Reviews

Review – Architects of the West Kingdom (Renegade Game Studios)

Architects of the West Kingdom
Architects of the West Kingdom

Royal Architects Maintain Their Noble Status By Taking Prisoners and Constructing Landmarks

Architects of the West Kingdom
Architects of the West Kingdom

Architects of the West Kingdom is the first in the West Kingdom Trilogy of games co-published by Renegade Game Studios and Garphill Games. Designers Shem Phillips and S J MacDonald and artist Mihajlo Dimitrievski are previously known for their work on the North Sea Saga trilogy of games.

The West Kingdom Trilogy is a series of three games that explore the era of royalty and knights. Each game in the trilogy is unique and uses different mechanics, including card drafting, set collection, variable player powers, and worker placement.

The Story

Architects of the West Kingdom is set at the end of the Carolingian Empire, circa 850 AD. As royal architects, players compete to impress their King and maintain their noble status by constructing various landmarks throughout his newly appointed domain. Players need to collect raw materials, hire apprentices, and keep a watchful eye on their workforce. These are treacherous times, and rival architects will stop at nothing to slow your progress. Will you remain virtuous, or be found in the company of thieves and black marketeers?

Architects of the West Kingdom play area
Architects of the West Kingdom play area

The aim of Architects of the West Kingdom is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at game’s end. Points are gained by constructing various buildings and advancing work on the Archbishop’s cathedral. Throughout the game, players need to make a lot of moral decisions. However, only at game’s end will their virtue be judged. A few underhanded deals here and there might not seem like much, but fall too far and you will be punished. The game ends once a set number of constructions have been completed.

 

Architects of the West Kingdom Gameplay

On their turn, players will place one Worker from their Player Board to a chosen location on the Main Board. Players will continue taking turns until Workers occupy a set number of spaces in the Guildhall. Once this happens, all players take one last turn before the game ends.

Worker Placement

Each player starts Architects of the West Kingdom with 20 Workers. On each turn, they will place just 1 of these Workers onto the Main Board. If no Workers are available, the player must use their turn to retrieve one Worker from one of the board locations.

Workers at the Mines
Workers at the Mines

As a general rule, the more times a player visits the same location, the more they benefit from it. For example, placing their first Worker in the Quarry will reward players 1 Stone. Placing their second Worker will reward 2 Stone. Their third will reward 3 Stone, and so on. At the Silversmith location, players earn 1 coin + 1 extra coin from the supply for each of their workers at this location. And at the King’s Storehouse, a player can take 1 action for each of their workers at this location.

Board Locations

There are board locations for gathering resources and money—Clay or Gold from the Mine, Stone from the Quarry, and Wood from the Forest. The Silversmith earns coins. At the Tax Stand, a player takes all the coins here, losing 2 Virtue in the process.

There are board locations for trading resources for other resources or Virtue. The King’s Storehouse trades 2 resources (Clay, Stone, Wood) for 1 Virtue, or 3 resources (Wood, Stone) for 1 Marble. At the Black Market, players may pay in Silver and Virtue to gain resources, hire an Apprentice, or collect a new Building Card. The Workshop allows a player to use coins to hire a new Apprentice or to collect a new Building Card.

Guildhall
Guildhall

The Guildhall is where players can either construct a Building, or advance work on the Cathedral. The end of the game will be triggered once the last Worker is placed in the Guildhall, based on the number of players in the game.

There are board locations for dealing with captured workers. At the Town Centre, players can pay to capture a group of workers (an opponent’s Workers or their own) and place them on their player board. The Guardhouse is where players can resolve what to do with the captured Workers. If a player has captured an opponent’s Workers, they may send them to the Prison, gaining one silver for each. If they have Workers in the Prison, they may release them at a cost of silver or a combination of debt and Virtue. Previous debts may also be paid off here using silver, but also earns one Virtue immediately.

Constructing Buildings and Advancing Work on the Cathedral

Architects of the West Kingdom buildings
Architects of the West Kingdom buildings
When they are ready to construct, players will place a Worker in the Guildhall from left to right, top to bottom. Once a Worker is placed in the Guildhall, they can never again be retrieved for future use.
When a player chooses to construct a Building, they discard the resources required. Some buildings also require a specific Apprentice’s skill before construction. Buildings will either have an immediate or end game effect (such as gaining resources or increased or decreased Virtue).
 
When a player chooses to advance work on the Cathedral, they pay the indicated resources and discard any 1 Building Card from their hand. That player moves their marker 1 level up on the Cathedral, earning them a reward from the Reward Card Pile (or one Virtue once the pile is gone). At the end of the game, players will score the indicated Victory Points shown in the yellow flag to the left of their current level in the Cathedral.
 

Other Gameplay Features

Taxes

Several action spaces require a payment to take that action. The red coins indicate a Tax. When paid, the indicated Tax goes to the space above the Tax Stand. All other coins (non-Tax) go to to the supply.

