I have high opinions of this game. So much so, that when Second Opinion blogs became a thing, I called “dibs” on this one so fast, there was a cartoon smoke cloud where I was standing. This game is the second in the West Kingdom trilogy, following on from Architects and preceding Viscounts. Until recently, this was the heaviest game Garphill Games made, but I think it has been supplanted by Wayfarers of the South Tigris (and the upcoming Scholars of the South Tigris.) Draw your sword, and defend your home in Paladins of the West Kingdom.
In Paladins, players are developing the city built in Architects and defending it as best as they can from incoming Saracens, Vikings and Byzantines. Over seven rounds, you’ll use the might of a Paladin to take the various townsfolk through different actions, such as: developing the town; converting the outsiders to your cause or defeating the ones who don’t support you; fortifying your land and; undertaking criminal activities.
Each player has their own board, with various spaces covered by buildings that can be placed onto the board through different actions. You can either place them onto the main board for a quick instant reward, or you can develop your own board and make future actions cheaper for you. You see, most action spaces require one or more meeples to achieve, and will often require at least one of a particular colour. Covering up the spaces with the Develop action can make your supply of workers go further. These workers are drafted from the tavern each round, and bolstered by the two from your paladin.
However, repeatedly going for certain actions will see you need to raise one of your three attributes, Faith, Influence and Strength. On the right side of the board, each action uses one of the three and bolsters one of the other two. The synergy of these actions is very smooth and you have to decide which way you want to explore, depending on the Paladin you chose at the start of the round. Each of these has a passive ability and gives a temporary bonus to an attribute or two to influence your turns. What makes the paladin selection interesting is that you will draw three from your deck, choose one to play, one to place on the top of the deck to choose from next turn and one is banished to the bottom of the deck, likely to never be seen again.
Boy, I love this game. It has fought with its elder brother for top game on my personal list and the most recent check in had it take the number 1 spot. I wrote about the solo mode not too long ago, and my opinion of this game has broadly not changed. It’s a fantastic engine building, worker placement game, where the game can rapidly change. I love the variable scoring conditions in the Kings Order cards and the unique actions that pop up from the Kings Favour cards. These can change up a strategy a lot and give you a good reason to save certain workers to trigger that action spot.
I love the solo mode, as it works really well to learn the game, and it eliminates the pain of the analysis paralysis that you may find with newer players. The AI character you have to control is every minimal in comparison to some games, and I think it’s fairly intuitive after a few rounds.
If I had a complaint about Paladins, it’s that after maybe 10 plays or so, you may find it getting a bit same-y in terms of the actions you’re doing. If that’s the case for you, I can highly recommend including the City of Crowns expansion, as this adds in a new attribute and more actions for you to get your teeth into. The expansion itself has a 4.17 weight ranking on Board Game Geek, as opposed to the 3.71 of the base game, but it’s still a really good expansion.
If you love a heavier worker placement game, with a load of choices and variety to play, I can’t recommend this one enough. Like I said, it made number 1 on my top games of all time recently and I can’t see it shifting from that spot any time soon.