I’ve talked about Raiders of the North Sea previously as a game that I have loved. From its place one – pick one mechanic through to the simplicity of the solo mode, this game by Garphill and Shem Phillips is one that gets me back over and over.
So of course I was excited with Architects of the West Kingdom landed at my doorstep just recently.
The artwork for Architects is done by The Mico – the artist who has completed the work for all of the North Sea and the coming West Kingdom games. The art has a comical menace to it, which fits the theme perfectly (more on that later).
Component quality is good, with individual meeples and resources made from wood. Each resources is also made in the shape of what it signifies, which is a nice little touch.
I have the upgraded West Kingdom metal coins, which I highly recommend for the tactility and also the satisfying ‘clink’ every time a transaction is made.
Set up is simple, around 5 minutes to distribute player mats and draw initial building cards, and then it is time to go.
My first play through of Architects was solo (this actually holds true of most games that can be played 1-player). There are 2 bots that you can play against an easier and a harder, but I have to say that if one is easy I don’t want to know how hard the other is.
Solo play is simple, set up like a 2 player game, remove a few cards that would ruin the experience and set up the Bot deck. Play is easily managed – you take a turn and then turn a card from the Bot deck and follow the instructions.
This was a great way for me to get used to the rules and to fiddle around with strategy so that I can be easily beaten in my subsequent games.
While the solo experience is great, playing with others is where Architects of the West Kingdom really shines. Not just because tabletop gaming is an inherently social platform, but more about what you can do to other players.
As mentioned the game revolves around building a city and/or the Cathedral. Like in many worker placement/set collection games there several ways to victory and ways in which to cut off other players in their pursuits. However, Architects has come up with one of the most unique ways – capture your opponents workers so that they now have to use resources to release them. Not only that, but now you have undone any of the work they have done in building their income stream.
The capturing of workers really elevates this game above others in the genre. Worker placements can turn into a bit of a dull affair, with minimal interaction or only the slightest of blocking – Shem Phillips and Sam MacDonald really found a way of adding a Take That element to the game.
I love playing games with my kids with King of Tokyo and Charterstone being favourites for their age (6 and 10), however the amount of decisions in Architects probably puts it in a category a little higher than what they would normally play. For this, if I was looking at worker placement, I would definitely go with Raiders of the North Sea instead.
I really struggle with finding any negatives with this game, and with Garphill Games in general. So here goes for what I found as minor issues:
- There are a great deal of options at each turn, so Analysis Paralysis is particularly high especially for your first few plays;
- The connection to the end game is a bit loose – When a player builds a building from their hand or improves the Cathedral the end game marker is advanced. For me, even though it’s right on the board, there is a bit of a disconnect in knowing when the end is coming, which can be quite abrupt.
I really love this game, even more so than I do Raiders of the North Sea (very different games, but same designers). The take-that mechanism of capturing others really improves over regular worker placement fare and allows a level of interaction that keeps players engaged. Another massive advantage of this game is that there is a brain-burner element to deciding what to do next without the complicated rules grit – One of the things that bothers me about some Euro type games is that if you haven’t deeply studied the rules, then you will be disadvantaged, but this is not the case with Architects as I was easily able to teach the rules after a single solo play through (which was also easy with a few glances at the rules).
If you are looking for a great worker placement game in a modern Euro style, check out Architects of the West Kingdom, a great one for any table.
Disclaimer – The review copy is the authors own copy. Promo cards and metal coins were provided by Garphill Games.