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Architects of the West Kingdom

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Architects of the West Kingdom, by Garphill Games, is the first game in a new trilogy following the North Sea saga (which included Shipwrights of the North Sea, Raiders of the North Sea and Explorers of the North Sea). This time, the setting moves to 850AD at the end of the Carolingian Empire, in France, where players take the role of royal architects and vie with each other to cons…
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You Might Like

  • This is you enjoy other Garphill Games titles, such as Raiders of the North Sea.
  • Shorter playing time.
  • Small footprint.

Might Not Like

  • This is you prefer heavier worker placement games like Viticulture.
  • Worker placement games.
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Description

Shem Phillips and Garphill Games are rapidly becoming one of the most consistent publishers of board games. The North Sea Trilogy is well loved by many with Raiders of the North Sea being highly rated and recently turned into an app. Architects of the West Kingdom represents the start of a second series of games, (The West Kingdom Trilogy). The game features the same fantastic art from The Mico and another twist on the worker placement genre.

Whereas Raiders saw you given one solitary worker for the whole game, Architects gives you all your workers at once and almost no restrictions on where you place them. In fact, most places you are encouraged to return to with more workers as the rewards or discount increase. For example, in the forest you get one wood resource per worker of your colour placed there.

Now, obviously you don’t want your opponents cashing in too much on this so you can capture them and cart them off to jail for a healthy reward. Or just leave them on your player mat to cost the other player more resources and inconvenience. Points can be earned in a few ways. Through building the cathedral, which will score the first player to climb all the levels 20 points, or through other buildings. The Cathedral will be a big draw for most people with the promise of points written on the board, but those who invest in building cards will find rewards in points too.

Tying everything together is a reputation track. Fall to low on it and you will gain negative end game point and not be welcome to help build the cathedral, but you will be able to pay less tax. Climb too high and you will not be able to visit the lucrative black market but gain end game points.

Add to this the unique player starting boards that let you start with more resources and less reputation or vice versa and everything in between and you have a compelling game that offers a lot of fun and variety!

Player Count: 1-5
Time: 60-80 Minutes
Age: 12+

Architects of the West Kingdom is a 2-5 player worker placement game designed by Shem Phillips and published by Garphill Games. You are a royal architect tasked with planning and constructing buildings to add to the bustling kingdom in order to acquire the king’s favour.

Throughout the game your morals will be tested: Can you remain virtuous and stick to the plan of building the Archbishop’s Cathedral or monuments to the king’s greatness, or will you take the path of skullduggery, dodging taxes, forming gambling dens and acquiring goods from the black market? Whatever path you choose, the victor will be the one who earns the most victory points by constructing the most glorious buildings.

Set-up & Gameplay

Each player takes a player board and a set of workers in their colour, placing all 20 onto their board. They may then place their two trackers on the main game board, one on space seven of the Virtue track, and the other underneath the Cathedral spaces. Place two reward cards per player plus one in the space next to the Cathedral, and four Silver into the ‘Tax Stand’ box. Shuffle the Apprentice deck and deal one card into every space on the board, leaving the remaining cards and the Debt cards near the board.

Finally, shuffle the Building Plans deck and deal four cards to each player. Players draft from these, taking one card from among them and passing the remainder to their left. Repeat this until all players have selected three cards, placing the remaining cards under the Building Plans deck.

Architects of the West Kingdom begins with the first player placing one of their workers onto any space on the board, taking the requisite action. The main placement spots have large circles, indicating that any number of workers can go there turn by turn. As you commit more workers to a space, the action gets exponentially more powerful. For example, the first worker placed on the Forest gathers one wood, but the third time you place a worker on the Forest they will collect three wood. This concept carries out throughout the game, allowing you to accrue massive amounts of wealth and building materials.

Players may also hire Apprentices or acquire new Building Plans at the Workshop, granting them additional abilities when visiting certain spaces, as well as the prerequisites to build certain types of building later in the game. Hiring certain Apprentices may also shift your position on the Virtue track depending on how righteous or sinful they are.

Continued monopolisation of spaces comes with its own pitfalls, leading into the second key concept: The ability to capture workers from these spaces. Going to the Town Centre allows a player to capture other players’ workers, or return their own workers before being captured themselves. Captured workers belonging to other players are held on your player board, either until you turn them at the Gatehouse for a reward, or until the owning players pay to release them. In this way, players can control their opponent’s supply of workers, forcing them either to pay to get their workers back, or limit their options significantly until you hand them over at the Guardhouse.

