Canterbury Kickstarter Edition Review

Kick The Box

Canterbury Kickstarter Edition Review

by Quixotic Games

Premise & Theme: Your role as a new Saxon Lord in the recently demolished city, Canterbury, is to help rebuild it into a prosperous, thriving Saxon capital. The crumbling and fallen walls from the remnants of the Roman Empire still outline the districts, providing a guide for the new Saxon builders. One old Roman well is left in the Central District for the Saxon settlers to start a new life of prosperity.

Game Board: The board is fragmented into districts. The center district is, not so surprisingly, called Central District. This is where the Roman well is placed and the purple city marker on the water service. Surrounding this Central District, are eight Inner Districts, and surrounding those are sixteen Outer Districts. Each District has six building placeholders. A small structure takes up one of the placeholders. A medium structure takes up two of the place holders, and a large structure takes up four of the placeholders.

Along the bottom of each district are six boxes representing each service. Starting from left to right you have water, food, religion, defense, commerce, and entertainment. You can not build any service unless all the preceding services are present.

Around the edge of the board is the Prosperity Points Tracker and Treasury Bar. This is used to keep track of each player’s personal prosperity points, the city’s prosperity points, and the amount of funds you receive during the Levy or Tax & Build actions.

Prosperity Tracker, Treasury Tracker, and a District. (Click To Enlarge)
Prosperity Tracker, Treasury Tracker, and a District. (Click To Enlarge)

Setup: Is actually fairly easy. Lay the board out in the middle of the table. Place the two piece Structure Sideboard along the top or bottom of the game board, water being on the far left, and entertainment to the far right. Separate all the structure tokens and stack them in their designated spot on the Structure Sideboard. Place the King’s Bonus Chart near the player that draws the short straw and is chosen to try to remember to keep track of this all game. Pass out the player boards and their corresponding color cubes, and decide who goes first. The first player takes the number one Rank Token called Saxon Prince. The second player receives the number two Rank Token named Saxon Duke. Third and fourth player receives their respectable third and fourth rank Rank Tokens and all players start with six Gold.

Setup of Canterbury (Click To Enlarge)
Setup of Canterbury (Click To Enlarge)

Gameplay: Moves quickly and a complete game can be played under two hours. There are only three available actions, Levy, Build, or Tax & Build. Only one action is available per turn.

Player Board (Click To Enlarge)
Player Board (Click To Enlarge)

Levy: Every structure has a cost. When you levy, you collect money from the Treasury. The amount you can collect is on the inside track of the Prosperity Tracker and is based on the city prosperity. When you do levy, then on your next turn you must choose the  build action.

Build: You can build one or two, small or medium structures, or one large structure. If you place a building that adds a new service to that district or other districts, than you place your cube on that particular service. (Ex. If you build a  small garden in a district, than you place your colored cube on the food service of that same district.) A cube on a service can never be altered or destroyed, even if someone else has enhanced a service that had already been claimed. On your next turn, after your build action, you can choose any of the actions.

Tax & Build: You collect half the amount of  funds (rounded down) you would normally receive had you levied, and can build one small, medium, or large structure on that same turn. You can perform any action on your next turn.

At the beginning of the game, the first action that each player must perform is a build action. The first player selects the building he/she wants to build and then places their colored marker on the service area that building represents. For example, if Player One built a garden and a chapel in the Central District, than he would place a cube on the food and religion service and also moves his marker up one point on the King’s Favor Bonus Board in the food and religion row.

After everyone has taken their action, than play proceeds as normal, and you can choose one of the three actions to perform.

I really love what Quixotic Games has done with this game. The game mechanics aren’t revolutionary, but they are tweaked in such a way that it gives area control a fresh spin. Not only is it important to build buildings to gain prosperity points, which, in turn, gains the city prosperity points, which increases the amount of gold that you can relinquish from the treasury on your turn. It is also important who controls the districts by the amount of services that they had built there.

The reason this is important is because of the District Favor Bonus that is handed out after the city prosperity has reached 100, 200, and 300 mark(one lap around the board) on the Prosperity Track. This is one of the four bonuses that is available during the course of the game. The District Favor Bonus is awarded to each player where he/she has the most (or second most) favor in a district. The bonuses are based on the number of spaces covered by Structures in that District.

