Queen's Architect is a game I should like. It's beautiful, it's got interesting things to do, and it's light enough to play after the kids go to bed but still feels decidedly Euro.
But for me, something's missing.
Read on, and you can decide if you agree with me. If you don't, this game can be had on sale for cheap.
Queen's Architect is designed by Volker Schächtele with graphics by Dennis Lohausen. In it, players become ... architects (surprise!) ... trying to gain the privilege of building the royal palace. The 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. You can see the rondele in the picture above.
The star makes six actions available, though you 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, thus moving 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 the number of bonds available to trade; moving your carriage to a new location; and sending craftsmen to the tavern, which makes them last longer. Because alcohol.
You're trying to move up the appreciation track. Each spot on the track has a number, which you'll need to achieve to get to the next spot, but those numbers are different each game. The first player to get to the top must have a craftsman from each of six guilds with a total performance value of at least 15. Again, see the numbers on the picture. The number touching the star is that craftsman's performance value on that turn. Their carriage must be in the capital, and they must be on the "build" action on the star.
Once you meet all 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's the winner. Obviously. Ties are broken by the number of performance points the player has.
Why you might like Queen's Architect
Even though there's lots to keep track of, turns are mercifully short. The game clips along nicely.
It's 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 fire the drunk and 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 someone just to screw with them.
Despite its 12-page rulebook, Queen's Architect isn't hard 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, your tavern board, or your star.
Why you might not like 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 continue for several turns after it is obvious who will win, making the end feel a bit anticlimactic if you win, and annoying if you lose.
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 may start to feel like you're doing the same thing over and over again. You do have to adjust to the market and appreciation you'll need to gain to move up the track, but the strategy doesn't change much despite the variability.
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 still doesn't work for me.
The end of the game is way 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 there are a lot of things I like about it. Sadly, it feels like something is missing.
Other reviewers' opinions
Of course, you should never just trust me. I mean, you don't know me. I might have horrible taste in board games. More realistically (I hope), I might have very different taste from you.
Richard Ham of Rahdo Runs Through definitely saw something I didn't in the game. He called it "fantastic" with "clean, elegant mechanisms." He said it's a "wonderfully fun and intricate puzzle."
Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower complained that the game became "a big mathematical spreadsheet exercise." He also said that the game didn't gel together.
Dan King of Game Boy Geek called Queen's Architect "amazing. I love, love, love this game," he said. He praised the combination of engine building with a race, and he loved how mathy it is.
Maybe. It's a bit complicated. The craftsmen turn in different directions depending on the action you take. And it does require a certain amount of math.
I think Queen Games is right that a 10-year-old could play the game. I'd sure like to meet one who could play it strategically.
What my husband wants to do to this game
Andrew wants to fix the race mechanism, maybe by hiding the values you need for the next level on the appreciation track.
He also wants the beautiful board to be more about adventure and travel.
That's it from me for now. If you think Queen's Architect might be intriguing, check out some of the other reviews that have a more favorable opinion. There are a lot of things I like about it, too.
In the interest of full disclosure, I got a review of Queen's Architect from Asmodee Editions. I wasn't required to write a positive review, and I wouldn't have taken the game if I was.
And another note, much of this review also appeared first at News for Shoppers, where I wrote it.