There are, fortunately, spaces where workers cannot be captured from. One such set of spaces exist in the Black Market. These represent shady dealings that offer you resources for a loss in Virtue, the third concept of the game. As you gain and lose Virtue your standing shifts, allowing you to dodge taxes if you’re disingenuous, or write off debts if you are more pious. Such shifts represent a large potential outlay in victory points at the game’s end, but do come with limiting factors. Be too disingenuous and you will be refused access to building the cathedral, while too much piety will leave you unable to access the resources of the Black Market.

The final worker placement spot in Architects of the West Kingdom is the building track. A worker sent to build allows the player to work either on the Cathedral or build one of their own building plans, giving them either an instantaneous effect or another way to score points or virtue at game’s end, as well as an amount of VP for building it. Certain buildings may also require specific skills to construct them, represented by the Masonry, Carpentry and Tiling symbols at the top of each Apprentice, meaning you must hire Apprentices of those types first in order to build them.

In any case, sending a worker to work either on the Cathedral or a private building never returns, instead gradually filling the track. When the track fills completely, the players commence one final round before the game concludes. The winner is the player who acquires the most victory points from a combination of buildings, Cathedral progress, their position on the Virtue track, any unpaid debts, and any game-end VP conditions among their buildings.

Final Thoughts on Architects of the West Kingdom

It is clear to see that Architects of the West Kingdom shares similar aesthetic ties to one of Shem Phillips’ other popular game series, the North Sea Trilogy. There is a clear sharing of concept between the way Apprentices in Architects and how Crew in Raiders of the North Sea work, allowing for the same team-building mechanics that made Raiders such a hit.

However, Architects also carves its own niche in the worker placement genre with its unique implementation of the genre’s mechanics. The exponential power growth as you place workers allows you to plan ahead, and the limited blocking of spaces means most actions are constantly available to be taken advantage of. Pushing your luck to grab three or four of a particular resource isn’t unheard of, and if nobody feels the need to capture your workers you can often press the advantage enough to not need that spot for the rest of the game. Architects of the West Kingdom offers plenty of ways to get resources, especially silver which is plentiful between the Tax Stand, Silversmith and dropping off captured workers at the Gatehouse. The game gives you enough to think about to keep it interesting, but turns commence so quickly that you’ll often have another turn within a minute of your last turn concluding… even in the worst case.

You may feel like 20 workers is an obscene amount at the beginning of the game, but even the inverse of the above is a possible challenge: If nobody captures your workers, you may have to waste turns freeing them yourself, from spots that are no longer useful or risk running out of workers altogether. There are even ways to mitigate an embarrassment of riches with the King’s Storehouse, and its related Apprentices offer multiple ways to trade resources to gain points.

The constant assessment of how many workers you need, how many you can realistically recall, and how much to press your advantages presents a constant maelstrom of activity within the game, and the permanent commitment of sending a worker to build represents a significant outlay, one in which you need to ensure to take every possible advantage in order to not waste valuable workers. Building plans are also completely unique, which breeds more creativity in solving the problem of which combination of buildings to focus their efforts on. If the building plans don’t entice the player, the Cathedral mechanics offer an alternative way to accrue a potential slew of points, as well as blocking others from achieving the same heights.

Component quality is of a high standard, as we’ve come to expect from Garphill Games. The cards and game board are awash with a richness of theme, and the custom-shaped meeples and point trackers only add to the experience. Phillips has thought of every eventuality, from double-sided player boards to aid replay-ability, down to multiplier cards for mid-game resource scarcity. The insert is perfectly serviceable, and the box is perfectly adequate, even for adding extras from the Kickstarter. I’m slightly disappointed by the chosen card size as it is difficult to find good-fitting sleeves for them currently, but this is only a minor concern for me, and should be no concern at all for people who do not sleeve their cards. I will however mention that some of my cards have scuffed more easily than I would have liked, so this is something to watch out for if you shuffle more aggressively than the average person.

All in all I found Architects of the West Kingdom to be a much more rewarding experience than I initially gave it credit for. The game offers the same fulfilling choices as Raiders of the North Sea, while upping the stakes with implementation of the Virtue track. With proper exploitation, you can float near the bottom to ignore the taxation cost on certain spaces, then press your advantage by using the King’s Storehouse to buy back your honour, or use a lofty position to constantly write off debts while buying back workers every time they are captured.

Architects of the West Kingdom offers theme, form and substance in a concise package that offers not only decision making, but also adds impact to your decisions with plenty of ways for players to interact with one another. There is a genuine give and take with your choices, any of which could be the difference between victory and defeat. It is neither the most in-depth nor the most gateway worker placement I’ve ever played, but it sits in a nice spot balancing a 90-120 minute playtime with a large amount of decision making and player interaction.

