Architects of the West Kingdom - First Impressions

Owner

My wife and I played #Architects of the West Kingdom for the first time on Saturday night. And... it took several days for me to process my feelings toward this game! It definitely was not a love at first sight type of experience I had expected, but here's what you should know beforehand:

  • My wife was very tired that night so she was starting to doze off mid-way. We stopped the game about 2/3 of the way in. I'm hoping to get more plays in to see how it will change my thoughts.
  • We included the bot for our first play but I took it out after several turns due to reasons I'll cover below.

With that said, let's get right into this! And again, please keep in mind that these are just my first impressions. I feel like it's more important than ever to remind this as it's my first time feeling so mixed about a game that I wholly expected to love (and since there were several factors that made it an incomplete experience).

(+) Unboxing experience - Small box with a lot of game inside. Seems characteristic of the these trilogies and I really like that. There isn't much of an insert, but this game doesn't need a whole lot of organization.

(+) Friendly rulebook - Rulebook with modern sensibilities was the first thought I had. I like it when rulebooks run longer for the sake of making it easier to read. Important sections are spaced out well and includes plenty of helpful examples and graphics. Reading the rules actually got me excited about the game's potential.

(+) Aesthetics - I know some people don't like Mihajlo's art, but it works for me. It packs a punch in terms of personality and I've been wanting a game in my collection that has a bit of that oomph, in comparison to many of my games that have a more "quiet" personality where the art is more of a backdrop (e.g. Viticulture, Clans of Caledonia, Marco Polo).

(+) Smart graphic design - The iconography in this game is fantastic. Intuitive and hard to forget.


Now let's get into gameplay. But first, here's a quick summary of what Architects is about:

In Architects, the primary way in which you earn VP's is by contributing to the construction of the cathedral or by building individual structures. You need to acquire resources in order to build, and you can hire apprentices to help your cause.

(+) Unique twist to the typical worker placement mechanic - A worker's action becomes more powerful the more workers you have in that space (e.g. the first worker you place at the quarry will give you 1 stone. If you place another worker in the same space in another turn, you will get 2 stones because you have two workers in that location). There's benefit in investing in fewer action spaces, especially if you can combo off of your apprentices' abilities to add even more power behind your actions, but you also run the risk of getting many of your workers captured and having to build up your actions' power again.

(+) Drafting apprentices - This works similarly to games like #Century: Golem Edition. In order to hire apprentices further down the column, you either need to have more workers in the action space, or pay silver for each column you want to skip. There are various abilities present and it's fun to pick and choose which apprentices you want to try and build your combos/engine.

(+) Virtue track - I love the idea of this. Your character's virtue increases or decreases in value depending on his/her choices throughout the game--hiring shady apprentices, visiting the black market, stealing tax money, racking up debt or paying off debt, etc.--this is important because if you're too virtuous, you can't take advantage of the black market for quick rewards, or heading too far into the dark side will prevent you from contributing to the cathedral but will help you avoid taxes! From the moment I read about the virtue track in the rulebook, I had already decided I'm going deep into the dark alley haha.

(-) Little tension - As the first point suggests, many of the action spaces have no limit on the number of workers you can place. This takes out the tension present in typical worker placement games where you compete for desirable action spaces. Architects introduces a different form of tension by allowing players to capture their opponents' workers, and even rewarding them for doing so. I like the innovation of this idea but personally feel that this makes 2p games too loose. We tried throwing in a bot for the first half of the game but it was too discouraging for my wife because the bot ended up capturing quite frequently and essentially made her "reset" again and again. I can easily imagine this game being much more fun and chaotic when played at higher player counts.

(+/-) It's a race - I feel like the heart of this game is a race. And this seems quite intentional considering all of the design elements. There isn't a whole lot of tension. There's no concept of a "round" or a "phase" in this game. Instead, it's an everflowing gameplay where you're quickly acquiring resources by building up combos and advancing your building amidst the chaos of getting your workers captured and freeing them. And don't get me wrong, it does this really well. In fact, it feels like #Century: Golem Edition "but much more," and I like that. Quick turns, relatively quick gameplay (under 1.5 hrs), satisfying combos. In the end, when thinking about this game for 2p only (with the bot too), I think it'll come down to how often I'll be in the mood for a race vs. 1-2 hours of deeper strategy games. My gut feeling is that I'll typically prefer the latter, but let's see whether future plays will change my mind.

