I have come to the conclusion that I really enjoy games where I have built something by the end of the game. I look to look back over what I have accomplished. This is what drew me to “The Builders Middle Ages.” By the end of the game you have built you own little Medieval Town. It’s a small box game, that is surprisingly deeper than you first think.
Components / Set-up
The Builders Middle Ages comes in a small tin; the same size as Asmodee’s Cardline and Timeline series. Though the contents are minimal the game play definitely is not.
There are 40 plastic coins – 25 silver (worth 1) and 15 gold (worth 5). The other contents are the 42 worker cards and 47 Building Cards. There is also a first player card.
The levels of worker cards are: Apprentice, Laborer, Craftsman, and Master. The coins at the top show the amount of money the players need to spend to have the worker, work. There are also resources on the side of the card. These resources are stone, wood, knowledge, and tiles. The amount of ovals filled in shows the amount of resources the workers produce.
There are also 47 building cards. Included with these buildings are 8 machines. These cards are very similar to the workers. One side of the card show the building / machine under construction and the other side shows it completed. At the top of the construction side there the coins represents the amount of coins the player receives for the completed building and the crown shows the amount of victory points earned. On the same side, the filled in ovals represent the amount of resources needed to finish the building / machine.
Set-up is quick and simple. First, take the Apprentice workers, shuffle them and give each play a random apprentice. Each player also receives five silver coins and one gold coin. Then take the left over Apprentice workers and shuffle them with the other workers. Turn over five worker cards and place them in a line on the table. Shuffle the Building cards and turn over five buildings. Place these in a row above the workers.
Place the coins to form a bank. Choose a starting player and give them the first player card.
Goal of the Game
Through using workers and machines, players are trying to score the most victory points. The player with the most victory points
Over several turns player will use three actions to recruit workers and send then to construct buildings. If they wish they can spend 5 coins for an additional action.
During their turn players can use their actions to do the following: start construction, recruit a worker, send a worker to work, or take coins.
Start Construction – For one action players can start construction, they do this by choosing a building from the available buildings and place it in front of them. A new building immediately replaces the chosen building. Players can start construction any number of times as long as they have actions.
Recruit a Worker – Players can recruit a worker for one action. As with buildings they choose one of the available workers. And as with the buildings the chosen worker is immediately replaced. Players can recruit workers any number of times as long as they have actions.
Send a Worker to Work – Players preform this action by placing the worker next to one of their buildings under construction so the resources line-up. Players must also pay the worker the number of coins on their card. How many actions it costs to send a worker to work is variable. To send one worker to a building it costs one action point. The second worker sent to the same building on the same turn costs two more actions. A third costs three more action points. A worker sent to a different building only costs one action point.
Each worker has different strengths. The amount of money you need to play a worker is based on how many ticks they have on their card. A Master, needs to be payed 5 coins and gives you five ticks, while an Apprentice costs 2 coins and gives you two ticks.
Take Coins – As with sending workers, taking coins has a variable cost. For one action players get one coin, for two actions they get three coins, and for three actions they get six coins. Players receive one victory point for every 10 value of coins at the games end.
Finishing A Building
It does not take an action to finish a building. When a worker is sent to a building and the total resources equals or exceeds the building requirements, they complete the building.
After the building is complete, the assigned workers are returned to the players team. The player is then given the amount of coins indicated on the card. The building is flipped to the completed side and placed with the rest of the players completed buildings.
I really like the machines because they are so helpful. They are a special type of building, that once completed, can be used as a worker. The great thing is that you don’t have to pay to send a building to work. They are completed just like buildings and grant the player victory points when finished.
End of Game
When a player has 17 or more victory points, counting only buildings and machines, at the end of their turn the game ends. Players who have not had a turn that round gets one more turn so that everyone has an equal number of turns.
Players then count of their victory points from their buildings and machines. They then add 1 point for every 10 coins worth of value. The player with the most victory points wins the game.
For such a small game the components are amazing. I love he artwork and feel of the cards. That aren’t linen cards, but they have a faux linen feel. The card stock is a nice quality, but the cards aren’t handled very much. The art creates a nice blend of reality and whimsy. The buildings are stunning, both front and back. Each building is unique and it’s fun to see your town grow as you complete buildings.
Each worker has their own personality. It is enjoyable to build the most optimal team. The workers almost have special abilities as one may be better at stonework, while the other is best with tiles. I like this little detail added to the game.
The plastic coins are a nice touch. It would have been very easy to just have cardboard tokens but the weight and design of the coins add the finishing touch to the game.
The tin is nice, but not my favorite type of box. We have a few of these same sized tins now, so we can at least stack them together. The 3-D embossing on the top make it so they don’t stack very well. I wish it had just been a flat top. But the box is just right for the size of the game components.
The Rulebook is comprehensive and easy to read. The is a nice colored coded section that tells players what they can do on their; a nice touch I would like to see more often. This helps you quickly reference a section when needed. The weight of The Builders isn’t in the rules, its in the game play.
The Builders: Middle Ages is really a race of efficiency and optimization. You want to be the player who assembles the best team of workers, and choose the right combination of buildings and machines to gain victory. Turns are quick with minimal downtime. This downtime is crucial as it allows players to decide on their strategy. The rules are easy to grasp and new players will learn then quickly. The real challenge is in the strategy.
The Builders, I was surprised to discover, really is an entry level Eurogame. There isn’t much luck involved, as the only random elements are the workers and buildings available on your turn. Winning or losing depends on the players’ strategy and resource management. Players have limited resources and actions and must decide on the best strategy. You can do a lot of things on your turn, but how can you best optimize your actions? Perhaps you want to pay for extra actions, you can pay for those. Yet money is worth victory points so you don’t want to overdo the extra actions. You may also get stuck if you don’t manage your resources wisely. Watch your money as it can quickly be spent. The added race to 17 victory points keeps players on their toes. They can’t waste time, or their opponents will reach 17 points before they can. There is also a bit of a worker placement element as you send your workers to work, though you cannot be blocked by other players.
Positives / Negatives
There are many paths to victory and a variety a strategies may be employed. The game is quick to set up and play, so if you don’t win one game, you can try a second.
The Builders Middle Ages can be played with new gamers and children as a light game where you focus on building. When things get competitive the weight of the game changes. It is still a light game, but it becomes almost medium weight. Depending on the group the Builders Middle Ages can quickly switch from a light filler game to a mathy puzzle of optimization. It can be a heavier game than players may expect from a small box game. Some people are really going to like that, but it may surprise those looking for a small filler, and turn them off of the game.
Playing well against a competitive opponent means mathing out your strategy. This could take more brainpower than players may be willing to devote. There are a lot of options and decisions to be made during a players turn. Added on to this, is the race. Being first to 17 points doesn’t guarantee victory. You need to ensure you will have more points after all players have finished their last turn so you usually want to be sure to have more than 17 points.
I have enjoyed The Builders. I love the artwork and simple mechanics. I feel it is a game that would scale well with different groups of people as new players focus on the resource management and building, while experienced people focus on optimization. The math and unexpected heaviness may turn off a few players. I’m also not completely sure about the re-playability of the game.
It does fit in our collection of games because of its small size and ease of play. The straightforward rules make it easy to pull off the self and play. ike
Designer: Frédéric Henry
Artist: Sabrina Miramon
Publishers: Asmodee, Asterion Press, Bombyx, REBEL.pl
Game Length: 30 minutes
Ages: 10 and up