Have you played Architects of the West Kingdom? It’s one of the many games (co-)designed by Shem Phillips and published by Garphill Games. You know the ones. They’re illustrated in that recognise-it-in-a-heartbeat style by Mihajlo Dimitrievski. (A.K.A. ‘The Mico’.) First came the North Sea trilogy – Shipwrights, Raiders, and Explorers. The second trilogy’s set in the West Kingdom!

Let’s travel back in time to 850 AD, to the Carolingian Empire. Let’s dust the mortar off our building blueprints, and construct landmarks to impress the king. We’re going to dabble in the black market, and send our goons out to capture rival workforces. Let’s sell them to the prison, and stick a medieval finger up at virtue! Let’s learn how to play: Architects of the West Kingdom…

Architects of the West Kingdom. What’s It All About?

Worker placement lies at the heart of Architects. It has an end-game trigger: when the Guildhall’s full of workers. This scales in accordance with player count. Once that Guildhall’s filled-all (*sigh* tedious rhyme time!), there’s one more round. Then it’s time to work out the end-game scoring.

There’s a range of differing means for earning – and losing! – points. You add it all up at the end; there’s no mid-game scoring track. This involves: constructing buildings, contributing towards the cathedral, your virtue, and leftover resources. But you can lose points for a lack of virtue, debts, and having workers in prison! So, let’s set it up and get cracking.

Setting Up… The Main Board

Unfold the main board. The small Black Market cards sit in the bottom-left corner, on the ‘Small Market’ space. Shuffle the Reward cards and count out two per player, plus one. (So seven, in a three-player game.) These sit face-down next to the Cathedral. Return the excess to the box. Debts and Multiplier cards are this small size, too; they sit off the board.

The Apprentice cards have blue backs and are a standard size. Shuffle them and reveal eight, placing them in the spaces on the bottom-right of the board. Leave the Apprentice deck face-down nearby. Building cards are the same size; they have green backs. Shuffle these and sit this deck face-down between the Black Market and the Workshop.

There’s a bunch of wooden components – clay, wood, stone, gold and marble. Sit these in piles off the board. Keep the silver (coins) chits alongside them. Remember to put four silver into the Tax Stand, as part of the set-up. (Please note: the retail version of Architects comes with standard cardboard coins. These photos show the ‘deluxe’ metal coins.)

Setting Up… For Players

Give everyone a Player Board in their chosen colour. They’re double-sided; one side offers asymmetrical player powers. First time playing? Stick to the default side, for now. Each player also gets 20 workers in their colour, plus two Player Markers. Everyone places one of these on spot ‘7’ of the Virtue Track. The other Marker sits beneath the Cathedral.

Deal each player four Building cards. Draft one to keep, then pass your remaining hand clockwise. Do this twice more, so everyone now has three cards. Everyone discards their fourth card. For the rest of the game, keep your Building cards secret from your opponents!

Last of all, pick the first player. (I use the smartphone app, Chwazi.) The first player starts with three silver. The second player gets four, the third player gets five, and so on and so forth. And now: boom! We’re ready to play Architects of the West Kingdom!

Placing Workers, And How Architects’ Pendulum Swings

The crux of a turn in Architects sees you place one of your workers onto the board at one of the locations. Accumulate your workers at a location over the game, and the strength of the action it provides tends to heighten, too.

The majority of locations have large ovals. Any number of workers can visit here; there’s no limit. Workers don’t stay on the board forever, though. Part of Architect’s pendulum is figuring out how and when to get your workers back, off the board. If you run out of workers, your turn is a meagre act of retrieving one worker back to your supply. Try not to let this happen, though!

The Guildhall is different, though. Notice how the spaces here are silhouettes of the workers (on their backs), themselves? Once you send a worker here, they’re here for good. This is a permanent investment. Your aim should be to send some workers here – and I’ll tell you why! – but first, let’s start simple…

Bread And Butter: Earning Basic Resources

There are four locations where you earn resources in a legitimate nature. Place one worker in the Quarry, earn one stone. On a later turn, place another worker in the Quarry – so now you have two workers there – you earn two stone. Place a third there and you earn three. It’s the same with the Forest and wood. (It doesn’t matter about opponents’ workers at that spot – only your own.)

