Red Cathedral

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Autumn is not the best time to climb up on a scaffold in Moscow, but it is still far better than doing so in the winter. Tsar Ivan wants to see results and our team will prove to him that we are the best builders in the city. We are sure to finish off those decorative arches with the brightest shining stones and ensure our place on the list of the government’s trusted workers. She…
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Category Tags , , SKU Z-THKO-BGRECML Availability 3+ in stock
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Golden Pear


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

You Might Like

  • A great introduction to euro-style gaming
  • The box is packed with high quality playing pieces
  • The collection of resources isn’t solely reliant on rolling a dice
  • The end of game scoring adds a clever tactical twist

Might Not Like

  • The cathedral isn’t the star of the show
  • Lots of components means set-up and take-down time can be long
  • Recognition points and prestige points may be easily confused by some at first
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Autumn is not the best time to climb up on a scaffold in Moscow, but it is still far better than doing so in the winter. Tsar Ivan wants to see results and our team will prove to him that we are the best builders in the city. We are sure to finish off those decorative arches with the brightest shining stones and ensure our place on the list of the government’s trusted workers.

Sheila Santos and Israel Cendrero make up the game designing duo known as Llama Dice. To date they have put out various titles with different Spanish publishers (1987 Channel Tunnel, Mondrian, Smoothies), and The Red Cathedral is the first game they have published with Devir. Pedro Soto (Holmes, Sherlock & Mycroft, Papua) and Chema Roman (El mundo de aguila Roja) took care of the graphic elements of the game with a grand homage to Ivan Bilibin, an iconic Russian artist from the turn of the twentieth century. Despite being from a far later period, his mark is very recognizable in the game.

The Red Cathedral is a strategic, “Euro” board game in which the players take the roles of construction teams. Their job is to work together to put up St. Basil's cathedral in Moscow, as ordered by Ivan the Terrible. However, only one of them will be able to gain the favor of the Tsar.

During the game, the players can carry out one of these three actions: assign a section of the cathedral, send resources to that section to build it, or go to the game board to achieve more resources. Each of these actions has its own mechanism and requires that the players pay close attention to what the other players are doing.

When the sections of the cathedral are assigned the players take possession of the spaces in each of the columns that make up their section. The more sections built and the completion of each with its own tower, the more points the player will be given at the end of the game.

The players can send resources to the cathedral sections that they have claimed. When they complete each of those sections they will obtain rewards in money and prestige points. They will also be able to install decorations on the completed sections to achieve even more recognition from the Tsar. This part of the game also works as a clock, since once any player completes the construction of their sixth section it brings about the end of the game.

The game board shows us the iconic rondel of The Red Cathedral. It is where the players obtain all the resource types needed to complete their work on the cathedral, as well as to get favors from the guilds and professionals to make the most of their trip to the market. In the central rondel the players choose the die they wish to use and move forward as many spaces as is shown on the top side of said die, in order to obtain the resources indicated in the space destined by the die.

The Red Cathedral is a very accessible game with regard to its rules because it is very easy to understand the various levels of the game, but it remains very interesting with regard to strategy. It is sure to please those who are more interested in the challenge offered by trying to strategically optimize their position in each game rather than the complexity of the rule

Red Cathedral Review

Red Cathedral is a 1-4 player game from Devir games. Players are a team of architects in mid-16th century Russia under the rule of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. As a team, you will work together to construct a cathedral. St Basil’s Cathedral in fact.

“A team of architects, so it must be a co-op game?” I hear you say. Well, the short answer to that is no. On their turn, players have a choice of completing one of three options. Option one is claiming a section of the cathedral to complete. Option two is collecting resources from the rondel-style game board. Finally, option three is transporting materials to the cathedral. There are two scoring systems in place. Recognition points are earned more often. Prestige points are harder to earn, but move you around the scoring tracker quicker. The player with the most prestige points wins.

