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Subject: What I like and hate about Pillars rss

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Josh P.
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About Me:

Before you read any review, you should know something about the reviewer. We have all read reviews by so-called movie "critics" who never have any constructive criticism. They like everything (or at least everything that ISN'T a financial success). We have also probably had the experience where we get a restaurant recommendation from a friend who we later realize must have no taste buds. The worst thing about most people's recommendations, in my opinion, is when the reviewer is afraid to say anything negative about a product. I don't have this problem. I love tearing into games and discussing what they did right and what could have been done better. I can like a game, even love it, but still honestly discuss what I don't like about it. I am not afraid to share my opinions, even when I know they will be unpopular ones. I often lay into anything that is considered sacred and explain all that is flawed about it. This is what makes criticism valuable. If we lay praise on everything then people reading the reviews can't differentiate. We have to explore the good and bad of everything fully. If you can't find anything bad to say about a product, you are too biased to write an honest and valuable review of it. If you agree with this viewpoint, then by all means continue reading.


The Pillars of the Earth

My favorite game type is currently the Euro worker placement game, of which I like The Pillars of the Earth, Agricola, and Stone Age. (You can read my review of Agricola here: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/390821). I regularly enjoy two-player games of each of these three with my fiancée a few times a week, and I am always willing to play a larger game with friends on the weekends. Now, despite this being my favorite category of games, there are some things I hate:

d10-1 I hate games where players don't interact much.

Some Euro games border on being multiplayer solitaire. Nothing your opponent does affects your gameplay, so you are just racing to get the most victory points. Games like Pillars feature a worker placement mechanic that causes you to pick spaces you need while trying to screw other players out of much needed spaces. This reduces the solitaire feel a bit, but the problem is that this sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Let me elaborate: I have criticized Stone Age and Agricola for having well-balanced actions that are (mostly) equally valuable. In these games, losing a much-coveted space isn't the end of the world. There are plenty of valuable spaces available. Unfortunately, this means your ability to screw your opponent is hindered and the game can really start to feel like solitaire. In Pillars, however, the actions are not as well-balanced. Some actions are definitely more valuable that others, and some should be avoided unless it is the only spot left. While this is a flaw, it does mean that certain actions are always being fought for and others go largely uncontested. This causes Pillars to have more "screw you" that either Agricola or Stone Age. Furthermore, the idea of buying your turn order definitely puts some more fight into the game. Is going first worth seven gold or should you wait and take a less desirable action later for free? This part of the strategy is something I love about Pillars that I think Stone Age and Agricola could have benefited from.

d10-2 I hate games where memorization or rehearsal destroys any luck component and gives an unfair advantage to seasoned players.

Pillars features a very small set of cards that are easy to memorize. Many of these come in a set order and can be planned for. This gives an unfair advantage to people who have played the game more or are good at memorizing stuff. The strategy of veteran players is based on what is coming in the future, rather than just what is available right now. Agricola did it right with a huge deck of cards that creates a bit of randomness in every game. Pillars is in desperate need of an expansion deck.

d10-3 I hate games with lots of fiddly bits and complicated setups.

Pillars takes a lot to setup. It's a quicker setup than Agricola, but Stone Age has a shorter setup time and a shorter play time, causing it to be played much more often in my house than the other two games, despite it being my least favorite of the three. I wish Pillars had a phase board to organize cards a bit better and make the setup easier.

Some (mostly) positive thoughts: Pillars of the Earth features an interesting theme, great art, high quality components, and great mechanics. It is more interactive than most Euros, plays quicker than most games in it's category, and is highly replayable. I like the fact that it is expandable to six players, but I would like to see more expansions to fix some of my gripes. I see it as a flawed, but fun game, that I recommend to all.

Overall rating:

1st place: Pillars of the Earth
2nd place: Agricola
3rd place: Stone Age


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Curt Carpenter
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Funny. My overall ordering of the three games is the exact opposite of yours. Also, in the mix of worker placement I'd throw in Leonardo da Vinci, which I prefer slightly over Pillars (i.e., not as much as Agricola or Stone Age (which are really so different that I wouldn't normally even consider them together, but since you already did...)
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Josh P.
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curtc wrote:
Also, in the mix of worker placement I'd throw in Leonardo da Vinci, which I prefer slightly over Pillars


Definitely going to check this out. Thanks for the recommendation.
 
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David Gibbs
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How can anyone talk comparative worker placement without talking Caylus?

I find when I have the choice between Pillars and Caylus, I almost always prefer Caylus. Between Leonardo & Caylus -- tougher. But, Leonardo is almost an auction game in many ways, rather than placement, since later placements can outbid earlier ones, which isn't possible in Agricola/Pillars/Caylus. (I don't know about Stone Age, haven't played it.)
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Curt Carpenter
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Yeah, there's Caylus too, of course. I guess it was too obvious. If I were to include that, it would be tough for me between Caylus and Stone Age at the top (mainly decided by whether I want a light short game or a heavier long game), followed by Agricola, Leonardo, Pillars.
 
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David F
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joshp wrote:

Let me elaborate: I have criticized Stone Age and Agricola for having well-balanced actions that are (mostly) equally valuable. In these games, losing a much-coveted space isn't the end of the world. There are plenty of valuable spaces available. Unfortunately, this means your ability to screw your opponent is hindered and the game can really start to feel like solitaire. In Pillars, however, the actions are not as well-balanced. Some actions are definitely more valuable that others, and some should be avoided unless it is the only spot left. While this is a flaw, it does mean that certain actions are always being fought for and others go largely uncontested. This causes Pillars to have more "screw you" that either Agricola or Stone Age.