Player Mat
Player Mat

 

Virtue Track

A lot of choices will alter players’ positions on the Virtue Track. Ending the game with a lot of Virtue will award Victory Points, while low Virtue will cause players to lose them. However, being low in Virtue isn’t all that bad. Sitting low on the Virtue Track allows players to pay less Taxes when taking certain actions during the game. Ultimately, players have to balance the importance of Virtue during the game and how it will impact end-of-game scoring.

 

Black Market Reset

On occasion, the King will order checks to make sure all Workers are accountable for their actions. This will trigger a Black Market Reset. When all spaces at the Black Market are occupied by a Worker, or, when a Worker is placed in the 1st space of the 3rd and 4th rows in the Guildhall, the following will happen:
  • Refresh the Black Market cards.
  • All Workers currently in the Black Market move to the Prison.
  • Players with 3 or more Workers in Prison lose one Virtue.
  • Player(s) with the most Workers in Prison take one Debt Card.

End Game Scoring

Players tally up their points from constructed buildings and end of game bonuses. The player with the highest total score is the winner.

The Good

Building Card with Resources
Building Card with Resources

If you ask anyone that has Architects of the West Kingdom on their hot game list, the surest answer why is because of the new twist to the worker placement mechanics. For those that have played any of the games in the North Sea Saga, the artwork, components, and overall feel of the game will seem familiar, which may make it easier to teach and play. But this is not the same game by any means.

One of the most significant differences is the scoring and tracks. In Raiders of the North Sea, for example, there are 3 different tracks to maintain—victory points, armoury, and Valkyrie. This can be cumbersome. In Architects of the West Kingdom, there is one Virtue track, and it is simple. Where a player stands on the Virtue track will give them certain benefits or limitations, and will determine the number of victory points they earn from Virtue when the game concludes. Players tally their final score at the end of the game.

I like that the game can play 1 – 5 players. It’s always nice to have a solo variant available, and even better to have another game in my collection that can play more than 4 players. It scales well, and is even better with more players, really utilizing the capture workers mechanic.

Player Mat with Resources
Player Mat with Resources

The game components are well made. There are some metal coins that can be purchased for the game, if that is your thing. I found the rulebook to be well laid out and easy to follow. One quick read through and I was ready to play. There are a few player guides online that summarize the important information, and those may be more useful after a couple of initial plays.

The Bad

There is a solo variant for Architects of the West Kingdom, which I am generally very excited about. I enjoy testing out different solo variants, and seeing how the designers integrate solo play into their designs. The solo mode for Architects is playing against an automa, which, in most cases, is an acceptable method. However, with Architects, the worker placement element of capturing opposing players’ workers is a big part of the gameplay. It is what makes this game different and unique. While that mechanic still occurs, it is random with the automa. So it is not as impactful on the game as it would be when playing with a human opponent.

Apprentice with Building Cards
Apprentice with Building Cards

As for regular gameplay, there can be a little bit of AP (analysis paralysis) at the start of the game, especially with new players. It takes a little time and planning to decide your course of action—which resources to grab and which buildings to build—based on the hand dealt to you. With some of the buildings giving you immediate effects vs. end-game effects, it might be beneficial to build the ones with immediate effects first. But then you also might need certain apprentices to build those buildings. Which take money to hire. But do you have enough money? If not, how are you going to get that money?  This isn’t always a bad thing—it just might take a little patience, especially with those players prone to AP.

 

Final Thoughts

Architects of the West Kingdom apprentices
Architects of the West Kingdom apprentices

Architects of the West Kingdom is fun. I don’t feel that it is overly complex, and a wide audience of games should be able to easily learn and play it. The player interaction is high, especially with the ability to capture other Workers and put them in prison. You might be really close to achieving a goal, but another player can come along and capture your Workers before you can. Then, if they want to, they can hold on to those Workers instead of putting them in prison, really derailing your strategy. Especially if you don’t have the money or resources to get them back. It may put your plans off for a good few rounds before you can resolve it.

The potential for replayability will be very good, considering this is the first game in a series. The North Sea Saga is three solid base games, plus expansions and a Runesaga where all three games were played sequentially as chapters in an epic competition. I would expect that something similar will come for this trilogy as well. The second game of the West Kingdom Trilogy has been announced. Paladins of the West Kingdom will be available later in 2019.

 

Game Statistics

  • Release Date: 2018
  • MSRP: $50.00
  • Playing Time: 60-80 minutes
  • Age Range: 12+
  • Player Count: 1-5


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About the author

Shanon Connelly

(a.k.a. “Super Muffin Girl”) is an avid board gamer, cosplayer, and all around nerd girl. She has been cosplaying for over 10 years, attending several conventions every year. She recently started a YouTube gaming channel, "Time to Play!", which previews and reviews board games. Follow Shanon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@supermuffingirl).

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