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The Pillars of the Earth: Builders Duel» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Small review of Pillar's nice little brother rss

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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Theme

This is a 2-player only game in the world of Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth". Bishop Waleran and Prior Philip compete with each other who will be the first to finish their building - Waleran is building his castle, Philip is building the cathedral of Kingsbridge.

Flow of Play

Each player has its own set of resources that need to be gathered and upgraded before they can be built in the player's building (red = Waleran builds his castle, blue = Philip builds the cathedral). You've got 12 rounds at most to complete your building. In each of the 12 rounds 9 cards are laid out in a 3x3 pattern. The start player (Waleran, this won't change unless Philip gets a special card) takes any one row or column or one of the two diagonals and places markers on those cards. The other player does the same, but needs to cross the first players line. Thus, there will be always one card that both players want to take. They fight for it by flipping numbered chits in the air (this is the silly part of the game). You can flip more if you threw the lower total and so on.(*) Winner loses all chits thrown, loser all but one. Loser doesn't get the card, obviously. Then proceed with executing the cards and start a new round.

What do the cards show? They allow you to take resources, to upgrade them or produce money. Yes, money. You'll need it for upgrading resources, buying them on some cards, and most importantly, you need money to build upgraded resources in your building. The buildings are, btw, split in three sections and you only ever are allowed to add resources to one such section (but you may chose another one next round and come back to another later). If you are the first to complete a section, you get a bonus that your opponent doesn't (even if he completes this section later).

If you manage to complete your building, you win immediately. If the 12 rounds are over and nobody has completed his or her building, the player who has completed the most sections wins. If tied, moset spent resources break the tie. If again tied, most left-over money wins. If still tied, Philip wins as Waleran always makes the first move in any one session.

My Opinion

I like the Tic Tac Toe like claiming of action cards and the forced battle for one of them (such that one player gets 3 the other gets 2 actions). I really dislike the flipping of the chits to resolve battles. It's a funny part, but at the same time silly and somehow reminds me of Carcassonne Catapult. Geez, dear game designers, please do NOT take Catapult as standard. Puh-leeeeeze.

However, the game itself is good, plays in about half an hour and absolutely fits for 2 players. It really feels like a battle between two rivals and you can see your building grow higher than your opponent's. Anyway, as with every euro, there is little theme in the end - the mechanics are, as always, clearly in the center of the game. I do not have a problem with this. The game experience counts and I had a good one. However, if you think Pillars have very little theme (and have a problem with this!), you'll find this game to have even less. The cards are named with characters from the book, but honestly, who cares in a euro game? I didn't bother looking at the illustrations.

I give this game 7/10 points. It's good and way lighter than its old brother, but plays way faster and leaves a decent experience. I'd say try before you buy. Ken Follet or Pillars fans, on the other hand, will find this is a must-buy, anyway.


Edit: Typos.
Edit2: Added paragraph below.

(*) Why do you flip chits in this game?
Well, each chit is showing two numbers that sum up to 5 on both sides (0/5, 1/4, 2/3). The flipping of these chits is a sort of randomizer for the value you get.
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Yoki Erdtman
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Thanks for the review Grzegorz. I will definitely have to test this before buying, that whole flipping tokens bit sounds too flakey for me.
 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Now that you mention the flipping, I forgot to write why you are supposed to flip those chits. I've added a little paragraph in the review that indicates the reason.
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Tim Mierz
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Ponton wrote:
I really dislike the flipping of the chits to resolve battles. It's a funny part, but at the same time silly and somehow reminds me of Carcassonne Catapult. Geez, dear game designers, please do NOT take Catapult as standard. Puh-leeeeeze.


Agreed regarding Catapult, but to me it sounds like it's more like a "two-sided die" than a dexterity element. Would it feel more "right" if each chit was instead a normal d6 with each number printed three times on it (0 0 0 5 5 5, for example)?
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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TimMierz wrote:
Ponton wrote:
I really dislike the flipping of the chits to resolve battles. It's a funny part, but at the same time silly and somehow reminds me of Carcassonne Catapult. Geez, dear game designers, please do NOT take Catapult as standard. Puh-leeeeeze.


Agreed regarding Catapult, but to me it sounds like it's more like a "two-sided die" than a dexterity element. Would it feel more "right" if each chit was instead a normal d6 with each number printed three times on it (0 0 0 5 5 5, for example)?


Rolling a die is easy and everyone can do it "right", whereas flipping needs some sort of practice and my wife, for example, without any practice rather lets the token fall than flip. Also, flipping can be manipulated if done correctly - give me a coin and I'll always predict how I'll throw.

So, yes, a die would be the preferred way. We're now using a die to determine the outcome: even number = even side of token, odd number = odd side of token.
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Michael Jean
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Ponton, how do you respond to this comment (took from http://www.gamepack.nl/gamepack/rec-duelbm-E.html):

Quote:
A huge disadvantage of the game is that in the beginning, when both players have just started building, all cards/actions are interesting, but as soon as the building activities reach their peak, most cards have become useless. If a player only needs to melt his ore into a church bell, he has to wait for up to three rounds for the card that allows him to do so. And even then, chances are small that his opponent will let him claim the card without a fight!

Until he succeeds, the only thing he can do is sit around and wait, since actions such as collecting resources, upgrading them to building materials or building with a discount are completely pointless: except for the church bell, the entire cathedral is already finished! Especially when both players are desperately waiting for the same card, and the victory depends completely on one chit flipping battle, joy is far to be found. As a result, the game is off to a good start, but halfway it collapses like a house of cards, and then even 40 minutes feels like a long time.


