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A keythedral is to be built in the middle of keydom. Your workers are hereby requested to assist in the gathering of materials for the five building phases.
Assistance available at a price.
All contributors suitably rewarded.
If theres one game that I could pick to be reprinted, it would be Keythedral (R & D Games, 2002 Richard Breese). One of Mr. Breeses previous games, Keydom, was republished as Alladins Dragons a fantastic game, and I feel that Keythedral has the same promise.
But at the same time, I love owning one of the @ 500 games that Richard Breese self-published. The game is a work of art, having a good theme, and excellent game play. One of the things that drew me to this game was that it had octagons rather than hexagons a rare sight in games! The next time you see a sign-up list to preorder one of Breeses games, get on it! Keythedral is rapidly becoming one of my favorite games, and Ill tell you why, starting with a description of game play.
Each player chooses a color and takes ten round tiles of that color (workers), three fences (straight wooden sticks like the roads from Settlers) and five square tiles numbered one to five. The square tiles have two sides a cottage side and a house side. A small board depicting the Keythedral is placed on the table. It has five circles at the bottom numbered one through five. It also has seventeen squares numbered from one to five (four 1, 2, and 3, three 4, and two 5). Each player is given a screen in their color, which they may keep all of their stuff hidden from other players. Another board is placed on the table, which explains some of the rules, and has cubes (yellow, purple, and white) and law cards placed on it. The remainder of the cubes (brown, black, green, red, and blue) are placed in the box. The law cards are shuffled and placed in a draw pile on the board, with two cards flipped face up for all players to see. Building tiles with numerical values from one to five are shuffled and are placed face down on the matching squares on the Keythedral. Five round green tokens are placed near the boards. The start player (youngest player on the first turn) is given a start token to indicate this.
The players then set up the actual playing board. Each player takes a turn and places an octagonal tile on the board (each tile represents one kind of resource red, wine; black, quarry; green, farms; blue, lakes; and brown, woods.) and one of their square tiles, cottage side up, adjacent to the octagonal tile. Once each player has placed all their cottage tiles, the game is ready to begin. All the 1 tiles on the Keythedral board are turned face up, and the first turn begins. Each turn is made up of five phases.
The first phase involves placing worker counters. First the start player takes the round green token marked first, and places it on one of the round numbered spaces on the Keythedral board. The chosen number is the current active cottage. Each player, starting with the start player, moves a worker off of their matching cottage onto an adjacent tile. Only one worker may occupy an octagonal tile, so if there is no tile available to the worker to move to, the player cannot place it that turn. The next player takes the round green token marked second and places it on a different round numbered space, and the same process occurs until all five cottages have been used. Phase two then occurs, which involves collecting resource cubes. Each player receives one cube of the matching color of any octagonal tile where they have a worker.
The third phase involves spending resource cubes. There are many different things a player can do with their cubes:
- Build a house: The player may pay one black and one brown cube to change one of their cottages into a house. On future first phases, when that number is selected, the player may move two workers off from that house onto adjacent tiles.
- Build a fence: The player may pay one brown cube to place a fence between a cottage and an adjacent tile, blocking that player from moving a worker between those two tiles.
- Bribe workers: The player may pay two red cubes to remove a fence from the game.
- Buy a law card: A player can pay one cube to buy one of the face-up law cards (which is replaced at the end of the round). These cards give the player special actions during the game. Once a player buys a law card, they may do nothing else with their resource cubes this turn.
- Buy the special cubes: A player can exchange any two cubes for one white cube, any three cubes for a purple cube, and any four cubes for a yellow cube.
- Trade with the trader: A player can exchange any two cubes for one cube of the color they need (from the box).
- Buy a seat in the Keythedral: Each face up tile in the Keythedral shows from two to four different colored cubes. If a player pays these cubes, they remove the tile and place it behind their screen. Once all the 1 tiles are bought, the 2s are flipped over, then the 3s, etc.
Players take one of these actions in turn order, until all players have passed (or bought law cards.)
The fourth phase includes players retrieving their worker counters. The green round counters are also removed from the board, and new law cards turned over if necessary.
The fifth player includes an auction to see who will be the start player. The start marker is passed to the next player, and then each player bids once, in order an amount of cubes. The player holding the start marker makes the final bid, and if they win, they place the amount of cubes they bid into the box and are the start player the following turn. If any other player wins, they pay their cubes to the player holding the start marker, and then take the start marker themselves.