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9 months ago

Thanks Phil, I think I fall into your camp of not fully knowing how to feel about it. It seems loose and just basic. 

Owner9 months ago

It took a while for me to think about whether my current feelings toward the game is just my personal preferences, my wife not having been at 100%, or me just being used to tighter worker placement games. I'm sure it's a mixture of all of them but I think I went in with too high of an expectation due to all of the publicity it's gotten over the years. I like all of the ideas present, but wish there was another layer of depth for any one of them.

For example:

  • Viticulture - Added complexity to the idea of resources. Your grapes and wines age with each year/round. You can combine red and white grapes to make blush or crystal wines.
  • Clans of Caledonia - Added complexity to resources also. You need to fulfill contracts by producing the required resources. You have common goods but also "processed goods" that can be produced from common goods.
  • Marco Polo - The main idea of this game is supposed to be a voyage. And you're also fulfilling contracts. Similar to Architects, the resources are quite basic. But, some of these resources (e.g. gold) requires so much more to purchase than others. Architects seems rather easy to get any of them. Marco Polo also has overpowered character powers that are fun to play with and are almost game-breaking. Architects' character powers are quite basic.

With all this said, I think this is a fine game if I think of it as Century Golem plus more. Maybe this is why I shouldn't go backwards in complexity when acquiring new games? xD

8 months ago

I think that’s totally a huge point you brought up. If you go backwards in complexity you need to be fully aware of that!! I buy lighter games fully knowing it’ll be a different vibe than my heavy games but Architects advertises itself as a heavier game but it’s fairly straightforward once you know the icons!

Owner8 months ago

It's interesting because there are definitely games I get fully knowing that it's lighter than our usual fare, but know we'll like it a lot because it's hitting an entirely different itch/mechanisms/theme. I still need to see where Architects goes for us, but for 2p, I feel like it may be not different enough for it to come out as often. I'm sure our next play will go much better at least!

8 months ago

You hit another good point. It just does not feel different enough from other games for me to put too much energy into learning it or playing it. I would not say no to it but will not seek it out. 

9 months ago

Dang, that virtue track does sound fun! And I think this twist on worker placement is interesting, though it seems more take-that, since you can arrest your opponent workers. Would you agree?

Owner9 months ago

It's definitely more take-that than the usual passively hurting your opponent by blocking an action. It really isn't bad though because Architects is unique in a way that you start with a full troop of workers and gradually burn through them. The only way to get workers back is by (1) capturing your own workers at a cost, (2) retrieving your workers captured by other players at a cost, or (3) retrieving your workers sent to prison by other players by visiting the prison with a worker. (Also, a player gains money when they send a bunch of their opponent's workers to the prison). What this amounts to is that at some point, it's actually beneficial for your workers to get captured by others so that you can retrieve them for free.

This may be too much take-that depending on the person though, and it'll be much more prevalent in a 2p game. Also, if it's a 2p game, you don't want to capture all that often because either the payoff isn't all that great (this may be a different story if you have an apprentice or a building that rewards capturing often) or it'll slow you down from focusing on building. For most cases, especially for couples, I feel like it'll get played in a way where when someone captures workers, it'll seem like a very reasonable choice and not just... randomly messing with the person. Of course, it can be played that way but it probably wouldn't make much sense.

8 months ago

Ah yeah, that's probably a little too much for my wife's taste, haha. I'd love to try it, just don't think I'll buy it for that reason. If I jump into the Garphill games I'll start with #Raiders of the North Sea since it seems pretty tame in that regard.

Owner8 months ago

Based on what I've heard/watched in the past, it's possible that Raiders of the North Sea could be considered a meaner game. I believe there are a number of cards where you straight up take resources from your opponent that will set them back by a turn. I'm sure @Skyw3rd will have great insights on the two games.

8 months ago

I HAVE BEEN SUMMONED!

I'm not the best judge of how "mean" a certain take-that mechanic is as I'm not sure I've played a game that hurts more than SORRY! I find the take-that in Raiders to be fairly tame, especially if you're playing with Hall of Heroes where it may be more advantageous to use that card for its combat value than it's light take-that value. At least that's how it's usually worked out in our games. Even with my 11 year old son who loves nothing more than ruining other people's time, the take-that in Raiders is pretty light and only sets you back a little bit as long as you've done a little bit of stockpiling which for us is normal. 

