I’m a fan of puzzle-y games like Rolling America where you feel like it’s a puzzle you’ll never quite win but doing “mildly decent” is a victory because you didn’t totally blow it. If you like those kinds of games too, I’d definitely recommend Avenue from Aporta Games!
Avenue comes with a huge pad of gridded sheets that have the same configurations of grapes, farms, and castles on every sheet. Everyone gets a sheet to start the game so your “play area” will always be the same. There are 6 farms in the game and 6 farm cards, but only 5 farm cards will be used each game so that’s going to change things up a bit. The overall idea of the game is that you are trying to connect farms to grapes and castles to grapes for the highest total number of points.
A round begins by a player drawing a farm card and calling out which letter farm it is. Then they draw road cards. Kind of like the previously review game Karuba, there’s a little circle in the corner that indicates which direction the road goes. You cannot rotate it under any circumstance. But unlike Karuba, these aren’t tiles so you have to DRAW on your sheet where you’re going to use that road. There are no rules about where you can place a road, you just cannot rotate it or play it in a box where a road has already been drawn. And since we’re playing with pens — there will be no changing your road once you’ve drawn it. You don’t have to start next to the farm letter that was drawn either, you can place your road anywhere on the board. More road cards will be flipped and you will add more roads to your map, hopefully connecting farms to grapes. The round ends when the 4th yellow-background road card has been flipped. At that point, everyone counts up how many grapes are on the road that touches the farm in play. This is marked to the right on your sheet.
Sounds easy enough, right? Draw lines that match road cards so you connect your farm to grapes. Here’s the catch. You play 5 rounds (5 farms), and if your score at the end of any round doesn’t beat the score of the previous round, it’s a ZERO. Yes, you read that right. Did you rock out round 1 with a 10-point score but only get 8 in round 2? Change that 8 to a ZERO! On the bright side, you’ll definitely beat a zero the next round. Ha! But again, on the negative side, all zeros cost you a -5 at the end of the game.
There is one rule that can help you out a bit – once per round you can look at what the next farm card is instead of drawing the current road. It can help you from using a road shape you don’t want, but also can help you plan better.
At the end of the 5th round it’s time to tally everything up. In addition to adding up the score of each round and subtracting 5 points for each zero you scored, you calculate your Castle Bonus. What’s that? In the upper right and lower left of the grid there are castles. One is pink and the other is green. For the green castle, you’ll count up all of the green grape bunches that are on the road that the green castle is on. Same goes for the pink castle. Player with the highest point total wins.
There are 2 big things that I love about this game. The first is that you never really know which five farms you’re going to play so you can plan, but it may not really work out for you. Second is that you’re reshuffling the deck of road cards each round so a round can be really quick with lots of yellows right away or it can be long – but again, it’s hard to plan for but makes the game feel different every time. And in theory if you love this type of game and you don’t know anyone else who does, it’s possible to play solo and try to beat your best score.
~$15 Amazon (maybe again soon?), local game stores <– I’m so sorry but this one is going to be a search.