The Forever King has selected you and six others to go forth and colonize a new land. Your settlement starts out as a primitive village, but it will soon grow to become a bustling settlement of trade and industry. But the big question is: who will settle best?
Brief Overview of Charterstone
Charterstone is a legacy worker placement campaign that takes place over the course of 12 games. Throughout the campaign, you’ll uncover a secret story, unlock new rules and permanently alter the components of the game.
Each player’s objective is to effectively manage their workers to score more victory points than their opponents, which can be done in a variety of ways. You can choose to construct buildings and grow the infrastructure of the village, achieve tactical objectives, or use your wily ways to build up influence with the King.
Either way, whatever path to victory you choose, you’re in it for the long haul. And this time, quite literally, it’s got your name on it.
Versions & Expansions
Charterstone Recharge Pack
Don’t worry, NO SPOILERS HERE!
There are a lot of secrets in this box. But, what I am allowed to tell you is that you’ll definitely get:
- 350 cards
- 36 metal coins
- 230 wooden tokens, including:
- Influence tokens
- Resources (wood, coal, grain, brick, iron, and pumpkin)
Firstly, let’s talk about the artwork. The box itself takes a minimalist approach. And, initially, I didn’t like it very much. It felt very bare and plain. Unfinished, almost. But, thinking about it again, maybe that’s the point? This is a legacy game, after all. There’s still so much to unpack at this point that, in many ways, it is unfinished. Only once you reach the end of the game will it be completed.
Perhaps I’m overthinking it…
Anyway, once I got into the box, the look and feel still didn’t do wonders for the theme. It’s a bit basic and cartoony, but in an unloved rather than fun way. The rulebook looks a bit cheap, while the plain white cardboard boxes and beige card mats that fill the interior are just a bit… boring (there, I said it). The board itself brings some colour, but it’s ultimately just a dull green splat with some small buildings on it.
Artwork aside, though, it’s all very functional. You get plenty of wooden pieces to play with – always better than plastic – and lots and lots and lots of cards. The cards themselves are stickers, which you peel off and place into the guide as you move through the game.
One nice touch is that the board is double-sided. This is so that you can flip it over and start again from fresh, essentially, doubling the bang you get for your buck. Usefully, too, there’s the option to buy a recharge pack for the cards you use, which can be neatly stored in the archive box provided. Let’s hope other legacy games follow suit!
How to Play Charterstone
For those that haven’t played a legacy-style game before, you’ll find plenty of board game franchises have brought out their own version at some point. It’s a pretty cool concept. It means that, while playing the game, you’ll have to make physical and permanent changes to the games components, which affect every future game you play on it. This can range from creating you own place and character names, through to adapting the rules or layout of the board.
Like most other Legacy games, Charterstone comes packed with secret content that is revealed at certain points in the game. Therefore, it’s absolutely vital that you don’t open anything unless told to do so in the instructions!
Of course, you’ll find no spoilers in this review.
Aim Of The Game
Charterstone takes place over the course of 12 games. In each one, your goal is to be the player with the most victory points once the progress marker reaches the end of the progress track. There’s plenty of ways to earn victory points, including:
- Constructing a building
- Unlocking a crate
- Completing an objective
- Selling commodities
- Earning reputation
Players begin Charterstone by taking control of a charter on the board, made up of six plots of land to build upon. You’ll be given one resource building to start the game, which differs depending on the charter you choose. You’ll also be given a charter chest that contains two workers and 12 influence tokens, and get given four coins.
Alongside players’ own charters, there is space in the center of the play area called The Commons. This is made up of five buildings for general use, such as the Treasury, which lets your workers sell resources they have generated, and the Zepplin, which is where you need to go to construct buildings on your charter.
Finally, place the progress token on the track respective to the number of players playing the game.
Moving through the game
While playing Charterstone, you’ll be taking cards from the Index box that will walk you through the story. Each card is a sticker that can be peeled off and placed into the rulebook to let you follow along.
In Charterstone’s rulebook, you’ll see there is room for 29 rules, however only several of them have been filled in. As your campaign progresses, you’ll reveal new rules from the Index deck and stick them into the rulebook. These will affect how you set up and play out each game.
The crux of the gameplay, though, is a straightforward worker placement system. On your turn, you’ll have the option to pay to place a worker on a space – either in your charter, your opponents’ charter, or The Commons – in exchange for its benefit. You can generate resources, earn coins, construct buildings, complete objectives, and much more. All in an effort to generate victory points.
Alternatively, you can choose to return all workers to your stock ready to be deployed elsewhere.
Every time you construct a building, you get given an unopened crate. When you decide to open the crate, you’ll be advised to take out cards from the Index. The effects of these will differ, however it will often result in new conditions or rules coming into force, or various other exciting effects.
