The session this week looked as though it might be in jeopardy as Steve was working in Birmingham and Richard was in Austria (again!!). Luckily Neil and his girlfriend Aga were able to come along and make their Billygames debut. It was my choice and I knew that Garry had a copy of the Pillars of the Earth and really fancied giving it a go. This 2006 game designed by Michael Rieneck and Stefen Stadler had had a load of praise and was the winner of the 2007 Deutscher Spiele Prei.
Me with our Billygames guests, Neil and Aga
Garry had the Mayfair Games edition so we didn't have to struggle with german on the cards. The rules seemed quite a handful and took us a good half hour to get through, but as with a lot of games once you have played a round it all becomes clear......sort of. This game does have echoes of Caylus about it, where you place your master builders on the board to get certain benefits. The object of the game is to acquire VPs and the way you get them is by contributing to the construction of the cathedral. Your craftsmen can use the resources you acquire in the first phase, wood, stone, sand or metal to construct the cathedral and thus acquire said VPs.
There is a deck of event cards of which the top one is triggered at the beginning of the 2nd phase, these can be beneficial or detrimental. Ours were almost all bad, you can place a master builder to negate this effect if you like. Basically in the first phase you collect or upgrade craftsmen or collect resource cards. In the second phase all the master builders (3 each) are put into a bag and drawn at random, the first one out costs 7 gold to place or you may pass, subsquent builders are drawn with the cost decreasing by one each time, when the cost reaches 0 each builder is placed free, finally the builders that passed may be placed. They have to take what options are left, the best ones will probably be gone by then.
Final board position
Aga seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly and led for most of the game, I had a privilege card that allowed me to look at the event card at the start of each round (when I remembered!). The game is played over 6 rounds with a section of the cathedral being completed at the end of each round, the lovely wooden cathedral at the centre of the board is really just a glorified turn marker, pretty though. As the game progresses the craftsmen get more efficienct and more expensive to buy. In the end it was all pretty close with Garry just getting the win. I think we all enjoyed the game and saw what all the praise had been for. It was great to meet Neil and Aga and we had a great evening. The game finished well within the 2 hours that was on the box and managed to get in a hand of Geschenkt which is always great fun.
The Pillars of the Earth
Garry 41, Aga 38, Neil 36, Colin 35
Garry -47, Colin -49, Aga -55, Neil -72