Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Medieval theme board games

With the hype for all things medieval, there have also been quite a few boardgames with medievally themed topics or artwork. And with the huge games fair in Essen just past, there is a new one in the range - the game "after" Ken Follett's sequel to Pillars of the Earth (which usually means loosely connected to the book topic). That book is, in German, called "Tore der Welt" (doors of the world), quite a different title from "World without End", and the game title matches the book title.

Well, I don't read medieval-themed historical novels anymore (the last I read actually was Pillars, when I had just started studying medieval archaeology), but I'm game to play medieval-themed games. Maybe that is because it is harder to put huge, garish mistakes into game descriptions, and maybe it's just because I like good board games. Especially those that are typical German-style board games (and isn't it amazing they name a whole genre for us Germans, and such a nice one as well?). I didn't manage to play the Pillars game when it came out (I think last year), but this year's Follett I did play, and all four of us playing had a good time. It is a nice game, with good artwork and good, functioning game mechanism, including some fun details: You have to pay taxes, feed your family and show that you are a good christian after each of the four "chapters". The chapters contain different events and give each player six chances on action. Those are selected using your twelve action cards - but you have to discard one of the remaining cards when playing the one you selected. This, for us, sometimes led to more thinking about "what shall I discard" than "what am I going to do now" - quite unusual, and quite dastardly in a very nice and amusing way. For once, you can't blame luck if you don't have the action you would need anymore! Every player also has an "event card" to play each turn, giving him or her some much-needed income and sometimes a second income, but every other player gets something as well. What everyone gets is depending on how the card is placed on the board - another simple, but nice and well-fitting mechanism.

Altogether, I did like the game quite a lot. It is already available, but only in the German version for now, so tough luck for all of you who would like to play it but don't read German. (One competent translator, though, should be enough - you only need to read the rules and the event cards, there is no need to read for choices.) But since the Pillars game (which has also gotten good critiques from those around me who played it) has been translated and is offered in the US, there should be good chances that it will cross the great salty puddle, too.


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