In Copper Country you oversee the developing (and dangerous) copper trade in Michigan, from 1840 into the twentieth century. As industry barons, you have to manage resources and risk the life and limb of your miners for a profit… ’twas ever thus.
The board shows Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, broken into hexes in which you will set camp and mine for the precious metal. Each player has a personal board where they keep their miners (to extract copper with) and buildings that will help them do so. It’s also a place you collect your copper harvest.
Although there are some intricacies to the game, the basic turn is simple. You take two management actions, and then one labor action. The management actions are all about gathering resources: there are a few different kinds, but all of them are – potentially – helpful to you when it comes to actually mining. You can also survey the map and see where the best spots are, build buildings, or gather more miners with the Negotiate or Immigrate actions.
You can use a labor action to get resources too; but more likely you’ll be getting down to the nitty gritty of the game – moving your miners and digging for copper. Your miners and buildings dictate how much you can mine for (- how many Production cards you can flip over) but this is countered by the by-product of copper mining: poor rock. The longer the game goes on, the more this stuff clogs up the mines and gets in everyones way, necessitating the building of shaft houses and hoist houses.
The end game is defined by the game itself running out of poor rock. There is a track running around the board that is filled with the stuff at the start of the game, and not only does it show you how close the game is to ending, it also triggers certain changes in the games parameters: Copper Country is broken into three eras, during which hand size and building ability grows, and other things triggered by the poor rock track are local companies and events springing up that give the game flex and variety.
A lovingly produced game that is steeped in its theme, to the point that the rulebook comes with a potted history of copper mining on the Upper Peninsula. You can feel the care and attention that has gone into Copper Country and it scores very high on theme. In terms of the gameplay it’s less complex than it looks – the basics are gather resources and mine with them. I also like the risk element of mining – you can turn over production cards and find not only can you not get any copper, your miner has just walked out on you. That risk can feel fun – but it can also become a bit of a downer if you hit a duff seam of mining where your resources repeatedly don’t help you. So for us, a solid game but not one we’d recommend over the similarly-themed GNG favourite Tinner’s Trail.
It has the potential to get feisty - in what is ultimately a race to wring the metal from the earth, players can get in each others way on the board, take cards they know others want, and even claim each others' companies!
High on that first play, but dropping substantially with familiarity. Turns are reasonably defined by the parameters of two management actions, one labor action, but obviously there are choices to be made, and it's one of those games that has the potential to zip along, or come replete with passes, depending on the players.
Nothing horrendous, but as you have to react to what the other players are doing to a degree, you may occasionally need to come up with a Plan B.
Lots of variety in this one, with the various decks all shuffled before play starts.