Quick Look: THE GILDED REALMS
Designer: Ivan Hruszecky, Dale Hruszecky, Michael Karageorges
Publisher: SANDTIME GAMES
Year Published: Currently on Kickstarter for a few more days!! (Link at the bottom of review)
The Gilded Realms is a euro-style kingdom builder board game set in a medieval fantasy world, where players will be tasked with ruling over their young but ambitious kingdoms.
Roughly 18 months ago (Jan 2022) I was sent and played through a game called Antares Kingdoms, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This game has now since evolved into the game I am reviewing here today (November 2023), namely, The Gilded Realms.
The game is a euro style kingdom builder, where you play one of four factions set in a fantasy medieval world.
You have 12 rounds to build up your five provinces by playing and progressing cards into your own tableau area, repelling attacks and going on raids / campaigns yourself.
The rules, which are still subject to being tweaked at this stage, are clear, with lots of descriptions on how to play the game and it’s individual actions, and the pages have plenty of pictures and diagrams of components and in game situations, which is always a help when you are learning a new game, and a must for in game clarifications. The reference section on the last few pages is extensive and a fantastic help in explaining each faction, the knowledge tokens, and the game also comes with several player aids as well.
The set up takes a little time for a game of this type, but there are a lot of different things to sort out before the game can begin. The box insert is good, but could perhaps do with a second level or deeper / bigger sections where the components are stored, specifically the coin slots and square sections of the insert. The knowledge tray is very good.
As mentioned earlier the theme is one of a medieval realm where you are trying to improve your provinces through card manipulation and progress, whilst collecting and spending resources to speed up the card progress. The game combines euro mechanics and deck building of sorts, as once you have put enough cards into your territory area (below the 5 provinces) to cover a set cost, you can upgrade the relevant province to its’ next level.
The game plays out over 12 years (rounds) where at the start of each round you are dealt 3 new Endeavour cards which are level 1 for the first 6 rounds, and level 2 from round 7 onwards.
All players do the Build and Action phases at the same time, spending resources, moving cards etc., before all players go in turn order for the Event phase.
From the new Endeavour cards and any that you have left over in your ‘Hinterland’ area from the previous round, you then select an initial 2 cards to play into your progress queue (you can pay for more to enter the progress queue later in the turn sequence), and their place is determined by choosing either the top or bottom part of each card, i.e. a grain field goes onto level 2, whilst the bottom of the card shows a town which would start on level 3.
Your next actions are to purchase a wild card if you wish (which acts as any other card when in your territory), followed by an option to pay to build extra cards into your progress queue, and finally you then get to progress all the cards down one level, which could see some enter your territory.
In order, the action phase begins by players being able to ‘expedite’ their cards down levels again by paying materials from your own supply stash, with each material able to move one card down 2 levels or two cards down 1 level each.
You can then buy knowledge tokens, using coins, with the knowledge token level being determined by the level of the appropriate province in your kingdom.
You can then feed your population, doing so by spending supplies to put population back onto your board.
You can use materials to fortify your area, which gives added defense bonuses, if / when players are attacked.
Finally, you choose if you will commit your Caravan for a future turn, and if yes, place up to 4 resources on your caravan space. You will roll dice depending on which resources you commit to the caravan, but they can also be attacked by other players later in the turn.
First thing in the event phase is to choose your ‘Stance’, either attack, defense or worker, and then in turn order you reveal your choices and then place your marker accordingly onto the appropriate card / section, and if you chose attack you then decide if you will attack someone’s caravan, a Hinterland to steal a card from another player, or attack the Sarrakur looming threat.
Once all the stances and appropriate actions have been resolved, you then reveal and play the year end event card, and the last thing in each year is to perform your harvest, where you gather more resources.
You are then set for the next year, and the process / steps begin again.
There are additional events / processes at the end of certain years, and these are sorted before the end of year event is revealed by dealing with cards on top of the year end card itself.
The artwork in the game is exceptional, and a lot of work has undoubtedly gone into each and every card, and board, and it makes for a very impressive table when the game is set up, and during play.
As for the components, my copy had both the Stance towers and tokens, and for me the towers are a must as they just add a nice little touch, and an extra look to the table and game.
The resources, dice and cards are made of good quality materials, and the player boards are very thick and will be extremely durable.
During our play test, my group liked the fact that for two thirds of the round everyone was playing / taking actions at the same time and no-one really had too much down time during these sections of the game.
The mechanics were well received, and the way cards progressed down into your territory was another part of the game we liked, especially the ability to expedite cards you needed to get into play quicker.
Everyone thought the components were of great quality, and if you get the deluxe ones when you get your game, you will certainly not be disappointed.
Whilst the game allows for all players to do most of the actions in the game at the same time, which leads to that lack of down time in the game, we did feel that the lack of player interaction could be off putting for some gamers / groups, because unless you choose to attack another player then whatever you do has very little bearing on each other, and what they can do on future turns. In-fact, in our first game only 2 attacks on other players caravans happened.
Also, as there are enough of every knowledge for all players to gain one, it does mean that players could all gain the same knowledge tokens and again be a little too ‘samey’. My idea would be that if another player has acquired a particular knowledge token, then the next player needs to ‘pay’ either an extra material, supply or discard a card from your Hinterland / progress track. The third player would need to pay 2 of these and the fourth player would need to pay all 3 of these extra costs to gain the same knowledge token as the other players.
The Gilded Realms has certainly come a long way since its initial inception as Antares Kingdoms, and the new improved gameplay has certainly made for a far more intriguing game and altogether excellent experience.
Following our first game, we all said this was a game we would happily play again and again, and there were even calls to go again the next time we met up, such was its reception on its first outing.
Having checked out the Kickstarter campaign my recommendation would be to go for the deluxe edition if you can, as this includes extra factions and a solo mode, which I would certainly be interested in trying out at a later stage.
In conclusion, The Gilded Realms is a game which is probably not going to be one to introduce absolute beginners into the gaming hobby, but is more for slightly advanced players, as there is a lot to het your head round initially, and in my opinion will better suit gamers who have played for a while and are a little more advanced than beginner stage.
That being said, you could easily teach this to new players and they may indeed find the fact that they are doing their ‘own thing’ for much of the game easier to accept, and means that they don’t have to dwell too much on what the other players are getting up to, as you are for want of a better phrase ‘the master of your own destiny’.
For me (and my group) The Gilded Realms gets a thumbs up and you should certainly check out the gameplay on either the Kickstarter page, BGG or YouTube to see if it is a fit for you and your gaming friends.
will be live on KICKSTARTER FOR A COUPLE MORE DAYS until Thu, November 16 2023 6:01 AM PST, and has surpassed its funding goal of $12,721. Check it out and back it HERE.
Find out more at BGG.
Do you find that you’re missing too many reviews as we drop them? Provide your name and email below and we’ll keep you in the know of what we reviewed that week as well as other hot news!!!!!