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That one not so much
Ohh that tickles
In my reviews I concentrate on two aspects of the game. A look at what you actually get in the box. The components of the game, a look at both the quantity and quality.
Secondly, my experiences with the game including what I like about it and anything I don’t like about it.
This time I am going to be looking Basilica. It's a game about building a cathedral. It's designed by Lukasz M Pogoda and published by the Polish company Rebel. It's is for two players only and takes around 45 minutes to play.
It's a tile laying game. At it's heart it's a fairly abstract area majority game. There are three scoring rounds in the game and the player with the highest score wins the game. (No great surprise there)
The box definitely reminds me of The Pillars of the Earth (Not really surprising) with the partially complete cathedral dominating the box. A fairly restrained look, but it does gives you feel for the theme of the game.
The box itself is a bit like an old Avalon Hill bookcase game but a bit smaller.
So what is in the box?
There is an eight page rule book. It has lots of illustrations and examples in it and is pretty easy to follow.
As the game is a tile laying game, it makes sense that we look at the tiles first. Most of the tiles in the game are two sided and their function depends on which side is up. The mostly plain coloured sides are for when the tiles are played as vault tiles. Players play vault tiles to increase the Cathedrals (which leads to scoring points). There are four sets of ten single colour tiles and eighteen two colour (wild) tiles.
Some of the vault tiles have a crown on them. When those tiles are played the king moves one space along the scoring track. We will look at that in more detail in a moment.
The other side of the tiles are used to give orders. They have icons on them showing the action you can take if you play the tile as an order. The actions include:
Confuse, allows the player to remove one of his builders and then move one of his opponents builders onto an unoccupied vault tile.
Disaster, allows you to remove a vault from the Cathedral as long as there is no builder on it.
Move Builder, allows you to move one of your builders to an adjacent tile.
Some of the order tiles have coins on them. This shows that your opponent can also perform this action if they give you a coin.
This is the board such as it is. As the game is mostly a tile laying game, you build most of the playing surface as you play, but this pretty small board does serve some useful functions.
There is space for six tiles on the board. On the top row you have space for three order tiles. On the lower row there is space for three vault tiles. If a player takes a vault tile, the order tile above it flips over and takes it's place and a new order tile is drawn. If an order tile is taken it is just replaced by another order tile.
The track below is used for two things. The players use it to track their Victory points and it is also used to track the progress of the King.
As mentioned earlier the King advances along the track one space every time a vault tile with a crown is played. The game has three scoring rounds, these are triggered by the King moving onto the numbers (10,20 and 30) highlighted in red. The game ends after the third scoring round and the player with the most points wins.
At the bottom of the board are some markers to show where tiles are placed. the vaults start at the bottom of the board and extends downwards and can never be more than five tiles wide. There is no limit in how many rows can be below the board.
When you place a vault tile it must either connect to the bottom of the board or be adjacent to an existing tile. Wild tiles can not be next to each other. There are no other restrictions on colour placement.
On their turn a player can perform three actions. There are three possible actions, but you are not restricted to performing each action once. Two of the actions can be performed multiple times.
1. Place a vault tile. Take a vault tile from the board and add it to the Cathedral. If it has a crown on it move the King one space along the track. If that moves the King onto a scoring space, the players turn immediately ends and a scoring round take place. Replace the vault tile by flipping over the order tile above it and place a new order tile.
A player could perform this action up to three times in a turn if they wanted to.
2. Place a builder. Players can place one of their five builders onto the Cathedral. This action can only be taken immediately after placing a vault tile , and must be placed on the tile just played. Due to these restrictions, this action can only be taken once per turn.
3. Execute an order. The player takes one of the available order tiles and executes it. A new order tile is then drawn to replace it.
A player could perform this action up to three times in a turn if they wanted to.
Each player gets a set of pieces like this. The cubes represent your builders. After placing a vault tile you can then use the place builder action (as long as it was not your third action). The building part of the game is all about area majority. When the scoring happens. Player score points for contiguous areas of the same colour tiles that they have more builders on than their opponent. That is the total of all builders on that area of tiles. Each tile can only have one builder on it.
