The Games We Play

The Games We Play

A repository of reports on the Wednesday night sessions of the club and anything else related to the club or boardgaming in general, which may be of interest to anyone who may be passing by.

Thursday 14 June 2007

Session Summary - 13 June 2007

4 people tonight, 1 game:

Pillars of the Earth, The 120 mins
Dave D153
Steve H249
Richard B444

I had a chance to play this one last Saturday and enjoyed it so much I went out and bought it. Steve suggested we play tonight, having enjoyed the game played here a few weeks ago, when brought along by Steve P.

Of the players tonight Mike, Steve and I had each played once before, leaving Richard as the only one new to the game. Mike was selected as first player and play began. On the first round Richard picked up the Tool Maker from the selection to buy in Phase 1, and when it came to placing master builders, I went for the Master Woodworker who converts wood into gold, this cost me 7, I was unsure about the value, but I did it as I knew I would make 8 from the card immediately and I was pretty much guaranteed this source of income for the rest of the game (or so I thought). I also went to the King's court and took the metal, so denying it to Richard, but in this case the event gave everyone metal so Richard got to use his Tool Maker after all.

The game now proceeded, with everyone fairly close to each other. Richard had Prior Philip early on giving him bonus points for the priory and a narrow lead in the early going, Steve picked up the Architect in round 2 for a point every round, Mike was getting points for his craftsmen as did I, with a few from the priory.

I felt I was falling a bit behind by half way through, but I was fortunate when the event caused everyone to lose 2, when I was in the Archbishop's office and so immune. This tightened things up a bit. Also on round 4 I was able to pick up the Sculptor (1 stone = 2VP (twice)), which together with another sculptor the following round doing the same thing three times, gave me a sound base of VP heading towards the end of the game.

Amongst the other players, Steve was going on steadily, earning Victory points through his architect, Masons and Pottery and paying periodic trips to the market to sell goods (usually wood), making money and buying other goods he needed. Later on he also acquired a glass blower and a goldsmith on turn 5. On turns 3, 4 & 5 he sent one of his master builders to the Starting player space at the Cathedral, meaning he was start player on the last 3 turns of the game. This did not bother me that much as it meant I went second, but it was a bit irritating, when Steve was able to pick up the only wood card on both the last 2 rounds, upsetting my income stream from the woodworker. The other result of this was that I was the only one who was never the first player.

Mike was somewhat handicapped in the later stages when, on 2 rounds (including the last) his master builders came out of the bag very late, meaning the good placements were pretty well all gone. He had managed to pick up the earliest sculptor, but that could only process 1 stone per round. Richard lost ground as the game went on, although he had picked up a glass blower.

Going into the final round, Steve was narrowly ahead, with the rest of us bunched a couple of points behind. I had a couple of metal which I saved from early on and got the Bellmaker, which together with my sculptors using 5 stone and some other VPs from elsewhere made me a healthy total and overhauled Steve who picked up the Organ Builder and also made some points from his Glassblower and a full 6 from his goldsmith. Mike picked up the other Goldsmith, which he was able to use for 8VP, forming a large part of his score. Richard suffered badly at this point as he had no big VP generators.

There was some discussion following the game. I still think it's wonderful and am glad I bought it. Mike is beginning to have some doubts about the random element. The late draw of his master builders, affected him on more than one occasion, particularly badly on the last round, and he commented that he thought that the random element was perhaps too high in a game of this length. I have issues with random elements in some shorter games than this, but it does not bother me here (at this time).

Until next week


  1. Another excellent write-up from Dave. I really like this game, it's very absorbing, not too much downtime, you can mess with other players' plans, and it doesn't feel like a Mensa test (unlike it's older step-brother, Caylus).

    I like random elements in games and it works just fine in this one, IMO. Dave, Mike and I disagree on the relative value of it but I think being the start player is very valuable in this game. Because nobody else committed workers to that slot, I was start player four consecutive times (ie 67% of the game). That gave me first grab on the card choices x4, 5th grab on the card choices x4, a 9th grab if required, and the ability to tick Mike off no end by chucking his dudes back in the bag. Richard must also have suffered by going last 4 turns in a row. It was nearly as advantageous as going first in Caylus every turn, and of course that never happens. Mike and Dave on the other hand thought I was just lucky (and of course it's true I didn't win). We shall see in future games. Should be a popular one this year I think.

  2. As Dave mentioned, I do have issues with the random element in a game of this length. Possible variant to address this? Don't put all builders in the bag, put one of each colour in, draw them, put the next set in, draw them, put the last lot in.

  3. I wonder what it with certain games that causes me to have issues with randomness, it's not length (at least at this length, maybe it'd be a problem at Civ or 18XX length). I thinks it's a case of I couldn't tell you what it is but I know it when I see it (e.g. Settlers).

    In this case I don't see a problem, I wonder if Mike's fix would make things too predictable, I also see an issue if (as happened in a game I played with Dave & Jen yesterday evening) you have the situation where an event causes each player to place only 2 builders and 1 player is in the Archbishops office and avoids the event.

  4. Actually Dave, the situation you describe would be easy to deal with - the player who gets the extra builder chooses which one of the two draws it goes into.