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"Paladins of the West Kingdom is set at a turbulent time of West Francia’s story, circa 900AD.  Despite recent efforts to develop ...

Paladins of the West Kingdom Paladins of the West Kingdom

Paladins of the West Kingdom

Paladins of the West Kingdom


"Paladins of the West Kingdom is set at a turbulent time of West Francia’s story, circa 900AD.  Despite recent efforts to develop the city, outlying townships are still under threat from outsiders. Saracens scout the borders, while Vikings plunder wealth and livestock. Even the Byzantines from the east have shown their darker side. As noble men and women, players must gather workers from the city to defend against enemies, build fortifications and spread faith throughout the land.  Fortunately you are not alone. In his great wisdom the King has sent his finest knights to help aid in our efforts. So ready the horses and sharpen the swords. The Paladins are approaching."
Rule book introduction

Gameplay

Paladins of the West Kingdom is not your typical worker placement game. Normally you’re denying action spaces to other players on a shared board.  Paladins gives each player their own board on which to place their own supply of workers.  A criticism often levelled against worker-placement games is one of being multiplayer solitaire, and that is definitely the case here.  However, the game is that crunchy, that I feel increasing the interaction between players would actually lessen the overall game and I am happy that my opponents aren’t able to thwart my well-considered plans (too much).  

The game is played over seven rounds in which all players will be taking multiple actions with their supply of workers.  Each player will take as many actions as their workers permit and there are often clever ways to combine effects and abilities to increase the amount of workers during your round.  If you don’t mind a bit of analysis paralysis, then you will be able to work out an optimum round. However, this game continues to reward my impulsive play; I often realise possible combinations half-way through my turn and I have been able to exploit it immediately.


Player board at the start
Aside from the player boards, there is an elongated main board which holds a variety of King’s Orders and King’s Favour cards.  Each game will consist of 3 Orders and 6 Favours and there is twice this number provided in the box.  This means that the focus and overall objectives of each game will be different.  I have played this a number of times now and in each play, the different cards and sometimes order in which they’re revealed, significantly change the game and keep it feeling fresh.

Each player has their own deck of Paladin cards from which you’ll select one to be your Paladin for the round.  The selection mechanism is quite clever as you’ll know one of the Paladins which will be available in the next round (from a choice of 3).  I’ve tried to plan current turns to optimise my next turns’ Paladin but for some reason, either lack of brainpower, or just getting sidetracked by the number of options, I don’t think I’ve ever managed to exploit this.  However, I like the mechanism and look forward to trying again.


Main Board at the Start
There is also a shared pool of Tavern Cards which are chosen individually by each player.  These combine with the chosen Paladin card to give players the workers shown on both cards to use for the round.  This will normally be 6 workers of various colours unless you passed in the previous round and kept workers to use the next round; I have started a round with 9 workers. There are a few spaces on your board which only require one worker per action, but most require 2 or more workers.  You can feel like you’re burning through workers quite quickly, particularly at the beginning of the game.

One of the best aspects of this game is that you’re able to change the requirements for some spaces through the use of Workshops.  If you take the time to Develop your board you can reduce some 3-worker spaces down to 1-worker spaces.  This is crucial to stretching your turn and giving you more actions each round.  However, you won’t get very far by just building workshops, the most Victory Points come from focusing on the attribute tracks at the side of the player boards.


Green Workshops (being ignored)
Three attributes (Faith, Strength and Influence) are measured per player and drive the whole game.  Most spaces require a certain amount of one of these attributes in order to place a worker there, however, there is usually a reward in another attribute. For example, if you wanted to attack an Outsider I would need to have a specific amount of strength and I would be rewarded with Influence.  Although this is a pure-worker placement game, the game and its actions do make sense thematically, if it is a little loose.  I still can’t quite work out why, when I pay tax I am taking money from the Tax Supply.

Not only are there attribute requirements but there are also worker requirements, for example, a red space requires a red worker.  There are 6 different types of worker in the game and the right colour must be used on a coloured space.  An outlined space can take any colour worker. However, the purple worker (a criminal) breaks this rule and can go on any space, coloured or not (apropos yes?).  These colours are defined as red-fighter, black-cleric, green-scout, blue-merchant, purple-criminal and white which is a generic labourer.  These colours also are linked thematically to their corresponding action spaces, for example, the Pray action requires a cleric, (arguably the only space that you should definitely use each round).


