Designer: Krzysztof Matusik
Publisher: G3/ST Games
Time: 120-180 minutes
Ages: 10+ (but that would have to be a darn mature 10 year old.)
Times Played: 2 (with review copy provided by G3 Games)
Photo of the designer and his creation by Henk Rolleman
Tech-tree meet Euro
Want to play a fairly meaty 2-3 hour efficiency-based Euro? If so, read on.
Helvetia was an underrated game in my book because it had a novel implementation of a technology tree in a boardgame. Craftsman has, at its heart, a similar tech tree, but surrounds it with a more classical worker-placement system.
The goal of the game is to get the most appreciation points (APs). They can be gained in a vast number of ways, but the most lucrative is shipping finished products. Well, the twist is that you start with one raw material and must build your empire to produce first more raw goods, such as grain, wood, honey, and grapes. From wood, you can make half-finished goods, such as barrels and paper. Grain can be converted to flour. Plants can be converted to fabric or rope. Ah, but that is not enough. Grain and barrels can become beer. Honey and rope can become candles. Beer and candles are finished goods.
The game is played over three years. Each year has three full seasons, spring, summer, and fall, and an abbreviated season, winter. Each player will place up to five workers per season. Starting to sound familiar? You start with all five workers, so there is no growing your family, but there is a small incentive not to use all your actions if you don’t need them.
Image by Bartek Kanafa
There are six guilds where you may place your workers. They permit you to gain money, build buildings, buy buildings, manufacture goods, buy at the market, or adjust turn order/gain government orders.
Within each guild, there is a very specific placement system. You must place your helper in the first vacant spot starting from the left – the first space is the privilege spot, which gains an enhanced action. Then there might be a circle, then a circle with a green ribbon. Some spots have a privilege spot and then two ribbon spaces. The important part is that they must fill from left to right. After all three are placed, helpers may be placed on top of the leftmost free space with only one worker. There can be at the most six workers on a space with no more than two workers from any one player. If you place a worker on the second level on top of another player on a space without a ribbon, you must a money card or APs equal to the year. If you are the second one to place on the leftmost spot, you are also going to gain privilege, which is an enhanced action.
If your eyes are glazed, you might want to just have someone else teach it to you. The game is not rocket science, but the rules sure are. Prepare yourself for 10 pages of small text with illustrations, but there are some good FAQs at the usual sites.
Bankers give out money, but wait, there’s more. If you have played Alhambra, this will be familiar because this game has four currencies. They are colors, red, green, blue, and purple. Most are denomination 1, but some are 2, and fewer are 3. When you visit the banking guild, you get four money cards and may keep two of them. The key is that two cards of the same color = 5. Three of the same color = 10. Four of the same color = 15, etc. So sometimes two red 1s are better than a blue 3 and a green 3. The privilege for the banking guild is that you get to keep three of the four cards, rather than only two.
Photo by Bartek Kanafa
Building is great because it is how you gain production capacity. If you look at most of the cards, they have a color on top and a color on the bottom. When you build your building’s top color must match the top color of an adjacent building or your building’s bottom color must match the bottom color of the adjacent building. The image above is illegal unless they were both built on separate turns using the builder’s privilege because neither the tops nor the bottoms of the cards match the adjacent ones. You cannot move buildings around, so they must match one of the ends of your row of buildings. A worker at the builder’s guild lets you build up to two buildings in your hand. Note that in action order, you build buildings before you buy them, so you must plan ahead and buy buildings the turn before you plan to build them. The privilege when building is that you can ignore the color rule for one of the two buildings you build.
Players buy buildings at the Notary. I bet you were wondering why there are four colors of currency. Well, if you want to buy a building, you must pay in a currency that matches one of the colors of the building you are buying. The buildings themselves are split into three groups – buildings that produce raw goods, half-finished goods, and finished goods. Their outright prices are 3, 5, and 10 respectively. So you have a hand of blue cards and want to buy that red/green tannery? You cannot buy it outright. At the Notary, you can also auction a building and pay any currency, but you might be outbid. Even if everyone passes, the game has a mechanism for the AI (mayor) to bid, so don’t go into an auction expecting a total steal. Privilege here lets you go fishing for a building you want, either before or after your action.