You also can be awarded a Breaking Grounds Bonus. When you build a small building, that service is only being used by the district it is being placed in. If you build a medium structure, than the services are applied to not only the district it is in,(unless the service has already been claimed), but also to the districts orthogonality or adjacent to that district. This creates some interesting scenarios. Remember, you can’t actually build a building in a district, unless all the preceding services are available in that district. For example, you can’t build a defensive structure, unless that district has water, food, and religion services available by either buildings that are built in that district, or by neighboring medium and large structures. So it is possible to have a service or services, such as religion, in a district from neighboring districts, but there aren’t any buildings built in that district. That’s where the Breaking Grounds Bonus comes into play. When a player builds in an empty district, they receive this bonus. The amount of bonus prosperity he/she collects is equal to the number of services in that district at the end of a turn. For example, if religion and commerce services are available in that district from neighboring districts, and a player builds a well and a garden, taking care of the water and food services, then he/she will receive four bonus points, one for each service.

The third bonus is an Enrichment Bonus. When a player demolishes a structure to upgrade it to a larger structure, that player receives three bonus prosperity. This helps make it worthwhile to upgrade an existing service. If there is a well in a district from Player Two, he has already claimed the water service in that district. If you upgrade that well to a fountain, Player 2 still claims the service, but you will at least collect three bonus points and possibly score neighboring districts services as well if they aren’t already claimed.

The fourth and final bonus is counted up and figured out at the end of the game.  This is the King’s Bonus. This is suppose to be updated as players claim services as their own. This is really the only tedious part of the game, that I really could do without. I say this, only because as the person who gets stuck trying to keep track of people’s buying habits as you are trying to figure out your own plan can be kind of a pain. I’m sure this will get better with more games under our belts, but it detracts from the flow of the game a little bit.

As I try to lay my plan of domination in my head, it is interrupted by the player who just bought a merchant stall and pageant wagon and is telling you to move his pieces on the King’s Favor Board. I do recommend about midway during the game to stop for a minute and count up who has what services. (Once again, this does break up the flow of the game a little, but it is nice to see who leads in what categories as it gets close to the end of the game, since this can be a pretty substantial bonus.)

The most complex part of the game is when it came to destroying building and replacing them with new ones, but even this process isn’t that difficult. I actually found it to be one of those concepts that I had a harder time explaining than the mechanic itself actually is. Reading it straight from the rulebook to new players helped make sense of it and in a couple of turns they understood the concept.

Speaking of the rules, the rulebook is put together in a marvelous way. Easy to read, easy to reference and all the areas of the game were covered with precision. No real grey areas in the explanation of the rules. Nicely illustrated examples made teaching the game a piece of cake.

Midway Through a Four Player Game (Click To Enlarge)
Midway Through a Four Player Game (Click To Enlarge)

Who knew that being a Saxon Lord could be so much fun! As much as I love dice rolling, which a lot of my games seem to be centered around, it’s refreshing to play a game that doesn’t even have any dice! All strategy and little luck involved as you travel the path to become the King’s favorite.

Even though the game is fun for two players, with it’s two player variant, it’s sweet spot is three to four players. The added AI for other builders is a nice addition for the two player variant, but for the full immersion and table talk, the absolute sweet spot is three to four players, with a heavy emphasis on the four.

There is only a couple minor quibbles about the game. As I mentioned before, the person who is blessed with the task of keeping track of the King’s Favor Bonus Board has to try to not get themselves so wrapped up into the strategy and gameplay, that they forget to move the markers on the King’s Favor Board. If they can do this, than the need to stop the flow of the game, halfway through the game, can be diminished.

For the score keeping and King’s Favor Board, I would like to have seen smaller cubes used, especially for the King’s Favor Board. There isn’t much room to place more than one cube on a shared spot. Having slightly smaller colored cubes for the score keeping, and the regular size colored cubes to keep track of services would have been a nice addition.

And last but not least, MORE PLAYER SUPPORT! Four players is great, but as quickly as the game plays, I would love to have seen it a five or six player game. Maybe Expansions? Not sure how, or if it would be possible Quixotic Games, but WE NEED MORE PLAYERS! Even if another game with the same or different theme is designed with the same mechanics and it would support six+ players, just take my money now!

Minus these minor quibbles, there aren’t words that express the joy we have found in this game, and glad I was a part of the Kickstarter campaign. There were never too many updates, and never too few, throughout their entire Kickstarter campaign and beyond. Whether it is a crowd funded project or not, I look forward to their next game in development.

For those that missed the Kickstarter, the official store date release is November 6th, 2013. I’m not sure how large of printing of the First Edition will be, but if your looking for a game to scratch that building strategy game itch, then there is no need to look any farther. Run, don’t walk, to your favorite local game store and grab a copy before it is too late.

This game as been released to the public and now can be found on Amazon here.


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