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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Big box game feel in a small box size
  • Lots of crunchy decisions in a game playing in around 40 mins
  • Portable

Might Not Like

  • Small symbols and patchy rules could make learning the game tricky
  • Inequal player experience could lead to a runaway lead
  • Needs a player aid
Find out more about our blog & how to become a member of the blogging team by clicking here

Pocket Master Builder Review

pocket master builder

I like to build things. Big or small, it doesn’t really matter. I just like to have something to show for my efforts. And Pocket Master Builder by new publisher MaiMin games is a small box that makes you feel like you are building something big.

Ready, Set, Build!

So what is it all about? Well, it’s a 1-2 player game where we are architects seeking to build our new kingdoms from scratch. It’s essentially a race to be first to build 6 buildings. But something can’t come from nothing, right? So this is an open drafting resource management game. Bricks, stones, wood, and maybe even some gold will get you constructing buildings and walls like a boss.

A Table, A Table. A Kingdom For My Table

Straight up, Pocket Master Building is misleading. The little box fools you into thinking it will be a tiny footprint game. I mean, how much can you fit into a box that size? But. Once you set out the 8 Wall Cards, 4 Starter Building cards, Kingdom deck and 8 Landmark cards around the edges, the tableau you build (either solo or shared in a 2 player game) actually takes up more table real estate than you would expect. This is no lap tray game!

A Donkey, A Donkey. A Kingdom For My Donkey

Each player begins the game with 3 Kingdom building cards and an Oracle card – this is a secret objective that will give you additional bonus points at the end game if you achieve the criteria.

On each turn a player has 4 actions:

  • Develop – this means you must place a building card from your hand adjacent to a card already in the kingdom tableau area – note that this might trigger an “invasion” if a column is filled completely (and you might get a reward. Or not. Depends how savvy you’ve been with your workers!);
  • Place Workers – here you can pop 1 worker from your active pile on each edge of the building card you just placed into the tableau. But only where the edge touches another card. If you do, you get the resources shown on the spots you placed your worker(s). You get both resources if the colours match, and the choice of one or the other if they don’t. The workers stay there until you use them.
  • Construct a Building/Starting card/Landmark card - if there’s an edge card or a building card in the centra tableau area that hasn’t yet been claimed, you can build it. But you must have the required resources to do it. So you can take workers off cards to use those resources. And if you still don’t have enough, you can discard card(s) from your hand to turn them into resources. You may have also collected an ongoing reward or two which will help you gain or swap resource types to get building back on track!
  • Rest – finally, you must rest. This means either moving two workers from your rest area to your work area (ready to be used next turn if you can), drawing two cards (discarding back down to max 5 at turn end) from the building (Kingdom) deck, or one of each.

Now, I mentioned workers and needing workers in order to collect resources and ultimately build. Well, you don’t have an unlimited supply. Even if you have a bunch in your work or rest areas, you can only use as many as the Donkey Track on your player card allows! Same for discarding cards to turn into resources – you can only discard what the Donkey track will allow. The buildings you construct can have an impact on the Donkey track so look out for little symbols on the cards on the table and in your hand.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to like about this little box game. Pocket Master Builder definitely packs more of a punch in terms of complexity than I thought possible. Using a shared space rather than building individual tableaus is an interesting experience that levels up the tension and crunch. Secret objectives is also an interesting twist. How the gameplay would differ if players were competing for the same goals could add another dynamic to the game play.

Having said that, the decision space when determining what to do for the best is already crowded with instant and long-term reward options. Balancing workers is a big consideration each turn, as is the limits on what you can do each turn. As such, the Donkey track feels a lot more important than the little symbol gives it credit.

And that is probably the main niggle in this game for me. The symbols are all very small. Like the cubes which are doing a double shift as workers and markers, each card is doing a lot. Or at least offering a lot. And being able to see everything at a glance and understand it can be challenging. Once you are familiar with the game, its impact is much less important. But at the outset it can be tricky to get on top of all the options and see them played out the most efficient way.

The rules could also do with some clarity. Space is obviously at a premium in the little box (and to be fair to MaiMin, it is a translation and there is now an errata to help). But it can be frustrating when you find yourself in a situation where there is no guidance by the designer. The artwork is neat, however. I didn’t realise initially but the uniqueness of the cards is a nice touch. And the palette, although muted, seems to fit with the period in which this Kingdom would be built.

This is definitely a game with a bigger out-of-box experience than its size suggests. There are definitely some parallels with other card based, racing, resource management, combo, tableau building game. And if you play with someone of the same experience and skill level then it will be a brain burning challenge of an enjoyable sort. If you can’t find someone of your calibre, however, the game also has a solo mode where a dice roll takes the place of a human player in the card placement choice.

That concludes our thoughts on Pocket Master Builder. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Pocket Master Builder today click here!

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Big box game feel in a small box size
  • Lots of crunchy decisions in a game playing in around 40 mins
  • Portable

Might not like

  • Small symbols and patchy rules could make learning the game tricky
  • Inequal player experience could lead to a runaway lead
  • Needs a player aid

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