Jeff and Dave arrived for games and after a bit of discussion, we decided to
give Die Säulen der Erde (aka The Pillars of the Earth) a try.
On an attractive board, players work to complete a cathedral in the center
of the board. Surrounding the cathedral are various aspects of a town that
can assist the player. For example, there are quarries for stone, forests
for wood, gravel pits for sand. In addition, there are craftsmen who will
use these resources to contribute items to the cathedral which will reward
the player with victory points. So at its heart, this is a game of
acquiring and spending resources to gain victory points.
Limiting the player's ability to gain resources are the number of workers at
their disposal (workers need to be sent to the source of resources to
collect the items) and their wealth (hiring crafsmen requires gold).
Additionally, a player has three master builders (architects?) that can be
used to gain certain advantages each round. In a nice mechanism, the
privilege of placing the first master builder (when the choices are
plentiful) costs gold. As spots are taken up, the cost goes down. A player
can delay placing a master builder until the cost is free, but the choices
available will be greatly reduced.
So in a round of play, players will be gaining resources and craftsmen while
coping with events that might happen as well as taxes the king requires to
be paid. Players can also gain certain advantages and visit the marketplace
to buy/sell a few resources to get ready for the final step in each round -
converting their resources via craftsmen into victory points. The game
lasts exactly 6 rounds. At the end, the player with the most victory points
is the winner.
As this was a first play for all three of us, we jumped in not really
knowing what sorts of development/resource paths might be most fruitful.
Dave picked up a craftsmen that allowed him to convert wood into gold. Jeff
started with craftsmen that converted sand to victory points as well as
picking up some victory points directly on the board. Rich got the
craftsmen that would produce gold as long as Rich held metal goods. So at
the end of the first round, only Jeff had gained victory points jumping up
from the starting 2 to 6.
In the second round, Rich's master builders were offered the chance to
select their actions, but Rich didn't want to pay the price, so he passed
hoping to get a chance to place his master builders at a cheaper price. No
such luck as Jeff and Dave's were the next to be offered the chance, leaving
Rich with little choice when his builders were allowed to select. But the
income streams started to work for Rich and Dave this round. Jeff gained 4
to 10. Rich gained 7 to 9. Dave gained 5 to 7.
In the third round, Dave continued to upgrade his wood using craftsmen as he
started to focus on a path to victory points via wood. He picked up the
advantage of 1 additional wood resource per turn which worked with his
strategy nicely. Jeff and Rich both seemed to focus on Sand as a path to
victory points. Jeff gained 5 to 15. Rich gained 2 to 11. Dave gained 5
By the fourth round, the gold was getting very tight as all the players were
near zero. Luck would then cast the event where all players get 5 gold, so
with a bit of breathing room we started to produce victory points more
efficiently. Jeff gained 8 to 23. Rich gained 9 to 20. Dave gained 8 to
With only two rounds left, we started to maneuver for the end game. With
more efficient craftsmen in use and focused production, great strides in
points. Jeff gained 7 to 30. Rich gained 8 to 28. Dave gained 12 to 33.
As we entered the final round, we drew the the event that cost all the
players 2 victory points - except for Dave who had selected "protection from
events" with one of his master builders giving Dave a net 2 victory points
over Jeff and Rich. Rich managed to acquire and then use all his resources
for 16 victory points to end the game at 42. Jeff did the same ending the
game at 44. Dave could "only" manage 14 victory points but that ended his
game at 47 and the win.
So a close game despite our different paths towards victory points. Dave
did a good job converting wood to both gold and victory points. Jeff used
primarily sand with a bit of stone. In the last turn, he had the goldsmith
which also allowed him convert gold to victory points also. Rich focused on
sand initially, but added a bit of stone as the game progressed. He also
used the glass blower and the bell maker to convert metal victory points.
All in all, not a bad showing for not knowing what types of goods might be
required when. Now that we have seen the possible craftsmen I expect that
folks might want to hold onto certain resources to utilize them for victory
points later in the game instead of gold immediately. But with only three
players, the competition for master builder spots wasn't all that fierce. I
can imagine with the tighter restrictions of four players - the game will be
a very tight battle.
So we had a close-fought resource management game that ended in about 2
hours (including rules explanation and set-up). With practice, I can see
this being perhaps a 90 minute game making it an good suggestion for our
game nights where playing time can be limited.
Until next week,