As Asmodee board game club bloggers we’ve been send a few games now, with the latest one being The River. We tried this a few months ago and gave up on it. There were a lot of rules to talk through and understand, setting up the board took a long time, and N got bored and then refused to play. We just couldn’t work out how to start playing. It wasn’t a good start. But in the time that’s passed we played Carcassonne and the games are quite similar in the aim of building up land and buildings. So we had to give The River another try.
The River is one of the Days of Wonder board games, on a similar theme with a bit of a vintage feel. All the pieces are good quality with great visuals, and the rules are really detailed.
I had to ask for help in how to play, but there was the feeling that you just have to start and work through the questions as you go. Like most games with lots of component rules, you can build your knowledge and skill up over time. And if you get stuck you can check out ‘how to play’ videos on Youtube like this which I had to watch.
The box suggests 8 years and over, but I’d definitely recommend playing it as adults or with older children first to work everything out. I think there’s too much going on for an 8 year old unless they play a lot of this type of game.. N certainly doesn’t have the patience to wait for set up, while I like to read through everything to ensure I’ve got it all right. So trying it first without him would have been helpful…but doesn’t happen in our house as the OH won’t play games.
The aim of the game
The aim of The River board game is for the 2-4 players to build the best settlements along the river. Like the other Days of Wonder games we’ve played, as you build you score points which is how you win.
To build and progress your buildings and settlements, each person has meeple pioneers who can be used to pick up terrain tiles and collect resources – wood, stone, brick and turkeys (which can act as ‘wild’ resources. The tiles can give you extra resources, as well as more points depending on how they are placed on your river board.
Progressing the game
Once you get playing, it’s quite a fast moving game. Playing The River isn’t just one round of play. Once the meeple are all placed on the board, you move into another round. You’re looking at around 45 minutes for a game.
Our thoughts about The River game
The hardest part about the game is getting started. There are slightly different set ups if you play with more than 2 people – the double sided board indicates how many you’re playing with, and you start with different number of resources if you’re playing with only 2 people. Several times we realised we were setting up on the 3-4 player board rather than the 2 player one. That confused us because we didn’t get all the resources allocated. I think it needs to be more obviously in rules about 2 player games vs the 3-4 player version.
Because there’s so much in the rules, we found it hard to know what we had to do to actually start the game. But it turns out you just need to place a meeple on the central game board on one of the islands, depending on the action you want to take – pick resources, build, or get a terrain tile.
The board and pieces are good quality, with thick card tiles, wooden meeple, and the graphics are visual meaning it’s easy to see immediately what the tiles show.
Players need to think ahead about where they want to land on the board to best progress their settlements. As open spaces on the islands get filled up, you need to try and think about consequences of decisions you makes, and planning your point scoring strategy. There’s certainly plenty to learn as you play more, although you’ll get more variety of play if you have different numbers of players each time you play.
Once you’ve played a few similar worker placement games (who knew there was such a term?) – and got the right side board set up, The River should become more straightforward to understand and play. We’ve still not actually managed to complete 1 full game yet and it’s making me feel like I’m making this game more complicated than it is. Reading other reviews, it seems it should be easy for people to pick up. Maybe us trying to play with only 2 people didn’t help, and it would be easier to play with more.
I’m on the fence about The River. The amount of set up seems to go on forever compared with other similar placement games we’ve played, but once you get going it does move at a reasonable pace. The games are short at around 45 minutes depending on the number of players.
I’m going to struggle to get N to play more frequently as we can get other games set up faster and the games have been faster to explain and pick up. I think we’re going to leave it a year or so and then try again. But if you have friends over to play games and you’re more relaxed about getting on with the game, then The River might be a game to try.
You can buy The River from Amazon and other game outlets.
Disclosure: We were sent The River to review as part of being an Asmodee board game blogger.