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Paladins of the West Kingdom – Retail Edition

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RRP £54.99
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Paladins of the West Kingdom is a heavy weight worker placement game with a card drafting element.The game is set in West Francia around 900AD. Players take on the role of nobles, gathering workers to defend their city against the threat of invasion, building fortifications and spreading their faith out into the nearby lands. The nobles are also assisted by Paladins, sent by the Kin…
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Paladins of the West Kingdom is a heavy weight worker placement game with a card drafting element.

The game is set in West Francia around 900AD. Players take on the role of nobles, gathering workers to defend their city against the threat of invasion, building fortifications and spreading their faith out into the nearby lands. The nobles are also assisted by Paladins, sent by the King to help in this time of trouble. Each Paladin has their own specialism and bonus.

In Paladins players do not have their own colour of workers. Instead, at the start of each turn they will draw workers depending on the Paladin card and tavern card they choose. The cards display different colours of workers, and the different workers have different roles.

Once players have drawn their workers they can then start placing them on their player board. Some spaces can only be used by workers of a specific colour, whereas other spaces have a translucent meeple outline on them. This means any worker can be placed there. Many spaces give players a bonus, either in goods, another meeple to use, or to help them progress along one of the attribute tracks – faith, strength and influence.

Players are trying to have as many victory points as possible at the end of the game. Points come from a variety of sources, including from moving up the attribute track, various actions (if more than a specific number have been completed in the game), and from converting Outsiders (which award you bonus points). The game is played over seven rounds. At the end of the seventh round points are added up and whoever has the most points is declared the winner.

This is the second game in the West Kingdom trilogy.

Players: 1 – 4
Time: 90 – 120 minutes
Age: 12+

Awards

Rating

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

You Might Like

  • Interesting twist on worker placement.
  • Puzzle-like feel to the game.
  • Ability to focus on one strategy.
  • High replayability to try out different strategies.
  • A lot of game in a smaller box.

Might Not Like

  • Gameplay not particularly tied to the theme.
  • Not high scoring.
  • Limited player interaction.
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Description

Paladins of the West Kingdom is a heavy weight worker placement game with a card drafting element.

The game is set in West Francia around 900AD. Players take on the role of nobles, gathering workers to defend their city against the threat of invasion, building fortifications and spreading their faith out into the nearby lands. The nobles are also assisted by Paladins, sent by the King to help in this time of trouble. Each Paladin has their own specialism and bonus.

In Paladins players do not have their own colour of workers. Instead, at the start of each turn they will draw workers depending on the Paladin card and tavern card they choose. The cards display different colours of workers, and the different workers have different roles.

Once players have drawn their workers they can then start placing them on their player board. Some spaces can only be used by workers of a specific colour, whereas other spaces have a translucent meeple outline on them. This means any worker can be placed there. Many spaces give players a bonus, either in goods, another meeple to use, or to help them progress along one of the attribute tracks - faith, strength and influence.

Players are trying to have as many victory points as possible at the end of the game. Points come from a variety of sources, including from moving up the attribute track, various actions (if more than a specific number have been completed in the game), and from converting Outsiders (which award you bonus points). The game is played over seven rounds. At the end of the seventh round points are added up and whoever has the most points is declared the winner.

This is the second game in the West Kingdom trilogy.

Players: 1 - 4
Time: 90 - 120 minutes
Age: 12+

Paladins of the West Kingdom is the second game in The West Kingdom series of games. This series, like the North Sea trilogy, is designed by Shem Phillips. Paladins, as with the other West Kingdom games, take the well known and loved mechanism of worker placement and add an interesting twist.

Very rarely in my board gaming journey, have I found a game that I have fallen for by turn three. Yes, this might be a spoiler for the rest of my review, but Paladins is such a game for me!

The Paladins Approach

In Paladins of the West Kingdom, players are noble men and women, trying to fortify their city. They are seeking to defend it against enemies and spread faith throughout the land. But they are not alone in this quest, for the King has sent his Paladins to assist. Each Paladin has a special ability that will help players throughout the game.

At the start of each round, players draw three paladin cards and select one to help them that round. The paladin card gives a player three things. Firstly, it sets out your special ability for the round.  Secondly, it shows two workers which the player should acquire.  Finally, it gives you bonuses to one or two of your attributes (strength, faith, and influence). The bonus lasts for that round only, although there are ways to permanently boost your stats.

The game is played over seven rounds. In each of the first three rounds, a King’s Order card is revealed. If players manage to take five of the depicted actions they will gain victory points at the end of the game. In the last five rounds, a King’s Favour card is revealed. This gives players an extra action they can take. These actions are open to all the players and are often one use only. This can lead to some blocking between the players.

So Far So Ordinary…

In traditional worker placement games, each player starts the round with a set number of workers in their colour. Over the course of the round, these are placed on different spaces. Players are then able to take the action associated with that space. Some games (such as Viticulture) have workers with special abilities.