When the last tile is removed from the Keythedral, the game ends. Each player then adds the numbers on all the Keythedral tiles they have taken, and the player with the highest total is the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1.) Components: The components for this game are stunning. Usually, when a small company or an individual self produce a game, I expect to see slightly lower quality in the components. But these components blow me away. The only one I was disappointed with was the box, which is not very sturdy, and falls apart rather easily. The round worker counters and the octagonal tiles are amazing. Every single one has different artwork on it! There is almost no duplicate artwork in the game, which is incredible with the amount of pieces in the game. Little turn order cards are very helpful to the players when playing the games. The wooden cubes are large, and are brightly colored, making them easy to handle and distinguish on the board. All the tiles are a good thickness, and look really sharp on the table. One multi-colored worker is included in the game, in case a worker tile is lost. Even with the low quality box, I have to give the components of this game an A+!
2.) Rules: The rules are printed in a large 12 page booklet. They are extremely well written and easy to understand. The game is easy to teach, but the placement for the tiles is very important, and a round of the game might need to be played with new players, then the game restarted, so that players better put down their tiles. In the rules, there are detailed explanations of each law card.
3.) Strategy: There are so many decisions to make in the game, and strategy on many different levels. First, setting up the board is rather strategic, as players must try to maximize the positions of their cottages. Then, when moving workers into the tiles, a player must be careful to try and get as many of their workers on tiles, while canceling the movement of their opponents. The most strategic decisions to be made are during the third phase. What should a player spend their resources on? Its important to upgrade cottages to houses, but at the same time, a player cannot avoid buying Keythedral cubes. Should a player buy the expensive cubes early in the game (yellow, white, purple), so they have them ready at the end (they are needed for the 4 and 5 tiles), or buy other things? When should a law card (useful but not that powerful) be bought? There are many decisions, but the game runs quickly, and there is very little analysis paralysis.
4.) Variants: Three variants are included with the game, and I have found several more on the internet. My personal favorite variants are turning over all the Keythedral tiles at the beginning of the game, so that all players can plan long-range strategy, and adding one more of each numbered Keythedral tile on the board.
5.) Staying in the game: Even if a player is losing, because the final tiles are worth five points, its very possible for a player to go from last place to first if the other players arent careful. I think this is a very good thing in games.
6.) Fun Factor: The theme is well integrated in the game, and helps make the game immensely enjoyable. Once the game is learned, it can be played in a little over an hour, and provides quite a bit of fun for all those involved. There are very few games that people pick up quickly, yet have extremely diverse strategies. Keythedral is one of them.
Its hard to compare Keythedral to other games, as it is fairly unique, yet seems strangely familiar. Its one of my favorite games to pull out, and I have yet to play it with anyone who does not enjoy it. Mr. Breese has done a fantastic job. The only problem is going to be finding a copy to purchase. Lets hope a company picks up the rights to this fantastic game and republishes it. But if before then, you have the opportunity to get this game, dont pass it up you wont regret it!
Played twice now and proving popular with all but the crankiest of players, Keythedral provides a very pleasant gaming experience.
It starts with some strategy and luck in the setup phase, as each player draws a face-down terrain (octagon) tile and places it face-up on the table along with one of his five numbered cottage tiles. You don't want to compete with the player on your right, and finding a spot for your cottage which is or will be adjacent to four terrain tiles can be a challenge.
After setup, your goal is to maximize your worker placement each round and thus your supply of resource cubes. This is dependent on the number of cottages you've converted to houses (one black and one brown cube) and the order in which the cottages/houses produce workers. You want to get, say, seven cubes in each of the later rounds while your opponents get four or five.
Every cube has value, and you must carefully choose how to use them. For example, you'll almost certainly want to trade in four of any type for a gold cube late in the game -- but *when* you do this is important, a calculated risk -- and so is which cubes you keep, since you save resources if you can produce a cube of a desired type instead of trading for it.
Player turn order can be crucial when competing for the higher valued (VP) tiles late in the game, and bidding with cubes for turn order takes place after every round (about six or so) of the game -- a nice touch.
Influential law (special action) cards can be purchased for a cube, but only two are available per round and once you buy one you can perform no other actions. Other actions include building and demolishing fences.
Choices abound: do I go for the small-value VP tiles or hoard my cubes and wait for the more valuable ones? Do I build a fence just to stay in the round, hoping the next group of tiles gets revealed, or buy a law card before someone else does? Do I trade in three cubes for a purple one (stained glass) before anyone else does, hoping that one will show up later? When should I play those sneaky law cards I'm holding?
There are 46 VP's in the game, so amassing 13 VP's may be enough to win. All players should have a shot when the final two 5 VP tiles are revealed and available for the taking, so everyone will almost always be in the game to the very end. Cardboard player screens hide everyone's cubes and other holdings, so memory can play a factor but probably not kingmaking.
All in all, a very solid and enjoyable game!
The story began when a generous hearted landowner named Keywood felt sorry for the suffering people who lived outside his domain and invited some of them to live on his land. Within a couple of years they had taken over the place and dispatched the old man to a nursing home in Bexhill. As a tale of disloyalty and ingratitude it rivals that of Lear. Now, in an attempt to appease their consciences, they have decided to build a cathedral. No expense is to be spared on the fittings and Keywood would be delighted by the result, if only he were allowed out to see it.
