Finding Little Things to Enjoy in At the Gates of Loyang

February 6, 2021 | Sessions | 4 comments

Take a closer look at the little details in At the Gates of Loyang with the wide variety of cards and individual characters.

Back to At the Gates of Loyang! From the many comments about this game, it’s best enjoyed occasionally. That rings true for many solo games and is probably why I part with so few titles. Some go years without getting played… Case in point right here! It’s been an awesome time diving into this classic a little more over the past week, though.

Game Overview

Game Name: At the Gates of Loyang
Publication Year:
 2009
Designer:
 Uwe Rosenberg
Artists:
 Klemens Franz and Scott Hartman
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game

Did I highlight enough how cozy this color scheme is? It all looks so delicious, fresh, and inviting! Customers offer reliable sources of income for harvested vegetables. But balancing it all takes more than just mere luck. This is a challenging puzzle, filled with plenty of decisions.

A Steady Stream of Regular Customers in At the Gates of Loyang
R

First Play

April 22, 2019

Complexity

3

Latest Play

February 6, 2021

Expansions

0

Setup Time

5 Minutes

Lifetime Plays

18

Play Time

35 Minutes

:

High Score

18

1

Game Area

30" x 22"

;

Low Score

11

Details in the Fields

Although it might be a very minor feature, practically every field card is slightly different. Trees, rivers, and even people all show up in unique places to add a little flavor!

The fields themselves come in different sizes, which has a bearing on the types of vegetables that may be planted.

Expensive beans and leeks are only allowed on some of the smaller field sizes. Brilliant! This makes the fields that show up in the market even more important at times.

Even the littlest field is worth it! I once harvested wheat, which might have seemed odd, but it worked out nicely.

Looking Out for the Little Artistic Details in At the Gates of Loyang

Would You Like a Bean?

Market stalls allow for the trading of vegetables at a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio. Rather than spending coins, this is often a nice alternative that doesn’t cost anything extra.

I kept my selection to a minimum so I could buy a 2-pack each turn at a low cost. That might be part of my success!

This trader had the perfect expression as he pointed to the bean. I cleared out most of his stall already, and I think he just wanted me to pick this up so he could go home. Ha ha!

From my recent experience, a few market stalls are almost imperative over the course of play. Trading is useful!

A Helpful Merchant Pointing at the Desired Vegetable in At the Gates of Loyang

A Wide Cast of People

Going back to my point about the details in the fields, every card features a different individual. I often enjoy pausing to admire the hairstyles and clothing.

It would have been easy to omit this feature. After all, the people are only the focal point as characters or helpers.

But once again, this artwork adds so much charm! I feel like my customers are people and not just cards that need specific vegetables. Mechanics still tower over the theme.

As I played, I realized I had some questions about some of these cards. Too bad there wasn’t something handy…

A Wide Range of Characters on the Cards of At the Gates of Loyang

Helper Reference

The rulebook was hiding something! I never went past the explanation of the solo mode because I thought I was at the very end of what I needed to know. Wrong, indeed!

At the very back of the rulebook is a wonderful section that includes detailed descriptions of every helper.

This is so useful, and I never knew it existed! Granted, in all my plays, I think there have been 2 situations that needed a little clarity. The card text is excellent!

It just goes to show that an older game can still have some surprises. Maybe not exciting ones, but still interesting!

The Discovery of a Useful Reference Section for At the Gates of Loyang

Session Overview

Play Number: 17 and 18
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Outcome: 17.78 and 17.44 (2 Wins)

Success! I had very consistent back-to-back victories and was still pretty close to reaching the coveted 18 space. Oddly enough, both times saw me only advance once during a lot of the early rounds, then turn things around to advance 2-3 spaces at a time. That might be a strategy to try out again in the future! For now, I feel like my time harvesting and selling vegetables is over. Yet this is a classic that I will return to someday for more enjoyment!

Scoring Consistently and Well in At the Gates of Loyang

%

10 Plays

Affordability

Price & Value

9

Functionality

Challenges & Mechanics

10

Originality

Design & Theme

5

Quality

Components & Rules

9

Reusability

Achievement & Enjoyment

7

Variability

Distinctness & Randomness

6

+ Pros (Positives)

  • All of the colors flow together beautifully to create a cozy environment with uniquely-shaped wooden vegetables.
  • There may be an optimization puzzle at the heart of gameplay, yet there is a great deal of variety and choices.
  • A realistic economy takes shape in the individual shop where each vegetable has a sort of supply and demand.
  • Play time is very consistent and never feels like it drags on since the sequence of play is very straightforward.
  • The solo mode has some modifications and is very similar to the multiplayer experience with minimal rules.
  • Scoring well is quite challenging but far from impossible as experience often leads to better scores over time.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • The luck of the draw with the market cards can create setbacks during some rounds that are hard to overcome.
  • For the number and size of the components, the box is oversized with a surprising amount of wasted space.
  • Some aspects of play can feel repetitive or overly simplistic at times since gameplay is more about optimization.
  • Playing repeatedly over a short period of time can lock in a certain strategy and make the game feel solved.

More At the Gates of Loyang

Explore related posts about At the Gates of Loyang!

Victory Conditions

Score 17+ Points

  • Overall Goal Progress 67% 67%

Goals and Milestones

R

Score at least 17 points.

R

Score at least 18 points.

Q

Score at least 19 points.

Continue the Conversation

What have you learned from playing At the Gates of Loyang? There have been times when I worried about games languishing on my shelves. This has taught me that a great game can, indeed, wait! Do any other solo games give you that same feeling? It may be months or even years before I play again, yet this is a simply wonderful sort of game!

4 Comments

  1. If you keep writing reviews like this I may have to finally learn to play this game! (Got it last summer 2020)

    Reply
    • Ha ha! At least you own it… Not like I need to damage any more wallets around here! It’s surprisingly enjoyable and straightforward. You’ll be challenged trying to figure out the best way to get an engine going with your vegetables and customers, but it’s difficult to score extremely poorly. It’s a very nice design that doesn’t try to do too much. Some might see that as a little boring, yet I like what it offers. Definitely a different sort of classic in my collection!

      Reply
    • I am primarily a wargamer and I enjoy At the Gates of Loyang, both solitaire amd as family game (with 3-4 players).

      Reply
      • That’s excellent! I haven’t played it multiplayer, although I can see the appeal. It’s a really interesting sort of game that can appeal to a wide audience. Lots and lots of decisions to think through!

        Reply

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