The Mines payout one clay, plus one extra for each of your workers there. Instead, you can earn one gold for every two of your workers at the Mines. It’s one or the other; not a combination of both. Gold is a hard-to-come-across resource (like real life)! The Silversmith is similar – one silver, plus one extra silver for each of your workers there. But, if you’d rather get rich quick, send a worker to ransack the takings inside the Tax Stand! Coins build up here throughout the game. Of course, this is not the noblest of moves. Do this, and you slip two places on the Virtue Track.

The Perks Of Being Virtuous

Virtue Track, you say? It swings from 0-14. You might fall down it and climb back up across the duration. The higher you are at the end, the more points you’ll score (7VP at most, or lose -9VP if you’re at the bottom)! This acts as a measure of how virtuous you are. There are some actions you cannot perform depending on your current status.

Are you a goody-two-shoes (10 or above)? You can’t steal from the Tax Stand right now. Sitting at 4 or below? You’re too corrupt and cannot contribute to the Cathedral until you clean up your act. Every time you’d lose Virtue that takes you below zero, you have to take a Debt card. Every time you’d gain Virtue that takes you above 14, you get to destroy a Debt.

The King’s Storehouse is a centre for trade. You can perform one action for every worker you have here. The trades are swap (either) 2x stone/2x wood/2x clay for 1x movement up the Virtue Track. Or, you can swap (either) 3x stone/3x wood for 1x marble. Like gold, marble is a rare resource.

Every Architect Needs An Apprentice

What are you supposed to do with these resources, then? Check the Building cards you drafted during set-up. They’re not going to build themselves! And hey, aren’t you some kind of architect? Your Buildings have a range of required resources on them. You need to pay in this quota at the Guildhall to build it. Along the top, there might be one, two, three (or zero) icons (referring to carpentry/tiling/masonry). This indicates which Apprentices you also need to construct that building. So before we visit the Guildhall, let’s look at how you hire Apprentices.

Working Hard Or Hardly Working

There are two possible actions at the Workshop. One is paying 4x silver (2x to Tax, 2x to the supply) to take an Apprentice card. They’re in four columns of two. When you place your first worker here, you can claim any Apprentice in the first column. Place your second worker here and now you can buy any card from the first two columns. You get the idea! Whenever anyone hires an Apprentice, all the cards in that row shuffle along. A new one sits in the furthest-right space.

Sometimes you’ll want an Apprentice because of their (say, carpentry) symbol. Others might appeal because they provide you with an ongoing bonus every time you visit a stated location. The Pickpocket, for example, provides you with an extra gold every time you visit the Tax Stand! But this, and other Apprentices who dabble on the nefarious side of the law, could lose you 1x Virtue.

Need an Apprentice at the end of the queue right now? Pay an additional silver to skip over cards (starting with the left-most) to reach the one you want. Later, if someone hires that skipped card, they’ll scoop up the coin(s) on it. Cashback! You can hire duplicate Apprentices, but never more than 5x Apprentices in total. You have to discard back down to five.

The alternative action at the Workshop is you can claim 1x Building card. You’ll earn an extra x1 Building card for every 2x workers you have here. You’ll need cards in hand so you can make some long- (or short-) term plans. Your hand limit is 6x cards. Discard down, if necessary.

Throw Away The Key

In Architects of the West Kingdom, visit the Town Centre and pay 1x silver (to Tax) to capture opponents’ workers! Take a group of workers (of one colour) from any one board location. (Not the Guildhall, Black Market, or in prison.) You can capture a different group of workers from any (or the same) location, for every additional worker you have at the Town Centre. You pay 1x silver per time (only the first coin gets Taxed). Captured workers then sit on your Player Board. You can ‘capture’ your own workers in this manner, too. They return to your stash of remaining workers, though.

What to do with captured workers, then? Why, throw them in prison, of course! Visit the Guardhouse to accomplish this. You earn 1x silver per worker you ‘throw’ into prison. (You have to send all your captured workers to prison; not a select few.) You get to perform 1x action at the Guardhouse for every worker you have present there. The others, you ask…?

Instead, at the Guardhouse, you can release all your workers from prison. (This is a key way in getting workers back into your supply. 20 workers sounds like a lot… But it’s amazing how quick you use them!) A third option: you can pay 5x silver (2x of these to Tax) to retrieve your workers trapped on a Player Board. (Or, you can lose 1x Virtue and take 1x Debt to do this.) The final option is to pay 6x silver (3x of these to Tax) to pay off a Debt and earn 1x Virtue.

Dodgy Deals In The Rough Side Of Town

At the bottom of the board lies the Black Market. This is a dirty means of getting your grubby mitts on rare resources! There are three single spots available, which correspond to the action beneath it.