The two colour wild tiles can be scored for either or both colours on them. Each area scores one point for each tile in it for the player with the most builders and one point for each builder in the area for the player with the least builders. In case of a tie for control neither player scores anything.
The grey token is a coin. Each player starts the game with one coin. The coin can be used to execute some of the orders the other player just played. To use it you give the coin to the other player.
The other tokens shown are promotion tokens. They are two sided with a different promotion on each side. There is an order tile which allows you to play a promotion tile.
There are three types of promotion:
The Architect. If an area has an architect in it, when it is scored the majority players score is doubled. The effect is not cumulative so even with more than one Architect in an area the score is only doubled.
Master mason. Counts as two builders when calculating majorities.
Strongman. Breaks ties in favour of the owning player.
These are stained glass windows. These can be placed on tiles by executing the relevant order. Each stained glass window adds two points to an area when it is scored. These points are added after any other modifiers (like the Architect). Each tile can only have one stained glass window.
These are scaffolding tiles. The scaffolding order allows you to add two of these to the Cathedral. These are not vault tiles. Scaffolding does not count as vault tiles and nothing can be placed on top of them. They are discarded after the next scoring phase.
This is the King about to cause the first scoring round. A few things happen after a scoring round. All builders and promotions tiles on the board are returned to their owners. The top two rows of the Cathedral are discarded and all the tiles below that are moved up so they start at the bottom of the board.
All scaffolding tiles are removed. This may leave disconnected tiles. This is allowed and is the only way it can occur.
So what do I think of it?
This is a really evil game, and I mean that in the very best way. There are so many dirty tricks and ways to mess with your opponent in this one. On the face of it, it looks fairly simple. Play some tiles, put your builders on them and try to get majorities, but the orders make it anything but simple.
Tiles can be removed, builders can be upgraded or moved. It's one of those games where you might have a plan, but it won't always go to plan. lets have a look at some of the things that can happen.
The scaffolding tiles are interesting as they can be used either offensively or defensively. You can use then to close off an are that your opponent controls, to stop it getting any bigger. You can us them to stop your opponent moving his builders onto an area you have been cultivating. And I am sure lots more ways I have not yet discovered.
Be careful when you use the architect. It doubles the score of the area its in, but it can double the score for either player. There are not many feelings in gaming as good as scoring double for an area due to the other players architect.
The way the King moves and triggers scoring rounds means that to a degree you can either speed up the round or slow it down by your choice of vault tiles. Ahead in the third round? Get that King moving.
The coins also add an interesting aspect to the game. You can execute some of the orders on your opponents order tiles by paying them a coin. But each player has only one coin, so once you use it, you can't use it again until your opponent has executed one of your orders. The ability to use an opponents order at just the right time can be crucial.
The parts of the game are all very good quality. And overall it's a very good package.
It must be said hat the game is not very thematic. It's supposed to be about building a Cathedral but all you ever build is more vaults. This cathedral will have the biggest vaults ever. It's really an abstract game with a theme pasted on.
The game is only for two players which does limit it's target audience a little. I think it's also a game which won't appeal to everyone. Although rules wise it's not a complex game, it's definitely a bit of a brain burner. Even with only three actions every turn you are presented with so many choices every turn.
It's a game I can see certain people loving, but I can see even more people not liking it. However for those who do love this kind of game I think it will be a real favourite.
As for me if there are two things I don't like, it's abstract games and area majority games. And this is both of them. One of my friends on hearing I had been playing this asked if I had to be tied down first? But in spite of all this, I actually quite enjoyed playing it. It's never going to be a favourite of mine, but if a self confessed hater of abstracts and area majority can enjoy playing this game I see that as quite an endorsement for the quality of the game.
Having seen various people react to the game, I'd have said that the big two things to get past were the high-level of take-that and the fairly tactical nature of what tiles to grab (and what to potentially expose to the other people)
Nice review! This game is fun but it's sooooo fiddly (and expensive) that for me it almost interferes with the enjoyment of the game. It also feels almost like a Flash game, for some reason.