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Architects of the West Kingdom Review


Quick Look: Architects of the West Kingdom


Designer: Shem Phillips, SJ Macdonald
Artist: The Mico
Publisher: Garphill Games & Renegade Game Studios
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 60-80 mins.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Review:

tl;dr: Worker placement with a TON of workers. Capturing workers adds a new level of strategy.

Getting to the Game: Each player chooses an Architect, and then as a group decides if they're playing with the standard side (vanilla setup) or the flipside, with variable player setups. If the standard side is used, each player gets 20 workers and some starting buildings. 



The goal of Architects is to build the most points by game's end. How you accomplish that is almost entirely up to you. You can also play the wheel of morality here, which is a neat mechanic to add in. Building the cathedral is the main point method as it leads to game end, but individual buildings will end up contributing a good chunk, if not the majority of your points.

Playing the Game: Every turn will see you placing a worker somewhere, and gaining a benefit. You can acquire resources, take cards, gather silver, all pretty standard worker placement stuff. Where Architects sets itself apart (and wow, does it ever) is in the very simple addition of multiplying returns. When you place a worker, the location does a check to see how many workers are there. Most of the time, you get X resources, where X is the number of workers that are at that location of your color. However, occasionally, you'll get X + (X/2) of that good, or you can forego the basic resource and get X/2 upgraded resources. All of this seems like a lot to keep in the air, but in practice, its fiendishly elegant. Early and late turns will find players simply hemorrhaging workers to the board in an attempt to get as much as possible before they're all arrested.



And arrested they will be. One of the locations on the board, the Town Centre, allows a player to round up all of one color's workers from a specific location and drop them on to their own player board, keeping them for a time. That player can then deliver them to a for-profit jail for a silver each. They can also be kept on the player board until the owning player can spring them, or just slowing that player down. It's the calculus of each player trying to decide how much to press their luck, when to capture, when to loose their workers from jail, and more, that sets Architects apart from the many worker-placement games in the genre.

At about an hour, Architects sticks the landing perfectly, with a game ending just when people are starting to really get the flow of the process. I prefer games to end just when players start to click with it, rather than overstay their welcome. In Architect's case, it nails the sweet spot, and people clamor for another game.

However, as they say, if you live by the sword, you can also die by the sword, and for newer players unfamiliar with the point salad feel of most worker placements, they can be locked out of a game because they didn't know they were out of time. Building the cathedral is this game's timer, and if you can't get up the ladder on that space fast enough, you're not completely sunk, but it can feel that way. And, without knowledge enough of how else to catch up, losing can feel pretty bad. This is mitigated somewhat by the short timeframe- I'm also confident that because of the incredibly tight gameplay, players will want another go at it, leading to more familiarity.

Artwork and Components: There's a reason The Mico is a board game standard, earning his prominent place on game boxes. This work here is absolutely outstanding, setting a gorgeous, colorful world to play in. Even with the stylized people, there's a sense of both whimsy and foreboding, the latter taking root in the game's "bot" characters of Helena and Constantine.


  

The components here are especially good as well--wooden workers and resources are perfectly sized to take up space on the board, cards feel weighty and snap nicely in your hand or on the table, and while the punch-out coins of my review version are just OK, there's a KS version out there with metal coins that look phenomenal. Overall, the table components here are great, and serve the game very well.

The Good: Brilliant worker capture mechanic. Game time is brilliantly managed. Overall aesthetic is gorgeous.

The Bad: Might be too short for some looking for a heavier mold. New players may feel slightly overwhelmed.

Score: At the end of the day, Architects is a great entry in the worker placement genre, and brings enough to the table to keep everything feeling as fresh as new linen sheets. The addition of solo play is nice, though not my particular cup of wine. The decisions you'll have to make feel impactful enough to warrant thinking about, but AP players will often see what they want most very clearly. I'm giving Architects of the West Kingdom a score of Drafting Up Plans.



Check out Architects of the West Kingdom on:

              




Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Architects of the West Kingdom Review Architects of the West Kingdom Review Reviewed by The Madjai on March 18, 2019 Rating: 5

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