Red Cathedral comes in a relatively small box, but do not let that fool you. The box is jam-packed with contents, so much so that packing away is almost a game in itself. The component quality of the game is also very high. The resources you’re aiming to collect are beautifully crafted. The rondel-style board has gorgeous artwork depicting the four seasons. The rule book is easy to understand and is full of examples. This doesn’t only make learning the game easier but also teaching it.

Russian to build the cathedral

At the start of the game, each player is given a workboard where they place six of their coloured banners. Four of these will go on to their resource inventory. A player is only allowed to have a maximum of ten resources on their inventory at any one time. Immediately you’re faced with a decision. Do you try and free up space on your inventory board by claiming sections quickly? Do you just claim sections as you need them? Claiming sections too quickly comes with a risk. If your rivals complete sections above yours before you, you might lose points.

To build, you need to claim resources, and this is done using the game board. To move around the board, you choose one of the five dice and move the appropriate number of spaces. The board is split into eight sections which represent the six resources, extra rubles and extra recognition points. The order of this can be changed to increase replayability. As I mentioned earlier, the board is then split into four seasons. Each of those has a guild card which you can use when you’re collecting resources. The guild cards allow you to exchange resources for either rubles or other resources. You can also claim additional recognition points or transport goods from your inventory. These guild cards really speed the gameplay up.

Red Cathedral Components

A-spire-ing to build quickly

Transporting goods is the final player option. On a turn, a player can transport a maximum of three resources to their claimed sections. Completing these often earns you rubles, and always earns you recognition points. As well as completing sections of the cathedral, a player can add ornamentation. This can either be a door, an arch or a cross. Players can add these ornamentations to a section of the cathedral regardless of who completed it. This comes in handy when it comes to the end of game scoring. This can also earn players up to three prestige points.

The end of the game is triggered when one player completes six sections. Every other player then has one final turn. Before scoring, players can exchange resources and money for prestige points. The main scoring is carried out on the cathedral itself.

One of the clever mechanics of the game is the scoring. You can do little work on a column but still score well for doing so. An example of this is the first time I played a three-player game. one player had completed a whole five-section column, as well as adding an arch and a cross. Just before the end of the game, I placed a door on their column. I earned six prestige points just for one door. The other players were mad. They were even madder when it was those six points that won me the game. The scoring mechanic adds an extra enjoyable twist to the scoring.

Sometimes you Moscow alone

Lastly, the game has a solitaire mode. You’re playing against Ivan Yakovlevich, an architect chosen by Ivan the Terrible himself. The gameplay doesn’t really alter the mechanics for you as a player. Ivan has five turns and can build sections using any resource. He can also transport all of his resources at any one time. This does mean he works a lot quicker than the average player. This means you have to really work quickly to defeat him. Again, the order of Ivan’s actions changes every game to increase replayability.

If I was going to be critical, I would have liked the cathedral cards to be bigger. You want the cathedral to be the centre of the game. It is called The Red Cathedral after all. Not only that, but it is based on St Basil’s Cathedral. It’s one of the most iconic buildings in the world. The rulebook even has the board at the centre and the cathedral to one side. However, don’t let this put you off buying this little gem.

Red Cathedral Set Up

Final Thoughts On Red Cathedral

Red Cathedral is a great game. The components are of very high quality and the game zips along at a nice pace. The box estimates a game time of around eighty minutes, but I haven’t had a game last that long. Some who are new to the hobby might be put off by euro-style games. They can seem overly complicated. This game strikes a very good balance. It’s easy enough to understand for new players. It also has additional layers to keep experienced players happy. It’s a really great game from tsar-t to finish.

When it comes to the modern board game market, there is a distinct lack of representation of both Russian culture and cathedrals. Luckily for us keen gamers, Red Cathedral is here to fill this, admittedly, rather niche gap in the market. A Eurogame through and through, players must collect resources and claim sections of Moscow's famous St Basil's Cathedral to prove that they are the only player worthy of the Tsar's recognition.