The left-most costs 1x silver and you lose 1x Virtue. You gain the resources stated on the face-up card in the ‘smaller’ of the markets. (Or the default resources printed on the board, if the deck runs out.) The right-most space costs 3x silver and 1x Virtue and you gain the resources stated on the ‘larger’ market. The middle space costs 2x silver and 1x virtue. It has two options. You can hire any Apprentice (among the eight) for free. Or, you can take 5x Building cards, pick 1x, and discard the other 4x cards.

The Black Market is not a ‘worker accumulation’ space, like the others. These three spaces are first-come, first served. When the third worker arrives here, a Black Market Reset occurs. This means all 3x workers on the Black Market spaces get sent to the prison. If players have three or more workers in prison now, they lose 1x virtue. Then flip the top card in the ‘small’ market and sit it on the ‘large’ market space. Now the markets offer different goodies! Then the player(s) with the most workers in prison take 1x Debt.

All About Dat Guildhall

You’re juggling all the above so you can visit the Guildhall! Workers sit in the Guildhall’s next-available space along the rows, starting top-left. Once the Guildhall fills up to the start of the third and fourth row, this also triggers a Black Market Reset. (Even if the Black Market isn’t full at this moment.)

Send one worker to the Guildhall and complete a Building from your hand. Pay in the resources and check you have the correct Apprentices. (Keep the Apprentices, though.) Buildings earn you end-game VPs. Some buildings provide an immediate reward (depicted by a lightning bolt symbol). Others provide end-game scoring, for set collection purposes (depicted by a flag symbol). Some Buildings earn (or cost) you Virtue, too.

Instead, you can send a worker to the Guildhall to contribute towards the Cathedral. It has numerous levels, each with required resources you have to pay. You have to discard 1x Building card (from your hand) and then pay the allocated resources (not the ones on the card itself). Required resources increase in quantity and rarity with each passing level. There are limited spaces available in the Cathedral levels. Leave it too long and you could miss out! Only one player can fulfil the top spot – 2x gold and 2x marble – worth 20VP. Once you’ve contributed, claim the top Reward card, and receive a mystery prize.

Time To Get Out The Calculator!

When the Guildhall’s full (according to your player count), this triggers the end-game. Everyone (including the player that placed that Guildhall worker) gets one more turn. Then you add up your scores! Get a notepad ready, or your phone’s calculator. There’s no points track on the board.

You score points for:

• The face-value of your Building cards, plus any set-collection bonuses they provide.

• Depending on your level in the Cathedral, you’ll score between 0-20 points.

• Your final spot on the Virtue track. (Note that some cards offer end-game Virtue if you meet certain conditions. This can bump you up into scoring more points!)

• 1x VP for every excess gold you have leftover, as well as 1VP per excess marble.

• 1x VP for every 10 silver you have left.

You lose points for:

• -2VP per unpaid Debt you have left.

• If you’re in the lower regions of the Virtue track. 

• -1VP for every 2x workers you have in prison at the end of the game.

Add it all up, and the player with the most points wins Architects of the West Kingdom!

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.

Solo Differences

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

Replayability

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.

Alright, time for some disclosures. This game has given me a lot of joy over the years. It introduced me to Garphill Games as a company and opened up my board gaming world of their historical trilogies. I have gone pretty deep into these games, backing a lot of the most recent releases, looking at the expansions and Collectors edition boxes to keep it all in, with the colourful Folded Space inserts to boot. To say I’m a fan is an understatement. Yeah, I love this game. But if you’re undecided on Architects of the West Kingdom, let me give you a rundown.

The Game

Architects of the West Kingdom is a worker placement game with a bit of a twist. You see, most of the spots you can place your workers onto are open, so you and your opponents can share these. The exceptions are in the Black Market and Guildhall, but we won’t worry about that too much. Each time you place a worker to a spot, you can gain the benefit which increases by the number of workers you have there. Which is handy, given that you start with 20 workers.
Throughout the game, you can gather resources, cards, build buildings, hire Townsfolk, arrest your opponent’s workers to hinder their engine and then lock them up for money. Of course, your opponents can do the same, which makes it an interesting push and pull between attacking them and making your engine efficient yet not attractive to being attacked.
Once the Guildhall has been filled, by players permanently banishing their workers to build buildings or the Cathedral, the game comes to an end after a final round. Total up your points and the game is over. Most points wins.