Paladins of the West Kingdom treats workers in a different way. For a start, whilst there are different coloured workers, these are not linked to a player colour. Instead, the various colours represent different specialisms of workers. For example, the blue workers are merchants, whereas the black workers are clerics. Some spaces on your board can only be occupied by workers of a specific colour. This is often the case where the action is a more specialised task. Other spaces have no colour. You can place workers of any colour, including the white labourers, on these spots.

As well as the workers gained from their paladin card, players can also take workers from the tavern. At the start of each round, tavern cards are drawn equal to the number of players plus one. Each card shows four workers of varying colours. Players then, in turn order, choose a tavern card and draw the workers shown.

This is where, for me, Paladins shines. Instead of having to worry about whether a spot is free for your worker, you now have to make sure you have the right colour workers. Many spots need two or even three workers. Players therefore also need to make sure they have enough workers left to do what they want.

Fighting For Space?

I will accept, you do have to worry less about a space being available than in other worker placement games. Each player has their own board with action spaces on it. The King’s Favour cards do offer contestable spots. However, in the main, players will be making use of action spots on their own board.

Some people may find this leads the game towards feeling like multiplayer solitaire, and there is some element of this. But, there are other interaction opportunities. Players can take townsfolk or outsiders, removing them from the game for other players. There are also opportunities to block your opponent on the main board, preventing them from gaining the bonus they wanted. Whilst you focus on your own board in the main, there are opportunities for interaction.

Defending Your City

The player board is broadly split into two sides. One where the actions are focused on acquiring goods or workers. The other side is focused on the main actions which gain you points.

The actions are split into two rows of three. To carry out each action requires a certain score in one of the three attributes. There also might be a resource cost to pay. When you carry out an action you will get rewarded with an increase in a different attribute. The top and bottom actions in a column are linked. For example, the top may require influence of a certain level and reward you with strength; whilst the bottom action requires a number of strength, and rewards you with influence.

In the first few playthroughs, I found I had to fight an urge to do a little bit of everything. The problem with this approach is then you end up doing nothing well. In many euro games you are rewarded in a point salad style, with points for doing everything. Not so in Paladins. Here you have to get several buildings out, or actions completed to even get one point.

Instead, Paladins of the West Kingdom requires a focus. I tend to find that for most of the game I am focused on one column of actions alongside gathering resources. It is also important to make sure to develop. This reduces the cost of your actions from three workers down to one. This, in turn, means you can do more actions each turn. I am not saying you can only focus on two main actions throughout the whole of the game. You can focus on a broader range, but I have found this is the best way to score points.

Points Scoring

One thing that some people may not enjoy is the low scoring nature of Paladins of the West Kingdom. It can feel like you have to do a lot to get a few points.  Even if you manage to get all your garrison buildings out, you still only get nine points. This can seem like a minor reward for the many parts needed to get those seven garrison buildings out in the first place.

Yes, this can seem disheartening at first, when often games can score points in the hundreds. You are not in any danger of getting close to a hundred points in a game of Paladins! But, once you accept that your opponent is not going to be getting huge scores either, you can take it more at face value. With Paladins, as with many games, some of the challenge of the first few games is actually finding out what a good score is.

The Final Score

As I mentioned at the start of my review, Paladins of the West Kingdom is a game I was in love with by turn three. I am a huge fan of puzzley, engine builder games. So Paladins ticked all my boxes.  I enjoy trying to plan moves to make the best combos possible.  It is satisfying to chain together turns where you take an action, to gain workers, so you can take more actions.

One word of warning would be that this game can induce analysis paralysis. Because you are trying to optimise your turns, and chain things together, it can take a little time to plan your moves.  Especially the first few times you play the game, the number of choices can seem overwhelming. I do think that if you focus and specialise a little more the game does seem a little easier. Although, of course, some analysis paralysis will remain given the nature of the game.

And yes, if you are looking for a thematic game Paladins is not it. Whilst the theme is cool, ultimately, the game just boils down to a puzzle. As with many euro-style games, moving a red or blue marker isn’t hugely thematic. But that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment or the immersion of the game. I might not be immersed in a medieval theme, but I definitely do find myself getting lost in the enjoyment of the puzzle the game presents.

If you are looking for a twist on worker placement, or if you enjoy games with an efficiency puzzle, you will enjoy Paladins. I know I’m biased but, if you enjoy any of the other Garphil games, check Paladins of the West Kingdom out.

Armour on, swords drawn

If you’re a fan of medium to heavy weight games and you want to get a full experience, might I suggest that you don your armour and take on the mighty dragon that is the AI in Paladins of the West Kingdom. It is 900 AD, and the city needs to be developed and protected from enemies. Whilst the game itself has a wonderful feel at 2 to 4 players, sometimes, you can’t get the numbers together. Or you want to learn the game in a stress-free environment so you can teach it at a later date. I talked about the Architects of the West Kingdom solo game before, so now let’s go forward in time to the second game in the series!

