Paladins offers a new twist on worker placement mechanisms from the previously explored routes in the rest of the series.
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Designer: Shem Phillips
Designer: S J Macdonald
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Game Type: Worker Placement
Game Type: Hand Management
Initial Year of Release: 2019
Age Range: 12+
Expected Playtime: 90-120 (180 in my experience)
Number of Players: 1-4
Theme and What is it?
West Francia, 900 AD. Outsiders threaten the outskirts. Vikings plunder what they can. Saracens have been spotted on the boarders. The Byzantines from the east are also growing ominous. The noble players must gather a variety of workers to prepare the city defenses for this onslaught of threats. The Paladins of the king are here to help. Each offers a special power and can enhance the attributes of the noble using him. Different workers are required for certain tasks while some tasks just require manpower and no specific skills. Paladins of the West Kingdom offers primarily worker placement on a personalized player board but as the rounds unfold some highly contested actions with exceptional rewards get opened up on the shared board.
Players alternate choosing one of their action spaces and spending the required workers to activate the effect. Players can build their engine efficiency by developing workshops to cheapen the requirements of the main 6 actions. Ultimately, the main 6 actions each have a required attribute to use and a different attribute that will be enhanced by using it. Sending out monks and constructing outposts gives a reward based on the location covered on a main shared board.
Building fortifications for the city gives some random reward that could be victory points, more workers, extra attribute gains, or resources. The fortification deck resembles the cathedral bonus cards from Architects of the West Kingdom for those familiar with the earlier game in the series. Attacking and converting both interact with a series of cards in a public draft row. Absolving costs money but can shirk the consequences of criminals and collected debts.
Like the other games in the West Kingdom line, Paladins has periodic events based on how play is progressing that judges the current game state and awards bonuses and penalties. Each time the tax stand empties, an inquisition occurs and the player(s) with the most suspicion cards takes a debt card.
There are a LOT of new mechanics here. The worker specific action spots and different number of workers to activate different action types on a personal player board seems a lot like Orleans or Altiplano. Some of the 6 main actions seem similar to previous mechanics but the others are all new and adds some serious complexity. Paladins has a bit of a “pick 2-3 things to do all game and commit to it” mentality for players just coming into it as you can increase the efficiency of those things and you only get rewarded by doing the same thing extensively. Many unique routes of play, that all end up in a similar result for the most part.
Game Build Quality
The game has a lot of components and most of them are EXCELLENT. The metal coins (I am uncertain if this is a kickstarter exclusive or now included in all versions), different color workers, quality cards and even specialized background artwork on the playerboards that match the specific Paladin deck for that player are epic. There are a few tiny complaints you should know about though. The first is the provisions. Paladins has thin punchboard provisions that pale in comparison to the components provided in Raiders of The North Sea. I always just swipe the nice wooden components from Raiders when playing.
The second complaint is the box size. All of these player boards, decks of cards, and components are difficult to pack perfectly. Each time I think I have Tetris packed my way to victory, it still doesn’t quite shut. If I were to spend less time trying to make it fit it wouldn’t even be close to shutting. I just wish it wasn’t such a struggle to get the box lid closed enough so that the game doesn’t experience fast box wear and side bursting pressures.
What needs to be said here? Fans of Mihajlo Dimitrievski know exactly what to expect. Paladins has the same style as all the West Kingdom and North Sea game series and the artist has done dozens of other popular games too. I know not everyone is instantly in love with the art, but no one hates it. Most of us DO love it. The images shown in this review should be enough for you to have your own opinion.
Planning your Paladin use for the best early game and late game options is extremely satisfying. The look at 3 cards and play one, stack one on deck, and bury one at the bottom of the deck is a very unique mechanism that has some seriously cool results for the strategy. Building up an engine then taking advantage of prayer or other bonus placements that give the same effect to reset that engine and keep using it during the same round is quite satisfying. I do wish there were some rule that it an action cannot reset itself with its reward to limit the number of games where a commission/garrison combo resets itself repeatedly or the unblockable free absolve paladin results in at least 4 absolves that round alone with only a single prayer costing anything.
Age Range & Weight
12+ is a fair rating. There is enough going on that a younger player might struggle to keep it all straight or miss out on the shared opportunities with card rows and neutral action spaces. Paladins has a fairly long teach time even with experienced players and a good teacher. There is just a lot of stuff to go over and iconography to make clear.
Almost every mechanism has 2 different ways of interacting with it and the distinctions need to be understood for players to make good choices. There are not enough spaces for card decks, tavern cards, and recruited townsfolk. But if there were enough spaces, there wouldn’t be enough room on the table!
I feel it worth noting the time to play on the box seems wrong. The first 4 player game took almost 4 hours but we stumbled through a few things and had some long combos towards the end that involved players mathing to finding the best solution to their situation. I don’t expect that to be common place. The next several plays were 2 player expecting it to be much faster like the 90 minute box estimate. They were still closer to 3 hours than 2 hours. My last play I intentionally focused on progressing through rounds fast and not bothering to count carefully through worker resources to make sure I can accomplish as many things milked from the round as possible. It still was a 2.5 hour game. I highly doubt anyone else is having any consistent play under the 2 hour mark as a result.
Paladins offers a new twist on worker placement mechanisms from the previously explored routes in the rest of the series. It doesn’t ultimately offer anything that is unique in the overall board gaming world however. While unique is hard to come by, it ultimately seems to be using some of the same mechanisms from other popular and mainstream games such as Orleans. This is NOT a complaint, it is actually a strength since these are really solid to strategic play.
Now for a real complaint. There are 5 neutral actions that will get opened up one by one on rounds 3-7. The first player in round 3 gets a distinct advantage being the first and only person to use the spot that round. If in a 2 player game, round 4 offers two action spots so that same player chooses second but still gets a powerful action. In round 5, that same player gets first pick and possibly two of these actions. They even end with the final round having first pick. It isn’t much better of a trend in higher player counts. In a 4 player game, the person who goes first in round 3 gets the first grab at that unique space and in round 7 goes first again and is sure to get one more action out there as well since there are 5 available.
In the end, I find myself much more attracted to playing Raiders of the North Sea than Paladins. Architects of the West Kingdom has been incredibly popular with local players but didn’t resonate with me personally. I like Paladins far more than Architects while the vast majority of players rank them differently. Your experiences may vary but your experiences will not be a waste of time as there is a lot to explore in Paladins.
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