The Pillars of The Earth Review
One of my friends introduced this great game in the early age of my board gaming life. And i gratefully he did, since this game is so great for me. I love it practically. Published by Mayfair Games and designed by Michael Rieneck & Stefan Stadler this game is based on the novel by Ken Follet.
The Pillars of the Earth is based on the bestselling novel by Ken Follett and the 2006 game in the Kosmos line of literature-based games.
At the beginning of the 13th century, construction of the greatest and most beautiful cathedral in England begins. Players are builders who try to contribute the most to this cathedral’s construction and, in so doing, score the most victory points. Gameplay roughly consists of using workers to produce raw materials, and then using craftsmen to convert the materials into victory points. Workers may also be used to produce gold, the currency of the game. Players are also given three master builders each turn, each of which can do a variety of tasks, including recruiting more workers, buying or selling goods, or just obtaining victory points. Getting early choices with a master builder costs gold, as does purchasing better craftsmen. Players must strike a balance between earning gold to fund their purchases and earning victory points.
This game can be played 2-4 players (for the base game) and up to 6 players with the expansion set. Here’s my overview of the game:
1. The Theme
Since it’s based by novels of the same title, i assumed there’s no problem with the theme, in fact, the theme should be rich. The story of the game center the players as master builders hired by the king of England to build the most renowned Cathedral in that age. Each master builder have his/her craftsmen and can hire more. Master builders put their workers to gather resources or produce gold and use their craftsmen to convert resources into victory points. This victory point symbolized each master builder participation in the building of the cathedral. The highest contributors when the cathedral finished, won the game.
2. The Artworks
What can i say, it’s splendid. Michael Menzel really did a extraordinary effort in the artworks, and he’s renowned for it (he also do the artwork for World Without End, Stone Age, Cuba, Dragonheart, Atlantis, Batavia, The Settlers of Catan, Turn & Thaxis, In The Year of The Dragon, and many more). If you like the prolific, artistic with the touch of fine art. When i looked at the boards, one word, “splendor”, the board is so beautiful and amazing that it captured my eyes and heart completely. So, a gamer like me, who thinks that visual really matters, would find this game satisfying to have and to play.
3. The Game Components
Okay, now we look at the game components. The game board is a 4 fold side board with extraordinary masterpiece art from Michael Menzel. The board depict the map of the city (with locations) and the cathedral building site at the center. The cards separate into several categories (craftsmen cards, resource cards, privilege and event cards). Master builders and workers in each player colors (made from wood) and resources cube (wood, sand, stone and metal). Oh yeah, the most distinctive component of the game is the cathedral itself (consist of 6 wooden blocks of different shape which can be built into 1 whole complete cathedral).
One little thing that made a difference between the base game and the expansion is the pre-press color quality of the cards and cubes. The cubes (especially the wood) and the game cards has slightly different color from the base game.
4. The Game Play
This game using worker placement and resources management mechanics. The goal of the game is to collect as many VP as possible in 6 round of the game, player the highest VP in the end of 6th round win the game.
The game play in later is explained for 5-6 players (with the expansion which adds a board, resource card, craftsmen cards, and event & privilege cards). Each player choose his color and receive his player aid card and 3 basic craftsmen cards. Set up the components with resources cubes in each supply area, 9 resource cards randomly chosen and 3 craftsmen from each round are displayed in bottom of the board. This provide the resource options for worker placement to place and craftsmen options for players to hire. The other 2 craftsmen cards for each round is put in the board. take 2 continuous and 1 instant / one time privilege cards and place it in the board face up each round, fill the market with resources and put the St. Dennis card in it’s place. The game start with first player (randomly choose the turn order), by acquiring a resource card or craftsmen card of his choice (when acquire craftsmen card during this turn, the player must pay the amount cost of gold of that craftsmen). After this, next player choose his until all player has pass. Remove the unused craftsmen cards out of the game. Place workers based on the resource cards in players’ possession to the resources supplies. First player then draw from the bag (with 2 master builders for each colors in it) randomly 1 master builder, he can once per turn redraw it with another builder from the bag. Once drawn the master builder must be placed by the owner of it’s color, in skip position or in a available slot (you must pay a amount of gold to place the master builder in a slot on the board, range in 7-0 golds). Each time a master builder is drawn, the cost reduced by one until it’s reach zero. All skipped master builders will play with 0 cost. The first player who set his master builder on the slot (not skip) also put his third (outside the bag) into the last position on the turn order track located in the top of the new board.
Once all the master builders are set in the board, all the locations in the boards are resolved (order based on the numbers), starting from:
- Event Card – Have 2 possible outcome, bad event or good event. Such bad events or good events will affected all players.
- Protection from Arch-bishop – Player who has his master builder placed in this slot, gain protection against the event card or he can choose to have 1 resource cube of his choice from the market.
- Wool Mill – Collect income, gain gold as many as worker placed.
- Kingsbridge – Take privilege card (2 slots available), this slots with the expansion, are used for continuous type of privilege cards.
- Kingsbridge Priory – Collect Victory Points (2 slots with 2 and 1 VP each).
- Forest – Produce wood resource (as many as workers placed).
- Quarry – Produced stone resource (as many as workers placed).
- Gravel Pit – Produce sand resource (as many as workers placed).
- King’s Court – Tax Exemption (4 slots, the first slot gain 1 metal resource cube).
- Shiring – Take craftsmen card (2 slots available).
- Shiring Castle – Take 2 additional workers for the next round.
- Kingsbrigde Resources Market : Buy or sell resource from market (To buy, limited from the market stock, no limit when selling). Has 4 slots available (for player order).
- Cathedral – Convert resources to points from craftsmen.
- Reorder Players – This slot gives the first player to the player who fill the slot.
The expansion board also give new locations (also resolved in order). With these slots available:
- 9a. Tax Collector – Player who put his master builder in this slot, free from tax and gain that amount of gold (only 1 slot).
- 9b. Crusades – Players sent his workers to take part in the crusade (4 slots as 3 workers for 1 VP, 4 workers for 1 VP, 6 workers for 2 VP, 7 workers for 2 VP).
- 9c. France – This slot gives the player the ‘Inspiration of St. Dennis’ card, which give the player the ability to copy other player craftsmen card or reuse one of his craftsmen card at -1 capacity. Only last for 1 round, next round place the card back.
- 9d. Coast – Player who put his master builder in this slot, have the chance to only sell his resources with 1 gold higher than the price in the market.
- 9e. Shiring – 1 slot of privilege card.
Every time the 13th step is resolve, put on e part of the cathedral wooden block to the center of the board. When the sixth round finished, there will be 6 pieces of wooden block in the board, beautifully formed as the cathedral.
5. The Replay Value
I think this game is fun, fun enough to be played over and over again, since the privilege, event, craftsmen cards and even the resource cards are random. Yes, play it again and again with different players and different cards, feels different. But as you can see, the game is based on story which also has game time limit (6 rounds), so there will be less value when you had played all the cards variants. But, for several plays (4 plays for me) is still a great and entertaining game.
My Thought of The Game
I love it, just love it. Since the artworks mesmerize me so much, and the game play really put serious game into fun. Fun to draw the master builders, manage resources and even this game does not really involve players interactions such as conflict and else, but it still great to have interactions between players about the slot placements and acquiring the craftsmen cards and privilege cards. If you play the game with expansion first, the base game somewhat won’t interest you like the way the expansion did. Cause the expansion gives you more viable options and chances.
So, when the first time i played this game, i want this game instantly. A great addition for your family games collection.