Cathedrals tend to be, by their nature, quite big and yet this box is quite small. In this game about building the Red Cathedral by Isra C. and Shei S. one to four players will take on the role of a team of architects competing against each other to score the most points but simultaneously tasked with the collective goal of building Saint Basil’s Cathedral under the reign of the Tsars.
What initially struck me about this game was both the small box and table space it took up and some interesting features I hadn’t come across in Euro type games before. It is the first game I’ve ever played with a rondel and it has some neat dice rolling mechanics and different setups which keep the game feeling fresh after multiple plays. The aesthetics of the game fit the theme, with each player having individual player boards to store and deliver their resources from, and flags on (used to claim sections of the cathedral). Components feel nice and much better than you would expect of a game of this price, particularly the gem resources. Multiple cards for the setup of the cathedral ensure you have to tailor your approach to each game but this is definitely one where knowledge gained from previous plays is beneficial.
This is a medium complex game with a few actions that can be performed on each turn which are principally to claim a piece of the cathedral to build, gain resources or deliver those resources to the cathedral. Turns are swift and down time is low, with this game really excelling at three players but also feels good at other player counts. I really enjoyed how quickly my turn came around and hoped my planned market action I had been building up to, or the piece of cathedral I had just acquired enough resources for wouldn’t be claimed by someone else! The game ends when a player completes their sixth section of the cathedral, offering the remaining players one more turn before some reasonably complicated scoring occurs to determine the winner.
Scoring is probably the most complicated aspect of the game, dividing each section of the cathedral up based on how many parts have been completed by each player while keeping track of two different point scoring (prestige and recognition) tracks along the bottom. Once you’ve played the game several times, this won’t be an issue but expect people to realise things they would have done differently after the first play through.
I found Red Cathedral to really pack a punch for its size, featuring some really good decision making even with the limited actions on offer. The rules, other than the end game scoring, are simple and easy enough to pick up and teach to new players. It’s size means it is an easily transportable game that doesn’t need a huge table for set up means I’ve played this in the pub with no issues and for a game that offers a number of tough decisions it plays in under an hour which means it falls nicely into the ‘that was great, shall we play one more game?’ category. It’s size also means you can, and probably should make space for this in your collection.