Proud member of the Cult of the New.
The King of Meeples
30-45 minutes playtime
Squires compete to become King Arthur's Knight by getting top marks in enough "Knight Classes" in a simple drafting game on a modular board.
In Medieval Academy you play one of 2-5 ambitious squires intent on earning a seat at King Arthur's round table as a newly anointed knight! How would you go about doing this? Simple! You attend the Knight equivalent of Hogwarts. I guess even Muggles get to have some fantastical ambitions now and again.
The game is driven by a simple drafting mechanic and the board consists of seven modules representing the seven classes squires attempt to out perform their peers in classes such as chivalry, charity, dragon slaying, and so on.
The game has basic rules which are easy to learn and teach but is scalable in terms of difficulty allowing for meatier play over time.
Components and Art
The game comes with seven double sided game boards consisting of a basic and advanced rules side (white bordered) for added variability in play. The card board stock is thick and the boards have a greyed out space every five spaces for easier counting which I think was a nice touch.
The cartoon characters and illustrations weaving the world depicted on the boards and other components are reminiscent of a Pixar fantasy movie and quite well done by Pierô, an artist with a pretty solid portfolio who has worked on such notable titles as Dixit: Odyssey and Dice Town. I kept thinking I was in a Shrek movie while playing!
This cartoonish, light style is carried over nicely into the 52, "learning cards" which correspond to the seven boards/classes. The stock is decent and they do not seem to bend or wear too easily so far.
There are a collection of 50 wooden discs (10 for each player), cardboard tokens, etc. These are all made of a standard quality in the usual primary colors.
Another nice touch is a cardboard round counter which shows which direction you should be drafting in each round. They call it an hour glass. It is not an hour glass. Don't spend any time looking for one other than the cardboard token that resembles one.
One "problem" component was the largish cardboard sword used for first player. It looks cool, but was easily bent during play and is now ruined...sadly
Most of the game is icon driven and the icons on the boards, cards, and chits is pretty intuitive. It is easy to determine when boards score, which counters go where, and what the rewards are for each placement.
Easy breezy. You flop the 7 modular boards in three columns with the chivalry class at the top of the middle column. Place one of each players disc at the 0 space on each class/board, deal each player 5 cards, designate a first player and begin!
A turn consists of 6 phases. There are a total of 6 rounds.
Deal 5 Learning cards to each player.
Draft the Learning cards.
Play the learning cards.
Change the first player
Most of the above described game flow is straight forward. The only parts I am going to spend any time on is playing cards and scoring.
Imagine that each board is a sort of abacus with each players disc representing their place on a given score track for that particular board. Players move their discs up these various boards/classes scoring tracks by playing their learning cards and moving their discs the number of spaces up the boards score track equal to the number on their card.
Each of the seven boards scores on a certain round or rounds. Players are rewarded OR punished depending on where they rank. As you might expect, as in real school, rewards go to the head of the class. In addition to scoring or losing chivalry, some boards award players the ability to modify play. One example would be the Chivalry class, which always scores first and allows players to move their scoring discs along one class of their choice 1-3 spaces depending on where they rank in the Chivalry class.
This part is a lot like actual college. It becomes obvious pretty quick that you cannot achieve A's in every class. You will have to prioritize which classes you wish to excel at, which to skip, and which to slack off in doing just enough to not get punished too severely. Since some classes score only once or twice a game, they are more long term in nature and perhaps you can afford to slack in them initially while gaining steady points every round jousting but also ensuring you aren't a miser. If you strike a good balance between maintaining decent ranks in every turn scoring while minimizing every turn penalties but lose site of the end game payoffs or penalties like dragon slaying and charity you'll probably take a severe game ending hit. If you ignore them, go for the King's Favor as you are inclined to get a couple big scores there to counter not getting a bigger payoff from the Dragon slaying class.
Chivalry is pretty key. I recommend taking a lead in this class because it gives you the flexibility to advance a disc on any class every turn regardless of what you are able to draft. It really helps mitigate opponents hate drafting you and can mean the difference between negative points or a zero point loss.
I enjoyed Medieval Academy! It is simple but engaging. I am able to set it up quickly, teach it easily, enjoy the look and feel of the components, and find I cannot think of another game that it is very similar to. Yes it has a drafting mechanic but the different boards/classes that are the board that you spend your entire game trying to score any place on in order to gain points or trigger powers is fun. The way you can impact other players through drafting or holding back cards that will effect how they can progress on certain boards adds an element of interaction and luck to the game while being able to mitigate that with the chivalry class is a nice balance between fortune and tactics.
Another aspect of the game I find appealing is the scalable level of play. There are, "advanced rules" for people who are tired of playing the base game and want something a little meatier and several boards with very different powers and rules governing them that you can use to modify setup. The fact that you could flip one, two, or all of the variant modular boards in the game really adds to the replay-ability factor and lends itself well to expansions such as the Medieval Academy: Expansion «Galanttry» and «Magic».
I have played the game a few times now with friends and so far no one has been unhappy or claimed they do not wish to play ever again.
For some, the game may be too light. After all, it is a drafting mechanic and some scoring tracks. I could see how some may consider this as not enough of a brain burner or prefer meatier drafting games. For my part though, I enjoyed the 30-45 minute game and would gladly use it as a preamble to a larger game or to decompress after a long meaty game. Not quite a filler game.
I would consider Medieval Academy a medium to light game worth a play at the very least and probably worth owning. Especially for family nights. It's simple drafting mechanic and modular board with specialized scoring are easy to teach quickly to a diverse group of people from casuals to children to hardcore gamers without a chip on their shoulder. The light fantasy art and components are well done by a top notch artist and will keep the interest of the young or young at heart alike.
Other reviews by me. or the blog, "Cult of The New
- Last edited Tue Oct 6, 2015 6:11 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Oct 6, 2015 12:51 pm
Thank you for your quality reviews. This game is a hit with my family. They grudgingly would agree to play 7 Wonders, but no complaints about Medieval Academy. I think your assessment of this game being a solid family game is dead on... at least it is dead on with my family.
Thanks for your consistently thorough and thoughtful reviews.
Proud member of the Cult of the New.
The King of Meeples
Thanks for the compliment John! It means a lot to me and is a good shot in the arm for me to get off my butt and make some time for more reviews!
I am glad you and your family lo,e this game and play it often Have you given Codenames a try yet? It is a lot of fun and family friendly as well. Not at all the same game but I did do a review of it for my blog.