The Builders: Middle Ages. Asmodee, 2013. $18. Game designer : Frédéric Henry ; Artwork : Sabrina Miramon. Card game with 42 Worker cards, 42 Building cards, 40 plastic coins. 2-4 players, 30 minutes, ages 10+.
Players start with an Apprentice and use 3 actions per turn to recruit workers, select buildings to build, gain coins, and pay workers to go to the job site and construct their buildings. Each building constructed can bring more coins and victory points. Special buildings called “machines” give no coins but once constructed they bring resources for free to a construction. The first player to 17 victory points triggers the last round and end of game. Player with the most victory points wins.
The artwork is wonderful and evocative, with building cards having construction and finished sides. Worker cards bring different amounts of resources (stone, wood, knowledge, tile) to the site but you have to pay them in coins, varying amounts based on how many resources they bring. Master workers bring many resources but cost more than a lowly apprentice. It is critical to make the right choices about which buildings to try and build, which workers to recruit for your current needs and future buildings, and which order to build in so that you keep an flow of coins to pay your workers.
First player and turn order can be problematic because with the card layout of 5 buildings and 5 workers and players having 3 actions the “best” buildings, especially the “machines” which can be assigned to building sites to provide cheap resources, being taken quickly leaving the dregs for the later players. The randomness of being a card game means sometimes just the right building or worker or machine can become available at just the right (or wrong) moment to sway the game. There is a lot of luck involved in which cards are available on your turn.
The Builders: Middle Ages is a fairly simple, quick playing card game that can be a resource management challenge worthy of a “bigger” game. The small size, it comes in a tin 1.5 x 4.8 x 4.8 inches. At less than 10 ounces, it makes a highly portable travel game. Highly recommended for a fast game that’s both a challenge and a lot of fun.
This review was written based on a privately purchased copy. No previous relationship with the game publisher nor compensation was involved.
c2014 by Richard A. Edwards