When it comes to the modern board game market, there is a distinct lack of representation of both Russian culture and cathedrals. Luckily for us keen gamers, Red Cathedral is here to fill this, admittedly, rather niche gap in the market. A Eurogame through and through, players must collect resources and claim sections of Moscow’s famous St Basil’s Cathedral to prove that they are the only player worthy of the Tsar’s recognition.
From the publishers, Devir. Red Cathedral is a game that lets 1-4 players gather the resources they need to complete sections of one of Russia’s most well-known landmarks. The aim of the game is simple; collect the most points by building six cathedral sections first. On their turn, players may choose to take on one of three actions. So, grab your pencils and let’s head to the drawing board as we learn how to play Red Cathedral!
This Little Architect Went to Market
The first step for every game is set up, which is relatively simple for Red Cathedral. Unpacking everything from the box, the first thing players must do is set up the beating heart of Red Cathedral: the Market board.
When placing the board, be sure to leave enough space to one side for the Construction Site. This is where you will actually build the cathedral. Players must then shuffle the circular Resource tiles. Placing one randomly at each of the 8 spaces on the Market board, two per season. To one side place all of the Materials and Rubles.
The Influence decks must now be separated into their four factions and shuffled. From each of these, one card must be drawn and placed face-up on one of the four spaces in each of the four corners of the board.
Next, all five dice must be shaken together. One die is then dropped into the space next to the Resource tile that grants Recognition (this is the one represented by a crucifix). Then, working in the direction of the arrows, the remaining dice are placed on by each of the following Resource tiles until there are no more left.
Setting up Your Player Board
Now that the Market board is set up each player must choose a colour and take their respective player board, flag tokens, and adornments, placing them on their designated spaces. There are two sides to the boards, one basic and one advanced. If you are playing the advanced setup, the pieces will have slightly different spaces. This will all be clear on the board. The remaining boards and tokens can be returned to the box. Players then take their score marker and place it with the blank side showing on the highlighted number 2 space. The first player then takes 3 Rubles, with subsequent players taking 4,4, and 5 Rubles respectively.
Built From the Ground Up
Now comes the game’s namesake: the Red Cathedral. Players must take the Cathedral cards, these are the ones with sections of the cathedral on the back, and sort them into bases, middle sections, and domes. All good ventures start with a plan, and this is no different. First, players take a Building Plan card. This shows you how many of each type of cathedral section you will need. Take the sections indicated on the Building Plan card and lay them out in the Construction Site. These cards should all be showing their building cost side (the side with Materials at the top, not the one with the completed side).
The next step is to place all of the Workshop tiles facedown and shuffle them. In two-player games, before shuffling you should remove any Workshop tile with a three-player icon (three people and a plus symbol) and place them back in the box. When you’ve shuffled them up good and proper, place one face up on each of the Cathedral cards, placing any leftovers in the box. Just like that, you’re set up and ready to go!
Rubles Are a Girl’s Best Friend
Now we can finally get on to the fun part, which is, of course, gameplay. We'll get into solo play in just a moment, but first, it helps to know how normal gameplay works to understand Red Cathedral’s solo mode. On their turn, players must do one of three things: acquire resources from the market board, claim a section of the cathedral, or build a section of the cathedral. In addition to these three actions, at any time players may exchange one Prestige point for 2 Rubles, or to re-roll the dice in any one section.
Acquiring Resources from the Market Board
The Market board is where most of the action happens in Red Cathedral. This is where players gain the resources that will help them build their sections of the cathedral. When taking this action, players announce which of the coloured dice they wish to use. Then they move that dice the number of spaces indicated on the die in the direction of the arrows, hopping from one resource to the next. If players are using either the white die or the die of their colour, they may spend Rubles to move the die further. This is done at a cost of one Ruble for each space moved.
There are three spaces for each resource, and so more than one die can end up next to each resource. However, if three dice already fill the space you would move to, you cannot move there. You can either pay to move the die forward, or you must choose another one to roll. Once they’ve landed, players must re-roll all dice in that space.
