Queen’s Architect is a two- to four-player game for ages 10 and up by designer Volker Schächtele with graphics by Dennis Lohausen. It plays in about an hour.
Published by Queen Games, Queen’s Architect will have a retail price of $49.99, but it’s currently available for preorder for about $15 less. It is expected to be in stores soon.
Players take on the role of architects trying to gain the privilege of constructing the royal palace. To do so, they hire (and fire) craftsmen, build buildings around the realm, do repairs, and more.
How it works:
Players have a star-shaped board that they slot craftsmen into at varying levels of performance, and with varying numbers of turns left before they drop out.
The star makes six actions available, though the player must move one, two, or three spaces clockwise around it, so there are always three actions available at any one time. The actions include building buildings or doing repairs to gain favor from the queen and move up the appreciation track; day laboring for money; hiring a worker — the more turns the worker will work, the more expensive the worker is; trading bonds for money or increasing how the number of bonds available to trade at a time; moving the player’s carriage to a new location; and sending craftsmen to the tavern, which makes them last longer.
Players are trying to move up the appreciation track, which varies each game. The first player to get to the top must have a craftsman from each of six guilds with a total performance of 15. Their carriage must be in the capital, and they must be on the “build” space of their star.
Once a player meets all of those conditions, each other player has one more turn to try to do the same. If only one player has contributed to the queen’s castle, that player is the winner. Ties are broken by the number of performance points the player has.
Why you might buy Queen’s Architect:
There’s lots to keep track of, but turns are short, making the game move along.
The game is essentially a race to collect favor. If you like races, this is an interesting one.
The game offers more depth as you play. Every choice is important, as is knowing when to invest in sending a craftsman to the tavern and when to just hire a new one. Because there are 18 different craftsmen, the best choice isn’t always obvious.
While you’ll never attack another player, you can try to hire a craftsman that would be beneficial to an opponent.
Despite its 12-page rulebok, Queen’s Architect isn’t difficult to learn. It has a few rules to memorize, but much of what you need to know — such as the cost of things — is printed on the board or players’ tavern boards and stars.
Why you might not buy Queen’s Architect:
The choices in Queen’s Architect are quite limited, and while you may not always see it, there is usually a best choice.
The game can take several turns after it is obvious who will win, making the end feel a bit anticlimactic.
It has a big, beautiful board that you don’t get to do much with. You go to individual towns, monasteries, and farms which each give either 10, 15, or 20 appreciation points, and you need craftsmen from particular guilds to build there. But since it’s advantageous to hire a craftsman from each guild as soon as possible, the preferences don’t seem very important.
If the right craftsmen aren’t available for hire, you can be hamstrung as you wait for them to appear on the market. You can force the market to change by hiring workers you don’t need, but you’ll have wasted precious money to do so.
You can begin to feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again. You do have to adjust to the market and the appreciation you’ll need to gain, but the strategy doesn’t change much.
I discovered more depth to the game the more I played, and the score between my opponents and me narrowed, which was good, but the race doesn’t entirely work for me.
The end of the game is too drawn out for my taste. I want a race to end quickly and dramatically, and Queen’s Architect doesn’t do that.
That’s especially unfortunate because I like how the game plays. But it feels like something is missing.
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of Queen’s Architect from Asmodee Editions. I wasn’t required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.