Review: Paladins of the West Kingdom
Designer: Shem Phillips, S. J. Macdonald
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Category: Worker Placement
Price: $39.00 Amazon.com
Paladins of the West Kingdom is the second game in Shem Phillips’ West Kingdom trilogy. This meaty euro game follows the visual and design styles of the earlier Architects of the West Kingdom and the North Sea trilogy, but introduces all-new opportunities for deep strategy.
Paladins of the West Kingdom is Shem Phillips’ newest game, and seemingly the heaviest so far in his North Sea/West Kingdom universe. Set in the age of knights and crusaders, this worker placement game has players defending a city from all manner of onslaught from the outside.
Now, before I dive in, I should say that this is quite a complex game, and there’s no way I could succinctly cover all of its content. With that in mind, I will try to provide a general overview of its core concepts, including a few examples, in hopes of giving the reader a basic sense of how it works.
To start, the goal of the game is to earn the most points. Paladins is played out on both a central board…
…and on individual player boards…
As you can see, there is a lot to look at. Since the central board is long and thin, here are some closer-up shots to show it a little better:
Each player has a deck of paladin cards on their own board, from which they select 1 to use each round. A deck of tavern cards is placed near the main board, and in each of the game’s 7 rounds, a number of them are splayed out in the center. All tavern cards show 4 worker meeples on them.
Players each draft a tavern card and combine it with their paladin to determine which 6 workers they will have for that round. As an example:
Here, the player’s paladin grants a blue and a white worker, and the tavern card grants 2 reds, a blue, and a purple (purple meeples are wild). When everyone has received their allotted workers, they take turns placing them on their personal boards to take actions.
The player boards are divided into two halves, and a track along the left side of each board shows the player’s attributes: influence, faith, and strength (blue, black, and red markers). In broad terms, the right half of the board offers actions that use and modify these attributes, and the left half provides resources and actions that make the right half better and more efficient. To illustrate how some actions might look:
Here, the player takes the “Develop” action. This action costs 2 workers and 4 silver pieces, and allows the player to place one of her workshops (green buildings) on an open space on her board. She chooses to place it under the “Commission” action. Normally, “Commission” costs 3 workers to execute, but since a workshop is now present there, it will cost 1 less going forward. (In a sense, the workshop counts as a permanent worker.)
Later in the round, the player realizes she is low on provisions, so she takes the “Hunt” action to get some more. This action can be taken with 1 or 2 workers, but if a player chooses to use 2, one of them must be green (or purple, since it’s wild), as indicated on the board. A single worker will produce 1 provision, but both workers together will produce 3. Since the player used 2, she receives 3 provisions.
Later in the game, the player receives a black worker and decides to put it toward her “Commission” action, which now requires fewer workers to execute. She places the 2 required workers and moves 1 of the black monk pieces onto the main board. In doing so, she reveals a blue influence icon, which earns her 1 point of influence.
Each set of spaces on the main board has associated faith and strength costs (the black and red banner icons). To place a monk, the player must have at least as much faith as shown on the board. In this example, the player has not earned any faith points yet, so the monk can only go on the first set of spaces, which cost 0 faith. If she had had at least 2 faith, she could place the monk on the first OR second set of spaces.
There are many other actions like these available to players. For example, they can:
- Recruit townsfolk, who grant immediate or ongoing bonuses
- Remove workers from a space, so as to use it again in the same round
- Fortify the city walls, which awards bonuses
- Attack outsiders to earn influence
- Convert outsiders for victory points
And even more than that. Again, this is a heavier game; players have lots of options thanks to its intricate level of design. That said, since it is difficult to give a full picture of Paladins in a reasonable amount of words, I recommend checking out the rulebook if this is a game you are interested in.
Paladins of the West Kingdom is a very robust euro game. As with any good worker placement title, players always feel strapped for time and resources; essentially, there is a bunch of stuff that they want to do, but never enough time to do it all. This makes the experience feel tight and strategic. Players have to determine how to make the most of each turn and how to set themselves up for success down the road. Often, they will want to choose a few actions to focus on and try to maximize their utility throughout the game.
Paladins bears several of the design hallmarks found in Raiders of the North Sea, such as tracking player attributes, character cards that offer multiple uses, color-specific workers, and a generally-clever twist on worker placement. Shem Phillips definitely has a recognizable design style, and if you are a fan of his other games, it is a safe bet you will enjoy this one as well.
The game uses a lot of iconography, but thankfully, it is quite intuitive. Perhaps my favorite detail is the use of colored accents above the right-side actions – the left accent tells players which attribute is required for the action, and the right one tells them which attribute is affected by it. It’s a very clean, elegant system.
The production of the game is quite nice, with a staggering amount of wooden bits, cards, coins, etc. The box is pleasingly compact, and the components fit back in it like a glove. The entire package feels like a high-quality product – well worth the price point – and one that will withstand many plays.
Plain and simple, Paladins is a “gamer’s game.” As such, I would recommend it primarily to those looking for a super-crunchy strategy game with lots of moving parts. If that sounds like your jam, Paladins of the West Kingdom will likely be a home run.
A review copy was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
The Bottom Line
Paladins of the West Kingdom is an accomplishment in worker placement design. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely one for fans of heavier strategy games to check out.