain either a boatman, a craftsman, or a trader.
Like the farmer, gaining a boatman gains you the perk above the space your cube moves into, which nets you an increasing number of coins. If you reach this space, you gain one of these noble citizen tiles which, as we’ve seen, boosts your big-points score by the end of the game.
If your cube is already at the end of these tracks, you can’t recruit any more of these followers or claim any track perks. In fact, if you run out of a certain type of tile anywhere in the game, you’re not allowed to take an action that would directly supply you with that tile.
Hiring a trader gets a you a new, personal place in your village that only you can use. The places are sorted into Roman numeral I and II piles. If your cube is here, you can look through the I pile and take any place you like. Here onward, you can take a place from either the I or II piles. These unique places do all kinds of different things. i won’t go over all of them, but here’s a taste:
The Cellar lets you place two certain character discs to earn 4 coins. The winery gets you a wine token for placing a farmer and a trader. The Herb Garden lets you treat your boatman as if he was a builder, trader, or farmer. You get the picture.
The place tiles in these stacks aren’t meant to be secret, and any player can look through them at any time. Similarly, you’re allowed to look in your bag at any time to see who’s in there – except, of course, when you’re drawing your tiles at random.
Finally, recruiting a craftsman gets you a gear-shaped technology tile. You can put it in a place in your village to block that spot for the rest of the game, so that you don’t have to spend as many character discs to activate that place. There are a few limitations, though: the first technology tile you earn has to go on a white farmer space. All subsequent tiles you earn can go anywhere, but you can’t stick ‘em on a place that only requires one character… you can’t stick’ em on a spot that requires a yellow monk… and you can’t have more than one technology tile in a single place. You have to wait until the end of the round to place a technology tile, and once it’s down, it’s down – you can’t move it anywhere after the fact, and it stays there for the rest of the game.
Send the right characters to the university to gain a scholar. You move your cube on on the track, which gives you a certain number of development points. Development points are tracked down here at the bottom of the board. As your cube moves along this track, you stand to gain noble citizen tiles, if you’re the first one to them, along with coins. You’ll also be passing these star thresholds which, you may remember, act as a score multiplier at the end of the game.
Commit your discs to the monastery to gain a monk. Monks are wild – they can stand in for any other character, except in one specific circumstance that we’ll see later.
Up here in the castle, you can earn a knight. Knights increase the number of discs you can pull out of your bag at the beginning of the round. They’re also crucial for moving safely around France and building trading stations, as we’ll see shortly. The first person to reach this spot on the knight track claims this noble citizen tile.
In the Scriptorium, you can earn a development point, which moves your cube along that track at the bottom of the board.
Committing characters to the town hall sends them permanently to the Beneficial Deeds board… which is a list of noble goals that all communities are working towards. When you move character discs from the town hall to the beneficial deeds board, you lose them for the rest of the game. You have to match the disc to the place perfectly – you can’t use monks as stand-ins for other characters, and places that make other characters wild, like the herb garden, don’t count here – and take whatever reward is on the deed. It’s usually money, but this one lets you earn a development point if you want to. If you’re the player to fill the last spot on a Beneficial Deed, you take the citizen tile attached to it. You can’t contribute any of your four marked starting characters to the Beneficial Deeds board. And the Town Hall doesn’t have to be full for you to activate it – you can send a single character if you want to.
TRAVELLING AND BUILDING
The three places across the top of your player board help you move around the map and build trading stations. You fill up the Ship place… to move your merchant token from town to town along a blue route, and the Wagon place… to move town to town along a brown route. If you activate the Guildhall… you can build one of your trading stations… and there can only be one trading station in any given town …so whoever builds there first pulls up the ladder from anyone else. Trading stations, you’ll remember, contribute to your score at the end of the game. Even though it’s one trading station per town, multiple merchants are allowed to occupy the same town at once, and anyone can build a trading station in Orléans.
The map is peppered randomly with goods tiles. If you move from town to town and there are goods tiles to be had, you’re allowed to take one of them along the way. If a route has no goods on it, you’re still allowed to travel it – you just don’t get anything for doing so.
That’s a full survey of all the stuff you can do! Now let’s take a look at how a round actually works.
The first phase of a round in Orléans has you flipping over one of these hourglass tiles. This stack of tiles is your game clock, and the event on the tile will fire off at the end of the round, so you have some time to prepare for whatever’s coming. Some events are beneficial, like earning one coin for every trading station you’ve built, or for your development score, but most are bad, like taxes, which makes you pay money based on the number of goods you have, or plague, which makes you draw and kill a character from your bag. When you lose a character to the plague… your cube stays put on the track in question, and the disc goes back into the supply. This is important, because remember: the character discs are limited. If you pull out one of your marked starting characters, you’re safe, because those guys are immortal.
