English language edition of Die Baumeister von Arkadia
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In a remote land there lies a region with undulating hills and fertile valleys. Widely-traveled settlers have laid the foundation stone for the city of Arkadia. In addition to several other buildings, they want to construct a magnificent castle on a hill. Four wealthy families -- the cloth merchants, the spice merchants, the carpenters and the silversmiths -- want to enhance prestige and augment their influence. For this reason, they compete for the major contribution to the castle's construction. Players act as architects. The four families commission them to plan and realize the build-up of the town and the castle.
This game combines the mechanics of several abstract and multi-player games into a cohesive new product. The rules are fairly straight-forward, although the set-up for the first game makes you a builder of the game pieces! (Including double sided stickies which are as simple to apply as splitting the atom with a toothbrush.) The heart of the game is when to play a banner and receive payment. Like Acquire, tile placement and the fact that others can profit from your buildings make for great inter-action among players. With the great games out this year I understand why it was nominated by everybody and chosen by none, but it's replay value will make it a favorite.
Here's the picture: You just received in the mail yet another game totally in German and it turns out that you don't even need to read German to play the game (kind of like in Pillars of the Earth). You open up the contents to the game and it kind of looks like a combination of Torres, tetris, and The Princes of Florence. You wonder what this game is all about and finally it dawns on you. This game may be one of the best games of the new year and its called Die Baumeister von Arkadia.
This game plays really well and easily, but the more you play the more strategy there is to open up the game board. Players are each given cards with buildings on them and colors as well as little workers.
Players only have two options: First, in each turn either a player must 1) Play a card and place a building or 2) Surround a building with workers. Second, a player may turn in a flag to score their respective seals. That's it.
There is a catch though. Players can only place building next to other buildings (not diagonally) or other workers. In other words the boards get crammed pretty quickly.
When a building gets "completed" you get seals. When you turn in a flag (only four per player), you score seals. The trick is every time a building is completed another peice of the castle gets added and thus changes the value of your seals. In other words, you have to be careful and tactful when you score. The player with the most points (in this game represented by gold) wins.
I suggest you try this game. It has elements of luck and strategy that other games do not have. It is simple to teach to other people as well as learning yourself.
I was a big fan of Ravensburger’s “gamers” games, which included such titles as Tikal, Java and Mexica. Over the past several years, the company seems to have departed from these heavier games, apparently concentrating more on their family line of games. As a result, I haven’t automatically been drawn to their new releases. This year, however, Die Baumeister von Arkadia caught my attention, as it was from designer Rudiger Dorn, and it seemed to be a return to more strategy-oriented games.
In Die Baumeister von Arkadia, players represent wealthy families competing for prestige and influence as they assist in the building of the city and its massive central castle. Buildings are erected, workers are employed, the castle is constructed, and family seals are earned. The player most adept at exerting his influence at key moments will rise to the top of Arkadian society.
The rectangular board depicts a grid, with slightly over two-dozen camps scattered across the rather bland landscape. A smaller 3 x 4 mat is placed onto the board, and will be the site of the city’s castle. Ten of the twelve castle spaces depict family seals, two each of four different colors. Players aim to collect these seals and convert them into cash, which translates into influence.
Players reach receive three workers of their color, which they hide behind their tent screen, and four building cards. Four pennants are hung on each screen. These pennants will be used to trigger scoring, which means each player can, at most, trigger scoring only four times per game. Some conservation is in order, but the game moves along at a swift pace, so being too conservative will translate into lost scoring opportunities.
Each turn, a player MUST either place a building, OR place workers. Then, he MAY trigger a scoring by surrendering one of his pennants. Let’s look at these options in a bit more detail:
1)Place a building. Building cards depict the various types of buildings that can be constructed, each of which cover 2 – 4 spaces on the board. A player places a building matching the card onto the board. Buildings must be placed adjacent to either the central castle space, a previously placed building, or a worker. A seal matching the one depicted on the card played is placed upon the building.
If one or more campsites are covered, the player receives a corresponding number of neutral (tan) workers. Workers are essential, so covering campsites is important.
The player then chooses one of the three face-up building cards to replenish his hand.
2) Place one or more workers. Workers – whether a player’s own or neutral workers – are placed adjacent to ONE building. The idea is to completely surround a building with a combination of workers and other buildings. When a building is completely surrounded, seals are earned. The player placing the final piece that completes the encirclement receives the building’s seal, while every other non-neutral worker receives a matching seal.
For example, Gail places a worker that completes the encirclement of a building. Jim has three workers adjacent to the building, Kevin one, and Gail has the one she just placed. Gail receives the seal from the building, and one additional one from supply for the worker himself. Jim receives three matching seals from the supply, and Kevin receives one.
Once placed, workers remain stationary for the remainder of the game. Placing them where they will help surround multiple buildings is key, especially since a player’s supply of workers is limited.
2a) Construct the castle. Once a building is surrounded and seals awarded, the active player places one castle piece onto the central castle location. Castle pieces are similar to those used in Torres, and each depicts one seal. The entire first floor of the castle – ten pieces – must be complete before moving to the second floor. A player is free to choose whichever castle piece he desires, and may cover one of the pre-printed seals, thereby altering the colors of the seals visible, which is instrumental in scoring.
Castle pieces are initially stacked in two groups of twelve, and a final group of four. Players select pieces from the first group until the bottom floor of the castle is complete. The final two pieces in sections one and two are transferred to the third group. When the second story of the castle is complete, the game has one more turn, and pieces from the third and final grouping may be used.
3) Score. While not mandatory, a player may score by removing one of the four pennants from his screen. He may then score as many color groups of seals as desired. The value of a seal is equal to the number of seals of that color that are visible in the castle when viewed from above. For example, if the player surrenders four gold seals and there are three gold seals visible in the castle, the player receives twelve gold coins (4 x 3 = 12). In addition to scoring, a player receives two workers of his color each time he surrenders a pennant.
The tricky aspect of scoring is deciding upon the timing, as well as choosing which seals to surrender. There is a temptation to wait, hoping to collect more seals of a particular color, or for more seals of that color to appear in the castle. However, opponents may cover those castle seals, so waiting too long can be costly.
After the second story of the castle is completed, one more turn is played. Each player then scores the remaining seals they possess, and the player with the most gold emerges as the most influential family in Arkadia, and wins the game.
As mentioned, the game plays rather quickly – an hour or so with four players. After a slow start, the board begins to fill with buildings and workers. This often causes several buildings to be encircled on one turn, which causes numerous castle pieces to be added. Thus, the pace of the game picks-up steam as it progresses, and the end can arrive suddenly. This quickening pace discourages players from being too conservative with their scoring pennants. I learned that lesson the hard way!
I would label Die Baumeister von Arkadia “medium-light”. There is enough here engage gamers, yet it is easy enough to learn and play to make it accessible for families. It doesn’t mark a return to “gamers” games for Ravensburger, but it is a step beyond most of the fare they have offered in recent years. For me, that is a good thing!