Hacienda has been well overdue, being originally slated for release in February (2012); they have finally gotten around to releasing it almost four months later. However, Cube Your Mind (the developers of the digital Hacienda) earlier stated that this long delay was to address a number of issues that had come up during the beta testing. Specifically, they wanted to make it possible to use the challenge map as well as the basic map. While the game doesn’t quite carry the high level of polish that a lot of the other A-list games have, it nevertheless showcases the talents of Cube Your Mind. The wait was worth it.
The game revolves around a gulch where several estancieros (Argentinian land owners somewhat analogous to North American ranchers) are attempting to claim land and raise herds. As you can see from the map, each of the estancieros are competing around a central area of land for water and land. The terrain is made up of mountains, rocky lands, marshes, forests, meadows, and many plains. The four types of animal available for herds are cattle, pigs, horses, and sheep. The game is played across two phases, which are mechanically the same but score differently.
In each turn you have three actions you may take. They can either consist of claiming a land or placing part of a herd down, or paying money to get an animal card or land card (which are then used to claim land or place herds). Of both land and animal cards, there will be four displayed at any given time. Upon the purchase of one, it is replaced with another. The cost of any face-up card is $3 and the cost of the face-down card from the top of either the land or animal deck is $2.
A large part of this game is about getting in quick, and blocking existing opportunities for other players. You get points for building chains of land that are at least three tiles long, building haciendas on various chains of land and/or animals, building access to water holes, connecting to multiple different markets, and 1 for every $10 you have at the end of the game.
You get money by connecting animals to the markets, and from using the harvest option. So effectively you will be trying to balance between extending your chains of animals for more money, and chains of land for more points with a few variables thrown into the mix. If you lack money you will be unable to do the most important aspects of building the chains necessary to succeed in the game. There are few more little bits and pieces, but for the most part you have the overview of how the game works.
The developers at Cube Your Mind have put a lot of care into this release, although I did notice one or two small glitches. The most notorious in my mind is the way that my screen distorts when I try to enter in a player name and the few times it crashed at the same point at loading. Hopefully these will be cleaned up in short order. In terms of visuals the game is a faithful replication of the original board game, which will be of great delight to its fans. Further, the game doesn’t present you with a score or musical relief, but does create atmosphere with sound effects to good effect. They’ve also demonstrated some lateral thinking by creating an option to optimise the layout for left-handed players. It’s a very nice touch.
Also, Cube Your Mind has been paying attention to the three pillars of good board game apps (multiplayer, AI, and tutorial). It has taken the time to implement a completely engaged tutorial, which speaks volumes for an independent company. There often seems to be a direct relationship between the size of the development team and the depth of the tutorial. Cube Your Mind have tackled a moderately complex game and introduced a first time player (me) into the game with minimal difficulty. It might be interesting to see what they do with a highly complex game. In terms of multiplayer, there is no online multiplayer, but there is at least pass’n'play. You can play against an artificial intelligence as an opponent, and have a combination of human and AI opponents.
8/10: As said, the game is worth the wait. The lack of online multiplayer will undoubtedly be a thorn for some players, but in principle this is a solid game.Hacienda,