Final Thoughts

It will surprise no one to hear that this is a huge hit for me. I love this game completely; it is one of my favourites. I’ve always enjoyed worker placement games, but this took it to the next level with the worker investment. It feels very thematic, and the mechanisms make sense as you build out the kingdom. Of course, you’ll get more clay from the mine if you add more people. If you dig deep enough, you might find gold!
You can go the black market, sure, but if you do, it will lower your reputation. If you lower your reputation, they won’t let you build at the cathedral. Conversely, if you get too high a reputation, you can’t be seen cavorting around with the criminal underworld, so you avoid the black market like the plague. Also, if you find yourself in prison when the black-market resets, if you have the most workers there, you’ll be gaining debt. Pay off the debt? Well, that’ll boost your reputation again. It all makes sense!
I really love this as an introduction to the West Kingdom series. It sets the groundwork for the world you’re in, and gives you a fast-paced game, with a lot of variety and strategy. There’s a pair of expansions which give you even more to explore, along with the Tomesaga which lets you play the West Kingdom Trilogy as either co-operative games, or as a single campaign. I do think the game is best at a higher player count, 3 or 4, really, but the solo mode is fantastic and if you want, you can use it to simulate a really mean 3rd player in a two-player game. If you’ve been looking for a light to mid-weight game which will lead you to a whole series of games, I can highly recommend Architects of the West Kingdom.

Architects of the west kingdom how to play

Have you played Architects of the West Kingdom? It’s one of the many games (co-)designed by Shem Phillips and published by Garphill Games. You know the ones. They’re illustrated in that recognise-it-in-a-heartbeat style by Mihajlo Dimitrievski. (A.K.A. ‘The Mico’.) First came the North Sea trilogy – Shipwrights, Raiders, and Explorers. The second trilogy’s set in the West Kingdom!

Let’s travel back in time to 850 AD, to the Carolingian Empire. Let’s dust the mortar off our building blueprints, and construct landmarks to impress the king. We’re going to dabble in the black market, and send our goons out to capture rival workforces. Let’s sell them to the prison, and stick a medieval finger up at virtue! Let’s learn how to play: Architects of the West Kingdom…

Architects of the West Kingdom. What’s It All About?

Worker placement lies at the heart of Architects. It has an end-game trigger: when the Guildhall’s full of workers. This scales in accordance with player count. Once that Guildhall’s filled-all (*sigh* tedious rhyme time!), there’s one more round. Then it’s time to work out the end-game scoring.

There’s a range of differing means for earning – and losing! – points. You add it all up at the end; there’s no mid-game scoring track. This involves: constructing buildings, contributing towards the cathedral, your virtue, and leftover resources. But you can lose points for a lack of virtue, debts, and having workers in prison! So, let’s set it up and get cracking.

Architects of the west kingdom resources

Setting Up… The Main Board

Unfold the main board. The small Black Market cards sit in the bottom-left corner, on the ‘Small Market’ space. Shuffle the Reward cards and count out two per player, plus one. (So seven, in a three-player game.) These sit face-down next to the Cathedral. Return the excess to the box. Debts and Multiplier cards are this small size, too; they sit off the board.

The Apprentice cards have blue backs and are a standard size. Shuffle them and reveal eight, placing them in the spaces on the bottom-right of the board. Leave the Apprentice deck face-down nearby. Building cards are the same size; they have green backs. Shuffle these and sit this deck face-down between the Black Market and the Workshop.

There’s a bunch of wooden components – clay, wood, stone, gold and marble. Sit these in piles off the board. Keep the silver (coins) chits alongside them. Remember to put four silver into the Tax Stand, as part of the set-up. (Please note: the retail version of Architects comes with standard cardboard coins. These photos show the ‘deluxe’ metal coins.)

Setting Up… For Players

Give everyone a Player Board in their chosen colour. They’re double-sided; one side offers asymmetrical player powers. First time playing? Stick to the default side, for now. Each player also gets 20 workers in their colour, plus two Player Markers. Everyone places one of these on spot ‘7’ of the Virtue Track. The other Marker sits beneath the Cathedral.

Deal each player four Building cards. Draft one to keep, then pass your remaining hand clockwise. Do this twice more, so everyone now has three cards. Everyone discards their fourth card. For the rest of the game, keep your Building cards secret from your opponents!

Last of all, pick the first player. (I use the smartphone app, Chwazi.) The first player starts with three silver. The second player gets four, the third player gets five, and so on and so forth. And now: boom! We’re ready to play Architects of the West Kingdom!

Architects of the West Kingdom player board

Placing Workers, And How Architects’ Pendulum Swings

The crux of a turn in Architects sees you place one of your workers onto the board at one of the locations. Accumulate your workers at a location over the game, and the strength of the action it provides tends to heighten, too.

