The Builders: Middle Ages – A Sweet Little Micro Game
The Builders: Middle Ages is a sweet little micro game in which players vie to be named First Builder of the Kingdom by earning the most victory points by game end. To achieve this, players must combine wise choices of construction sites with recruitment of appropriately skilled workers. As you complete construction of buildings you’ll not only earn renown (victory points), but also the necessary money to hire more competent workers who can build even more prestigious and lucrative buildings.
There are two kinds of cards in The Builders: Middle Ages. Some represent buildings, the others workers. Each building has four requirements (stone, wood, knowledge, and tiles) rated between 0 and 5, and the workers have the corresponding skills valued in the same range. To complete a construction, the player must add enough workers to cover the four building requirements. While acquiring construction sites and recruiting workers is free, putting a worker to work on a construction site costs money.
Each player starts the game with 10 ecu and an Apprentice (each Apprentice has a different set of skills). Five workers and five buildings are placed face-up on the table, with the others set aside in separate decks. On a turn, you can take three free actions, then pay 5 ecu for each additional action you want to take.
The four possible actions are:
- Start Construction – Take one of the five buildings, place it front of you, then draw a replacement from the deck to fill the empty space. You may construct as many buildings as you want at the same time. It just takes one action each to acquire the projects.
- Recruit a Worker – Take one of the five workers, place it in front of you, then draw a replacement from the deck to fill the empty space. You may also recruit as many workers as you wish (one action each).
- Send a Worker to Work – This is the crux of the game. Pay the cost of the worker (he won’t work for free!), then place him on a building so that his skills line up with the requirements of the building. If you send a second worker to work on the same building in the same turn, however, it costs you two more actions; a third costs three more actions (total of six!), and so on. When you’ve put enough workers to work on a building to meet its requirements, the building is complete. (It doesn’t cost an action to complete a building.) You immediately earn the points and coins indicated, then flip the building over showing its finished side. The workers return to your labor pool and can now be used in other projects. Some completed buildings are machines and also join your labor pool to be used to help complete other buildings.
- The last possible action is to Take Coins. Simply forego one, two or three actions and earn 1, 3 or 6 ecu. You need money to put workers to work and the only other way to acquire money is to complete a building. Sometimes your available resources fall short of your goal and you’ll have to spend some actions to acquire a little coin.
Play continues until one player attains 17 victory points from completing buildings. Players finish the round so that everyone has the same number of turns. Tally your victory points: each completed building card has a point value and every 10 ecu is worth 1 point. The player with the most points wins the game and is named First Builder of the Kingdom.
The Builders: Middle Ages is a fun little game appropriate for gamers and non-gamers alike. Play time is a short 30 minutes, but there’s enough depth to make it enjoyable and replayable even for strategy gamers. It also makes a good gateway game to get non-gamers to the table. It’s rated for 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, but I don’t see any reason why younger players couldn’t play. There is no in-game text that requires reading; the building requirements and worker skills are simple tally marks. There are more Apprentice cards than the maximum number of players, so you could probably stretch the game to play with 5 or 6 players, though you might need to supplement the coinage with pennies or tokens. This would likely lengthen the play time of the game a bit, too.
Copyright © 2014-2015 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.
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