In Swordcrafters, you use tiles and magic gems to create a sword in the hopes that it will become the next Sword of Protection of your kingdom. Here we will be speaking about Swordcrafters Expanded Edition.
In the base game, players start with a hilt and two sword guards, each with a coloured gem.
Depending on the number of players, 11-15 sword tiles are placed in a grid with the Forge tile among them. Some sword tiles have gems on them, others are blank.
Finally, three Sword Magic Cards are drawn and placed on the table. These show different ways for you to gain points, for example by having the most gems of a certain colour in your sword by the end of the game.
In a round, players take turns slicing the grid in a straight line that creates exactly two new groups of tiles. By the end of this step, you will have one more group than there are players, usually of varying sizes.
Each player then chooses a group of tiles to keep. If a player keeps the group with the Forge tile, they become next round’s First Player. The Forge tile stays on the table for next round’s grid, and the leftover group is discarded.
Finally, players must add all the tiles they kept to their sword by slotting them into the guard or other tiles. You are not allowed to leave open spaces in your sword as you build it.
After six rounds, the game ends and points are tallied.
The player with the longest sword gets 6 points. Then, you check your sword’s quality, meaning that you get 2 points per gem in your longest row of same-coloured gems on each of your sword’s sides. Finally, you check who gets which amount of points for fulfilling the criteria on the Sword Magic Cards.
The Swordcrafters Expanded Edition adds three modules with new ways of scoring points and includes a guide to which modules work well together.
With the Mastery module, you can get points for specific adjacent colours each round.
The Relics module adds new tiles to the grid with scoring conditions and once-off powers.
And the Tips module gives each player a hidden goal of a certain colour combination on one side of their sword.
General Thoughts On Experience
The rulebook is really nicely laid out, taking you through the rules and getting you ready to play in very little time. On top of this, the game itself takes about 30-60 minutes depending on modules and number of players.
I really like the different types of considerations you do each round.
First, how to slice the grid. Isolating tiles you want for your own sword in a way that makes that group less appealing to your opponents.
Second, which group to choose. Which gems you absolutely need in order to get Magic Card points. Whether taking a group with many tiles is worth it for the sword length, even if it does mean you will have to add to every side of your sword, potentially breaking streaks of colours.
And finally, of course, how best to place them all.
As there are many different Sword Magic Cards, each with criteria aimed at beginners and intermediate players on either side, the base game is highly replayable. It is very unlikely that you will have the exact same scoring conditions, available tiles, and slicing groups in multiple games. This is even more true when mixing and matching the expansion modules.
Building A Sword
The experience of playing Swordcrafters is similar to that of playing Calico or Sagrada. You work within certain rules of placement and colours to fulfil point criteria that vary between games all while putting together a beautiful object.
Swordcrafters takes this last aspect to the extreme. As the rounds progress, you add more and more tiles to each side of your sword, which you are encouraged to hold all the way through the game.
By the end of the sixth round, each player will be brandishing a fully realised 3D cardboard sword.
This may sound like simply a gimmick but it genuinely adds so much to the experience.
Looking around the table where everyone is holding up their swords-in-progress is both really amusing and makes it much easier to appreciate what each player is putting together than when playing with boards on the table.
And there is something really satisfying about constructing a (sometimes really big) physical object and seeing it grow.
My first game of Swordcrafters Expanded Edition was in Solo Mode and I was really impressed with how well the rules worked for a single player.
In Solo Mode, you draw and play against opponent cards. These all have a set sword length, numbers of gems of each colour, and points for quality.
Each round, you draw a card which tells you how to slice tiles away from the grid (horizontally or vertically), and rather than pick a group, you keep the tiles that are left.
Both when using the base rules and with the expansion modules, I’ve found all of my solo games to be well balanced against the opponent cards.
A solo game provides a different mix of agency and chance when slicing than in regular games. You can plan ahead how you want to execute the slices to keep the tiles you want. And as the opponents’ gem numbers are already decided, you know exactly how many gems of different colours you need to get the most points on the Sword Magic Cards.
I found solo games to be just as interesting and fun as games with more players.
All the tiles in the game are of solid cardboard unlikely to bend, though I do worry that with a lot of use, the slits in the tiles will get bigger, making the swords looser and less stable.
The box does have room for every component, though not in the assigned spots which are slightly too narrow to hold, for example, all the sword tiles.
The art is simple but effective, depicting a generic fantasy setting. The gems are differentiated by shape as well as colour, and the points criteria cards are generally easy to decipher.
I have enjoyed every Swordcrafters game I’ve played, whether alone or with other players, and whether I’ve used the expansion rules for the Swordcrafters Expanded Edition or not.
If you enjoy games with variable scoring conditions, where your goal is to create something beautiful, I cannot recommend this game enough.