Stats at a glance
Ages: 12 +
Publisher: Garphill Games
Architects of the West Kingdom is set in the period after the collapse of the Carolingian Empire. Players will become royal architects & masons, tasked with constructing landmarks, buildings, and the cathedral.
The competition will be fierce which may lead some of the architects into making shady deals. This will give you a quick edge, but be careful as all of your decisions are judged at the end of the game! Read our full board game review of Architects of the West Kingdom below.
Brief Overview of Architects of the West Kingdom
Architects of the West Kingdom is a worker placement game playable by up to 5 players. It has a solo mode, and the best experience can be had with 4 players.
Playtime is between 60 and 80 minutes, with the BGG complexity at 2.76/5, which may be a bit higher than you’d expect from a game with this kind of art style.
What’s interesting about Architects of the West Kingdom is that it’s actually the first game out of the “West Kingdom” trilogy, along with the Paladins of the West Kingdom and Viscounts of the West Kingdom.
However, Paladins and Viscounts are not the only games that Architects remind you of. Shipwrights, Raiders, and Explorers of the North Sea is another trilogy by the same designer and artist.
There are plans to release yet another trilogy with Wayfarers, Scholars, and Inventors of the South Tigris, so when it comes to the games designed by Shem Phillips and S. J. Macdonald, there are quite a lot of options.
Architects of the West Kingdom is a great game, but when it comes to these games, you can safely pick based on the theme that you find most appealing. I’ll focus on Architects as a standalone game, and mention Raiders of the North Sea if necessary as that’s another title I’ve played, reviewed, and enjoyed quite a lot.
Unboxing Architects of the West Kingdom
Inside the box you’ll find:
- 1 Main Board
- 5 Double-sided Player Boards
- 40 Apprentice Cards
- 40 Building Cards
- 10 Black Market Cards
- 22 Debt Cards
- 11 Reward Cards
- 6 Multiplier Cards
- 170 Resource-shaped Pieces
- 50 Silver Coins
- 10 Player Markers
- 100 Workers
The first component waiting for you underneath the box cover is the rulebook. Illustrated and in full color, the book spans 28 pages, but don’t let that intimidate you. It features a lot of images, examples, and highlighted text that makes it much more readable and easier to understand.
The only punchout pieces in this game are the silver coins — they’re double-sided and pop out without tearing. I’m not a fan of cardboard coins, as they usually feel awkward to stack and sort.
Fortunately, Architects only have one type of coin, so this isn’t much of an issue, although I’d still prefer plastic, wooden, or even metal pieces.
The box that Architects of the West Kingdom comes in isn’t what I’d consider a “full-size” box, but this hasn’t reflected on the size of the game board. Triple-folded, the game board takes up six times the surface of the box, creating a comfortable playing area.
The color palette on the board matches the theme, with a soft, almost worn-out look. From the gameplay standpoint, the locations and requirements are easily readable from all positions around the table, and all of the gameplay-relevant points are well grouped or spaced out.
The illustrations these games are well-known for are most prominent on player boards and game cards. The cards and resource tokens are well made, but the player boards use flexible & slick card-like cardboard.
I would have preferred the thick cardboard instead, but I know that it doesn’t accept the art print as well, so it had to be a trade-off. Overall, the components have good thematic synergy, and their quality is on a satisfying level.
How to Play Architects of the West Kingdom
Architects is an easy game to get into, and while I won’t be able to explain the rules in detail, I’ll help you create a good idea of what the game is about.
Architects is a worker placement game, but unlike others in its genre, it starts you off with 20 workers. During each turn, you’ll only place 1 worker on the board, and the more you visit the same place, the benefits will increase to reflect it.
The primary way to interact with other players is by capturing their workers. In the town center location, you’d take the action that will allow you to snatch other players’ workers and put them on your board.
Later, you can send them to the prison to earn silver, but then their original owner can recover them. This mechanic is the primary way of returning workers to the player’s board.
The last thing to note is the virtue track that is used to monitor the actions of all players. It’s affected by the moral choices you make during the game. Going by the book will grant you good virtue and bonus points at the end of the game, but if you make some underhanded deals, you’ll benefit during the game, but suffer a penalty at the end.
The Game Loop
Architects of the West Kingdom is played in a series of turns, starting with the first player and proceeding clockwise. During their turn, a player must place 1 of their workers on the game board.
The game continues until the required number of buildings is completed, at which point every player gets one extra turn before the game ends.
The scoring is based on the constructed buildings, progress on the cathedral, virtue track, as well as unspent gold marble and silver. Next to the virtue track, your score can be negatively affected by unpaid debt or by having workers in prison at the end of the game.
Placing Workers & Board Locations
Architects is a worker placement game so if you’re familiar with the general mechanics of the genre, you’ll feel right at home. For those thinking of getting Architects as their first worker placement game, I’ll go into more details on how it works.
The game board has a lot of locations that can be visited. These are outlined in a white line and divided into four types:
- Locations with a large circle accommodate multiple workers.
- Locations with a small circle accommodate only one worker.
- The guildhall features worker outlines and workers have to be placed in order.
- The prison is a special location where workers are placed through the guardhouse action.
By now, I’ve mentioned several board locations, but I haven’t touched upon what they signify. The locations are the core of the game, and the entire game loop revolves around the tactical placement of workers in locations that provide the most benefits.
