[Review] Sumer - Nintendo Switch
Sumer for Nintendo Switch has been out for a little while now, and I've put a lot of time into it between solo play against the crafty AI and various groups of players mostly made up by my children and their usually reluctant (at first) friends. Sometimes I would just sit back and watch them all duke it out for the favor of the Sumerian goddess, Inanna. You play as a nobleman in ancient Sumer, and the obiect is to send out your workers to gather resources which you will be using to pay tribute to the aforementioned goddess, with the ultimate goal of proving your worth as a suitor to rule the land at Inanna's side by paying the most tribute.
Sumer is touted as a board game come video game, and the two ideas go well together here. While most board games to video game conversions just show you a virtual version of the board and add in some music, sound effects and animations to spice things up a bit, here we find the ability to platform around the board itself. It's one part Catan where your slaves take the place of roads and settlements, and one part Diner Dash. You place your workers in the appropriate squares to harvest wheat, clay, goats, or pots and beer(with an appropriate ingredient in tow), and then return to bed to end your day while your workers toil away gathering those resources for you. To elaborate more on the Diner Dash portion, placing your workers isn't too dissimilar from rushing between tables and the kitchen to drop off orders, pick up plates, and then returning to gather the plates again at the end. You place each worker in a square corresponding to whichever resource you need to gather, and then go back to your bed. Then, upon waking up (after everyone has placed their workers and gone to sleep), you take your new resources to the top of the ziggurat to donate as tribute.
My middle daughter especially delighted in the worker placement aspect of the game, as she likes to think of herself as a goddess in play time, and commanding slaves to do her bidding brought on maniacal glee. This was a little ironic, as she is also a huge fan of coolong, and I didn't think that she would favor the harvesting of goats and wheat over serving people food. I digress, however, to explain why you might need goats in a game centered around paying tribute to a goddess mostly in the form of wheat and clay pots.
Well, goats are the currency of Sumer, and they are essential to the second portion of the game. Once you've completed a year's cycle of harvesting and paying tribute, you are then brought to auction. You bid your goats against your opponents in an attempt to gather more points and obtain perks for the following year that could give you an edge over the competition. Bidding is done in a simplified process by which you move a line left and right using the analog stick to increase and decrease your bet as time ticks down. There is a bit of strategy here, because not only are you trying to conserve your goats to try to optimize which auctions you win, but you're also trying to fool your opponents into thinking what you're willing to spend on. You can start off bidding an unwanted item up to a crazy high amount to fool your opponents into paying more for something you don't even want to make it easier to get what you do. Slide it all the way to the right, let your opponents try to overtake you, and then slide it all the way to the left at the last second. Cackle all the way to the goat bank...which is usually what happens when you get to the last round and you're the only one with a substantial amount of goats.
It is easy to learn Sumer using the built in tutorial mode, but it is much more difficult to explain to someone new, at first. Which is much like real board games. My first attempt at playing the game with my eldest daughter initially failed because neither of us had played the tutorial or read the rules, and so we were just kind of winging it, horribly, against the AI. This false start made it more difficult for me to corral others into playing once I actually did play the tutorial and pay attention, but I finally got everyone on board. This was definitely easier when I made the Diner Dash connection, which is why I lead into the game that way here.
The art style is cartoony and fun, and the music and sound effects do their job. Nothing is particularly memorable, but I did want to praise the choice of big head nobles and gigantic Inanna for making the game a delight to look at. Playing solo isn't nearly as fun as multiplayer, but party games are seldom designed with solo play in mind. Especially not board games, so this isn't a huge drawback. Just one that I thought I'd mention. It is definitely beneficial to first play single player through the tutorial to get the game's mechanics down, however.
Overall, I'd recommend Sumer for anyone looking for an affordable party game on the Nintendo Switch, especially those that enjoy worker placement board games. I did find that my seven year old kind of struggled with the concept, and so you're probably looking for the younger side of your group to be about 10, with 12-14 probably being the "recommended age+" on the box.
Sumer on the eShop