Absolve, close-up 2 Clerics and a Merchant.
There is very little downtime for any player unless you’re the first player to pass early in a round and your opponents still have a handful of workers left.  If so, you’re likely doing something wrong and that is probably only your fault.  However, this downtime could only be 5 minutes at the absolute most.  Normally I would expect your turn in a four-player game to come round within a minute or two.  You will be involved and thinking about your turns or taking your turns right to the end of this game.   Your success and failures of the consequences of your actions alone and that is something which I like. 

The are several mechanisms through which you can affect other players games however none do so significantly.  You’re limited to just denying certain cards or spaces from your opponents, but there will usually be other cards (and spaces) still available.  I don’t think you would be competitive if you were playing to hurt your opponents instead of playing to benefit yourself.


End-game main board - there are still open spaces.
It is quite difficult to determine which player is ahead until the end-game scoring through which there is a veritable point salad available to players.  I found that games where I thought I was romping home and clearly ahead (in points) were actually much tighter.  Even if you think you’re well behind on scoring, I’ve found that the scores have been tight and I’ve not been able to deduce from glancing at all the player boards who the leader is.  Players score points from a wide variety of cards and board spaces which can really only be calculated at the end.   This keeps all players involved in the game right to the end.


Components

The art design throughout the game shares the same distinctive style used in Architects of the West Kingdom and the third game in this trilogy, Viscounts of the West Kingdom.  The wooden components are great and there are approximately 200 of them in six different sculpts and seven different colours. There are also approximately 100 cardboard components which weren’t just standard circles and squares and they all punched cleanly.


A perfect fit
Once you’re familiar with the rules and actions there was/is little need to refer back to the rulebook. The iconography on the board is intuitive and consistent throughout the game.  Each action space is sufficiently described on the board to allow new players to grasp the rules within about 20 minutes.

What is great (in terms of components) about this game is the box size.  I have seen negative comments about the box size and some people finding it difficult to get all the components back into the box.  When the game is all bagged there is literally no free space left in the box, to my mind that is a perfect box size. However, I can understand if you’ve sleeved your cards then you would struggle.


Criticisms

The biggest criticism I have is one of table space.  Although the box is deceptively small, what comes out of it is ravenous in terms of its appetite for tablespace.  The mainboard is long, (but thin) and around that there will be at least six different areas for card decks and tableaus.  Each player board is a more typical size of player board but again you’ll need space around the sides to place recruited Townsfolk cards, converted Outsiders and any successful attacks in their own face-down deck.  That's without storing your workers, provisions and money. I can’t recommend this game if you’re table is on the small side.


A deceptive table-hog.

Conclusion

This game ticks a lot of boxes for me; it’s fairly crunchy with lots of interactions between your own resources and attributes.  Affecting them in positive ways and the decision to focus your efforts on one over the other is a nice decision space.  Fortunately, other players aren’t really able to affect your own path to victory too much and in this game, that is a good thing.  It would be intensely frustrating to have your plans ruined by another player's actions purely by chance, and in this game, I feel that you’re not able to play to hurt your opponents; there’s too much going on, on your own board to be concerned with your opponents. 

There is very little downtime throughout the whole course of the game and after two hours you do feel as if you’re brain has had a good work out.  Of course, you could just go along for the ride and select actions with no clear purpose, just to see how the game works, but I guarantee that you’ll do terribly when it comes to scoring.  This game rewards, clever play and finding combinations to extend your turn, getting additional workers is critical for success. 


Set up takes about 10 minutes.
There are a finite number of components that will fit in any box and I’ll admit I’m amazed at how much they’ve managed to cram into this box.  But due to the King’s Orders and Favours changing each game, the tactics and strategy that were successful in your previous play won't necessarily be successful in your next.  After your first game, which will just be a learning game, you’ll have a wide array of tactics to consider each turn which will be different each game.  This game has high replay value. 

I’d like to thank Asmodee for sending this review copy.  Many local game stores will still have this in stock and you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to support your FLGS or use their online shopping web store. 

Publisher: Garphill Games
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/266810/paladins-west-kingdom/
Players: 1-4
Designer: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Length: 90-120 minutes

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