The press release in the rules, which was supplied by the mayor's spokesman, a Mr. A. Campbell, disputes this version of events and portrays the mayor in a more flattering light.
In this latest game in the series, the townsfolk of Keytown are again collecting little wooden blocks and processing them into victory points. This time the playing area is made up of tiles, each of which corresponds to a certain type of area -- quarries, woodland and the like -- and, in a way which bears a very superficial resemblance to Siedler, the different types yield different natural resources. Between them they provide building materials, food and drink for the workers, and trade goods that can be exchanged for the luxury items that will decorate the building's interior. Your job as a player is to supply enough of what is needed to get your name to the top of the list of benefactors.
All gamers are familiar with the three standard tesselations of the plane, where the tiles are squares, equilateral triangles or regular hexagons, but if you allow yourself more than one shape of tile, other attractive patterns are possible. One is got by pushing together regular octagons and then dropping small squares into the gaps. That is the one used in Keythedral, where the octagonal tiles are used as resource areas and the squares as cottages for the workers.
Each player is given five cottage tiles, a number of workers, three fences, a summary card and a screen, and the game begins with the formation of the board. A small square tile that represents the site of the cathedral is placed in the centre of the table and surrounded by four octagonal tiles -- two quarries and two woodland. The remainder are shuffled and placed as a face-down stack. Players then take it in turns to draw a tile and place both it and one of their cottages, a process which continues for five rounds. At the end of this, each of your cottages will be adjacent to between 2 and 4 resource areas and the idea is that the worker from that cottage will go and gather resources from one of the adjacent octagons. There are five types of these, corresponding to stone, wood, water, food and wine. Your chances of success will be compromised unless you have access to all five and so this is one thing you need to bear in mind when placing the tiles. Another is that in any one round at most one worker can collect resources from each area, a fact that is likely to result in some of them failing to collect anything. Because of this, the more areas that each cottage is adjacent to the better, as this will mean that the workers in them are less likely to be frozen out.
There are five phases in each round and in the first of them the players move their workers into the resource areas. Each player's cottages are numbered 1 to 5 and the start player begins the phase by nominating one of these numbers. Suppose he chose '4'. Then each player would move the worker from their number 4 cottage. That done, the next player picks one of the remaining numbers and the workers from these cottages go to work. And so on for all five numbers. As you can imagine, the order in which the numbers are taken is a matter of some importance, because of the rule which says that there can be at most one worker in each area.
Phase one requires some thought and an awareness of what other players are likely to do, but phase two is simple. You just collect your resource cubes, one of the appropriate colour from each area where you have a worker.
The main action comes in phase three, where players get to spend their resources. This is a "take turns to take an action" affair which continues until the players have either run out of things they wish to do or the cubes with which to do them. On each of your turns you select one from the following menu:
Passing is of the "wait and see" variety and doesn't prevent you doing something more positive when your next turn comes round. The other actions require some explanation and I'll take them in reverse order.
At the start of the round, two law cards will have been drawn from the deck and placed face down on the board. Each of them is a "one use" affair that will either give you an advantage or enable you to damage one or more of your opponents. All of them are worth having but, inevitably, some are more useful than others and some are only useful if the right circumstances apply. Taking one of these cards costs you one resource cube, which makes them a bargain, but there is a drawback. If you take one of them, you can take no further actions this round. So it is often a case of either grabbing one early and neglecting other things that you wanted to do or doing those other things and then finding that both cards have already been taken.
Trading is with the bank. You hand in two cubes and are given a resource cube of your choice. Note "resource cubes" only. There is a second and more valuable type of cube, the "craft cube", which hasn't so far been mentioned. The trader will not give out these. They can only be bought from the craftsmen, of which there are three: a blacksmith who sells wrought iron on a "two resource cubes for one iron" basis; a glassmaker who charges 3 for 1; and a goldsmith who charges 4 for 1.
Building a fence costs you one wooden cube and you place it on the edge of an octagon. Its purpose is to prevent a worker moving from his cottage into the adjacent resource area and your best target here will often be the player on your right. If you and he both have cottages adjacent to the same area, the fact that most of the time he will be moving before you means that you will be losing out on a regular basis. Avoiding this situation is another thing you would do well to consider when you are placing your cottage tiles at the start of the game, but sometimes it will happen anyway and when it does, a fence is the way to deal with it. Fences can be removed, but this is more expensive than building them. Removal costs you two wine cubes.
A cottage only houses one worker, but if you upgrade it to a house it will contain two. The upgrade will cost you two cubes -- one wood and one stone -- but if you do it early in the game, you stand to gain more than this in subsequent rounds from the extra cubes that your extra worker will gather. Site your upgrades carefully though, if you want to get the best from them. Having a worker unable to move from his cottage in phase one is frustrating; having two unable to move from their house a lot more so.