Having arrived at their destination, players may choose which market actions they want to take. The first is to gain resources. Players may gain their space’s resources multiplied by the number of dice in the space. This means that if a player lands in the ‘bricks’ space and there is already a die there, they gain four bricks, as the resource grants two bricks for each die.
Players may also choose to use their influence with one of the four groups on the board. Depending on which quarter of the board they land in, players may take the action shown on the card in the corner of the board. Some of these have a price but others grant boons for free.
Finally, players may activate the workshop tile which corresponds to the die they rolled. These may grant resources, or allow players to gain the resources as if they were also using a second die. You will notice the white die has two spaces for workshop tiles. Players have to choose which of the two they use; they cannot activate both.
Claiming a Section of the Red Cathedral
Claiming a section of the cathedral means that only you may complete it and claim the Recognition points. To do this, players place one of their flag tokens on the section of the cathedral they wish to claim. The astute amongst you will notice that moving one of these tokens from the Inventory of their player boards will free up space for more items. Before you go in, claiming as many cathedral sections as you can, heed this warning. If other players claim and complete a cathedral section above one of your claimed but unfinished sections, you will lose a point for each completed section above yours.
When claiming, players then take the Workshop tile shown on that section, and they place it in one of the slots on their player board next to a die. Players may choose to pay the cost indicated on the space to place the tile face up, gaining the displayed material or benefit straight away, or place it face down for free, gaining no benefits. These bonuses are continuous and can be activated whenever you use that specific die when you go to market. This adds a little more to the game and so think carefully about which ones you want to add.
For players who chose the advanced player board, things are a little different here. In advanced set up the cathedral’s ornaments and two flag tokens are placed on the workshop tile spaces at the start of the game. When a player claims a section of the cathedral, they may choose to pay 3 Rubles to unlock the ornament and gain the workshop. Flag tokens are placed on the white die spaces and can be used whenever a player claims a cathedral section.
Building a Section of the Cathedral
When a player chooses to build, they may transport up to three resources from their inventory to their chosen section of the cathedral. If this meets the required cost indicated on the Cathedral card, then the card is flipped over. That player gains the indicated Recognition points and possibly Rubles. If the three resources don’t fulfill the cost, that player’s turn ends. The resources remain there until the section is complete.
For additional resources, players may also add ornamentation to their section, by adding either a door, arch, or crucifix. These award Prestige points depending on the number of gems used.
The Cherry on the Cathedral Shaped Cake
The game end is triggered when the first player completes their sixth cathedral section. They gain the Recognition points for that section plus three Prestige points. All other players are given one final turn to get their affairs in order before off to meet the Tsar.
Players then move their score trackers back to the closest lowers Prestige point space. If they are already on one, they do not need to move. Now, one additional Prestige point is awarded for every five Materials and/or Rubles each player has.
Extra points are also awarded for individual contributions to each tower. A tower’s total worth is calculated by the number of sections and ornamentation. 2 Prestige points for each completed section and 1 Prestige point for every ornament. Whoever has the most banners and ornaments on completed sections gains the towers full value of points, second highest gets half of this rounded down, and the third highest getting half of that rounded down, and so on. If players had no banners, then they are awarded no points for that tower. In two player games, whoever has the fewest banners on a tower only gets one third of the total points.
Tsars in Their Eyes
Red Cathedral also has a solo mode. For a solo game, you follow the same instructions as a two-player game without giving your opponent a player board. To set up your opponent, shuffle the five Solitaire cards and lay them out in a line, placing five of the banners onto the ‘claim a cathedral section’ card. Take five dice Workshop tiles from the three-player icon and randomly place them face up above each of the cards. Take the ornaments and lay them at the end of this row. With the remaining banner token, claim a base section of the cathedral with the highest Recognition points. In the case of a tie, claim the one furthest to the left.
Play now proceeds as normal, alternating between players. During your opponent’s turn, look for the furthest-left face-up Workshop tile, and move the die indicated on it as if you were at Market. When this is done, flip the tile face down. No resources will be gained but the opponent may still gain Recognition. After doing this, carry out the action shown on the card.
The game end is triggered in the same way as in normal games. However, the 3 Prestige are not awarded to the player who triggers the end of the game.