Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to a review of Catch Up Games’ unfortunately named release, Fertility. This is a tile-laying and set collection board game for 2-4 players that plays in about 25-45 minutes.
Up front, Fertility is not difficult, aligning itself with other family-weight games like Azul and Tiny Towns. On a turn, there are three steps to follow. In the first, a tile is placed. These tiles, made to look like the various goods being grown in Egypt and have symbols for four different commodities: stone, grapes, bovine, and papyrus flowers. Like a traditional dominoes, the rectangular tile is divided in half with a symbol on each of the halves. The rule for placing a tile is that symbols must match up. So, if placing a tile adjacent to a bovine symbol already on the board, the tile being placed must also have a bovine. If placed touching both a bovine AND a grape symbol, the tile must match both symbols.
Why must symbols match? When a tile is played; the player gets resources that match the symbols. So back at the previous example. A tile is placed parallel to a bovine and grape symbol. The active player now grabs those resources from the supply.
After placing the tile and gathering resources, the active player can spend those resources on a new shop of the available four during that turn. The shops show a price: from two resources all the way down to being free. One tile can be bought at the price, spending the resources just gathered and/or using wheat to help front the bill. After purchasing, the shop is then placed on an available location on the player’s district board.
Why does one want these shops? A shop’s spot requires a certain resource and once used, it cannot be used again for the remainder of the game. Shops are used to turn resources into victory points. Some allow the trading of one resource for another, then immediate use of the new resource. Some make it to where the players can get VP for a type of resource already placed in shops.
Maybe the biggest thing that the shops open in terms of scoring is the gods. As one would expect from an Egyptian-themed game, there are gods that can be worshiped. In Fertility, that is accomplished with an area within certain shop tiles. Place the required resources and now that count towards the number of gods that player has with their set for end-game scoring. A player can also score is with the wheat they gather from placing next to wheat squares on the main board. Each wheat that isn’t spent for shop tiles awards victory points that exponentially grow as more are gathered.
The game itself is incredibly basic, feeling very much like the traditional game using dominos, Five-up. I would consider it a slight step above Kingdomino, with managing resources and having multiple scoring possibilities adding just a few more complexities over the Spiel des Jarhas winner. And even with the resource, all but wheat are use-it-or-lose-it, meaning you aren’t looking long-term as to what you need to be saving.
The board is a little busy to look at. While each side of the tiles have the symbols, the artwork that shows the native Egyptians hard at work is a lot for the eye to take in, particularly the bovine artwork. It’s almost a situation where a “less is more” approach would have benefited the visuals. And the components are not the best as well, sporting smaller wooden pieces as opposed to traditional sized resources.
While I described the different routes for victory, this isn’t a deep game. Compared to more advanced tile placement games, such as The Castles of Burgundy, Tigris & Euphrates, or Tikal, there isn’t a wealth of options to weigh. This is 80% a reactive game, where long-term planning is all but nonexistent. After placing a tile, you’ll be grabbing the tile with resources you most need in the future, but there’s not always a guarantee that it will reap high rewards. One resource from placing a tile isn’t the best optimization of a turn, considering there are so few of them.
But on the contrary, the few turns that take place give the game a great, casual pace. The box for Fertility says 25-45 minutes, and that is spot-on. In reality, this is filler disguised in a Ticket to Ride-sized box. Set-up and tear-down is a breeze, and it does an interesting way to do the main board with these tiny pieces of cardboard that look like bones that connect the different sections. It makes it to where the board will be different from the previous play, which is a nice bonus for variability.
All this to say that Fertility is a casual game. Its concepts are not difficult to grasp. The turns are a breeze to get down, while offering a step above other light tile games. And it’s quick to play. Fertility is not a game that every gamer needs in their collection, but it has a nice tempo and provides a friendly experience from those sitting down to play. Just be prepared to explain the theme when suggesting the game.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A relaxing tile-laying game that added just enough complexity to separate itself from lighter games in the genre, but simple enough to teach a non-gamer.
• Not a deep game
• Tiny resources
• Busy board