Solo Differences

Paladins plays exactly the same for the human player – taking your turn by playing a certain number of workers out to the different action spots and competing them as necessary. Between your turns though, you’ll have an AI to deal with. Happily, this AI isn’t too tricky to manage. First you need to set it up by flipping over one of the player boards to the AI side, then stack the Attribute Markers at zero, with blue Influence at the bottom, black Faith in the middle and red Strength on top. Put the Resource Marker on the far-left spot of the track, then set aside the 5 “King’s Favour” scheme cards. Shuffle the remainder of the scheme cards and place the deck face down on the right spot for the cards. Place out the Monks, Outposts and Absolves on the AI board as usual.

Next, decide on your difficulty. Shuffle the six King’s Order cards and deal out a number depending on the difficulty. One for an easy game, three for a standard game and five for a hard experience. Whichever of the King’s Order cards you reveal, place a Workshop on the relevant action space. Shuffle the cards again and place them out on the main board as usual, only this time, place a Workshop on top of each card. On top of each King’s Favour cards, put one of the King’s Favour Scheme cards on top of it. Now you’re ready to play.

On rounds 1 to 3, you will add the AI Workshop sat on the King’s Order cards to the action space matching the revealed King’s Order. This makes the action easier for the AI to complete. On rounds 3-7, add the King’s Favour Scheme card to the Scheme Discard pile (the spot to the left of the Scheme deck.) In the Tavern step, only reveal two cards and choose one for yourself. The AI player doesn’t get the workers from Tavern cards, but instead they get three plus the current round number. The colour doesn’t matter, all workers are the same to the AI. They will get a Suspicion per purple Criminal gained, including on the unchosen Tavern card.

There are a few specifics you need to be aware of, like the AI not gaining Provisions, Silver or Tax, instead moving up the resource track, which can impact the target of recruiting Townsfolk, King’s Favour cards and converting or attacking Outsiders. Since the AI doesn’t gain resources, it also doesn’t need them to undertake certain actions that have a resource costs.

Now for the gameplay – You will always take the first turn in a round, then you’ll flip over a scheme card, triggering an action. Place the number of workers required on the relevant action space and do the action as you would for yourself. However, if you are unable to take the action for the AI, either due to a lack of workers or the space is already blocked, you instead take the first available action across the top of the AI board. Once the AI turn has finished, you take a turn and keep going until you pass. The AI keeps going until it either runs out of workers or it ends up taking the Rest action.

The rulebook has a breakdown on each of the actions which I won’t go into because I’ve already waffled on a fair bit, but for the most part the actions work the same way for the AI as they do for you. At the end of the round, the AI player returns any leftover workers to the supply and leaves the Scheme cards as they are between rounds. Also discard the second-right-most Townsfolk card and second-left-most Outsider card as well as the ones you usually get rid of at the end of the round.

After 7 rounds have completed, you will score the same way for your AI opponent as you do for yourself. Most points wins!

Final Thoughts

I absolutely adore the West Kingdom series. I think the games are fantastic and the solo modes are incredibly well thought out. I think they’re great to learn the games without a huge amount of admin that distracts from the gameplay for the player. Paladins is the heaviest of the three, in my opinion, and it does have the most upkeep that you must deal with whilst playing. But really, I don’t mind that at all. I like having an opponent that I score against and having one that I have to work on to keep track of how they’re doing, which gives me something to compete against.

I really like playing Paladins because it gives me a real brain workout, trying to stretch my turns as much as possible and getting the benefits to score. We’ve had a lot of thoughts on Paladins in the Zatu regular review, which I largely agree with and I think the solo mode gets rid of one of the biggest hiccups of the multiplayer game which is: ANALYSIS PARALYSIS! I mean, specifically the AP of your opponent. It’s a good solo mode, but it can’t solve your issues. Sorry about that. Because the Scheme cards are pretty easy to understand, just stating the action the AI is taking, you know how things are going to go. If you can do the action, you do this thing. If not, you do this one. The iconography is clear on the board and if you need to check something, it’s a pretty straightforward look up in the rule book.

If you like Paladins of the West Kingdom, but don’t like how long it takes for your significant other to take their turn, maybe consider playing the solo mode. Maybe encourage them to do the same. You learn twice as fast what every action does when you’re taking your own turn and your opponents at the same time. Worst case scenario, you’ll have played a lovely game.

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.

The Game

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Zatu Score

Rating

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

You might like

  • Interesting twist on worker placement.
  • Puzzle-like feel to the game.
  • Ability to focus on one strategy.
  • High replayability to try out different strategies.
  • A lot of game in a smaller box.

Might not like

  • Gameplay not particularly tied to the theme.
  • Not high scoring.
  • Limited player interaction.