Once you get past its bizarre name, Village Romance offers simple, relaxing sessions with tile-matching puzzle goodness. Connecting hexagons to build pretty landscapes offers a city builder’s well thought out strategy to create an exhilarating yet overwhelming Zen atmosphere.
Fans of the Carcassonne board game should quickly grasp the concept of village romance, drawing random tiles and finding high-scoring — and aesthetically pleasing — ways to place them on the board based on their landscape. Tiles only fit next to those with matching edges; Railroad tiles connect to railroads, rivers flow into other bodies of water, and so on. Laying out vast forests or sprawling villages earns more points, and I enjoy the challenge of finding optimal ways to make pieces fit. Completing sections of the map and watching boats sail my pretzel-like waterways is a small but satisfying gesture because it brings my model cities to life.
The classic experience presents goals such as: B. building cities to a specific size to provide nuggets of purpose to make the otherwise free-form experience engaging. You don’t have to do these chores, but I’m always happy to close the loop on a property I’ve built up for years and watch my score skyrocket. Expanding your board can unlock new types of tiles like windmills, water wheels, and even new biomes to spice up the draw pool. Seeing the field evolve from the default rich green to a patchwork of darker, barren earth or snow-covered trees refreshes the visual diversity.
I appreciate how Village Romance’s range of modes offers multiple options to enjoy the experience depending on your mood. A creative mode allows you to build without restrictions and even lets you discard ill-fitting tiles. Conversely, Hard mode offers a steeper challenge with more complex pieces. Quick mode compresses the game into shorter sessions, ideal for playing quick rounds on the go. Monthly mode mixes up the game for a long time with new batches of custom rules every month.
I spent a lot of time playing the PC version of Village Romance when it released in Early Access last year. The experience translates well to Switch, although using controller input to move tiles and the camera is unsurprisingly less intuitive than the snappy precision of a mouse. It’s not bad by any means, although it’s my least favorite way to play. That said, it’s a fair compromise for the benefit of tile matching in bed or on the couch. Also, the simple yet colorful art direction, which has a hand-drawn quality, makes an appearance on the small screen.
Village Romance balances its strategic and leisurely elements well, and it’s easy to slip into a serene trance as tiles fall. Pulling the camera back to reveal the full extent of my landscape always feels like a gratifying reward for my subtle, hard work, much like stepping back to admire a finished painting. While it’s not the kind of puzzle game that I feel compelled to play more than a session or two a day, I always appreciate the improved mood it leaves me with.