3 of the event tiles prevent you from recruiting any monks in a round, and one of the tiles makes you pay either one food item or five coins. If ever you have to pay for something and you can’t, the game makes you undergo torture. That’s right: torture.
For each missing coin you can’t pay, you have to give up either a trading station, a random character drawn from your bag, a development point, a goods tile, a place tile, or a technology tile. If you decide to kill a character and you draw one of your originals, keep drawing until you kill someone off. Any stuff you lose during torture goes back into the box, not into the supply.
So after you flip the hourglass tile and you know what’s in store at the end of the round, you take a census. Whoever’s cube is farthest along on the farmer track receives one coin, and whoever’s farthest back loses one coin. If there’s a tie for last place… or if you’re in a 2-player game… no one loses a coin.
Next, everyone draws characters from their bags simultaneously – four tiles or fewer by default, or more depending on how many knights you’ve recruited. If your market’s full, you can’t draw any more characters, even if you’re entitled to.
Then, everyone enters the planning phase, where you assign your followers to different places in your village. You don’t have to assign anyone if you don’t want to – you can strategically keep people in your market so that you have a better of idea of who’s coming out of your bag next round. Planning can usually be done simultaneously, but sometimes, order matters, like if someone who gets a turn before you might fill up a crucial spot on the Beneficial Deeds board. If it becomes important, you’re allowed to ask that all players lock down their planning in turn order before moving on to the next phase.
After everyone’s finished planning, in turn order, beginning with the Starting Player, everyone chooses a place that’s completely filled up, returns those characters to their bag, and does the thing. If the place is incomplete, you can’t do the thing. If you can activate one of your places, you don’t have to – you can let those guys hang out until next round. But once your characters are committed to a place, you can’t move them around. They’re stuck there. The only way to get them unstuck is during the round where you draw characters from your bag… for every character within your entitlement that you don’t draw, you can unstick a character from a place to your market.
If play reaches you and you can’t or don’t want to do anything, you have to pass. Passed players are finished for this round, and can’t play again until the next round starts.
Once everyone has passed, anyone who gained new technology tiles gets to place them. Then, you resolve the event on the hourglass tile, pass the start player token clockwise, and begin a new round.
If all the hourglass tiles have run out when you begin a new round, the game is over. Whoever has built the most Trading Stations gets a bonus citizen.
Score 1 point for every coin you have, and x points for each goods tile of a certain type that you own. Then, sum up the number of trading stations you’ve built and the number of citizen tiles you’ve collected, and multiply that number by the number of development stars you’ve earned to get your final score. In the case of a tie, whoever’s farthest along on the development track wins it, and if players are still tied, all tied players share the victory.
To set up the game, everyone chooses a colour and takes a player board, 10 trading stations, and their four starting characters, which go on their market. Everyone gets 5 coins to start. Put your cubes on the first space of each character track, and the development track. Everyone’s merchant token starts in Orléans. Stack up the character discs and the technology tiles on the board to form a supply. Shuffle the hourglass tiles and stack them up here, with the light blue “Pilgrimage” tile on top. Citizen tiles go here, here, here, here, and here, and on all of the Beneficial Deeds.
Sort the place tiles into two stacks according to the Roman numeral on the back.
Randomly deal the goods tiles to all these spots on the map. In a 3-player game, skip the areas marked “4,” put 6 goods tiles back in the box at random, and get rid of 2 tiles of each character type, along with one more knight, scholar, and monk.
In a 2-player game, skip the areas marked “3,” get rid of 12 random goods, and banish 4 character discs from each pile, and two more knights, scholars, and monks. The rest of the goods go into their respective piles on the common board. The youngest player gets the start token. For an advanced game, in turn order, everyone can select a place from pile I or II, and kick it out of the game. LET’S SEE YOU WIN WITHOUT YOUR PRECIOUS GUNPOWDER TOWER NOW, HAROLD! In a 2-player game, you can each choose two place tiles to knock out.
And now, you’re ready to play Orléans!
[Music – Board Game Boogie by Ryan Henson Creighton]Did you just watch that whole thing? Oh – hey! To 100% this video, click the badge to subscribe, then click the bell to get notifications when i’ve got new stuff!
Get Your Own Copy of Orléans
Without the benefit of a proper weighing on the Scales of Funstice, i’m going to go ahead and recommend this game – especially if you’re like me, and you enjoy deck-builders, but hate shuffling cards. Use the Amazon link below to shop for your own copy of Orléans, and i’ll receive a small commission.