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Subject: Charterstone: A Legacy Game That Keeps on Giving. rss

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David Denton
United Kingdom
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I'll start this little review by giving you a bit of background. I really enjoyed Pandemic Legacy Season 1. Until the end. When I had to chuck the game in the bin and recycle it. Okay, you could frame the board etc., but you can't play the game afterwards. I try to do my bit for the environment and not generate too much unnecessary waste and this felt pretty wasteful. So my view of the game dropped. What I really wanted was a legacy game that I could play after the main campaign...

And along came news of Charterstone, a replayable Legacy game. My interest was piqued.

Another bit of background is that two of my favourite games of all time are by Jamey Stegmaier: Viticulture and Scythe. I was giddy for Charterstone to say the least.

Let's get a few things out of the way now: Charterstone isn't Pandemic Legacy. It isn't Viticulture. Or Scythe. It's something different. The box tells you pretty much all you need to know from the design.

Charterstone is light, charming, fluffy fun with lightning fast turns.

The weight rating at the moment is 2.80 but the game takes you through all of the rules step by step, introducing a little more in each game. The 14+ age suggestion on the box can be ignored. It was done purely to skip the rigorous testing required if the suggested age had been lower. Charterstone should be okay for 10+. Possibly even lower. There's no content in there that would be unsuitable for children. So by the end of the game the weight is possibly 2.80 but because the rules have been drip fed so slowly it is accesible to many gamers.

The reverse is also true. The slow drip feed of the rules may put some more experienced gamers off, many who would be able to dive into the final game without any problems. Just know what you're getting into.

I am an experienced gamer who can tackle games like The Gallerist without too much bother, and I still enjoyed Charterstone. In fact, I looked forward to playing it every week. And still do. We've now played an extra two games on top of the 12 games in the legacy campaign and I'm looking forward to playing it again.

The key word for Charterstone is charming. Everything about it is charming. So charming that I was willing to overlook its shortcomings. (We'll come to those later.) It's a world that I love playing in. At the time of writing it is winter in the UK and I'm looking out at a grey bleak sky. But playing Charterstone feels like Summer has arrived.

As I mentioned earlier the turns are really fast. I'm normally not as keen on worker placement games that require the player to retrieve their workers and give up a turn. But in Charterstone the turns are so quick it's hardly noticeable. There is a slight caveat to all of this fast turn business. When you unlock some new material - rules, cards, other components - the game grinds to a halt while someone looks up what's needed and then someone else finds it. This is tempered by the thrill of discovery but the game slows nonetheless. As the game progresses and less new things are unlocked this goes away. At some point when everything is unlocked it won't be an issue at all and every turn will be lightning fast.

There were a few things that I wasn't that keen on. It would be handy to know a few things in advance, for instance the relative weightings for the end game scoring. Some things just aren't as important as others. This information is given about half way through the campaign but it could have come earlier for me.

Another problem was in one game something really important was taken away from the players and it felt like everything went backwards a few steps. There is a mechanism that allows you to take more turns without recalling your workers. This is great. Even faster turns. Then for one game this ability is taken away from you. Noooo! Luckily, it's just for one game.

Finally, in terms of disgruntlement, are the overall objectives for each game, called Guideposts. You can spend a lot of effort trying to achieve these and not actually get a lot from it. The rewards are sometimes better than others and the choices you get to make are largely inconsequential.

Which brings me to the story. There's not much of one. If you're expecting a Pandemic Legacy style story you'll be disappointed. Again, know what you're getting into.

We played the game with two players and two Automa players (dummy players who behave like real players to a certain extent). I would recommend doing this too. And even though the rulebook suggests starting the Automa in Game 3, you can start them from Game 1 without too much hassle. We're going to replay the game with 4 human players but we're going to add in the 2 Automa to bring it up to six. They do add some more interaction to the game and even seem to develop their own personalities over the course of the game.

Wait a minute! Replay the game! Isn't this a legacy game! Yep, you can replay it at a smallish cost. The board is double sided and a recharge pack can be bought that replaces any components that get used up. This allows you to go through the campaign with a different group. Excellent!

As you'd expect from Stonemaier games, Charterstone is gorgeous. The art, by the same team that did Santorini, is spot on for the feel of the game. The components are great too. Every time a new piece was revealed, I said "I want one of those!". There is one component that is very divisive - you'll know when you get to it - I thought it was a bit of fun and forced the players to get through their turns even quicker. Plus it was only used in one game.

The two innovations that I really love about Charterstone are the recharge pack and the way that you can replay the game once the campaign is over. Some people have said the final game isn't that good a worker placement game and there are better out there. I'll admit, it's not the greatest. But I haven't got a worker placement game that is so fast and so charming. It's different to the others I've got. So I'm really happy to keep playing Charterstone.

I really enjoyed played this with my wife but I can also see that it would be great for a family with children aged 10+. There's a lot of fun to be had.

So remember: it's not Pandemic Legacy with it's quality story, it's not the greatest worker placement game (Viticulture, in my humble opinion) and it's not Scythe with mechs thieving wheat off farmers. But it is a lovely bit of charming fun. And if that sounds like what you're after Charterstone could well be for you.



