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Gary C
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This game is based upon Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth" (translation of Die Säulen der Erde) novel. The game has a nice theme, which is a story about constructing a temple in 12th century England.

In the game, you have 12 builders which you distribute each turn to produce what you need to earn victory points. Each player also has 3 Master Builders which is the scheme used to determine the turn order (which changes each round throughout the game).

During the game, you can have up to 5 craftsmen in your play area which provide you with the abilities to collect VP throughout the game. For instance, you may have a craftsman which allows you to trade 1 good for 1 VP. One must reduce their craftsmen and goods down to a total of 5 which may be carried over to the next round throughout the game. The only purpose for the goods is simply to collect VP (or trade for gold, which you use to buy other craftsmen in order to collect more VP).

The manner of play, taking turns to claim which features of the board you want to use each turn is reminiscent of Caylus, but different enough to allow this game to stand on it's own instead of in Caylus' shadow.

At the beginning of the each turn, the players alternately choose goods producing cards and craftsmen to add to their play area (goods are purchased with your 12 builders and craftsmen with gold). Any builders you have left over are put in the mill to earn you more gold that turn.

Each turn, all Master Builders are placed into a bag and randomly drawn to determine in which order every player will choose their active spaces on the board for that round. The choices abound, with the option to simply take VPs, to take face-up cards (two of which are craftsmen and two are special actions/abilities). You also can choose to avoid taxes (and collect a metal good while you're at it) or to hire 2 extra builders to be used in your next round. You can also put your Master Builder in the market to trade goods for coin (or vice-versa).

One interesting thing about this game is that all VP are disclosed throughout the game. There is no surprise tally of "hidden" VPs at the end. Any gold you have left over at the end is just that, left over. For that reason, the last turn seems to have everyone emptying their bank to try and capture a couple more VP.

I find Die Säulen der Erde to be a rather enjoyable game. Many will call this sacriligious I'm sure, but I actually prefer it to Caylus. Whether that will be true after a few dozen games, I will just have to see, but I think so at this point.

Pillars plays much faster than Caylus, after a couple of rounds all moves become rather intuitive, the only cause for delay being the pauses to check translations of the cards used in the game. Pillars may not have quite the same level of strategy in play as in Caylus, but the smoothness of play once the momentum of the game has been established more than makes up for that, IMO.

Pillars of the Earth lasts for 6 rounds. The game has an interesting turn counter, that of a temple being constructed in the middle of the board at the end of each round. After every round, a nice wooden block is placed on the Temple space of the board. After the 6th piece has been put in place, the game is over. This was a nice visual touch to the game, even though a simple token on a turn counter would have sufficed just as well. The board and cards are all very nice looking and high quality, well illustrated so that should aesthetically please most gamers.

In conclusion, I would recommend this game to pretty much any caliber of gamer, it is not too heavy for most gamers, but it is not quite a light, fluffy family game either.
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