The majority of locations have large ovals. Any number of workers can visit here; there’s no limit. Workers don’t stay on the board forever, though. Part of Architect’s pendulum is figuring out how and when to get your workers back, off the board. If you run out of workers, your turn is a meagre act of retrieving one worker back to your supply. Try not to let this happen, though!

The Guildhall is different, though. Notice how the spaces here are silhouettes of the workers (on their backs), themselves? Once you send a worker here, they’re here for good. This is a permanent investment. Your aim should be to send some workers here – and I’ll tell you why! – but first, let’s start simple…

Bread And Butter: Earning Basic Resources

There are four locations where you earn resources in a legitimate nature. Place one worker in the Quarry, earn one stone. On a later turn, place another worker in the Quarry – so now you have two workers there – you earn two stone. Place a third there and you earn three. It’s the same with the Forest and wood. (It doesn’t matter about opponents’ workers at that spot – only your own.)

The Mines payout one clay, plus one extra for each of your workers there. Instead, you can earn one gold for every two of your workers at the Mines. It’s one or the other; not a combination of both. Gold is a hard-to-come-across resource (like real life)! The Silversmith is similar – one silver, plus one extra silver for each of your workers there. But, if you’d rather get rich quick, send a worker to ransack the takings inside the Tax Stand! Coins build up here throughout the game. Of course, this is not the noblest of moves. Do this, and you slip two places on the Virtue Track.

The Perks Of Being Virtuous

Virtue Track, you say? It swings from 0-14. You might fall down it and climb back up across the duration. The higher you are at the end, the more points you’ll score (7VP at most, or lose -9VP if you’re at the bottom)! This acts as a measure of how virtuous you are. There are some actions you cannot perform depending on your current status.

Are you a goody-two-shoes (10 or above)? You can’t steal from the Tax Stand right now. Sitting at 4 or below? You’re too corrupt and cannot contribute to the Cathedral until you clean up your act. Every time you’d lose Virtue that takes you below zero, you have to take a Debt card. Every time you’d gain Virtue that takes you above 14, you get to destroy a Debt.

The King’s Storehouse is a centre for trade. You can perform one action for every worker you have here. The trades are swap (either) 2x stone/2x wood/2x clay for 1x movement up the Virtue Track. Or, you can swap (either) 3x stone/3x wood for 1x marble. Like gold, marble is a rare resource.

Architects of the West Kingdom apprentices

Every Architect Needs An Apprentice

What are you supposed to do with these resources, then? Check the Building cards you drafted during set-up. They’re not going to build themselves! And hey, aren’t you some kind of architect? Your Buildings have a range of required resources on them. You need to pay in this quota at the Guildhall to build it. Along the top, there might be one, two, three (or zero) icons (referring to carpentry/tiling/masonry). This indicates which Apprentices you also need to construct that building. So before we visit the Guildhall, let’s look at how you hire Apprentices.

Working Hard Or Hardly Working

There are two possible actions at the Workshop. One is paying 4x silver (2x to Tax, 2x to the supply) to take an Apprentice card. They’re in four columns of two. When you place your first worker here, you can claim any Apprentice in the first column. Place your second worker here and now you can buy any card from the first two columns. You get the idea! Whenever anyone hires an Apprentice, all the cards in that row shuffle along. A new one sits in the furthest-right space.

Sometimes you’ll want an Apprentice because of their (say, carpentry) symbol. Others might appeal because they provide you with an ongoing bonus every time you visit a stated location. The Pickpocket, for example, provides you with an extra gold every time you visit the Tax Stand! But this, and other Apprentices who dabble on the nefarious side of the law, could lose you 1x Virtue.

Need an Apprentice at the end of the queue right now? Pay an additional silver to skip over cards (starting with the left-most) to reach the one you want. Later, if someone hires that skipped card, they’ll scoop up the coin(s) on it. Cashback! You can hire duplicate Apprentices, but never more than 5x Apprentices in total. You have to discard back down to five.

The alternative action at the Workshop is you can claim 1x Building card. You’ll earn an extra x1 Building card for every 2x workers you have here. You’ll need cards in hand so you can make some long- (or short-) term plans. Your hand limit is 6x cards. Discard down, if necessary.

Throw Away The Key

In Architects of the West Kingdom, visit the Town Centre and pay 1x silver (to Tax) to capture opponents’ workers! Take a group of workers (of one colour) from any one board location. (Not the Guildhall, Black Market, or in prison.) You can capture a different group of workers from any (or the same) location, for every additional worker you have at the Town Centre. You pay 1x silver per time (only the first coin gets Taxed). Captured workers then sit on your Player Board. You can ‘capture’ your own workers in this manner, too. They return to your stash of remaining workers, though.

