Welcome to Prague in the 14th century. Charles IV has just been crowned King Of Bohemia (and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire). He has drawn up plans to expand the city with a new bridge, better fortifications, a university, and a cathedral.
In this game, 1-4 players take on the role of wealthy merchants who help fund and oversee this restoration. Over two eras, you will play your part in the construction of Prague. All in the hope of winning the most favour from the king.
Player Boards & Wheels
At the start of the game, each player receives two player boards. One depicting the various resource tracks you will be wrestling with throughout the game. The other showing the six possible actions you can take. At first, it might seem odd for each player to receive an entirely separate board just to show the same six actions but, rest assured, they won’t stay the same for very long.
On your turn, you will select an action by taking one of the tokens from the wheel on the board. Each token shows a pair of actions but you can only take one at any time. However, because the wheel is constantly rotating, the cost of the actions differs every turn.
Red spaces require you to pay gold, green spaces are free, and blue spaces give you points. Not to mention, each space on the wheel also has a potential bonus (resources or special tiles).
Manage mines & quarries - These are actually two possible actions relating to your production tracks. You can either produce an amount of stone/gold based on your current production level or increase your production level and gain one stone/gold. The wrinkle is that as you increase your production level, the tracks give you extra bonuses (eg. points). You’re always weighing up gaining resources now or putting it off for more rewards in the future.
Build the road - This is the simplest action in the game. You advance along the King’s Road one space and receive the listed bonus. When you reach the final two spaces on the road, you pay an egg to help construct the bridge. This will gain you resources and points at the end of the game.
The next three actions all relate to placing tiles and each works in a similar way. You pay the depicted cost, gain the depicted reward and place the tile. However, each tile is placed in a different area and affects the game in its own way.
Upgrade an action - Upgrading is free and lets you place a tile onto your second player board to permanently improve an action. Now, whenever you perform that action, you will gain an extra benefit.
Construct a building - The bottom half of the main board depicts the city of Prague and you can build on either side of the King’s Road. When building, you play an area control type game in which you surround various plazas. When a plaza is completely enclosed, whoever controls the most buildings will score a bonus.
Construct a wall - Walls are built around your second player board (the one you will be upgrading) and provide you with various bonuses depending on where they are placed.
Prague - The City of Point & Combos
During a game of Praga Caput Regni, you will be contending with seven different resources, as well as four tracks on which to advance. We’ve already talked about stone and gold but you’ll also be collecting white/gold windows, blue/red bonus tokens, and eggs.
(A quick historic side note; according to legend, the King requested that eggs be mixed into the mortar when constructing the Charles Bridge. The bridge has now been standing for over 600 years, so he must have been on to something!)
Your player board has a knowledge track, which will give you permanent bonuses when you reach certain levels, and a university track, which acts as a points multiplier for how far you have advanced on the knowledge track.
On top of all this, you will be working your way up two separate tracks on the board (The Hunger Wall & Cathedral), both of which give you points for advancing and for each blue/red bonus token you collect.
The final wrinkle? You can spend one gold and one white window to take a free bonus action on your turn. If you can time it right, it’s even possible to take multiple bonus actions at once.
Suffice to say - this game is a combo lover's dream. Between bonuses on the action wheel and practically every move you make giving you some sort of resource or advancement, you’ll always be spoilt for choice.
Production Fit for a King
Rio Grande Games have done an unbelievable job with the production on this game. You get four dual-layered player boards, three 3D structures, multiple rotating dials, cubes, wooden eggs, and countless tokens. Not to mention the board is bright and colourful, which is quite unusual for a Euro game.
The only real downside to this is that all this art can become quite busy and sometimes makes the board hard to read, especially for new players. This, combined with the wealth of symbology you have to absorb when learning the game, can make it particularly daunting on your first play through.
If you’re in the market for a medium-heavy Euro game, you could do a lot worse than Praga Caput Regni. It takes the engine building of something like Scythe or Wingspan and pairs it with the heavy, combo making crunch of games like Gugong and On Mars.
In fact, the most apt comparison might be with T’zolkin: The Mayan Calendar. Both games share a central action wheel mechanic. Where you’re always pushing your luck for the right action at the right time, and have an abundance of resources and tracks to manage, with many ways to score points.
Combine this with such a lavish production and you have a game that, once it’s on the table, people can’t help but want to know more about.
It’s also worth mentioning how quickly it plays. Each player only gets 16 turns, so you can easily play a 2 player game in under an hour, and there’s a dedicated solo mode that requires practically no rule changes.
I’m yet to play Underwater Cities but on the strength of this box, I’m hoping to dive in very soon!