The seats in the cathedral are the victory points and they take the form of a collection of tiles whose values range from 1 to 5. Players use cubes, both resource and craft, to buy them from a display that, at the start of the game, contains four each of the 1s, 2s and 3s, three of the 4s and two of the 5s. The tiles are bought in increasing order of value and initially they are all face down, having been drawn from a pool that contains more than you actually need. Before round one the 1s are turned face up to reveal what each costs in terms of cubes. In the case of the 1s this will be two specified cubes drawn from the basic four types: wood, stone, food and water. Once all the 1s have been bought, the 2s are turned over. These cost three cubes drawn from the same list. Wine and iron start to be demanded at level 3, where the cost will be either three or four, depending on whether an iron is involved. Requirements for gold and glass come with the 4s and 5s.
Two small phases now complete the round. In the fourth everyone takes their worker counters back from the map and in the fifth the next starting player is determined. In most games this is just a matter of moving the marker one place to the left. Here it begins like that, but then players have the option of bidding to change things. The auction is a once round affair which ends with the player who has just been given the marker. When the bidding gets round to him, he can either match the bid or "take the money". If he matches the bid, he pays the appropriate number of cubes to the bank and retains the marker. If he decides instead to accept the bid, he hands the marker across to the high bidder and receives in exchange the cubes that have been bid. In this latter case the successful bidder then decides who will be the starting player in the next round.
As should be apparent from my description, the game offers a nice variety of tactical options, but for the strategy you need to begin by doing a bit of arithmetic with the victory point tiles. There are 17 of them and their total VP value is 46. Moreover, the last 9 (the 3s, 4s and 5s) carry 34 of those VP. From this you can see that in a 4-player game gaining one of the 3s and two of the five 4s and 5s is probably going to be enough to win, since the likelihood is that the eight lower tiles will have been spread around the table. So that should be your target. Achieving it is going to be a matter of ensuring that you go into the scramble that characterises the last couple of rounds with enough cubes to be competitive and with the timing in your favour. Bidding for first player comes into the second of these, but so also does having craft cubes already in your store. In our first game I was the start player in the last round, when there was just one 5 still on offer. That meant that in a straight foot race I would gain the vital last tile. However, while three of us had no craft cubes in reserve and so needed to buy them before being in a position to buy the tile, the player on my left had one that he had bought the turn before and so was able to snatch the prize away from me.
Of the four "Key" games this is my favourite. The story line makes sense and the game that has been constructed around it is both varied and interesting. There are also some nicely thought out and original ideas and mechanics that fit the theme. Richard didn't have to arrange it so that the building calls for stone and timber in the early stages (construction of the actual building) and wrought iron, stained glass and gold later on (decoration of the interior), but it is pleasing that he did, because it strengthens the thematic link. However, I do have one or two reservations. So far I have only played it as a 4-player game and, while I imagine that it will work just as well with 3 and pretty well with 2, I am not sure that I'd fancy it that much with 5. This fear has been confirmed by the comments of those who have tried it with this number. The problem comes not with the size of the board and the availability of resources, since the system cleverly expands and contracts these to match the number of players, but with the fixed nature of the number of VP tiles. 46 VP spreads fairly thinly across 4 competitors and, in my view, it would be too thinly spread across 5.
Fortunately, the problem, assuming that you see it as one, is easily solved. I referred earlier to the fact that the 17 VP tiles were drawn from a pool that contains more than you actually need. A lot more, in fact. There are 34 tiles of these tiles in the box and so increasing the number of VP on offer is a simple matter: you just lay out more of them at the set-up stage. This will increase the length of the game, but when people are complaining that it is "too short", that is not a fault. Richard has, quite deliberately, given us something of "family game" length, but the components are there for a longer "gamers' variant" should you want one. Another variant idea that could be used by those who aren't keen on the somewhat "lumpy" scoring that is a feature of the endgame in Keythedral is to give players points for the cubes they have left at the end. If you examine the VP tiles, you will find that in all cases their cost in terms of the "basic five" commodity cubes is one more than their VP value. For example, there is a 4 tile that costs one gold and one wine. Wine is a basic commodity, the gold cube costs you four to buy and so the cost of this tile was 5. Having established that, you could let players tot up the value of the cubes they have at the end and give them half (fractions rounded down) of this in VP. Or, if you think half is too high, make it a third. The point is to smooth out the "5 or nothing" feature that currently attaches itself to the last tile.
But these suggested modifications, like the variant ideas that you will find in the rule book, are "season to taste" stuff and don't alter the fact that this is an excellent game that well deserved the ratings it was getting from the Fairplay scouts at Essen. It also has beautiful components. All the games in the series have been good to look at, but this is the best yet.