Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Cyrille Leroy

Catch Up Games & Iello

No. of Players:
2 - 4




Gamebox author Doug Adams writes about the game:

Sapiens is a medium length board game, for two to four players, ages 10 and up. In this game, players lead their tribe of prehistoric people out for their shelters, and across the valley searching for food. The player who finds the best balance of shelter and food will win the game.


The game is lovely to look at, and shipped in a standard square "Euro" box that is so common now. The components are sturdy, bright and colourful. The rulebook is an easy eight pages, with a lot of that space given to large illustrations and examples of game play. This is a very straightforward game to learn.

Sapiens feels a lot like the traditional game Dominoes, however each player is playing into their own area. The players are each given two pieces of a game board, which when assembled represents their valley that they are travelling through. The valleys are eight squares by five, with six cave spaces outside the playing area, in the "mountains". These six mountain squares, as well as two waterfall squares, are seeded with one of eight mountain tiles before the game begins.


The game play is very simple. Players have a pool of four tiles they can play from on their turn. These are domino-like pieces that will cover up two of the spaces on the player boards. Each piece depicts two of eight possible scenes - building shelters, driving off bears, feasting, picking food, hunting mammoth, and so on. On their turn, players place one of these tiles, adjacent to any previously placed tile, and the scenes have to match where the new tile touches previously placed tiles.

When a tile is placed, the player is going to score shelter points (for covering a cave space in the mountains), and food points (for covering a space on the game board in the valley) - but only for spaces that match the mountain tile or adjacent valley tiles. These points are recorded on a scoring track, with each player recording their own shelter and food points with a pair of scoring markers. If a player cannot play because their tiles do not match, they have to flip all their tiles on the board face down, and begin a new journey from another cave.


As players place tiles, they also earn bonus actions for matching scenes on adjacent tiles, or from mountain tiles claimed for entering caves. These bonus actions are powerful, and can set up some nice plays. The bonus actions are:

  • Feast - you may place other tile.
  • Picking - earn another food point.
  • Camp - earn three shelter points.
  • Fire - place or remove a bear token.
  • Fight - fight over a tile and earn a food point.
  • Water - swap an unplayed tile with any other unplayed tile.
  • Ritual - take a mountain token off your board.
  • Hunt - claim a meat token.


The game continues with players taking turns to add a tile to their game board, recording food and shelter points, and replenishing, until the tile pool runs out. The players then remove the higher of their food or shelter marker from the board, and the highest scoring remaining marker wins the game.

I have mixed thoughts about Sapiens. The game is very attractive, and easy to learn and teach to new players. However, it is a surprisingly deep game, which is a little unexpected considering the simple look and feel to the game. Also, the game is quite constrained and nasty. Players do not really seem to have many options on their turn - quite often they are limited in being able to play only one tile, possibly in only one location. The ability of other players to deny important tiles to opponents, and being able to place the very annoying bear tokens on opponent's game boards can easily lead to hurt feelings. In short, the game is not as much fun as you think it is going to be. It makes me wonder just what the target audience for Sapiens is.

Sapiens is an attractive, low complexity tile laying game. Just be prepared for some deeper-than-expected thinking, and bruised feelings!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany