Review: Queen’s Architect

queensarchitectQueen’s Architect was an unknown quantity to me before it arrived – a brand new designer (Volker Schächtele), and not a lot of buzz ahead of time. However, I always enjoy reading the rules to games before I play them and often find I can get a good sense of the rhythm and cleverness of the rules, and here I found myself pretty excited by some unique rondel mechanisms. Is the game as well-designed as it looks, and does that actually translate to fun? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

 

queensarchitectcomponentsComponents: The components to this game are awesome, despite having that brown-ish tint over the whole thing that just screams “Eurogame” (here it looks very reminiscent of the game Village). The star-shaped rondels and the hexagonal workers are very fun shapes made from big and chunky pieces, and the wooden bits look and feel great too – nothing seems chintzy at all. The iconography is very large, clear, and consistent. The $50 MSRP is right on target for the amount of stuff in the box. And as much as I love card games, there’s nothing to sleeve – what a relief!

 

Accessibility: The general mechanisms of this game are fresh, but easy to understand. You’re essentially buying workers who “wear out” and are rotated as they are used to contribute to buildings around the kingdom. However, the game has a few idiosyncrasies that make it a bit tougher to learn than it should be. First, I immediately had the misconception that where you placed the workers around the rondel actually mattered – it doesn’t. Second, I feel like the whole “bonds” part of the game was just so that the rondel would have six actions; they seem a bit convoluted and tacked-on. Third, the tavern “mini-game” seems a bit more convoluted than it should be; you can essentially heal different colors of workers every other time, so why not just have a flip-up / flip-down mechanism for the tokens?

That’s a lot of griping, but I think the game isn’t so bad for seasoned gamers. I would not call it a gateway game, though. In fact, I’ve seen it used in that regard and fail miserably. This is probably more of a Kennerspiel-level game – we’re not talking Terra Mystica or Caverna, but it’s not a light family game.

 

Depth: There is plenty of skill in this game, although the way the workers come out offers a bit of luck of the draw. The problem is that the depth is narrowly focused in one domain. What I mean by that, is that this doesn’t pull on different parts of your brain and ask them to work together – it just asks you to do a really large amount of arithmetic and number-crunching. There were moments in this game where I literally wanted to get out a calculator, or at least write down some numbers and work with them. I’m not against people number-crunching (I’m a mathematics teacher!), it didn’t make for interesting gameplay.

When you compare that to games like Castles of Burgundy or Five Tribes that pull on your spatial intuition and your evaluations of disparate types of actions (Queen’s Architect essentially only has one ‘style’ of scoring) in addition to the number-crunching, you realize that while Queen’s Architect certainly requires skill, it’s not done in a way that feels rewarding or enjoyable to pursue.  It’s just asking too much along one particular vector of thought without anything interesting happening anywhere else (yes, there’s a bit of planning routes on the board, but not much).

 

Theme: While this feels like the classic medieval building / trading / contributing to society thing that’s been done over and over, I did at least feel like the art went a long way towards trying to make the theme fit, and the “wearing out” of the workers makes sense thematically (as did sleeping off time at the tavern, though it was a bit convoluted). So, it’s there if you want to use your imagination a little, but by no means would I call this one a “thematic” game.

 

Fun: This is an example of a game that is cleanly and cleverly designed yet doesn’t offer all that much fun. More than most other games I’ve played, it feels like straight-up arithmetic, “spreadsheet math” – not interesting math, like logical or geometric puzzles. If someone was eager to play their copy of the game, I wouldn’t say no – it had its enjoyable moments, but it was pretty forgettable.I can’t see myself ever suggesting to play this game again.

 

Queen’s Architect is an effective, clean design, but the heavy focus on arithmetic seems to have streamlined away all the fun.

 

Rating: 

2 Stars

2 out of 5

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