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A City-Building game for 1-4 Players from Eggertspiele

Plays in under an hour. £38.00 - £48.00 online. Always check your Local Game Store

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MATT LEACOCK is fast-becoming the go-to guy when a company wants a brand name designer heading their latest project.
Matt's design list is profoundly monumentally impressive:

Pandemic (2008) Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age (2008) Forbidden Island (2010) Forbidden Desert (2013)
Pandemic: The Cure (2014) Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (2015) Thunderbirds (2015) Knit Wit (2016)
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu (2016) Pandemic Iberia (2016) Chariot Race (2016) Mole Rats in Space (2017)
Pandemic: Rising Tide (2017) Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 (2017) Pandemic Fall of Rome (2018) Forbidden Sky (2018)
Medieval Age (2019)

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Peg board games have been around for as long as I can remember (well almost) but never in my experience has a peg board been put to such good use as with ERA Medieval Age. If you find Matt Leacock's page online you can read that this game began as a fun competition between Matt and his friends around 12 years ago. They set themselves the task of creating a city-builder boardgame that could be played in 20-40 minutes, but for one I am glad that they didn't succeed on that time frame as 20 minutes would never be long enough to have a simple but flexible system and keep all players interested.

ERA uses a basic collect (resources) and spend (resources) to buy and construct buildings and walls and to feed workers (dice). I really like the fact that the Dice are also your workers and the game teases you by giving you more workers through the buildings you erect. The more workers you have the more buildings you have the chance to build, so that's good, but the more workers you have the more you have to feed, and that can use up dice - a simple, flexible system, often leaving you with a dilemma of a choice of how to use the dice.

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As you can see from my photographs there are four separate sections on each players pegboard. With the pegboard horizontal and facing you, the main area is where you build your city. At the far end top right is a column of six peg holes - this is the Actions section, each hole represents an Action each player takes in a Round. Below that are two parallel columns of holes; these are Culture points and Disaster points - needless to say (but I'll still say it anyway) the Disaster points are not good for your final score. Finally the four staggered rows of holes are to show you the resources available to you; the number of holes is the finite number of that resource you may have, any you get that go over these numbers are lost and cannot be spent.

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Resources: Roll all your dice.
Trade Goods: 6 holes. The Trade Goods icon/symbol looks like a chest though we always refer to it as a briefcase (which it may well be).
Stone: 7 holes. The icon/symbol for Stone is an odd shaped object. You can't Rock n Roll but you can Roll for Rock (stone)
Wood: 8 holes. The icon/symbol for Wood is a log.
Food: 9 holes. The icon/symbol for Food is an 'ear' of wheat.

Players begin the game with one Wasteland, one Keep (set in the exact centre of your board), three Long Houses, three walls (each of 4 units long) a Farm, zero Trade Goods, one Stone, two Wood and three Food, plus 3 yellow dice (for the Long Houses) and 1 grey one (for the Keep). These buildings have to be placed on your pegboard prior to commencing the game. Except for the Keep, placed in the centre as already noted, it is up to the players where they position these pieces. So far commonsense and experience have seen everyone we have played with (and the example in the rules booklet) you want to place your Wasteland in one of the corners, leaving an equally wide path for other Wastelands you are likely to receive during play.

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Wastelands score nothing either Positive or Negative, they just take up building space.
Keeps are worth one VP each at the end of the game and can be used as part of a wall if so wished. They also provide a grey die. These have Trade Goods, Weapons and Shields plus a Skull between two Trade Good icons.
Long Houses give you extra yellow dice which have Wood, Stone, Hammers (Building permits), Food and one Skull (in between a Wood and a Hammer). The sides of each colour of die are the same per die, so all Yellow dice have the same faces as each other, all Blue dice have the same faces as each other, all White dice are the same, all Grey dice are the same.

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Dice Rolling: Players may roll their dice up to 3 times. First time ALL dice are rolled. Then ANY dice with Skulls are put aside, these can only be rerolled with a special power (which you do not have at the beginning of the game). Now you either get into the spirit of the game or you curve the rules a little.
Spirit of the Game: Choose any dice you wish to reroll (not with Skulls as already described) and roll them All. Put aside any with Skulls and then, including any dice you kept back before (except those with Skulls), you may roll for a third time, rolling All the dice you have chosen.
Curving the Rules: Nowhere in the die-rolling section does it say that for the dice have to all be rolled at the same time (except for the First Roll). Second roll " .. optionally rerolling any of their dice ..." Third roll "...... may ......... roll, rerolling any number of their dice that do not show a skull . . . . . ". Thus it can be construed (or misconstrued) that you can take the dice without skulls and roll them one at a time, stopping your reroll if/when you get the result/s you need.
I am not suggesting you curve the rules, in fact as it takes away from the spirit of a very good game I would fiercely argue that you don't - just saying that the rule is a little ambiguous if you want to read them that way.

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You win the game by having the most VPs when the game ends. The game ends when a number of the types of buildings, excluding walls and Keeps, are depleted to zero. To help remind you of the state of play there are white tablets marked clearly and brightly with a Red Cross on one side. Place these face down near the buildings supply. Each time a building type expires you flip over one of the tablets to reveal the Red Cross and when all tablets have been flipped the Round is continued to its completion and the game then ends.

Your strategy depends on whether you are going to build a smallish City completely surrounded by walls, in which case the buildings within it have their value doubled, or to keep building whatever you can and hope that you can complete the walls around it before the game ends, but have enough of the larger buildings to equalise the inner city's doubling effect. Strategies are possibly the only weak spot of ERA Medieval Age! Of course you are controlled by the results of the dice rolled but it is possible to find a winning strategy and play it each time. The only way to beat someone with a winning strategy is to find a better strategy for yourself.

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Rolling skulls may give you points on your Disaster Track or lose you Resources - there is generally an option to accept one or the other penalties (aka Disasters). Rolling Skulls can be deadly for the player rolling them or for their opponents - the results for doing so are on the player screens. The unusual thing about rolling skulls is that if you roll 1, 2, 3 or 4 you will suffer the consequences, but if you roll five or six (plus) then it is your opponents who suffer, though the 6+ skull result (losing all Trade Goods) is more of an inconvenience than a penalty as you can only hold 6 and can usually collect some when you roll the dice next Round. Losing an unwalled building (5 skulls) is much more painful.

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When building you need to decide whether to keep your constructions away from each other or next to other buildings (aka clustered). Walls do not count as buildings and therefore a building against a wall and not touching another building is not clustered. By placing a Hospital, any buildings around it, or later placed next to it, that are orthogonal and touching it are not considered clustered. So obviously a Hospital is an important building. However, every building is important. Each gives the player something useful whether it be additional dice, VPs at the game end, additional Culture (which gives VPs if you have a University).

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This is a really enjoyable game whether you play with 1, 2, 3 or 4 players. It sets up quickly after the first time of playing. The rules, once read through, need only referencing, and then mainly the back page which is the same as on the player's shield but in larger text and more detailed. It looks good, it plays well, and as it isn't long and drawn out it doesn't matter if someone has their 'winning' strategy worked out, because there is always the chance they won't get the die results they want and/or someone will have worked out a way to beat that 'perfect' strategy.

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It isn't cooperative but you can affect other players games/strategies by tactical building. If you think you are ahead in points then build thoughtfully so you use up all the pieces of one (or more than one) building type to push for the game end. This is one of those games to have ready to play at any time. There aren't many 30+ minute games around that are as in-depth as this. Rated highly by myself and my playing groups.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015