But the downside to this argument (2-player) is that because the spaces in Pillars are less well-balanced, the player lucky enough to end up with 1 more super-awesome space than his opponent gets a significant luck advantage, especially since the awesomeness of these spaces is determined by cards. In, say, Stone Age, me getting 1 more slightly good space means luck has a smaller impact in differentiating between players.

I guess I'd say the more "screw you" nature of Pillars also comes packaged with the more luck-based nature of Pillars (and indeed, I've found Pillars to be the most luck-based out of Agricola and Stone Age). You rank Pillars 1st because of screw-you, whereas I'd rank Pillars 3rd because of more luck, and I guess that's all a matter of personal preference with games.
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The Games Are About Glory
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joshp wrote:
d10-2 I hate games where memorization or rehearsal destroys any luck component and gives an unfair advantage to seasoned players.

This is an excellent point. If you only have the base game, the same craftsmen come out in the same order every time. The expansion adds another craftsman per round which leaves one craftsman unavailble each time. Knowing that the guy I want might never come out adds what I think is a nice twist to the game, and helps balance the game a tiny bit.

Also, I've adopted the 5-6 player master builder rule to all games that we play.
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If you are the first player to place your master builder onto the board (not passing, but placing your master builder on a board field), place your third master builder on the "6" space of the master builder track (for a 6 player game). The next player to place his first master builder places is piece on the "5" space (or, for a 5-player game, place here first) and so on.
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Matt Smith
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Actually, the expansion add two craftsmen per round, for a total of 6 per round. When playing four players, you only use 4 of 6, which provides a really nice uncertainty in future rounds.

I find Pillars to be more flexible than Agricola, especially with the acquisition of resources. If another player takes the resource card I want, I take the next higher/lower card of that resource type. Or, I just grab a different resource type and use the market to convert. No big deal. In Agricola, there are many cases where a resource type is available on only one space. If an opponent grabs it first, the critical timing of my actions is totally screwed. Agricola has a much harsher screw-you factor than Pillars.

I find Stone Age to be the most balanced of the three, and also the lightest. The dice add in a moderate luck factor, moreso than Pillars, IMO.

In terms of fun, my ranking is:
1. Pillars
2. Stone Age
3. Agricola
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Damon Mosier
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joshp wrote:

d10-3 I hate games with lots of fiddly bits and complicated setups.

Pillars takes a lot to setup...




LOL, Josh, if you think Pillars has too much to set up it's no wonder you're not into Ameritrash games.

I think your overall feelings toward the game are pretty accurate. I have been the victim of horrible builder draws myself. That is why I like the part in the expansion where the first person to place a builder is also the last to place their last builder. It does help balance things a bit.

I will never forget the first time we played the six player expansion together. I thought I had no chance to win because I was in fifth place or something. Then I had an awesome last round and somehow ended up in a three way tie with Scrivner and Amber. I ended up winning the game in the tie breaker because they each had 0 gold and I had kept 1!!! Best win ever.
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Ed Sherman
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joshp wrote:
Pillars features a very small set of cards that are easy to memorize. Many of these come in a set order and can be planned for. This gives an unfair advantage to people who have played the game more or are good at memorizing stuff. The strategy of veteran players is based on what is coming in the future, rather than just what is available right now. Agricola did it right with a huge deck of cards that creates a bit of randomness in every game. Pillars is in desperate need of an expansion deck.


We played with the expansion last week, and the extra cards really help.
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Simon Woodward
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curtc wrote:
Funny. My overall ordering of the three games is the exact opposite of yours. Also, in the mix of worker placement I'd throw in Leonardo da Vinci, which I prefer slightly over Pillars (i.e., not as much as Agricola or Stone Age (which are really so different that I wouldn't normally even consider them together, but since you already did...)


I didn't like Pillars (even with the expansion), and I was wondering about recommendations for an alternative worker placement game. In Pillars I loved the theme, and the worker placement, but didn't like the random worker draw, the resource gathering, or the craftsmen mechanics. It's the right kind of weight and length I was looking for tho.

- Stone Age - I really like it and I have it
- Agricola - too tight and heavy for my taste
- Carson City - don't like the dice or tile placement aspects
- Caylus? - expect it would be too heavy/long for my taste
- Royal Palace?
- Leonardo?
- any other suggestions?

Edit: Royal Palace - got a copy in trade, yet to get it played, looks like it could be prone to AP.
Edit: Caylus - actually pretty good, but I suck at it, because I'm not good at planning ahead cool
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Curt Carpenter
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My Leonardo recommendation is a little dated now. World Without End is now the obvious recommendation (being somewhat similar). I much prefer that to Pillars.
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Andrew H
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I recognise this thread has been cold for a while but if you are reading it now, Glenn Drover's Empires: the age of discovery (originally called Age of Empires III: the age of discovery) is an awesome worker placement game. Lords of Waterdeep is a very light worker placement game that is popular too.
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Jake Waltier
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Critical Mass wrote:
I recognise this thread has been cold for a while but if you are reading it now, Glenn Drover's Empires: the age of discovery (originally called Age of Empires III: the age of discovery) is an awesome worker placement game. Lords of Waterdeep is a very light worker placement game that is popular too.

I would also recommend Yedo as a heavier Waterdeep, a bit closer to Pillars in that it has worker placement and an auction element, and a significant luck element, but also with substantial player interaction, especially when played with more than 2 players.
 
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