We all know of the events in the last two years which caused us all to turn to our board game shelves which had a pesky three to eight player count, which we knew would gather dust for the next few months. We had a choice. Also, we could either find some two player variants on the internet or turn to a solo game if we don’t have anyone to play with. Something which I’ve discovered to have an excellent solo variant happens to be my favourite game at the moment.
I love worker placement and I love building combos and managing my resources. When I played this game digitally, it became an almost instant purchase and was followed up by a rare five player game and a solo game! It’s very unusual to find a game which works at every player count but I think this one does it. We’ve covered it before on Zatu, and if you want to read the full review, check it here. But for now, grab your pencils and drafting paper and let’s become Architects of the West Kingdom.
Architects plays exactly the same as the human player. You play one of your twenty workers to one of the action spaces on the board and do what it tells you. This can range from gaining money and other resources to building part of the cathedral or another building. The difference is, that you are also playing as the bot player – Constantine or Helena.
Constantine is the easier of the two, but the only difference between the two is the end game scoring. When the player has played their turn, they flip over a card of the bot deck and follow what the card says. The card will tell you where to put one of your opponent’s workers and build from there.
The bot doesn’t gather resources, except for marble, which is used for scoring, so something like money from the Tax Stand is instead placed back in the bank. The game will end in the same way as it does in a two-player game, when twelve workers have been placed at the Guildhall.
At The End Of The Game
You score yourself as normal, but the bot player needs a little bit of attention. They score points for the cathedral progress, virtue track, marble and lose points for their Unpaid Debts and for every two workers still in prison. Then Constantine scores 1 point for each worker at the Guildhall, whilst Helena scores three. Compare scores and see if you win!
A couple of other things to note. In the non-solo game, when you run out of workers, you have to spend your action to reclaim just one. Constantine and Helena do not have that issue. They reclaim EVERY worker, except for those on the Guildhall or in the Black Market. It still uses its turn but it can still be problematic for you.
Also, the bot loves going to the Town Hall and capturing your workers. I’m not joking, it’s almost vindictive in that approach! Architects is a game you could very easily ignore everyone else and just focus on yourself but for me, some of the fun comes from the disruption you can cause your opponents.
The bot deck turns that up to 11 and will try to thwart you at every turn. Constantine and Helena are always scheming and I use the work “scheming advisedly.” You see, every so often, you’ll be asked to add a “Future Scheme” card to the deck, and these are much more powerful actions for your fictious opponent.
I have some pretty strong feelings about Architects of the West Kingdom in general, but I love this solo mode. The way the deck is played feels like a very competitive game with an aggressive player, even though it does make some moves which a human would never do, such as going to the prison to free their people when you’ve only captured one. Sometimes the aggression can be a bit much but I personally like it. I think it’s an excellent substitute for that aggressive player in your game group and it really adds to the game.
Without the interaction, you’d have no reason to go to the town hall and half the jail actions would be meaningless. By having that aggressive character in play, you’re getting the full experience.
However, I do appreciate some people do play this game as a friendly experience and will avoid capturing their opponents, instead using the town hall to regather their own workers. If your style is like that of the latter players, you probably wont like Constantine or Helena. If however, you’re like me and you sometimes like messing with your opponents and don’t mind if they mess with you, then the solo mode is definitely going to be up your street.
It’ll be no surprise to anyone who’s read this post to hear that Architects is my favourite of the West Kingdom Trilogy and, in a recent survey of me, I discovered it was my favourite game of all time as of April 22, as I alluded to earlier. I love how the game is incredibly simple and quick to play, with a five-player game taking just as long as a two-player game. The solo version of the game is well worth playing if you have a hankering to play but you don’t have the players.
Perhaps what is most unusual is that the bot player is it can be used for a two-player game as well, creating a third player to act as an antagonist and additional blocking player, which I think is great!
It makes the investment into a game so much more worth it when the options are available. The replayability is incredibly high too. Aside from the already high variety of apprentice and building cards that come up, the bot deck is always going to present new challenges for you. It’s like the deck is sentient – it will find flaws in your strategy and punish you for it. That is something I love, personally.
I get that it’s not for everyone, but if I’m playing a game on my own, I want there to be a challenge. I do appreciate that this game is a nice, lightweight worker placement game, with a twist and I love that twist. Worker investment? More please.