The Games You Want to Play…Part XXV
Medieval – Part 2
A few months ago we had a chance to play the original Medieval that has been around for over a decade. Medieval was designed by Richard H. Berg (the well-known game designer who just passed away) and released by GMT in 2003.
After the game, we discussed how much we liked it, but thought there were a few things that could be done differently. We quickly discovered that there had been a new edition released on Kickstarter by HGN Games in 2018 that was now available on the open market (see a link to the webpage below). The original version was for 3-5 players, but the new version is for 1-6 players.
Well, one of our enterprising friends quickly hunted down a copy of the new edition and we had a chance to play it this past week. The new edition has essentially addressed every issue we had with the game – from design to game play.
The most noticeable change is the map. In the original, you used cards to build the map and certain areas were left blank – to be filled later as you drew cards. The concept was very neat, but it could become difficult to keep everything aligned, since they were simply playing cards.
Other physical changes include upgraded counters, markers, coins, and cards. They also included new player-aid cards. The rules have been streamlined and the issues have been corrected. It is the same game, but in a more modern package and with over 10 years of play testing being put to good use.
The new edition comes with a very nice, hard-mounted map board. Instead of adding new cards to build the map as you draw them, you remove very nice cardboard cards that are covering portions of the map based on the cards you draw. From a quality standpoint, this is quite a step up. The same cardboard cards can be flipped and used to cover areas overrun by the Mongols. I actually liked the build-a-map approach and would have liked to have seen them use that with the nicer cardboard cards – a minor quibble and the system they came up with works just fine.
The following is essentially a recap of the original post with some minor changes to reflect the new edition…
In 13th Century Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor, you are leading and building alliances (“cabals”) of major and minor powers of the age to form the most powerful group of nations. From France, England, and Spain in the west to the Russians, Ayyubids, and Seljuks in the east, you work to expand through conquest and a variety of special card plays. Those special card plays include: spying, assassinations, heresy, disasters, and the Pope (excommunication and calling crusades are just a couple of his powers).
Later, during turns, players may choose to draw a map card randomly and then remove the card covering the map board, which opens new areas to expansion. While those areas are covered, it is not possible to move through the gaps.
This can have some important strategic implications, so there is real value to some players to not see the map completed immediately – it can protect a flank or keep an enemy from collecting the gold in one of their powers’ provinces. Map card draw is random, so you could be helping another player with your draws, though you are trying to fill your own area (spies can let you take a look at the next map card, though).
Another neat twist for this time period is the Mongols! As we gamers know, the eastern powers can often have a safe border in Europe/Med-focused games of all time periods, but not in this game and age. The Mongols can appear after a certain number of their cards are drawn (which are shuffled in with the deck) and they can begin their march westward.They are tough, but not unbeatable. In the game this past week, the Mongols were stopped again and again by the eastern powers, barely making it on the board before the end of the game.
Conquest of neighboring provinces is abstract and comes across in game play as a combination of combat and politics, heavily influenced by the wealth of the competing alliances (though each individual power may add/subtract land and/or sea modifiers to their die rolls based on the nation and its leader). Hiding your total money (which we interpreted in the original game as being allowed by the rules) can add another variable to game play. The new edition provides little coin purses to make this much easier to manage, confirming our original thoughts.
A player is limited to two conquests per turn and a power of the player is limited to one of those attacks. Also, if a player chooses to collect income, they cannot play action cards or attack. It is a constant balancing act to ensure you have enough money, but do not miss opportunities.
The final Mongol card signals that the end of the game is upon you. The goal is to control provinces with the highest total value in money (“florins”).
We all really enjoyed this game. We found the approach to the map and “combat” system to be quite satisfying and felt that, despite the abstract approach, it felt like we were building alliances of powers. The cards added a nice, historical twist to the game and the shadow of the Mongol Horde to the east added to the game’s balance.
As a note, the attached photos are from the new edition.
Be sure to vote to include this game on the cruise!
See you onboard,
Publsher – New Addition: https://www.hgngames.com/get-medieval