La Granja: No Siesta - A game of Pen & Paper Pig Allocation
Designed by Andreas “Ode.” Odendahl
Art by Harald Lieske
Published by Stronghold Games - 2016
1-4 Players - 30-45 Minutes
Review by Jack Eddy
Isn’t it great when a creator just gets the strengths of their medium? I tend to notice it most in music or visual art, like comics and movies, but occasionally a board game nails exactly what I want out of a specific experience. La Granja: No Siesta, a 40 minute dicey distillation of 2014’s La Granja, is perfect for grabbing lunch at your local coffee house. And you’ll need that coffee too, because as the name implies, you’ll have to earn your right to Siesta simple yet delightfully strategic game.
El Juego (Gameplay)
Most of the action in No Siesta happens on a player’s farm and the Siesta track. Farms are basically beautiful scantron sheets that players markup as they spend resources to complete various actions. Yes, your personal pan tableau is a disposable piece of paper that you write on, no this is not a problem, yes, I’ll explain why later. The Siesta track (printed on lovely chipboard,I might add) establishes the clock of the game; as players move along the track, they earn points, unlock more player tokens, and ultimately trigger the end of the game.
Rounds consist of resource production, spending said resources, resolving any triggered effects, and passing the first player pig token. Resource production starts with the first-player-pig-man rolling awesome chunky wooden dice, followed by each player selecting one die to keep. The remaining dice are rolled again and once more each player takes one. At this point the final die rolled one last time and everyone produces resources based on their two dice and the one remaining that was just rolled. The rest of the turn consists of players simultaneously spending resources by checking boxes on their farm and resolving any actions that were fully completed this round.
There are 6 different areas on your board, each corresponding to a distinct type of task. Though they all reward you with points in one form or another, they each have their own costs and effects that dictate why you’d pursue some over others. Roofs give one-time effects, carts allow you to claim special end-game bonus points, helpers... well... they help your farm run more efficiently, and long distance trade rewards big points and a commodity (wild resource). Lastly, your stable and warehouse act as a sort of consolation prize, giving you points for sets of resources that you dumped here because they had no place else to go. This usually happens because your friends Jeff and Tina decided to leave you useless garbage donkeys at the end of the game.
Here lies the real tension in No Siesta; though you can take each action several times, once each action is filled out it can’t be completed again. You are forced to make strategic choices about where to put your resources and when. Some actions require resources to be spent in a specific order, others must be paid for all at once in a turn. And since unspent resources don’t stick around from turn to turn (with the exception of one commodity), there are plenty of critical decision points where you will choose to forgo certain aspects of your farm in favor of others. Fortunately, it almost always feels like I have a handful of good options on how to spend my wares, and rarely do I feel like luck was the absolute make-or-break factor in a game.
Los Componentes (Components)
There are going to be some people who scowl in disgust and horror over the limited, single-use farms. While I really appreciate top notch enduring components that I can someday pass on to my little gamer grandbabies, I totally get why Stronghold went this direction and it’s completely fine. Not only do you get a TON of double-sided farms in the box, if you play it so much that you risk running out, just laminate the last four sheets or buy yourself another copy of the game; it’s fairly cheap and you obviously loved it enough to play it 50+ times. Additionally, by making the farms disposable, it allowed for a much less fiddly and more elegant solution to managing resources and paying costs that suits the format really well.
Speaking of the format, most of the components feel perfect for a fast playing, compact game. I can’t emphasize enough how good the larger wooden dice feel, the singular pig token is among my favorite first player markers, and while the art and iconography aren’t particularly memorable, the game is still visually clean, clear, and tonally beautiful (I adore the green and yellow color scheme). The only components I actively dislike are the roof tiles, which at about 1” x .5” in size, I find that my gigantic meat paws often accidentally flip one over. While this can be somewhat frustrating, it hasn’t ever interrupted a game and I can accept it as a necessary evil to maintain the overall very-appealing form factor.
Caminos Alternativos & Uno es el Numero Mas Solitario (Variants & Solo Play)
There are a few variants described in No Siesta’s surprisingly dense rulebook, but the two worth mentioning are the expert helpers and solo play. Unlike in the normal game where each player has their own pool of the same six different helpers to choose from, the expert helpers build a sort of market that players can pick from as they play. I think this is crucial to the game, especially after 4 or 5 plays, as it begins to shift what options are available, encouraging players to plan different strategies instead of relying on what has worked for them in the past.
The solo game on the other hand is clever and well thought out, but I find it’s still a bit more work than it’s worth. What is normally a fast, tension filled game about eagerly anticipating what each new turn will bring, it’s instead a methodical calculation to maximize points before time runs out. The dice rolling in No Siesta feels inherently social as players stare with greedy anticipation as the dice are thrown; the thrill of getting exactly what you wanted and taking the one and only pig that everyone wanted is gone. I’m not saying the solo game is bad or poorly designed, but unlike games like Scythe or Terraforming Mars that create a solo experience that emulates the feel of the multiplayer game, No Siesta becomes a different and somewhat less exuberant beast all together.
La Sensacion (How it feels)
Overall I really like La Granja: No Siesta. It is one of the more compelling small box games that I’ve played, and I think that is in large part made possible because of the sheets of paper. Too often these games are either strategically limited because you don’t want to overload a small game with too many rules and thereby too many components, or you do have a more complex game that has no elegant solution, making a cluttered mess. No Siesta avoids these trappings and manages to be one of the more compelling games that can easily sit 1 to 4 players and deliver a streamlined yet complex experience in about 40 minutes. It’s snappy, intuitive, and above all fun.
That said, there are still some limitations of the format. After several games, I’ve noticed that a couple of the helpers almost always get picked first, and there tends to be optimum placement of early game resources. While strategies do diverge after a few turns and the expert helpers go a long way to change what options are available each game, I would have liked to see maybe one or two more mechanisms to further change up your options from one game to the next. This is the one area where I think No Siesta has yet to live up to it’s predecessor, as one of La Granja’s strengths was the incredible variety of strategic options at your disposable. Who knows, maybe someday No Siesta will have an expansion that incorporates the awesome card system of La Granja, but that's another review.
Si Siesta! (Final Thoughts)
Overall, No Siesta’s success is as much about what it doesn’t do as what it does. It perfectly straddles the line of accessibility and complexity, making for one of the most strategically satisfying small box games I’ve played. Sure, some added variability may be welcome in the future, but I would much rather a spartan distillation of a more complex experience than a sad, bloated attempt at packing too big of a game into a small package. No Siesta is a game that I am certain I will keep in my collection, and will eagerly break out again and again, especially when accompanied by a 16 ounce Americano with an extra shot, with room for cream and whipped cream; and I'll need it too, because in the world of La Granja, there’s no time for Siestas.
Review copy of La Granja: No Siesta provided by Stronghold Games
Listen to our interview with Stronghold Games owner Stephen Buonocore on episode 38 of The Cardboard Herald Podcast.