The game board of the Architects of the West Kingdom has these locations:
- Forest, mines, quarry, silversmith
- King’s storehouse
- Town center
- Tax stand
- Black market
- Guardhouse and prison
The quarry, forest, mines, and silversmith are self-explanatory: you’d go to these locations to gain resources. The King’s storehouse allows you to trade these basic resources for virtue or marble, which is a higher tier material.
The workshop allows players to get new building blueprints or to hire apprentices. Think of apprentices as party members, with special actions and abilities that can help you through the game.
The only locations we didn’t previously cover are the tax stand and the black market. The tax stand allows the players to take tax collection, but they’ll lose virtue. The black market also affects virtue, but it provides better rewards than standard resource locations.
Your First Game of Architects of the West Kingdom
Architects has a lot of gameplay depth, but as a first-time player, it’s not going to overwhelm you with everything. Even though the board has a lot of locations, most cannot be visited unless you have certain goods. Your options will be more limiting, and therefore easier at the start.
For your first few games, try to keep the virtue status positive or neutral. Doing so will slightly limit the number of actions you’ll take, and you won’t have to worry about min-maxing the benefits of the black market and tax collection against end-game penalties.
Every building is made from the ground up, so focus on creating a constant influx of basic materials. You can do this by frequently visiting resource locations, or by getting apprentices that provide material bonuses.
Pros & Cons
- Worker Placement Mechanics
- Balance of Difficulty and Playtime
It’s very hard for a worker placement game to stand out in its genre. The gameplay loop is fairly rigid, and going too much out of the pattern generally results in bad gameplay.
Architects of the West Kingdom manages to do something different and make the game better for it. With its 20 workers and the worker arrest mechanic, it provides that player interactivity that is much needed and creates a refreshing experience.
Another strong selling point of Architects is that it delivers the perfect balance of depth and game length. This is not an easy thing to do, and you can rarely expect a deep experience from a game that roughly takes an hour.
And yet, Architects of the West Kingdom does exactly that and creates a compelling experience that doesn’t need 2-3 hours to complete.
- Too Many Game Variations
Architects of the West Kingdom is not a scenario-driven game, so in theory, it can be replayed an infinite amount of times. However, the degree of uniqueness of each subsequent game is going to be reduced because of the static game board.
This is not much of a negative, just something to keep in mind. You’ll be able to play dozens of games and have a lot of fun with it, just be aware that due to the limitations of the genre, it won’t provide infinite scenarios.
The second point has to do with a large number of games similar to Architects of the West Kingdom. The game is great, don’t get me wrong, but when you’ve also got 3 “The North Sea” games and 2 additional “The West Kingdom” games to compare it with, it’s not easy to pick just one.
Architects of the West Kingdom Expansions
Age of Artisans Expansion
The architectural solutions required by the king need more than just skilled masons and engineers. The guildhall is now expanded with apprentice and master artisans that will create golden tapestries, glass windows, and sculptures that will stand the test of time!
The Age of Artisans expands the game so it can be played with a 6th player, and includes new craft cards, a dual-layered guildhall board, two new player boards, and more buildings and apprentices.
Works of Wonder Expansion
The West Kingdom Tomesaga
The Tomesaga is an expansion that can be used with any game from the West Kingdom Trilogy through separate cooperative modes.
The players can compete through an epic journey to collect the most tomes, but they can also band together and fight the evil Overlord!Amazon product
The West Kingdom Trilogy
#1. Architects of the West Kingdom
#2. Paladins of the West Kingdom
#3. Viscounts of the West KingdomViscounts of the West Kingdom
Architects of the West Kingdom Review (TL;DR)
Architects of the West Kingdom stands out among its trilogy and all worker placement games as a fine example of how game complexity and depth can be combined with reasonably long play sessions.
If you like worker placement games, Architects is one of the safest picks in the genre. Before you buy it though, I’d recommend checking out the other games in the West Kingdom trilogy and going with the one that has the most interesting theme.
Since I first played Raiders of the North Sea, it has become one of my go-to games. When I got Architects of the West Kingdom, I immediately got the feeling of something familiar, but to my surprise, Architects wasn’t just a reskin of the original North Sea trilogy.
In terms of how it feels to play, the slight differences in gameplay mechanics make for a noticeably different experience. Given that it’s part of a completely different setting, I wouldn’t mind having both Raiders and Architects, but those on a tighter budget will be happy with just one game from the series.
I’ve yet to decide whether Architects is going to make it in my rotation of must-play games in place of Raiders, but I can recommend it regardless of that fact. Architects of the West Kingdom is one in a series of many games in the same spirit, but it manages to stand out and impress regardless!
We hope you enjoyed our Architects of the West Kingdom review! This medieval city building worker placement game grabbed my interest as soon as it came out and with all of the expansions, it just keeps getting better.
Have you tried Architects of the West Kingdom or any of the other games in the trilogy? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
When I first got into the hobby some 10 years ago, my friend circles didn’t know that board games went further than Monopoly and Risk. Now everyone I’m close with is into board gaming and my collection really has something for everyone.
My favorite games are Terraforming Mars and Lords of Waterdeep and I’m a fan of Euro, strategy, and engine-building games in general. I also enjoy the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which pulled me into the miniature painting hobby.