Photo by the designer, Krzysztof Matusik
Now we come to the most important guild, crafting. All the production buildings have the materials they need in the upper left and the product of that plant in the bottom center. A worker in this guild can craft 3, 4, or 5 times, depending on the year. You place a cube on each blank upper left circle. If you move that to the bottom of the card, that is an action. If the upper left of another card uses that finished good, you can move that wood from the bottom of the wood card to the upper left of the barrel card. If you move it from the wood icon in the upper left to the barrel icon in the lower center, you gain 1 AP (noted in the green circle). If you have a beer factory, you can now move that cube from the bottom of the barrel card to the upper left of the brewery. You will note that the brewery needs both barrels and grain. If you have already place a grain cube there, you can use your third action to make beer by moving one of the cubes from the upper left to the beer stein and discarding the other cube. Gain another 3 APs as noted in the green circle in the lower right of the brewery card. Congrats! But wait, now you have a finished good, beer, which must go to a ship. It cannot stay on your card. Only two of the four ships take beer, so place your beer on one of those ships. You score no more points now, but will at the end of the year when the ship sails.
Still here? Did I mention that that is only one of the four possible actions when crafting??? In addition to using action points to produce goods for factories you own, you may also send your raw goods to the market in the lower right of the board. If you have a half-finished good, you may send it to the storehouse below the market guild, in exchange for a currency. If you need a raw material, take one of your cubes from the market and place it in the upper left of a plant that makes half-finished goods.
Notice I did not mention how to get a half-finished good, like a barrel for your brewery card? That is what the fifth guild, the Traders’ Guild is for. You go to the storehouse and get a half-finished product for any one money card. The privilege for this guild is that if you have produced and sold a half-finished good to the storehouse before in the crafting phase, you may now take that good back and have it represent any half-finished good.
The sixth guild is Town Hall (Bureaucrats’ Guild?). You place here and then can choose to change the player order, or take a work token, which permits one crafting action at any time in any phase or a privilege token, which can be used to gain privilege from any spot by placing it with your working in a guild. There is not privilege in Town Hall. Also, the circles on the board in the Town Hall should all be silver, not gold according to the designer.
After resolving all workers in all six guilds, the player who used the least privilige gets a privilege tokens, everyone takes their workers back, and a new season starts. Winter is simpler because you either build or craft. Nothing else. Don’t forget that you can build and then use work tokens to craft in winter.
At the end of each winter, the ships leave, and players are then paid for their finished goods based on the values on the ships. Each ship also pays out a majority bonus. Next, players get bonus points for each set of buildings with each of the four colors, so instead of tons of blue and purple, it is better to have an equal number of all colors. Goods sold by players to the storehouse earn APs. Finally, if you want to cash in one currency card of each color, you can earn some APs.
Rinse, lather, and repeat for years two and three. The only end game scoring is tokens earned during the building phase if you have completed a production chain that includes all buildings requires to produce a finished good, from all the raw materials, through all the half-finished goods, through the finished good. Player with the most APs. wins.
Wow. That overview was positively Schloesserian. Honestly, before I played the first time, I had read the rules, misunderstood a few, and could not imagine the game would take as long as it said. Somehow with 3 players, it still took 3 hours in a learning game and 2.5 once we had the rules down. I did not play it with 4 or 5.
Photo by Rafael Theunis
This game does not have many parts, just a board, a large deck of cards, bag of wooden bits, and some cardboard tokens. The sum is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. At the same time, the summary above did not cover various edge cases,such as whether you get the APs on the finished product card if you cannot ship it (no), can you store goods on the bottom of a card (no, they must be moved to the upper left of another building or sold to the market, storehouse, or shipped), etc.
All this said, I liked Craftsmen. If I had three hours and two friends, I would not hesitate to suggest it. It takes planning ahead and lots of thought to determine each worker’s placement, so it might not be ideal for friends with AP.
Other Opinionated Gamers Opinions:
Opinionated Gamers Ratings:
I love it –
I like it – Jonathan Franklin
Not for me –