Being a cradle of civilization thousands of years before the birth of Christ, the importance of the Island of Crete did fall into decline with the passing of the House of the Minoan Kings. However, the new game Kreta by GOLDSIEBER now takes us into the 14th century, a time where Crete re-established its importance for the trade of goods, and thus the players take up the roles of different factions competing for predominance over the regions of Crete and the available goods.
The game features a map of Crete which is divided into a total of 16 regions. Six of these regions are Mountains, eight are hills and forests and two are plains. As starting preparations, one goods marker is assigned to each of these regions: the plains each will receive a marker with wheat, whereas the hills will be randomly assigned olive and wine markers. Finally, the barren mountain regions will receive markers for either thyme or goat-cheese. Having finished the preparation of the gameboard, each of the players now receives his playing material which consists of a set of seven playing cards (showing different professions) and wooden markers: one abbot, two ships, three "castellos" (forts), four cities and five peoples. Also, each player receives a marker for his victory points which he places at the starting space of the victory points track which goes around the gameboard. As a final preparation, a total of 26 castello-cards is randomly mixed. 11 of these cards are taken and placed in a row adjacent to the gameboard, and the first two cards in this row will be revealed to the players. The remaining castello-cards will form a drawing pile which is placed at hand for later use.
Now the game can start. In essence, the game is played in turns, and in each turn a player may use one of the profession-cards which he holds at hand. Each of these cards allows the player a special kind of action which will be outlined below, and once a player has finished his action it will be the next player's turn to play and act upon a profession card. Once used, a profession card remains on the table and may not be used again by its player. However, when one of the player plays his Kastellan (one of the professions), an evaluation takes place after which all players are allowed to re-fill their hand of profession cards. Now let us have a closer look at each of these cards:
- The Admiral allows a player either to bring one of the ships from his stockpile onto the gameboard where it must be placed next to a region showing a harbour, or alternatively the player may move one or both of his ships on the board to different harbours. Here the rule must be observed that each harbour only has space for up to two ships, and both ships of the same player never may occupy the same harbour.
- Comparable to the Admiral, the General allows a player either to bring one of his peoples into play or to move his people(s) which are already located on the gameboard. If a player decides to move his peoples, he has a total of four movement points which he may split on his peoples as he desires. Thus, for example he may move one of his peoples as far as four provinces, or he may move four of his peoples for one province each. Of great importance for the movement of peoples is the region limit rule: each of the provinces may only contain a maximum of seven abbots, peoples and cities. Thus, a region which already contains its maximum of seven playing pieces cannot receive and additional playing pieces. However, it may still be crossed by abbots or peoples with a different destination.
- With the Abbot a player brings his abbot into play or he may move his abbot for a total of up to three regions on the gameboard. The abbot brings peace to the region where he resides, and thus he blocks all other players from placing additional playing pieces into this region. Only the player of the abbot still may add playing pieces to that region, but he still has to observe the region limit rule. However, an abbot may be countered by another abbot, so - if a player moves his abbot into a region already containing an abbot of another player - he counters the effect of that abbot and now will be allowed to bring playing pieces to that region as well.
- As might be guessed, using the Peasant allows the player to harvest a goods marker from one of the regions. However, the player may not just chose one of the still available goods markers, but instead he has to use a ship and one or more of his peoples to be successful with harvesting. Thus, he may harvest from a region IF he has a ship in the harbour of that region and IF he has one of his peoples in this region. However, since there are only very few regions with harbours, there also exists an option to harvest in the more remote regions. For such a harvest, the player needs a ship in one of the harbours and an unbroken chain of peoples from the region with the harbour to the region with the marker he wants to harvest. If this requirement is fulfilled, the layer is allowed to harvest. By harvesting, the player will instantly receive victory points. He will receive one victory point for the first good of a type which he harvests, but he will receive additional points for each additional good which he harvests of the same type: 1 victory point for the first wheat, 2 victory points for the second wheat etc.
- Another option which a player might chose is to play the Builder who allows the player to erect either a city or a castello. A city is placed into one of the regions like a people or an abbot, but here the player has to observe the restriction that he needs to have harvested at least one goods marker for EACH city he wants to build. When placing a city, the player once again has to observe the region limit rule which would prevent him from placing a city into a region which already contains seven playing pieces. However, this rule needs not to be observed when placing a castello. Unlike the cities, a castello is placed on one of the 26 numbered building sites on the gameboard. These building sites are not part of a region, but instead they are located on borders between two or more regions. What is common to both cities and castellos is that they are immobile - once placed they remain at that space until the end of the game.
- The King may be used as a wildcard since he can replace any of the profession cards a player already has used. In effect this will allow a player to use one of the professions twice before any player plays the Kastellan.
- Finally, the Kastellan end the round of playing profession cards by calling an evaluation. Now the castello-cards which have been prepared at the beginning of the game come into play, since the castello-card which is left in the row of cards will determine which regions will be evaluated. In effect, each of the 26 building sites for castellos on the gameboard bears a number, and likewise each of the castello cards bears a corresponding number. Thus, the evaluation will take place in all regions bordering the building site with the number corresponding to the castello card left in the row of castello cards. The evaluation will be made for all regions separately, and in each region the player with most influence will be determined. An abbot and each people in a region is worth one influence point. Likewise, each bordering castello and each ship anchoring next to the region also is worth one influence point. More valuable are the cities since these bring two influence points. The player(s) with most influence will win in a region and he will receive victory points as shown in each region. Effectively, plains are more valuable than hills or mountains, but a bordering harbour also increases the value of a province.
After the evaluation has taken place, all the players may take back all their profession cards, and the player who has played the Kastellan now will turn over the next Castello-card in row. However, it is his special privilege that if he should not like this card he may draw the topmost card from the random drawing pile and replace this card with it. However, he cannot opt to draw again - he has to live with the card he has drawn.
The game comes to its end when all 11 Castello-card from the row have caused an evaluation. Now the player with most victory points will have won the game.
To my mind, Kreta is a solid strategy game which offers some interesting playing rules. However, at this point I have to add that I do not feel that Kreta comes close to older GOLDSIEBER-classics like Mississippi Queen or Linie 1.
First off, although the rules-mechanism works well, I got the feeling that the game does not really offer any new rules or twists which were not known from any other game. Although it is true that in these days lots of games are produced so that it gets harder to come up with a totally new game, I rarely got the impression that I have known so much about a game directly after studying the rules. Different professions, scoring by evaluating predominance in regions, harvesting - all these elements are known from one game or the other. Don't undertstand me wrong - I am NOT talking about plagiarism ! It is just the odd feeling that there are not so many new elements you may discover while playing Kreta. Another point I have to get used to is the rather "naive" artwork which was chosen to illustrate the game and the box. The artwork serves its purpose of illustrating the game, but to my taste it is a bit to "simple" - especially if compared with earlier GOLDSIEBER products. To sum it up, a newcomer to boardgaming will find a good degree of enjoyment while playing the game, but any seasoned player quickly will discover that Kreta is a rather average game.
Finally, GOLDSIEBER has carried through with its decision to abolish their "big box" format and has gone for a box format corresponding the one of Piranha Pedro. Although this point has NO influence on the game and its review, I still think that this factor needed to be pointed out since I fear that many collectors of GOLDSIEBER games will be irritated by this step.