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Francois Therrien
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Nice review. Thanks!
If you play this with only 2 players, do you have to play with the Automa mechanic or can you play head:head without the added ''phamtom'' player(s)?
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Darin Bolyard
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Did you really throw away all of those lovely bits from Pandemic Legacy...?
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Jim Kayer
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Frankth wrote:
Nice review. Thanks!
If you play this with only 2 players, do you have to play with the Automa mechanic or can you play head:head without the added ''phamtom'' player(s)?
My wife and I have played through 9 games now and we chose not to play with the automas. I don't have the experience of playing with the automa as a basis for comparison, but I can tell you that the game works well with two players. Any concern that the board will not be fully developed is addressed in the mechanics of the game.

I can recommend it as a straight 2 player game.
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Becq Starforged
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Cerritos
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Reddbaron wrote:
Frankth wrote:
Nice review. Thanks!
If you play this with only 2 players, do you have to play with the Automa mechanic or can you play head:head without the added ''phamtom'' player(s)?
My wife and I have played through 9 games now and we chose not to play with the automas. I don't have the experience of playing with the automa as a basis for comparison, but I can tell you that the game works well with two players. Any concern that the board will not be fully developed is addressed in the mechanics of the game.

I can recommend it as a straight 2 player game.

Having played with automa (as temporary replacements for absent players) I think that what automa would add to a 2p game is a sense of urgency. The automa player starts gaining VP at a fairly constant rate from the start of the game, while players tend (in my experience) to build up first, then start scoring in larger chunks of VP. So what the automa may add is a feeling that you are falling behind and need to act fast to catch up.

Note that I won't say that makes the game better -- at most I'll say it makes it a bit different. Up to individual groups whether that is something they want for their game. For highly competitive players, there may be no difference with the automa. For players who tend to focus on building over scoring, this might force them to focus more on scoring -- which again, could be good or bad, depending on preference.
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David Denton
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dbolyard wrote:
Did you really throw away all of those lovely bits from Pandemic Legacy...?


Yep. I kept all of the plastic bits as spares for regular Pandemic but I binned anything cardboardy. I'm coming at it from the position of someone who really doesn't like too much stuff and clutter in my house so it had to go.
 
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David Denton
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Reddbaron wrote:
Frankth wrote:
Nice review. Thanks!
If you play this with only 2 players, do you have to play with the Automa mechanic or can you play head:head without the added ''phamtom'' player(s)?
My wife and I have played through 9 games now and we chose not to play with the automas. I don't have the experience of playing with the automa as a basis for comparison, but I can tell you that the game works well with two players. Any concern that the board will not be fully developed is addressed in the mechanics of the game.

I can recommend it as a straight 2 player game.


That's good to hear. It's a trade off I suppose. The Automas take a bit more time to run but give more interaction, open new stuff quicker and help to set the pace. I'm used to playing Scythe with 2 human players against 2 Automa opponents so running these Automa is a breeze compared to that. It's good that players have the option to use the Automa or not and the choice doesn't negatively affect the game.
 
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David Denton
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Becq wrote:
Reddbaron wrote:
Frankth wrote:
Nice review. Thanks!
If you play this with only 2 players, do you have to play with the Automa mechanic or can you play head:head without the added ''phamtom'' player(s)?
My wife and I have played through 9 games now and we chose not to play with the automas. I don't have the experience of playing with the automa as a basis for comparison, but I can tell you that the game works well with two players. Any concern that the board will not be fully developed is addressed in the mechanics of the game.

I can recommend it as a straight 2 player game.

Having played with automa (as temporary replacements for absent players) I think that what automa would add to a 2p game is a sense of urgency. The automa player starts gaining VP at a fairly constant rate from the start of the game, while players tend (in my experience) to build up first, then start scoring in larger chunks of VP. So what the automa may add is a feeling that you are falling behind and need to act fast to catch up.

Note that I won't say that makes the game better -- at most I'll say it makes it a bit different. Up to individual groups whether that is something they want for their game. For highly competitive players, there may be no difference with the automa. For players who tend to focus on building over scoring, this might force them to focus more on scoring -- which again, could be good or bad, depending on preference.


You're right. The Automa certainly set the pace. The rate that they score points at and move the game towards the finish is sometimes scary. It would be an even more relaxed game without them. But yes, it definitely added a sense of urgency.
 
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David Denton
United Kingdom
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Frankth wrote:
Nice review. Thanks!
If you play this with only 2 players, do you have to play with the Automa mechanic or can you play head:head without the added ''phamtom'' player(s)?


Thanks. You can play without the Automa. But at 2 players I wouldn't recommend it. The extra players allow for more bumping to go on. Running the automa is not too time consuming or difficult. If you happen to have played the solo versions of Viticulture and Scythe, it's definitely closer to the simplicity of Viticulture. It sometimes slows the game down a tad because you're unlocking things for the automa too. On the flip side that's more stuff that you can then do in the game.
 
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scott gurman
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Great review that told me what I needed to know and do so without spoilers. Thank you.
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