From the publishers, Devir. Red Cathedral is a game that lets 1-4 players gather the resources they need to complete sections of one of Russia's most well-known landmarks. The aim of the game is simple; collect the most points by building six cathedral sections first. On their turn, players may choose to take on one of three actions. So, grab your pencils and let's head to the drawing board as we learn how to play Red Cathedral!

This Little Architect Went to Market

The first step for every game is set up, which is relatively simple for Red Cathedral. Unpacking everything from the box, the first thing players must do is set up the beating heart of Red Cathedral: the Market board.

When placing the board, be sure to leave enough space to one side for the Construction Site. This is where you will actually build the cathedral. Players must then shuffle the circular Resource tiles. Placing one randomly at each of the 8 spaces on the Market board, two per season. To one side place all of the Materials and Rubles.

The Influence decks must now be separated into their four factions and shuffled. From each of these, one card must be drawn and placed face-up on one of the four spaces in each of the four corners of the board.

Next, all five dice must be shaken together. One die is then dropped into the space next to the Resource tile that grants Recognition (this is the one represented by a crucifix). Then, working in the direction of the arrows, the remaining dice are placed on by each of the following Resource tiles until there are no more left.

Setting up Your Player Board

Now that the Market board is set up each player must choose a colour and take their respective player board, flag tokens, and adornments, placing them on their designated spaces. There are two sides to the boards, one basic and one advanced. If you are playing the advanced setup, the pieces will have slightly different spaces. This will all be clear on the board. The remaining boards and tokens can be returned to the box. Players then take their score marker and place it with the blank side showing on the highlighted number 2 space. The first player then takes 3 Rubles, with subsequent players taking 4,4, and 5 Rubles respectively.

Built From the Ground Up

Now comes the game's namesake: the Red Cathedral. Players must take the Cathedral cards, these are the ones with sections of the cathedral on the back, and sort them into bases, middle sections, and domes. All good ventures start with a plan, and this is no different. First, players take a Building Plan card. This shows you how many of each type of cathedral section you will need. Take the sections indicated on the Building Plan card and lay them out in the Construction Site. These cards should all be showing their building cost side (the side with Materials at the top, not the one with the completed side).

The next step is to place all of the Workshop tiles facedown and shuffle them. In two-player games, before shuffling you should remove any Workshop tile with a three-player icon (three people and a plus symbol) and place them back in the box. When you've shuffled them up good and proper, place one face up on each of the Cathedral cards, placing any leftovers in the box. Just like that, you're set up and ready to go!

Rubles Are a Girl's Best Friend

We can finally get on to the fun part, gameplay. It helps to know how normal gameplay works to understand Red Cathedral's solo mode. On their turn, players must do one of three things: acquire resources from the market board, claim a section of the cathedral, or build a section of the cathedral. In addition to these three actions, at any time players may exchange one Prestige point for 2 Rubles, or to re-roll the dice in any section.

Acquiring Resources from the Market Board

The action board is where players gain the resources that will help them build their sections of the cathedral. When taking this action, players announce which of the coloured dice they wish to use. Then they move that dice the number of spaces indicated on the die in the direction of the arrows, hopping from one resource to the next. If players are using either the white die or the die of their colour, they may spend Rubles to move the die further.

There are three spaces for each resource, so more than one die can end up next to each resource. However, if three dice already fill the space you would move to, you cannot move there. You can pay to move the die forward, or you must choose another one to roll. Once they've landed, players must re-roll all dice in that space.

Having arrived at their destination, players may choose which market actions they want to take. The first is to gain resources. Players may gain their space's resources multiplied by the number of dice in the space. This means that if a player lands in the 'bricks' space and there is already a die there, they gain four bricks, as the resource grants two bricks for each die.

Players can choose to use their influence with one of the groups on the board. Depending on which quarter of the board they land in, players may take the action shown on the card in the corner of the board.

Finally, players may activate the workshop tile which corresponds to the die they rolled. These grant resources or allow players to gain them. You'll notice the white die has two spaces for workshop tiles. Players have to choose which of the two they use; they cannot activate both.

