Wettstreit der Baumeister
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Jean du Poel has offered this game through his own private label for about a year under the name Teutopolis. The new name from Kosmos means "The Noble Competition of Architects." The cards (about the same size as those in Caesar & Cleopatra) are beautifully made as medieval copperplates with which you build a city prospectus.
Within two decks of 20 cards are contained the City Wall, Towers and Gates, Churches, City Halls, etc. During play, one of the decks lies face up, the other face down. There are three parts to each player's turn. First, the player rolls a die in an attempt to better his finances (1 to 5 on the die; the sixth side gives a sabotage-counter instead). Second, he alone may look at the top hidden card before he makes an offer on either of the two top cards from the two decks. The other players then bid on the two cards. If the player (the Auctioneer) makes the highest bid, he may take the card and pay the bank. If, on the other hand, one of the other players buys the card, that player pays half the money to the bank and half to the Auctioneer. Third, a player may either build (lay down another card on his city) or sabotage a City Card of another player. The player receiving the sabotage must then pay the value of the card or remove it.
The game ends when either of the decks is depleted. At this point, each player may lay up to three extra cards onto their City before tallying the score. Each card has a value which may be higher depending on its placement in the City--you get Bonus Points if you have a Corner Tower at either end of the City, the Town Hall should be in the center of the City, and if you can place the Church next to it, you'll get extra points as well.
A point of strategy: It doesn't make sense just to go after the most valuable buildings. You may not be able to place them next to each other. And even though a Gate doesn't bring many points in the end, they do bring in a lot of cash during the game. Similarly, the Towers have low point value but offer the City protection against saboteurs.
Wettstreit der Baumeister has become one of my favorite games - it is a visual, tactile and mental pleasure to play. The game itself is simple, yet packs a fair amount of strategy. Though relatively short (25-40 minutes), many decisions must be made during the course of a game, and a player's prospects may change several times.
If you're looking to add an 'auction' style game to your collection I heartily recommend this gem.
One last note: use the optional saboteur rules. In fact, using the 'varients' included in the rules can almost be considered the 'standard' version of the game.
Baumeister catches you unaware as a game. You think you understand the game until you start bidding and building city parts. All of our group of four commented they had never seen such beautiful designs of churches, towers, corner towers, gates (arches), and town halls (Rathaus).
I particularly liked the 'open' deck of buildings and the separate concealed deck. Each player on their turn, acting as auctioneer, can choose either deck to start the bidding. For a while, everyone chose the concealed deck because only a gate was showing. Finally, the open deck was chosen, because it became loaded with churches with high point values. The group had already realized you need 'shields' printed on certain towers and corner towers to protect the beginning of your medieval city. Two players laid three cards (permissible) to start their cities. The rules a saboteur to be used against a player with five cards or more in their hand. One player, instead of rolling the mandatory income from the die, rolled the 'black dot' (saboteur) and attacked another player's tower. The other player had little money left for a bribe, but he paid five thalers (income) for his two-point tower. As the rules state, the weakest player (in shields) is always attacked. I liked the feature of always rolling each turn for income with the one die. However, my rolls usually ended with 1's and 2's, which meant little money when the spirited bidding started.
Most players paid no more than five thalers for any one building. One player was quite irritated when his source of income from three city buildings was knocked out with a saboteur. The final scores showed how spirited the playing and bidding had become: 35, 32, 30, and 29. I made an incorrect four thaler bid in the last turn for an arch or gate. That cost me minus two points when the tallying was done. All of us had to remember that two of the same buildings could not be placed side by side, including churches. I became excited when winning the bid for the only Rathaus drawn with four-thaler bid on a six-thaler building.
Our group always provides a post-mortem discussion about how the rules could be improved. One player recommended everyone be given the same amount of money each turn instead of rolling the die. That created a dispute about how some players could hold back their income for a particularly prized building. We didn't think the saboteurs were that effective. When you are able to use a saboteur, you still have to roll the die to see if the sabotage were effective against overturned or hidden cards. The saboteur is exposed on a roll of 3-5.
Definitely, I would play the game again. You want to build the best and most points city. It appears each game represents different strategy. As one player remarked, you should not bid any more than five thalers for any property. I liked that you could hold back your left or right towers and build at least three tiles at the right time. The game provides suspense and enjoyment.
Some games I buy because of recommendations, some because of reviews, some because I like the designer's previous games. This I bought just because it looks gorgeous. On the back of the box were pictures of the cards laid side by side forming a view of a renaissance city and I was hooked. Upon opening the box the cards proved to be thick resilient card and I was putting them together just to produce a beautiful city of my own. Then I remembered that this game probably had rules for that sort of thing. But I get ahead of myself.
Wettstreit der Baumeister is a game of building the most beautiful city. This is achieved by buying various buildings at auction and placing them together, with the aim being to produce the highest scoring city. There are five different types of building and each building has a scoring value. Some buildings also have special abilities--towers increase defence, gates increase income.
Before play each player is given a set amount of money, which they hide behind their screens (important as bluff bidding can occur). The building cards are then shuffled and placed in two equal piles in the middle of the play area, one pile face up and the other face down. Finally there are five black markers to represent saboteurs and a die marked 1-5 with the sixth face being a black dot. The starting player is determined and play proceeds clockwise thereafter.
During their turn a player performs three actions, the third of which is optional
Play continues until one of the two piles of cards is exhausted and players then have one final build opportunity. The value of each city in points on the cards is then totalled, with the value of any cards left in hand subtracted. Complete cities may then score bonus points if their town hall is centrally located, if there is an equal number of churches on either side of the town hall and if their end towers are of equal value. The player with the highest total wins.
Simple isn't it? This game is quick, easy, beautiful to look at and quite fun. It has tactics enough to claim that victory was well won and luck enough to blame for ignominious defeat. What it doesn't have is tremendous replay value. Whilst I am sure that it will be played often, it is probably slightly too repetitive to become a regular. Also if somebody gets far ahead in city building, and therefore has the most shield symbols to prevent saboteurs, there seems little others can do to stop them. One last situation we encountered that the rules did not cover was what to do if all those players who bid on a building were bluffing. A simple rule fixed it, but surely it came up at some point during playtesting?
A fun game, but not outstanding. Worth the money simply because it isn't too expensive.