Fields of Arle
Fields of Arle is one of the best titles in the Uwe Rosenberg ludography. I’ve found Rosenberg’s games are often best with two players; in many cases, extra players just lengthen the game without offering much. Here, the player count is capped at two.
Fields of Arle isn’t a tricky game. It is a straightforward worker placement game, where each player tries to develop their farm to make it as successful as possible. The game’s a bit of a point salad: you get points from many different things and lose points for not doing some things (the negative scoring isn’t as pronounced as in Agricola, though).
In the worker placement, two things set Fields of Arle apart. The most obvious is splitting the worker placement actions into two sets: summer rounds and winter rounds. The game starts in summer, both players take four actions, then comes the Autumn maintenance and then the winter and so on, for nine rounds. In general, you can’t take actions from the wrong side of the board, but it’s allowed once per round, and if you would start the following season, you forfeit being the starting player if you take an off-season action.
The other speciality is that most actions use your tools, which is a track that runs in the middle of the board. For example, to chop wood, you need axes. You start with four, so the wood-collecting action nets you four wood. You can improve your tools by taking the Master action, getting more axes, and getting more wood later.
Tea & Trade
The Tea & Trade expansion by Tido Lorenz is a fantastic addition to the game. It adds components for the third player (I’ve never been able to try that yet) and more features to the game. There are ships for fishing and trading and tea to boost your actions. Tea is the national beverage of East Frisia, where the game is set – Uwe Rosenberg’s home country, which gives this game a very personal touch – and having it in an essential role in the game is delightful.
I think the expansion is a must-have. I can still play the game without the expansion but would never choose to do that, given the expansion and an experienced opponent. I’d consider using the expansion with a new player, depending on the player.
The obvious tea choice for Fields of Arle would be the East Frisian tea or Ostfriesentee. It is a black tea, a blend of heavier Assam and lighter Darjeeling and Ceylon teas. The locals used to drink it with cream and a lump of rock sugar at the bottom of the cup (where it dissolves slowly to last for several cups).
I don’t drink tea with sugar, and the thought of adding cream to my tea sounds terrifying, so here are some lighter alternatives.
Lightly fermented oolong teas. Oolong tea is a type of tea between heavily oxidized black teas and unoxidized green teas. Some oolongs are almost black, some very green. I recommend trying the less oxidized oolongs: they are among my favourite teas. Dongding tea from Taiwan is a fantastic choice, one of the best teas.
Baozhong teas. Also known as Pouchong, this Taiwanese tea falls between green and oolong teas. Try Wen Shan or Wenshen tea; it is excellent.
Japanese sencha. There’s plenty of variety in Japanese green tea, sencha, ranging from very casual to super expensive connoisseur teas. If you want something slightly better, look for Fukamushi or Kabusecha tea. These teas have different treatments: Fukamushi is deep-steamed, and Kabusecha has been shaded while it grows. Both methods produce a deeper green colour and an exciting taste.
All of these teas do well with multiple steepings. Especially in oolong, the first cup you get from the leaves is not the best; the taste and the colour improve after the first steeping.
Basics of making good tea. Use loose-leaf tea, if possible. It’s better than tea bags and has a much smaller carbon footprint. Black tea gets bitter if you steep it too long; use a timer. Green teas and oolongs are less strict about steeping, but make sure the water isn’t too hot. Oolongs prefer 90 °C, green teas 70–80 °C. Making green tea in boiling water will get you a bitter drink.
Our recent Fields of Arle session
We played Fields of Arle yesterday, twice in a row, which was great. What I quite enjoy about Fields of Arle is the variety of strategies it offers, despite being so light on random elements. The random building draw is a small part of all the buildings, most of them are the same every game, yet the game seems fresh.
In this case: in our first game, I started the game with a move I’ve never made. Taking the Colonist action to get a horse and to flip a bog tile is the standard opening. Still, I started by taking the off-season Baking action to get food, built the Old Smithy Inn to get three horses and a plough, then went farming to get another plough and plough two fields. I ended up collecting a decent amount of points from my home board (37) and a steady but not great score from everything else, for 92.5 points.
In the second game, I managed a better resource income, built the Mennonite Church, one of the big 15-point buildings, and used the trading ship that comes with the church to start a tea trading business. I built the tea factory and used the East Frisian tea to boost my actions to good effect. Overall, this was a game of heavy building: we built all four 15-point buildings and a lot more. We both had about 60 points from the home board, and both exceeded 100 points. I got 126, possibly my highest score ever!
Some games promote stereotypical play and get boring quick. I’ve played Fields of Arle 30 times and still find it fascinating.