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How Architects of the West Kingdom Broke Me

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14 Aug 2019 09:14 #300729 by Vysetron
Architects of the West Kingdom is a boring game. It's...

This is not quite a review.

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14 Aug 2019 09:41 - 14 Aug 2019 09:42 #300730 by Josh Look
I really like this game and I disagree with almost every word you wrote.
Last edit: 14 Aug 2019 09:42 by Josh Look.
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14 Aug 2019 10:04 #300732 by Vysetron
Can you explain why it works for you? Genuinely curious. I think I see the appeal but I bounced off it so hard that I'm not sure.

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14 Aug 2019 10:18 #300733 by Nate Hayden
Haven't played this one, but had a similar experience with euros. I played one, or maybe a few, and the dry nature one day ruined them for me. I had a hard time playing any after that, which may be why I did not play this one.

I like abstract games, I even like innovative and smooth mechanics, but there was some overall aim to Euros that revolted me. I wish I could say it was a matter of surplus in the market, but the over all aim of most of them tired me out.

I very much liked the Euro at first, and the phase of enjoying them lasted awhile. What is interesting is that I seemed to turn entirely away from them at a certain point. While I will play some from time to time I over all avoid them. The totally turning away is an interesting phenomena. It implies that there may be a hinge, or a kind of realization. Maybe the mind figures out that there really isn't too much in being clever, novel or smooth? That depth is more than this?

I still enjoy what I'd call "classic" euros though.
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14 Aug 2019 10:28 - 14 Aug 2019 10:29 #300734 by Josh Look
I guess I should preface this with saying that I’m someone who enjoys:
-New takes on familiar mechanics
-Worker placement
-Push your luck
-The feeling of tension from not having enough time to do everything you want to
-Player interaction where/when appropriate

Architects does all of those things quite well. Yes, even the player interaction bit. I actually found it to be not only more confrontational than the typical WP game, but it’s a really interesting, important part of the puzzle. Recognizing just how much you can screw someone over when they’re just about to collect what they need is huge and benefits you more than any other WP game that tries to shoehorn in direct conflict (which, granted, there are not many others out there). Maybe it’s just the people I play with, folks like myself who love a good Euro as much as we love a good DOAM game, but it really hit us in all the right ways.

I’ve played it 6 times or so now and the one thing that does not work for me is the pacing. It’s the kind of thing that isn’t exclusive to this game, I think this is more of a trend in current game design that I kind of think we should be pushing more against than we are. There’s times in which one-action-per-turn is fine and there’s cases in which it somehow makes a game feel slower. I think the difference is what you’re one action leads up to and how many actions it takes to get there. I get that designers are trying to reduce downtime in order to keep the audience (new gamers? cell phone glancers?) engaged, but that shit just feels glacial to me. It put me off of Scythe only up until recently and it certainly made me less thrilled about Architects on my first play. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why my opinion of Scythe turned a corner, but with Architects it was the push your luck and interaction that really put it over for me.
Last edit: 14 Aug 2019 10:29 by Josh Look.
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14 Aug 2019 10:30 - 14 Aug 2019 10:31 #300735 by Vysetron

Nate Hayden wrote: Haven't played this one, but had a similar experience with euros. I played one, or maybe a few, and the dry nature one day ruined them for me. I had a hard time playing any after that, which may be why I did not play this one.

I like abstract games, I even like innovative and smooth mechanics, but there was some overall aim to Euros that revolted me. I wish I could say it was a matter of surplus in the market, but the over all aim of most of them tired me out.

I very much liked the Euro at first, and the phase of enjoying them lasted awhile. What is interesting is that I seemed to turn entirely away from them at a certain point. While I will play some from time to time I over all avoid them. The totally turning away is an interesting phenomena. It implies that there may be a hinge, or a kind of realization. Maybe the mind figures out that there really isn't too much in being clever, novel or smooth? That depth is more than this?

I still enjoy what I'd call "classic" euros though.


Oh hey Nate! I'm a fan.

I agree 100%. The euro fatigue/disgust hit pretty suddenly, but I assumed for a while that it was just what I had been playing recently. Turns out, no.

Abstracts and "classic" euros have similar qualities. Simplicity, clarity, conflict, etc. But it bears remembering that the games we make examples of are the ones that stood the test of time. I'm sure the vast majority that have been forgotten deserved to be.

Depth is more than a game's rulebook and mechanisms. It needs to emerge from play to have lasting appeal. And most new school euros are very much of the opposite design philosophy.
Last edit: 14 Aug 2019 10:31 by Vysetron. Reason: added quote

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14 Aug 2019 10:35 #300736 by Josh Look
It’s funny, re-reading the article made me aware of the fact that there are certain types of game where I agree with this sentiment but Euros are not one of them. The classic “Ameritrash” game is a dead concept and what we have now is the hybrid, which I am all for, but I am by far more interested in the thematic game that tries new, weird things and may not be quite so “refined” than I am any of the alternatives.

