Paladins of the West Kingdom
- Designer: Shem Phillips, SJ Macdonald
- Publisher: Renegade Game Studions
- Players: 1-4
- Ages: 90-120 min
- Age: 12+
- Review copy provided by Renegade Game Studios
Paladins of the West Kingdom is the second game of the yet unfinished West Kingdom trilogy – following up the well liked (at least around here) Architects of the West Kingdom. This series of games thematically follows the development of the Franks in the 9th to 10th Century (or so). The designers have a knack for thematically developing games – they previously have designed the North Sea Trilogy: Shipwrights of the North Sea, Raiders of the North Sea, and Explorers of the North Sea.
As the elevator pitch from the publisher goes:
Paladins of the West Kingdom is set at a turbulent time of West Francia’s story, circa 900 AD. 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.
The aim of Paladins of the West Kingdom is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at game’s end. Points are gained by building outposts and fortifications, commissioning monks and confronting outsiders. Each round, players will enlist the help of a specific Paladin and gather workers to carry out tasks. As the game progresses, players will slowly increase their faith, strength and influence. Not only will these affect their final score, but they will also determine the significance of their actions. The game is concluded at the end of the seventh round.
This game is thematically set about 50 years after Architects of the West Kingdom. In the first game, players were building the buildings and cathedral of the city. Now, it’s time to protect the city! Unlike the first game, much of the action takes place on a player’s individual board, though there is still a central area with some shared space.
I will definitely be giving a much less detailed overview of the rules – suffice it to say that Paladins is complex! The game is rated at 2hrs, and the rulebook is a hefty 32 pages! Both of these are definitely at the high end for a Eurogame, though I will say that more than a few of those 32 pages are full page examples – which are quite helpful.
So, there is a long board in the center of the table. Around this are supplies of Townsfolk cards, Wall cards, Outsider cards and Tavern cards. \ In the center is a row of Kings Order and Favor cards – some of these are revealed each round. Each player also has an individual player board where there are spaces for Green Workshops, Red Outposts and Black Monks. Each player also gets a deck of 12 Paladin cards.
The game is played over 7 rounds. At the start of each round, a Kings Order/Favor card is revealed. Players then take the top 3 Paladin cards from their deck, and then choose one to keep. One goes back on top of the deck (To be seen again next round) and one goes to the bottom of the deck. The paladin card chosen will give some special abilities for this round as well as provide 2 workers to be used this round. Each player also chooses a Tavern card from the central board which provides 4 more workers.
Players now take turns taking one action per turn. To take an action, you place workers down on an action space; you are the only one who can use spaces on your own board, everyone can use actions found on the King’s Favor cards on the main board (no limit). Your board has an attribute track on the side and three markers, one each for Faith (black), Strength (red) and Influence (blue). The actions are split into two groups. The left hand actions need workers alone and deal with resources and some enging building.. The right hand actions improve your attributes and generate points – a short key is found in the action banner with the required attribute on the left and the improvement created shown on the right. In order to take an action, you generally have to fill all the slots under that action – using a matching colored meeple for a colored space and any color meeple for a transparent space. If you have a wild Purple criminal meeple, it can be used anywhere.
On the left, you can develop a workshop (cause a slot to be permanently filled), recruit townsfolk cards, gain provisions or coins, pray (remove workers from an action spot so that you can use the spot again) or gain criminals (the wild purple colored meeples).
On the right, you can commission a monk (use black to increase blue), fortify walls (use blue to increase red), make a garrison (use Red to increase black), Absolve (use blue to increase black), attack outsiders (use red to increase blue) and convert outsiders (use black to increase red). Some of the actions allow you to chain actions – for instance, when you absolve, you move a jar from the Absolve action to a display on the right of your board – you get to increase your faith (which you uncover by moving the jar) but you also get to take the action of the space that you cover on the display on the right. Commissioning a monk likewise gives you Influence that you uncover as well as a reward for the space you cover with your new monk.
Once a player takes an action, the next player gets to go. If you do not want to take an action, you can pass, but then you are done for this round. You can keep up to three unused workers to use in the next round, but all other workers (used or unused) are put back in the supply. When all players have passed, the round ends. The board is refreshed – updating the displays of all the cards and flipping up the King’s card(s) for the next round. After 7 rounds, the game ends, and scoring is done.
There are a bunch of different scoring categories, and I’d recommend a scoresheet or spreadsheet. And yes, I know I haven’t fully explained all of the rules so some of the categories may not make sense. But for now, just realize that there are a lot of rules I glossed over, and there are a lot of ways to score points.
- Points for Completed Kings Orders
- Points for the position of each Player Marker on the Attribute Track
- Points for Developing Workshops (6 or more)
- Points for remaining Silver and Provisions (1 VP for each set of 3)
- Points for Debt cards collected throughout game
- Points for Garrisoning Outposts (5 or more)
- Points for Absolving (5 or more)
- Points for Commissioning Monks (5 or more)
- Points for Fortifying Wall Spaces (5 or more)
- Points according to the specific scoring conditions of each Outsider you Converted.
The player with the most points wins.
So, for those of you who were really interested in this one because Architects was such a great worker placement game – this may be what you’re looking for… but it is vastly more complicated and convoluted. I would fit into that category, and frankly, this was nearly overwhelming on first glance. There aren’t many games these days that I play which require a 32 page rulebook! That being said, the rules are quite complete, and I didn’t have many questions after reading thru it.
For those of you (i.e. most of the group I learned Architects with) felt that Architects was a nice game, but maybe an entry-level sort of thing, you’ll probably find that Paladins is right up your alley. There is definitely more to think about with each turn, and the nearly double game length is a good reflection of that. Though Paladins looks like it is a worker placement game, it really is not – there isn’t any competition for spaces. In fact, it’s almost simultaneous solitaire as there isn’t any competition for space. It’s really more like a resource management game as you can think of the workers as just different colored goods, which you first collect, and then you spend to take certain actions. Though you get a limited number of workers, you can work to chain together actions to get some pretty awesome turns – either through your action choices or cards that you acquire.
There are a lot of interesting ideas going on here – but the one which I like the most is the Paladin card mechanic. I really love the interesting decision at the start of each round where you look at three cards; choose one to use this turn, choose one to pend consideration until the next turn, and then send one to the bottom of the deck where you will likely eventually see it again. I haven’t seen this sort of thing recently, and it may in fact be unique – but it’s a great idea.
Of note, there is also a fairly robust solo game included here with some special components that are only used for this version as well as detailed set of rules (the last 8 pages of the rulebook). I tried setting it up at home but was then alerted that I could play it solo on Tabletopia – and this makes the recordkeeping so much easier.
As with the previous games in this trilogy (and really from the designer’s studio – Garphill Games) – the art is distinctive and gorgeous. I do think that the artwork is very appealing, and the OCD part of my gamer brain (which I try to keep under wraps) really appreciates the graphic design and consistency between these games. They just look so nice together on the shelves, that it’s hard to part with a portion of a set!
For those of you who are looking for something on the meatier end of the spectrum, I think this will be a good fit. Lots of decisions to make in the game, and plenty of decision space to develop a plan, and a game that is long enough to see that plan develop and come to fruition. For those of you who found Architects as a nice light entry level game, this is a huge step up in complexity – so be sure you know what you’re getting in to!
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor