Intro: I was intrigued by this Medieval-themed dice placement game after reading the description of it on the Spielteufel site. After negotiating with Spielteufel to order a copy of the game, spending weeks using an on-line translator to create a rulebook in English (reviewed and clarified by Spielteufel), and joining a games group that emphasizes playing little-known games in our collection, I finally got in a four-player session of this game. So, this post is a little bit of a session report and a little bit of a review (first impressions), but it fills the void of information currently in the game entry. If you’re new to the game, I recommend downloading the game aid I created and looking at the first-rate pictures posted by rocksnrolls (who also played the game), which will help you follow my rambling...
Player's Game Board (faint yellow line shows the division between the left and right sections) and a camera shy cat!
Our game took about three and a half hours (including going over the rules and double-checking rules during the game), but future playings will be considerably faster. To simplify the game, we did not play the game-balancing feature that occurs after a scoring round. The player’s boards have a left section (including a token that matches the color of the scoring token, space for saved action cards, and a space for rolled dice), which always stays with the player. However, the right section (including the clan dice and developed villages), can be claimed by other players at the end of the scoring round. When a player adds the right section of the game board to their left section, any matching clan dice that are farmers on the action board or “trained” farmers in the House of Lords, Westminster Abbey, and the Battlefields, now belong to him/her. Additionally, each clan’s position on the Civilization, Warfare, and Heroism Tracks will belong to that player at least for the next three standard rounds and scoring round.
The action board, House of Lords, and Westminster Abbey
The Victory Point, Civilization, Warfare, and Heroism Tracks, next to the Battlefields
After going through the rulebook (traditionally organized: components, set-up, how-to-play, and victory conditions), we began to play. For the first three standard rounds and the scoring round, we focused on getting resources to feed our farmers, developing our villages (which can allow you to roll one or two extra dice per round, although you can still only place the four), and sending "trained" farmers to the House of Lords (good location for gaining Civilization points). One lucky player found the coronation stone in Westminster Abbey (typically good location for Civilization points), so no further dice could be placed there until it was reset after the scoring round. The action cards during these rounds were hardly used, and I was the only one who sent "trained" farmers to the Battlefields for the English-Scot showdown (the English had an overwhelming advantage, so I was a "traitor" this battle, and sided with the English). The scoring was close--with my advantage being solely due to being the only participant in the battle, receiving all the victory points for the Warfare Track. However, it was still close, and we had two more sets of three standard rounds and a scoring round left to go.
During round two, more effort was put into House of Lords, Westminster Abbey, Battlefields, and Village Development. Activating action cards, which allow direct interaction against another player, now became more useful, causing some people to remove "trained" farmers from the House of Lords or decrease levels of development in one of their Villages. By the time of the second English-Scot showdown, the English and Scots were a lot more evenly matched, so all the players chose to be "patriots", and shared in the spoils of being the victor (bad things can happen if you choose to join the losing side). At the end of the second scoring round, it was still a close race for the front three players, with one last set of rounds to go.
Since everyone developed their Villages, the focus turned on the House of Lords, Westminster Abbey, and the Battlefields. Being in first place, I became the most likely target of action cards, resulting in losing one layer of development of a Village in the next to last standard round, which would cost me precious victory points during the scoring round. The same player activated another action card to maliciously spite me with a Clan Battle, using his six dice warriors against my three (battles are resolved by matching opponents highest rolled dice against each other). I chose this opportunity to roll two 1s and a 2, which gave my opponent an easy three points on the Warfare Track, giving him the lead, and yet again, costing me precious victory points during the scoring round (see Image 1492824 for the final score tally).
So what did we think of this game?
For the action board, it was not clear what happened when you place a silver coin with a die (which allows you to use any of your dice for the value that you need to place a die on one of the boards) for a matching set on the Action Board. Do you use the +1 for the next row, which is the standard rule, or use +1 from the value on the die? The rule becomes even more important when deciding whether to place a die with a silver coin first or second in the set. I will have to get with Spielteufel on that one.
Being new players, and even with the helpful illustrations on each of the boards, it took us several rounds to determine what actions we needed to activate to go up on the three tracks (Civilization, Warfare, and Heroism), which definitely added to our AP issues. I think I will add something to the game aid to help with this, although I'm sure it wouldn't be an issue for experienced players of this game.
Some folks may be disappointed that the game's artwork doesn’t match illustrations by Michel Menzel, Franz Vohlwinkel, or Angus McBride (from the Osprey warfare series of books). However, we still liked it, and it FAR BETTER than anything I'd ever illustrate!
All of the players had a great time!
We were immersed in the theme! I felt almost like a Scottish Clan Lord (minus eating haggis, tossing a caber, or wearing a kilt), assigning my minions to either spy in the House of Lords, find the Stone of Destiny in the Westminster Abbey, farm the land to gain supplies, or build up my castle infrastructure. And when the conditions were right, I could either attack other clans in battle or raid their villages' supplies or infrastructure. Additionally, I liked how each scoring round was named after a battle (Stirling, Falkirk, and Bannockburn).
We liked the tension of choosing when and where to place a die, given the die rolls of your opponents, the silver coins available to your opponents, and turn order. It adds a little to the AP to the placement of the first die, but the next three go faster.
At the same time, we liked the range of die placement options, from those that help only yourself to the ones that allow you to upset the plans of another player. And, in case the dice gods are against you, the silver coins can help you take the action you want.
We liked the quick pace of the game. The standard rounds go fast, with each player rolling four dice (5 or 6 with Village Development) and then placing one of four dice, in turn order, on the different areas. The scoring rounds are very quick; the only decision to make is whether to join the English or Scots during the battle.
Finally, we liked the game-balancing mechanics. During the scoring rounds, the victory points for getting the first, second, or third positions on the three tracks (Civilization, Warfare, and Heroism) go up progressively. So, for the first battle at Stirling, the victory points are 3-2-1. At the second battle at Falkirk, the VPs are 4-3-2. Lastly, at the third battle at Bannockburn, the VPs are 5-4-3.
Although we didn't use it, the other game-balancing mechanic that allowed the last place player to gain another player's game board (right section) is intriguing, so we will most likely try it the next time. It may seem ridiculous that a Clan would flock to a poorly performing Warlord, but we looked at it the other way around; a Warlord who isn’t doing well with one Clan will want to become chief of a more successful one.
So, if you enjoy a euro style die placement game that drips with theme and allows player confrontation, then it would be worth it for you to track down a copy of this game, and find two or three friends to play with you. I think you will have as much fun playing this game as we did.