If you've got more questions let me know @theDL

Owner8 months ago

Thanks! You're my best pokemon for these situations xD

8 months ago

Ok that doesn't sound too bad. Thanks for the thorough response! I'll definitely keep this one in the wishlist!

8 months ago

Oh yeah? I'll have to do some more research, then!

9 months ago

Dude thanks for the review! Looks like a neat game. I myself haven’t looked into it much, but the art has always stood out to me as well. Hopefully someone out here picks up one of these games soon!

Owner9 months ago

Hope so too! I'm curious to see how others here feel about it.

Premium User9 months ago

Firstly, I would say it a daring move to try a new game on a tired wife!!  I can't pull it off.  I always wait till my wife is in the perfect mood for a new game...lol.  Unless I'm 100% sure she will enjoy the theme.

I felt the tension around the capture mechanics was spot on.  I like the idea of not getting blocked out but having to consider how valuable it would be for my opponent to capture my workers at a given spot.  I do agree the bot seems to capture workers at a much more frequent rate than a normal opponent might.  

This is a great review!  I hope you find you enjoy the game more with more plays.  I am hoping to get a multiplayer game in this weekend and will have a better idea of where this sits on my enjoyment rankings.  Currently I have this sitting at 4.8/5.0.  

Owner9 months ago

Hahhaha it was hard. She took a 3 hr nap that day next to our son so I thought she was prepped. Then she looked tired after I went through the rules. And ~30 min into the game, she started dozing off. It's a tough life for moms... xD

I probably shouldn't have included the bot for our first play. Especially since she was tired, it was just discouraging for her to repeatedly get the power of her actions reset. She was also going the virtuous route, so the returns tend to be on the small side in the beginning. It also took her time to learn which apprentices she should hire to combo her actions.

Hope you enjoy the multiplayer! Any idea how many people you'll be playing with? I'm curious how it'll go (especially if it's with 2p) because I found myself thinking throughout the game that I would probably get more enjoyment out of playing solo or with 3p+. Will have to see how our second game goes before I make a final judgment though :)

Premium User9 months ago

At least two will play but quite possibly four. 3 to 4 is most likely. 🙂

Owner8 months ago

Sounds like a great player count for the game. Hope you enjoy!!

Supporter9 months ago

Wow, that is a good rating. 

Supporter9 months ago

Thanks for the great first impressions!

I do wonder how much of the poor experience was due to sleepiness. Even my favorite games just aren’t as much fun when you are trying to stay awake. Hopefully you’ll be able to play a few more times and get a better grasp of the game. 

Do you think adding a bot for your first play was a mistake? And is the bot even intended to be added to a multiplayer game?

Reading these first impressions makes me very glad I picked Paladins because just after this it sounds like Paladins is the better game. 

Owner9 months ago

Oh I'm sure that had quite an impact. Knowing whether my wife is enjoying the game or not definitely influences my level of enjoyment too. I tried my best to focus on my personal feelings toward the game though.

As for the bot, I've seen it frequently recommended for 2p by others. I'm definitely going to leave it out for our next game.

Is "Paladins" better? I can't comment on that since I haven't played, but it's definitely up for personal preference. Architects has a place of its own and is great for a quicker game with interesting mechanics and more player interaction. It's just that based on my first play, I get the impression that it's slightly outside of my preferences for a meatier game (for 2p).

Supporter9 months ago

Thanks, that is helpful. I am sorry that it was love at first play like you hoped it would be. I do hope and trust that y'all can play it again and enjoy it more.

I find what you said about the loose nature of the worker placement interesting. I have heard that complaint a few times before. And that is why I have stayed away from it. I do like my Euro games pretty tight. But, I would still like to play it sometime, and, I am interested in hearing how it develops for you.

Owner9 months ago

I hope so too! I'm sure my wife being fully awake will help a lot for our next play haha. Will give an update on this later. And plus, I'm pretty certain that I'll enjoy solo plays of Architects.

Supporter9 months ago

I'm glad to hear you are still somewhat optimistic. 

Owner8 months ago

My wife was optimistic about it as well and is still down to give it a try, so hope it happens soon!

Supporter8 months ago

Sounds great.

Supporter8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.  When I was looking into this I totally didn't think of the big spaces lacking a certain tension.  I was totally focused on the Virtue Track and Arresting people aspect.  It does feel like maybe it's not a great two player game.

I'm glad I held off for now, especially since I got Raiders out again with Hall of Heroes (which I really enjoyed once we figured out all the rules). 

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