I wanted to buy this game up until I read this...
 
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Micheal, what Barbara says on this website happens to you exactly once: during your first game, when you don't have a clue what is best in the game as you're just exploring it. After one game, you know exactly how important bells/gates are for your building and will try to prepare for them as soon as possible!

In our second game already we finished the game before the B deck was reshuffled... after a total of 9/12 rounds. Once you're familiar with the game and its pace, you won't need too long to finish your building. Only in rare occasions or if the cards come in a bad order, you might play to the end and decide the winner by the tiebreaker. As I said, this should happen rarely.

Give this game a try twice: after your first game you'll know what to do, and in your second one you can form an opinion. I like this game.

Stefan Feld has even published a variant to remove the tile flipping:

1. Setup as normal, throw remaining neutral chits into a baggie. Prepare some sort of screenie for both players. Each player holds their numbered chits behind the screen with the lower number face-up.

2. In a battle, instead of flipping tiles you play them with the lower number, or pay 2 gold to play them with the bigger number. Both, winner and loser of the battle discard all (but their personal) chits.

3. If you need to take chits, take them unseen from the baggie. Discarded chits are thrown back into the baggie at once.
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Tim Rourke
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Thanks for that translation of the variant - I have to admit I found the flipping was the only slight problem with this on my first try

 
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Lawrence Lopez
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Ponton wrote:


2. In a battle, instead of flipping tiles you play them with the lower number, or pay 2 gold to play them with the bigger number. Both, winner and loser of the battle discard all (but their personal) chits.



Can you bid more than one tile at a time? If so, do you pay 2 gold per tile?

Also, I assume you always keep your personal influence tile... is this correct?
 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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You bid one token at a time as usual. And yes, you keep your personal influence tile.
 
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Lawrence Lopez
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Does the player with the start player token break ties?
 
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Yes.
 
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Lawrence Lopez
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Thanks!

One last question:

You say you bid one token at a time. Can there be multiple rounds of bidding? I would think it's only one round, high-bid wins (given that this is a blind bid). I just want to make sure.

By the way, I think you answering the issues raised in this thread:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/488528/ok-has-anyone-been-ab...
 
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This variant doesn't change the normal bidding at all. The only difference is the setting: each player keeps their tokens hidden. Both players start the game with the same tokens as in the original game. However, the remaining tokens are put into a bag and you draw from the bag and return used tokens back there, so that your opponent does not know which tokens you have. You only have to show the number of tokens you take (so that you don't cheat), but your opponent doesn't get to see their denominations.

When there is a battle, the non-starting player has to start the bidding by placing one token in front of him. From then on, the player who has the lower total (or in case of a tie, the non-starting player) has to place more tokens until they outbid their opponent. This continues until one player places their personal token (then, they can't react any more) or gives up. Both players lose all of their neutral tokens that they've used for bidding and return them to the bag. You only keep your personal token.

Tokens are played at their lower value unless you pay 2 gold per token you want to turn to its higher value.

Ex.

A has 2/3, 2/3, personal 2/3; 5 gold
B has 0/5, personal 2/3; 2 gold, start player

A battle commences. Player A needs to start bidding.
A plays a neutral 2.
B conters with a neutral 5 and pays 2 gold.
(2-5)
A conters with a neutral 3 paying 2 gold.
(5-5)
A didn't bid higher than B who is holding the start player token, so A needs to play another token or pass.
A pays another 2 gold and plays their personal 3.
(8-5)
B may play their personal 2, but they've lost anyway.
A wins. Both players use their played neutral tokens.
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Paul Incao
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Ponton wrote:
Rolling a die is easy and everyone can do it "right", whereas flipping needs some sort of practice and my wife, for example, without any practice rather lets the token fall than flip. Also, flipping can be manipulated if done correctly - give me a coin and I'll always predict how I'll throw.

So, yes, a die would be the preferred way. We're now using a die to determine the outcome: even number = even side of token, odd number = odd side of token.


I totally agree. In fact, I created my own custom dice to avoid the coin flip all together.

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Gordon Stewart
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Custom dice is neat!
We just roll a d6; even
roll = even side of chit.

Neat tic-tac-toe mechanic;
better than expected.

Reminds me of "Piece of Cake";
more involved "one splits the
other chooses".
 
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Jake Waltier
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Good review. I for one LOVE the seal flip mechanism though.
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Richard Ham
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Flipping coins is fun, I find. If it's hard for one to do (my wife keeps missing), just put it in a cup and jostle it around and fling it out. Same randomized effect.

Custom dice are cool though
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David B
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atomike wrote:
Ponton, how do you respond to this comment (took from http://www.gamepack.nl/gamepack/rec-duelbm-E.html):

Quote:
A huge disadvantage of the game is that in the beginning, when both players have just started building, all cards/actions are interesting, but as soon as the building activities reach their peak, most cards have become useless. If a player only needs to melt his ore into a church bell, he has to wait for up to three rounds for the card that allows him to do so. And even then, chances are small that his opponent will let him claim the card without a fight!

Until he succeeds, the only thing he can do is sit around and wait, since actions such as collecting resources, upgrading them to building materials or building with a discount are completely pointless: except for the church bell, the entire cathedral is already finished! Especially when both players are desperately waiting for the same card, and the victory depends completely on one chit flipping battle, joy is far to be found. As a result, the game is off to a good start, but halfway it collapses like a house of cards, and then even 40 minutes feels like a long time.


I wanted to buy this game up until I read this...



This seems bizarre. There are only 4 rounds with 2 to 3 card actions taken per round. I personally do not see how you can finish everything else except the bell with that much time left in the game.
 
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