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dave de boer
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1. Introducing...

Pillars of the Earth is a fantastic looking game that immerses the players in the experience of building a medieval cathedral. Players begin with craftsmen and recruit better ones, competing to be the one who adds the most to the building. This is a typical euro game, where success is measured in victory points. The game provides a satisfying experience with 2, 3, or 4 players; gameplay takes about 90 minutes. It is not a gateway game like Ticket to Ride and would be too much for players new to gaming. For players familiar with Settlers or Puerto Rico, Pillars is easy to pick up. My wife and I introduced this game to a couple one evening who are devoted fans of Settlers of Catan. We played two games (which is in itself a vote in favour of the game), and our guests won both, which means either that we are lousy players, or good teachers, or the game is reasonably accessible to players of games of similar weight.

2. Opening the Box.

I like great looking games. Pillars of the Earth looks great. The board itself is covered with great artwork and is very durable. Pillars has the best turn marker of any game, a six piece 3D wooden cathedral that gets built one piece at a time (there are six game turns). All the components are top notch. There is a minor amount of set up. I appreciate the fact that they have supplied extra event and development cards, so that each game presents a bit of variety.

3. Playing the Game.

Pillars of the Earth has six turns with three phases each. First, the players are presented with a selection of craftsmen (which can be purchased with money) and resource cards (1 stone, 2 wood, 2 sand, etc), which can be obtained by committing your workers (of which you have 12). Once everyone has committed their workers for the turn, it is on to phase two.

Phase two is simple. The starting player has a bag which contains three markers for each player. Markers are randomly drawn. The owner of the marker can place it on one of several locations of the board. Each location provides the owner of the marker with some benefit in his quest to be the most famous contributor to the new cathedral. Being drawn first means you get the pick of the lot, but you have to pay seven gold, and gold is a scarce resource in this game. Next marker means you pay six gold etc. You can pass and not pay gold, but then your marker goes to the end of the line. Once all the markers are placed, they are resolved.

Phase three is the resolution of the markers (or master craftsmen as they are called). With your markers you can avoid the event (which can be bad), gain free victory points, collect special bonus cards, avoid paying taxes, get better craftsmen, recruit extra workers for the next round, go to the market or ensure that you are starting player next round (giving you first pick of craftsmen and resource cards - I always want to be 1st player!). Along the way, you will also be given your resources (stone, wood or sand). At the end of the turn your craftsmen will turn these resources into victory points. At the beginning of the game, you might get only 1 point for 3 sand cubes. Towards the end of the game you might be getting 2 points for 1 stone cube. Some elite craftsmen also require metal, which can only be obtained through some limited means. Metal is always scarce and in high demand. It is hard to get but gives good yields.

The gameplay in Pillars provides all kinds of decisions. Do I get that craftsmen or take the only stone resource card this turn? Do I pay the seven gold to place my craftsmen first? How can I get more gold? And there is always the suspense of hoping that someone else doesn't take what you want, which he will.

3. Here's What I Think

My first few times playing Pillars I really liked the game, but I was worried about replayability. The game is designed so that every turn four new craftsmen are available, but they are always the same four for that turn (the woodcutter, for example, will always be available on turn 1, the organbuilder on turn six, etc). The only variation is that 2 craftsmen are available in phase 1 and the other two are available in phase 2/3. Turns out this in no way affects replayability for me. There are too many other things going on, which vary greatly from game to game. I never tire of this game. We will play in groups of three or four, or my wife and I will pull it out ourselves on a Saturday evening.

What makes Pillars enjoyable for me is the range of options. The designers have made a good game, where no matter what the draw is or what other players have done, there is still something for you to do. All the games we play are close, with 2, 3, 4 victory points separating the players in a 40 point game. Plus, there is the aspect of building. No matter what, you will have the satisfaction of getting somewhere, just maybe not as fast as the other guy. The random draw means you can't have everything your way, but the price you pay for putting down your marker is something that limits you, providing a nice balance.

One other comment: when you become more familiar with this game, the element of planning will deepen further. Once you learn which craftsmen are available when, you can plan ahead by hording your gold or making sure you are first player for the next turn. This, for me, really enhances the game. Of course, with new players, you have to help them along a bit.

Enough said! Pillars is one of my favourite games, especially with 4 players. Get your trowel, your axe and your shovel and get to work having fun!
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Ender Wiggins
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Great review for a new reviewer, well done! I especially liked these lines:
Quote:
My wife and I introduced this game to a couple one evening who are devoted fans of Settlers of Catan. We played two games (which is in itself a vote in favour of the game), and our guests won both, which means either that we are lousy players, or good teachers, or the game is reasonably accessible to players of games of similar weight.

Quote:
And there is always the suspense of hoping that someone else doesn't take what you want, which he will.

thumbsup Here's hoping that Troubadour will become the New Tom Vasel!
 
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Matthew Jensen
United States
Perry
NY
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Nice review. I've really taken a fancy to Pillars of the Earth.
 
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william mcneil
Canada
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i have played this one, hmm twice i like it alot i think its good and has good replay value tho yes some times ppl keep stealing what you want. well thats part of the fun, when YOU get to steal the stuff others want first :) i lost both times but oh well i am not very good at thinking ahead so i knew that would happen, seeing as the end of the game draws near it becomes easyer to score more points i like your review and look reward to playing this game again :D
 
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David Lowry
United States
Antioch
Tennessee
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I really liked this game.

I kind of see it as Caylus light. I had the chance to play it one morning at the TN games days a couple of weeks ago with 3 other players and it was definitely easy enough to understand to be competitive enough at it right away. It has a good balance of components and I believe a great game to introduce newer gamers to.

I ended up purchasing it from someone right then and I am sure it will become a staple of our gaming groups here in TN.
 
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