Type: Euro / Worker Placement

Time to play: 60 minutes (Teaching: 10-15 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (1 – 5 Players)

After the success of the North Sea series, the team behind Renegade Studios 2017 success are back with a new series with a lot of promise. This time we are setting the theme in medieval Europe with a first game focused on a pure and simple engine building euro using worker placement. Gather resources, buy advisors (with powers) and build buildings. All in the aim to have the most victory points at the end of the game – from your virtue, your buildings or your contribution to the Cathedral (built by all players).

The game kicks off with an open board with a series of spaces you can place your twenty workers – do you start off at the quarry, or with wood? Perhaps you can afford an advisor straight off, or perhaps you want more buildings than the draft gave you?! So many choices make this game a pleasure to revisit. Once you set off though the game scope narrows and the preferred path emerges in front of you. Each choice in the early game is real and meaningful, but it also sends you down a course that will only be reset a couple of times in the game – so good luck changing tack!

Why is there a feeling of a snowball right from the first choice? Well the clever bit of this game is that each space for a worker will be more beneficial the more workers you already have there. Let’s take the stone – first worker gets 1 stone, second worker gets 2 stone, third worker gets 3 …. so the more workers you eventually put in that space the more you get. However, because you have been investing in stone you already have a lot of stone….

This is the build up of the game, the you can easily over gather or be just that one stone short of your target! Also, watch out, because the more pieces you lay in a single spot the more attractive your pieces are to the player who needs money…. Every player can place a piece in the town centre and round up the other player’s pieces like some sort of medieval vigilante. Throwing those pieces in jail will give you a lot of money in the game! Once in jail the other player can recover them and start to re-use the pieces.

Whilst another player taking your pieces sounds bad, this can be a route for you to refresh where you are deploying pieces and allows you to re-position for the next resource gathering.

Outside of this engine you will be building to a point where you can hire advisors, build buildings or contribute to the cathedral. These are the main ways of getting points at the end of the game, and some will have short term bonuses that support your approach. Getting a good chain between these can really help you push on.

Lastly, a virtue mechanic layered on the game punishes players for short term gains and rewards extremely virtuous play. Interesting extreme vice will also offer benefits that in some way counter balance the end of game points loss.

There’s good variation in the set up of this game with lots of advisors and buildings (which are drafted). Also, there’s advanced rules for asymmetric powers on the reverse of player boards. This are enjoyable ways of adding further depth to an otherwise light and enjoyable game.

Most players I have played with have commented on how short the turns are (on average – as once you get scoped up, you do need to rethink). The game also has a very intuitive points scoring mechanism at the end game. Yes the cards offer bonuses, but players can quickly grasp the types of behaviour being rewarded in this game.

The downside then to this simple and light games comes in the maths. There is a certain amount to which players adept at forecasting the total wood / stone / clay requirements can out play beginners. However, in reality the best play comes from adapting to the rewards that you gain from some of the more random parts of the game (the offers of the black market and the benefits from the cathedral).

Last notes,

  • If you like a little luck in card draws, without it defining the game – this has real balance for players
  • If you want a rich, thematic experience – this lacks the memorable events (although some buildings provide this)
  • If you win, try again and give the advanced side a go!