What to do with captured workers, then? Why, throw them in prison, of course! Visit the Guardhouse to accomplish this. You earn 1x silver per worker you ‘throw’ into prison. (You have to send all your captured workers to prison; not a select few.) You get to perform 1x action at the Guardhouse for every worker you have present there. The others, you ask…?

Instead, at the Guardhouse, you can release all your workers from prison. (This is a key way in getting workers back into your supply. 20 workers sounds like a lot… But it’s amazing how quick you use them!) A third option: you can pay 5x silver (2x of these to Tax) to retrieve your workers trapped on a Player Board. (Or, you can lose 1x Virtue and take 1x Debt to do this.) The final option is to pay 6x silver (3x of these to Tax) to pay off a Debt and earn 1x Virtue.

Architects of the West Kingdom box and board

Dodgy Deals In The Rough Side Of Town

At the bottom of the board lies the Black Market. This is a dirty means of getting your grubby mitts on rare resources! There are three single spots available, which correspond to the action beneath it.

The left-most costs 1x silver and you lose 1x Virtue. You gain the resources stated on the face-up card in the ‘smaller’ of the markets. (Or the default resources printed on the board, if the deck runs out.) The right-most space costs 3x silver and 1x Virtue and you gain the resources stated on the ‘larger’ market. The middle space costs 2x silver and 1x virtue. It has two options. You can hire any Apprentice (among the eight) for free. Or, you can take 5x Building cards, pick 1x, and discard the other 4x cards.

The Black Market is not a ‘worker accumulation’ space, like the others. These three spaces are first-come, first served. When the third worker arrives here, a Black Market Reset occurs. This means all 3x workers on the Black Market spaces get sent to the prison. If players have three or more workers in prison now, they lose 1x virtue. Then flip the top card in the ‘small’ market and sit it on the ‘large’ market space. Now the markets offer different goodies! Then the player(s) with the most workers in prison take 1x Debt.

All About Dat Guildhall

You’re juggling all the above so you can visit the Guildhall! Workers sit in the Guildhall’s next-available space along the rows, starting top-left. Once the Guildhall fills up to the start of the third and fourth row, this also triggers a Black Market Reset. (Even if the Black Market isn’t full at this moment.)

Send one worker to the Guildhall and complete a Building from your hand. Pay in the resources and check you have the correct Apprentices. (Keep the Apprentices, though.) Buildings earn you end-game VPs. Some buildings provide an immediate reward (depicted by a lightning bolt symbol). Others provide end-game scoring, for set collection purposes (depicted by a flag symbol). Some Buildings earn (or cost) you Virtue, too.

Instead, you can send a worker to the Guildhall to contribute towards the Cathedral. It has numerous levels, each with required resources you have to pay. You have to discard 1x Building card (from your hand) and then pay the allocated resources (not the ones on the card itself). Required resources increase in quantity and rarity with each passing level. There are limited spaces available in the Cathedral levels. Leave it too long and you could miss out! Only one player can fulfil the top spot – 2x gold and 2x marble – worth 20VP. Once you’ve contributed, claim the top Reward card, and receive a mystery prize.

Architects of the West Kingdom master shot angle

Time To Get Out The Calculator!

When the Guildhall’s full (according to your player count), this triggers the end-game. Everyone (including the player that placed that Guildhall worker) gets one more turn. Then you add up your scores! Get a notepad ready, or your phone’s calculator. There’s no points track on the board.

You score points for:

  • The face-value of your Building cards, plus any set-collection bonuses they provide.
  • Depending on your level in the Cathedral, you’ll score between 0-20 points.
  • Your final spot on the Virtue track. (Note that some cards offer end-game Virtue if you meet certain conditions. This can bump you up into scoring more points!)
  • 1x VP for every excess gold you have leftover, as well as 1VP per excess marble.
  • 1x VP for every 10 silver you have left.

You lose points for:

  • -2VP per unpaid Debt you have left.
  • If you’re in the lower regions of the Virtue track.
  • -1VP for every 2x workers you have in prison at the end of the game.

Add it all up, and the player with the most points wins Architects of the West Kingdom!

 

 

Zatu Score

Rating

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

You might like

  • This is you enjoy other Garphill Games titles, such as Raiders of the North Sea.
  • Shorter playing time.
  • Small footprint.

Might not like

  • This is you prefer heavier worker placement games like Viticulture.
  • Worker placement games.