Claiming a Section of the Red Cathedral

Claiming a section of the cathedral means that only you may complete it and claim the Recognition points. To do this, players place one of their flag tokens on the section of the cathedral they wish to claim. The astute amongst you will notice that moving one of these tokens from the Inventory of their player boards will free up space for more items. Before you go in, claiming as many cathedral sections as you can, heed this warning. If other players claim and complete a cathedral section above one of your claimed but unfinished sections, you will lose a point for each completed section above yours.

When claiming, players then take the Workshop tile shown on that section, and they place it in one of the slots on their player board next to a die. Players may choose to pay the cost indicated on the space to place the tile face up, gaining the displayed material or benefit straight away, or place it face down for free, gaining no benefits. These bonuses are continuous and can be activated whenever you use that specific die when you go to market. This adds a little more to the game and so think carefully about which ones you want to add.

For players who chose the advanced player board, things are a little different here. In advanced set up the cathedral's ornaments and two flag tokens are placed on the workshop tile spaces at the start of the game. When a player claims a section of the cathedral, they may choose to pay 3 Rubles to unlock the ornament and gain the workshop. Flag tokens are placed on the white die spaces and can be used whenever a player claims a cathedral section.

Building a Section of the Cathedral

When a player chooses to build, they may transport up to three resources from their inventory to their chosen section of the cathedral. If this meets the required cost indicated on the Cathedral card, then the card is flipped over. That player gains the indicated Recognition points and possibly Rubles. If the three resources don't fulfill the cost, that player's turn ends. The resources remain there until the section is complete.

For additional resources, players may also add ornamentation to their section, by adding either a door, arch, or crucifix. These award Prestige points depending on the number of gems used.

The Cherry on the Cathedral Shaped Cake

 The game end is triggered when the first player completes their sixth cathedral section. They gain the Recognition points for that section plus three Prestige points. All other players are given one final turn to get their affairs in order before off to meet the Tsar.

Players then move their score trackers back to the closest lowers Prestige point space. If they are already on one, they do not need to move. Now, one additional Prestige point is awarded for every five Materials and/or Rubles each player has.

Extra points are also awarded for individual contributions to each tower. A tower's total worth is calculated by the number of sections and ornamentation. 2 Prestige points for each completed section and 1 Prestige point for every ornament. Whoever has the most banners and ornaments on completed sections gains the towers full value of points, second highest gets half of this rounded down, and the third highest getting half of that rounded down, and so on. If players had no banners, then they are awarded no points for that tower. In two player games, whoever has the fewest banners on a tower only gets one third of the total points.

 Tsars in Their Eyes

Red Cathedral also has a solo mode. For a solo game, you follow the same instructions as a two-player game without giving your opponent a player board. To set up your opponent, shuffle the five Solitaire cards and lay them out in a line, placing five of the banners onto the 'claim a cathedral section' card. Take five dice Workshop tiles from the three-player icon and randomly place them face up above each of the cards. Take the ornaments and lay them at the end of this row. With the remaining banner token, claim a base section of the cathedral with the highest Recognition points. In the case of a tie, claim the one furthest to the left.

Play now proceeds as normal, alternating between players. During your opponent's turn, look for the furthest-left face-up Workshop tile, and move the die indicated on it as if you were at Market. When this is done, flip the tile face down. No resources will be gained but the opponent may still gain Recognition. After doing this, carry out the action shown on the card.

The game end is triggered in the same way as in normal games. However, the 3 Prestige are not awarded to the player who triggers the end of the game.

Zatu Score


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

You might like

  • A great introduction to euro-style gaming
  • The box is packed with high quality playing pieces
  • The collection of resources isnt solely reliant on rolling a dice
  • The end of game scoring adds a clever tactical twist

Might not like

  • The cathedral isnt the star of the show
  • Lots of components means set-up and take-down time can be long
  • Recognition points and prestige points may be easily confused by some at first