My wife recently placed an order online for a few games and Viscounts of the West Kingdom needed to be one of the games.
This game made it into our The Best New Board Game Releases for your 2020 Holiday Shopping list for many reasons. Since we love the other two “West Kingdom” games so much, this was a no brainer to add to our order.
We have been anxiously anticipating the third game in this series. Since it was ordered we watched the tracking impatiently, frothing at how excited we are to try this game. When it finally arrived we immediately pulled it out of the box and dashed to the game table.
- Players: 1-4
- Playtime (with Setup): We find it between 90 and 120 minutes
- Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
- Designer: Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald
What’s in the Box
The box feels small, but it’s packed with components. Like the other games in this series I see plenty of cards, meeples, punch boards, and various other bits.
One thing that I noticed immediately is that there is no standard game board with this game. I knew that it was going to end up building a round game board, which is mostly on the punch boards. The center bit is a plastic castle fortress looking piece that binds all of the punch board segments together. When they are combined, they make a very cool looking gaming board.
Each player will be given a small mountain of wooden meeples. The coolest of these is a figure riding a horse and carrying a banner. This will be your main pawn that you move around the game board. There are three different building types, represented by their own unique pieces. Finally, you have 20 worker pieces that are strictly used to be placed on the round castle in the center of the board.
There are four resources in the game: Gold; Stone; and Ink Wells, all wooden bits. There are plenty of coins included in the punch boards. All of these components are functional.
This is where I feel I am jaded a bit on component quality. I find the wooden tokens to not be that inspiring. While they function and look like what you would expect, the coloring and shapes are not inspiring. For game play, we will almost always go to our spare resource bins for much more interesting replacements.
As seems to be usual for this series, there are a ton of cards included with the game. The cards themselves are a bit smaller in size than your standard playing card. You will want 54×85 mm sleeves for the larger cards.
All of the cards have great art that is very in line with the series. It’s easy to tell which starting cards go to each player. Iconography can be a bit tough to keep up with, but the reference on the back of the rulebook is a great help. You may want to photocopy this so each player can have a quick reference to what all of the symbols mean.
The card quality does need to be mentioned. I haven’t noticed any of these issues with the other games in the series, but the cards in our copy seem to be made of very thin card stock. All of the cards, when we unboxed, had a slight bow to them. During shuffling of the cards the first time it was way to easy to bend the cards to the point that I was concerned about damaging them. I mentioned sleeves earlier, but make sure if you sleeve this game that the sleeves don’t slide easily. This will be important.
The player boards have a lot going on. It was daunting to sort out everything they are trying to tell you. I feel like this was a bit over done. Turn sequence and some of the action decoding, while good that it’s on the player board, could have been more easily established in a quick reference card or sheet.
The player board really serves two purposes. A place to hold your buildings that have locked abilities that, as they are built, strengthen your existing actions. The second purpose is to provide you a track to slide cards as you flow cards from left to right, hand to discard. While in play, your tableau of cards give you the ability to trigger the different actions. Some cards add additional powers and abilities that will enable you to do even bigger actions on your turn.
My final concern about the player board is that it’s made out of the same card stock as the cards. Whatever was used to make the card stock glossy also makes the cards and wooden bits want to slide all over. This creates a bit of a hassle during game play as you spend a good amount of time trying, but not succeeding, in keeping your player area tidy.
At this point, you are probably thinking that this is going to be a negative review of the game. Well, the game play portion is where I think this game shines. After stumbling through all of the iconography and deciphering the rules we found a really fun game here.
At it’s heart, the game is effectively a rondel. Your viscount riding his horse will travel clockwise around the main game board moving a number of spaces based on the coin value shown on the card you play that round. Wherever your viscount lands determines what action you can take.
On the game board, there are little towns which are the places your viscount can travel to. Between each is a little path that you can travel on. There are towns on the inner portion of the board close to the plastic castle and on the outer track near where you place buildings. You can travel between the inner and outer tracks.
There are effectively four actions that you can do when it is your turn. The action that you can take is determined by what space you moved to on the track. The outer track grants access to either build buildings or take merchant actions. The inner track grants access to creating scrolls and placing workers on the center castle. The cards that you have in your active tableau (the cards that sit on your player board) contribute to how strong you can do the action.
I have played this game enough to get a good impression. I really enjoyed the game play. The game rules we found a bit difficult to understand initially. Once we established how to play, the game play was very smooth. Player turns felt snappy, with some very hard decisions. As an example, I really want to play a card from my hand because it boosts the ability to build, but it limits how far I can travel so I can’t make it to where I want to build. Every turn you are contemplating which card to play from hand to give you the best ability to travel where you need to and boost the type of action you want to take.
The strategy and balance of wanting to build buildings and use the market actions to acquire resources early in the game is tightly balanced with needing to make a trip to the inner track of the board so that you can write scrolls or assemble your workers to work on the castle. All of this, with the clock ticking from the beginning.
Will the game be over because the Deed or Debt decks have run out before you complete your plan? You will only know if you give the game a try. On the plus side, the game is available on Tabletopia.
If you like Viscounts of the West Kingdom, make sure you check out our review of Paladins of the West Kingdom.