The Advancement Deck
Advancement cards can be purchased from the Market and are kept in front of you. These special cards can be used on your turn and include a number of different actions. Some, for example, will allow you to construct new buildings, while others offer a range of useful bonuses and ways to earn extra victory points.
There are three Objective Cards revealed at the beginning of the game that offer players a chance to earn victory points. To achieve an objective, players must meet the criteria (for example, collecting a certain amount of pumpkin resource) and then visit the Grandstand to cash it in. Once an objective has been completed, it is replaced with a new one.
Players continue taking turns and racking up victory points until the progress marker reaches the end of the progress track. The progress marker is moved down the track in response to several actions throughout the game:
- When someone constructs a building
- When someone opens a crate
- When someone achieves an objective
- When someone takes their turn and has used up all of their 12 influence markers.
When this happens, the player with the most victory points is declared the winner of that game.
Your First Game of Charterstone
There are lots of dos and don’ts in legacy games that need to be followed to maintain its integrity. In particular, quite simply, follow the instructions!
For example, do not get the urge to shuffle the cards unless told to do so. The bulk of the cards you take out at the beginning have been ordered as such for a reason. The Index cards, for example, are in numerical order, and you’ll need to flick through these to find the right numbers as they crop up throughout the game – a nightmare if they’re not in order.
Also, during the game, you’ll be revealing cards and peeling off the stickers to place in the rulebook. The remainder of the card should be placed in the Archive Box, acting as a record of the cards you will need to replace if you want to play Charterstone a second time. Again, keeping these in order will help keep this process simple!
When it comes to gameplay, bear in mind that the stocks of each resource are limited. So, once something runs out in the general supply, you can’t acquire any more of it until it’s been replenished. And, before you ask, no you can’t be owed it in the future. There are only twelve of each resource, so keep an eye on stock levels to avoid being disappointed.
A useful tip, too, on your first game is to try not and blitz through the Crates too quickly. One of the most exciting parts of Legacy games is revealing new features and rules from the box, however, doing so too often could get overwhelming for players that are still only getting to grips with rules introduced in the last one. Instead, think carefully and don’t just open crates for the sake of it.
Pros & Cons
- Smooth evolution of gameplay complexity
- Entry-level worker-placement/legacy game
- Recharge pack
- So-so story
- Need a committed group of players
As this is a legacy game, it’s difficult to discuss it without giving away any spoilers. So, I hope you’ll understand the vagueness.
Playing over 12 sessions, I was initially concerned that each game could get repetitive. Especially as, to begin with, the gameplay is extremely simple. However, Charterstone impressively mixes up the rules each time (and during games) in order to keep things interesting and to encourage players to adapt their technique.
Of course, it could also fall into the trap of going too much the other way by changing things so much you feel like you’re learning a new game each time. Again, Charterstone strikes a great balance here. Each game feels like a neat sequel to the one that preceded it.
By the time you reach the end of the campaign, it’s a relatively complex worker placement system. However, as this is gradually fed out to players, it’s unlikely to overwhelm even newer settlers.
Of course, being a legacy game, one aspect I love is that you get to leave your own permanent mark on it – no matter where this game finds itself in the future, it will always be yours. Charterstone may not let you do this in a way that feels quite as monumental as others, but you do get to name your charters and the characters (known as assistants).
A great thought, as mentioned earlier, is that the board is double-sided. This means that you can play the game entirely from scratch, and there’s the option to buy a recharge pack online to replace all the cards you used.
Where Charterstone does let me down is with how the story evolves. When you first open the game, everything is, of course, kept secret. However, as things unfold, I didn’t find myself becoming any more immersed in the narrative. It feels more functional, as a way to move the game along, than a centrepiece of the experience itself.
I’m often happy to forgive a game that’s weak on story but strong on gameplay. Yet, considering the basis of a legacy game is its evolution over time, it felt like a missed opportunity.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that legacy games, in general, require a lot of commitment. You need to source a group of players that are happy to play out all 12 games. To its credit, there are instructions for what happens if you want to add or remove a player. But, let’s be honest, it’s just not the same.
Charterstone is a worker placement legacy game that takes place across 12 games. Players must build their village and resources to earn as many victory points as possible.
It’s a smooth, straightforward and rewarding legacy system for those willing to put in the time to see it through to the end. However, it’s lack of complexity and lacklustre storytelling might be a little light for veteran gamers.
As legacy games go, Charterstone doesn’t have the most engaging storyline, the most complex gameplay, or even the most interesting of legacy mechanisms. However, it nicely strikes a balance between the three to create a very complete and smooth system that is incredibly enjoyable all the same.
So, while hardcore gamers might feel the first few games are a little simplistic, those new to the legacy genre or worker placement games in general, could find this a great place to start.
Just don’t get your hopes up for a Tolkein-esque journey of plot twists, immersive dialogue, and character development. When it comes to storytelling, it leaves a little too much to the imagination.
Have you played Charterstone? Let us know what you think in the comments below.