The Games You Want to Play – Part XVII…
We had a chance to play a game that was new to most of us, but 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.
Also, although we played the original, a new edition was released on Kickstarter by HGN Games in 2018 and is 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.
In 13th Century Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor, you are leading and building alliances 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).
The game has cards everywhere – even the map is made of cards. The map takes an interesting approach. You place an initial sets of cards, which leaves the map with a large number of gaps. Later, during turns, players may choose to draw a map card randomly and place it on the board, which opens new areas to expansion. While those areas are missing, 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.
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 can have land and/or sea modifiers to their die rolls). Hiding your total money (which we interpreted as being allowed by the rules) can add another variable to game play.
A player is limited to two conquests per turn and each of their powers 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 at the end of the game is to control provinces with the highest total value.
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 twist to the, historical, twist to the game and the shadow of the Mongol Horde to the east added to the game’s balance.
Despite that enjoyment, we had a few thoughts about how the game components could be improved. Once we investigated the new edition, however, it appeared that the re-designers were one step ahead of us – an improved game board system and upgraded markers for province control being two of the items at the top of our list that they have addressed. We look forward to giving the new edition a try.
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
SU&SD – SHUX Preview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=stdm6ufph80