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Archon: Glory & Machination» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Archons of Essen - A one play review rss

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Christian Gienger
Germany
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We played a 3-player game in Essen, so I'm not entirely sure about 2 or 4 players, but I think 4 feels the same.

Setting
Cardis is the city of the King. The archons of Cardis try to please the king to be top in his books. As the king is somewhat indecisive he issues new preferences every season, so the archons have to adapt when sending their helpers out to do their bidding.

Components
The board is huge and made out of good cardboard as are the buildings and tokens. The cards are of decent thickness and the other parts are wooden meeples, cubes and discs.
The board looks great and has all the space for cards, ressources, meeples and buildings, but the upper two thirds look rather overstuffed while the bottom third has more than enough empty space between the buildings.
The colouring is also an issue but not because of the usual red/green grey value problems. Here the colours are white, nature, grey/silver and black for both, players and resources. While white and nature are always a problem with less than optimal lighting, in this case the print on the board/buildings makes it pretty hard to distinguish black and grey as well as distinguishing the any resource symbol from the brown ones. On the player-specific cards there's a crest in addition to the background colour so that helps a bit.

Gameplay
Archon is a card driven (not deck building) worker placement game for 2-4 players that lasts 3 seasons of 3 rounds each.
Each player starts with 8 courtiers (grey basic card) and some resources to buy 2 different magister cards (special coloured cards).
The magisters are:
- Merchant (yellow): Gain an additional resource when placing on 1 of the 3 merchant areas on the board.
- Scribe (green): Do another action after this one, i.e. it leads to a double turn
- Cleric (blue): You may put the worker on an already occupied space
- Tax collector: Other players have to pay you 1 coin when placing a worker in the same area as your tax-collector did this turn.
Additionally there are spaces that either need 2 courtier cards or 1 magister card to place a worker there.

Then at the beginning of the game and each odd round (3,5,7,9) the players divide their 10 hand cards in 2 piles of 5 cards each. They pick one as hand for the first round and the other for the second. If a player acquires another magister card he replaces a courtier card either in his hand, the already played cards or the pile for the next turn.

Then the players play in playing order (which is different from seating order).
A turn usually is playing 1 or 2 cards, placing a worker and doing the action the worker spot allows. A player may pass for the rest of the round.
At the end of the round all hand cards are counted and the player order is determined by hand cards left. The magister cards are tie breaker by a value assigned to the cards.
The actions are:
- buy/sell 1 ressource on market
- gain one ressource from the repository
- gain money
- gain recruit tokens
- buy a magister card
- build a building
- build a statue
- buy a scientist
- send a soldier to the city wall
- and the variable 1-time actions that are refilled from a card deck at the end of a turn in which they've been used.

Victory points are gained on different paths:
- Buildings have victory points
- some of the 1-time actions give victory points
- buying a magister card gives victory points.
- At the end of a turn each of statues, scientists and soldiers (only on the wall) are counted per player and points are given depending on the season's king's card for majorities in each category separately.

Then an attack card is drawn and the number (dependant on player count) is compared to the number of soldiers on the wall. If the attack number is higher than the number of soldiers, players have to pay the difference between their own soldiers and the attack strength in recruit tokens (or resources, 2 gold, 1 victory point if she can't pay the thing before in the list.

Then all statues, scientists and soldiers are returned to the supplies and the next season starts by revealing a new king's card.
There is no extra end scoring after the normal season's scoring in turn 9.

conclusion
The game is a fun worker placement game with enough random elements to make games feel different without adding luck to it.
But as I mentioned the problems in the design of the game earlier, I really consider them problematic to get into the game. The board is looking really great, but sadly at the expense of functionality. While Bora Bora's player board is similar intimidating it serves as manual as well which sadly can't be said about Archon's board.
As soon as you are used to the board and remember some basic stuff about buildings only use black and white, soldiers need grey... the problem vanishes.
I still rate the game a 7.5 that could easily be a 8.5 if there'll be a second print run that takes care of the board issues, but till then I'm just happy with the eye candy.
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Jack Austin
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Completely unrelated, but the second I say your blog post the theme music from the C-64 Archon started playing in my head. Thumbed for the memory.
 
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Kevin Garnica
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I disagree about the board not being a player guide. All of the action spaces spell out clearly how they work, IMO.
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Christian Gienger
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No, it's not a player guide. It's better than it appears on first sight, but not all the spaces are 100% clear and definitely not self-explanatory.
Take the market as an example: It doesn't show any limit of buying/selling (you actually have 2 buys, 1 sale and may not buy or sell a good that you already had in the opposite action).

On the other hand I'm not thinking that the board design is a problem for new players to get into the game any more. At least not in a normal environment. In Essen after a day of new games it appeared as definite problem. After I played with people who were new to the game now, I have to say that they never wondered where to place their workers to get an action. I still think that the building area is too 'airy' compared to the rest of the board, but it definitely makes the board look nicer!

As well I think they should have put a 1x on every 1x-use arrow on the card-action-spaces as they put the 2x on several actions. So coming from many other games, you might think that you are allowed to do the 1x-arrows unlimited times.
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