Architects of the West Kingdom is the latest standalone game from Garphill Games and the first game in the new West Kingdom series of games. The game sees players become architects during the Carolingian Empire, where they must gain noble status in order to impress the king, or they may choose to sink to the depths of the black market in order to scavenge precious resources to complete buildings such as the Archbishop’s cathedral.
1 – 5 Players | 60 – 80 Minutes | Designed by Shem Phillips & S J Macdonald
Architects of the West Kingdom utilises the same sized box as the North Sea trilogy from Shem Phillips, which is quite a bit smaller than the usual Ticket to Ride sized box. The quality of the box is exceptional, with super sturdy cardstock and a beautiful, matte linen finish.
The cover showcases the wonderful artwork of Mihajlo Dimitrievski (known also as The Mico). The title, text and iconography are not distracting at all, and I think it is intriguing enough to draw people in while still leaving a lot of the gameplay up to your imagination.
The back does seem a little disappointing to me in comparison to the front, but it still serves its purpose. I feel like the darker backgrounds and colouring seen on the front could have continued to avoid the white borders you see at the bottom, while still being able to showcase some of the gameplay or beautiful components as well.
The components list seems like one of the most important things on the back cover, which it does not need to be at all. This should perhaps take up less real estate, which would perhaps leave more room to showcase more of the game board. The huge character taking up almost half of the available space also seems like an odd design choice as I don’t think it would assist in showing off the gameplay at all.
Once the box lid is removed, the inner edges of the box are all just plain, simple white. From the image above, you can get a feel for just how thick and sturdy the cardstock of the box is, adding to the overall excellent production.
The game features 2 books – one for rules, and one for card explanations. These are just about the same size as the box, fitting snugly inside the lid. I like how each of the books contain vastly different cover artwork, making it easy to distinguish which one you need to grab throughout the game.
Each page is laid out clearly with brightly coloured images, as well as helpful tips displayed in either a different coloured font, or outlined with coloured boxes. It is super easy to navigate through the book, and my only complaint would be that the page numbers may be a little hard to read for some people on the yellow background.
If you have played any of the North Sea games, you will have no difficulty at all in learning the iconography in this game as it is very similar. All the symbols used are very clean and simple, and the game itself is really easy to pick up, regardless of whether you have played any other Garphill games.
The extra book outlining card abilities is handy, except it seems weird that this much effort went into making an entire book, but the game came with a bunch of promos which aren’t in the book. This means that during the game, you may go to look up the card ability, not be able to find it, and have to go online to look it up. Shem has made a printout available, but it is just not ideal to have the book, and separate bits of paper. I know that this is often the case with promo cards in other games, however the cards I am referring to would have been designed at the same time as the game, so they weren’t produced after the game had already been released.
It is difficult to fault components in any game produced by Garphill. Rather than having stretch goals like other Kickstarters, games released feature good quality components from the start. This means thick cardstock, custom shaped wooden pieces, and usually metal coins as well.
There are so many player mats in this game! Each colour comes with 2 double sided characters to choose from, with one side including a variable player power option as well. Characters all have different starting bonuses, with some leading a more prestigious life than others…
The images above show just some of the amazing artwork featured on both the apprentice and building cards. The iconography is so clear and easy to decipher while maximising the gorgeous artwork on every card.
There are also a bunch more cards in the game for solo play, resource multipliers, market cards and different objective cards, all made from high quality linen finish, ivory core cardstock.
All of the wooden components are beautifully coloured and serve their purpose well. The player pieces are smaller than the usual ‘meeple’, but there are so many that go onto certain spaces that they need to be a touch smaller. If you upgraded to receive metal coins, you also receive a full sheet of cardboard coins as well, which I have not even needed to punch out yet. Another cool little addition to the game is a ‘tax stand’ which holds coins on the board so they don’t spill everywhere. It is even printed with artwork from the game board that it covers, which is neat!
The board is quite a large 6 square board featuring gorgeous artwork which doesn’t distract at all from the worker placement spots. Each worker spot also features the cost/reward for going there, making it impossible to forget what each spot does!
The version I own is from Kickstarter and includes the metal coins, however they are not a necessity, and I wouldn’t let it stop you from purchasing a regular copy of the game if you find it. The game is available both through the Garphill games website, as well as through Renegade Games and most good local game stores. The game is also available in multiple different languages.
Overall, the quality of Architects is great. There is so much game crammed into a small-ish box and I have not regretted my purchase of this game at all! Garphill games always produce exceptional games for really reasonable prices and most of my friends really enjoy both this game, as well as others in the North Sea trilogy.
My favourite part of the game is probably the board as I really can’t fault the design of it and it just looks amazing. The beautiful cards/artwork come a close second.
My only complaint with the game would have to be the size of the box. For the amount of stuff in it, it seems quite hard to squish it all back into the box. Hopefully in the near future, there will be another collector’s edition box with a nice insert to hold everything, like the Raiders of the North Sea collector’s box.