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14 Aug 2019 10:38 #300737 by Vysetron

Josh Look wrote: I’ve played it 6 times or so now and the one thing that does not work for me is the pacing. It’s the kind of thing that isn’t exclusive to this game, I think this is more of a trend in current game design that I kind of think we should be pushing more against than we are. There’s times in which one-action-per-turn is fine and there’s cases in which it somehow makes a game feel slower. I think the difference is what you’re one action leads up to and how many actions it takes to get there. I get that designers are trying to reduce downtime in order to keep the audience (new gamers? cell phone glancers?) engaged, but that shit just feels glacial to me. It put me off of Scythe only up until recently and it certainly made me less thrilled about Architects on my first play. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why my opinion of Scythe turned a corner, but with Architects it was the push your luck and interaction that really put it over for me.


Thanks for clarifying. I want to focus in on this last bit because I think it's important: FUCK micro turns. When my wife read this piece before I submitted it she said that was the real takeaway. I could do an entire article on this topic alone.

Reducing downtime isn't worth it if none of your actions carry weight. Players need agency. They need the ability to make impactful, significant, game-state-altering moves. There's a reason so many older euros that people hold in high regard have action point systems, or allow for bonus actions, or have variable numbers of actions, etc. In games like Architects you effectively need to get collective permission from every other player to do anything cool. This newer trend towards forcing everyone into lockstep with no ability to deviate feels like playing with a straitjacket.
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14 Aug 2019 11:02 #300738 by Jackwraith

Vysetron wrote: Thanks for clarifying. I want to focus in on this last bit because I think it's important: FUCK micro turns. When my wife read this piece before I submitted it she said that was the real takeaway. I could do an entire article on this topic alone.

Reducing downtime isn't worth it if none of your actions carry weight. Players need agency. They need the ability to make impactful, significant, game-state-altering moves. There's a reason so many older euros that people hold in high regard have action point systems, or allow for bonus actions, or have variable numbers of actions, etc. In games like Architects you effectively need to get collective permission from every other player to do anything cool. This newer trend towards forcing everyone into lockstep with no ability to deviate feels like playing with a straitjacket.


I'm of two minds on this because I sympathize to one degree, but can really see the point in "one action per turn" for many games. Take 51st State, for example, since I was just playing it the other day. It's an engine builder, so you're building up your engine bit by bit. I'm not sure how it would be impacted by being able to make several moves at once, but I think it would be detrimental when you involve Razing and the potential of a pile of resources that lets you play several cards at a time. One slight contrast is Wingspan, in which you can potentially make several moves at once depending on how your board is set up (i.e. 4 birds in grasslands, gain X eggs, then 4 other actions from your birds.) Since you don't directly interact with your opponents, that seems more appropriate. Cthulhu Wars is another interesting example. You can only do one action per turn, but you can potentially take sweeping turns just by moving 5 guys in 5 different directions on one Move action. But being able to take all your actions/use all your Power in one turn would destroy the game (and the world!)

I thought about this recently because I was teaching Star Trek: Ascendancy to a couple people and it hit me while I was explaining: "Holy shit! That's right! You do everything in one turn! Before the next person does anything!" I've been playing so many single action games that it was like having a new experience. So, I dunno. I can see the design benefits of both approaches and I don't think either is inherently superior.

Sorry to read that Architects didn't work for you. It's been on my want list for some time, since I enjoyed Raiders and like the theme of Architects even more.
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14 Aug 2019 11:15 - 14 Aug 2019 11:17 #300739 by Josh Look
Jackwraith, there are absolutely times in which one action per turn works. Chaos In the Old World is a fine example. When your one action really feels like it amounts to something, or at the very least will on your next action, it works. When your one action doesn’t pay off until 3+ actions later, that’s when it starts to get dicey. It feels slow and is prone to being derailed. I’ll admit that worker placement is inclined towards this by design.
Last edit: 14 Aug 2019 11:17 by Josh Look.
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14 Aug 2019 11:19 #300740 by Vysetron
Yeah, I was gonna say. 51st State may only have you taking one action, but they can be huge. A raze takes out an engine piece, awards resources, and creates a foundation. If that was split over multiple actions it'd feel bad, but because it's powerful it works.

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14 Aug 2019 11:26 - 14 Aug 2019 11:27 #300741 by Josh Look
Star Trek: Ascendancy is my go-to defense of long turns. Wouldn’t work any other way.

I’m a big fan of the two action combo. Goddamn, that shit feels good. I like Architects, but Raiders is still the superior game because of that.
Last edit: 14 Aug 2019 11:27 by Josh Look.
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14 Aug 2019 12:31 #300744 by moofrank
Did you declare Ameritrash dead in a comment thread with Nate Hayden included?

Ameritrash isn't really that dead. Lots of the mechanics have been moved off CRTs into cards and apps, and moved so far into the mainstream that no one noticed. Enough that even GW is back on the scene with a vengeance.
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14 Aug 2019 13:59 - 14 Aug 2019 20:38 #300748 by Josh Look
I did and I stick to it. Any examples are exceptions, and by no means represent what is currently standard in thematic game design. No, the two sides have mingled enough now and that outcome is now influencing current design.
Last edit: 14 Aug 2019 20:38 by Josh Look.

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14 Aug 2019 20:20 - 14 Aug 2019 20:21 #300775 by Jexik
Not sure which of Lords of Waterdeep and Castles of Burgundy broke me, but they were certainly contemporaries, and it has been awhile.

The "microturn" is one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of Imperial Settlers, which is essentially 51st State, I gather?
Last edit: 14 Aug 2019 20:21 by Jexik.

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