This week’s game was Lancaster, ordered from Germany back in September, now finally here. Took a while, but hey, it’s a Queen game. At least it wasn’t as badly delayed as German Railways or, ahem, the Samarkand expansion…
Hannu bought the game, mostly because it’s by Matthias Cramer, the designer of Glen More, and because the game got a good review from Spielbox and got tagged as a game Hannu would like. Well, he got that right.
Lancaster is set in 15th century England, where Henry V of Lancaster hopes to unite the country and beat the French. Players use their knights to gain power in the country.
There are five rounds. On each round, players first place their knights. They can be put in three places: castles, France or personal castle. Each place offers different rewards. In the castles of the countryside, they can be ousted by stronger knights and supported by squires. This is a game of timing and commitment. Get in early and maybe nobody will come to oust you. Go in late, and you have to spend squires to push the weaklings from your path.
In France, wars are fought. Going in nets you a reward from the king. Being in France scores victory points, possibly twice. Winning the war means more victory points, losing the war means losing the knight or paying money to bail him out.
Rewards from the countryside come in two forms. Either you can get a nobleman from the castle to support you, which means potentially lots of points in the end, or you can a bonus, like a new knight, upgrading an old knight or something like that. Pay enough money, and you can have both rewards.
After all knights are played, it’s time to vote. There are always three laws and three new laws to replace them. Players have one vote each, and one vote for each nobleman at their court. Once the three laws are set, they are run through, giving players points and other benefits if they match the conditions set in laws.
Then collect rewards, then fight in France, then it’s new round with a clean board. There are five rounds, after which the players with the biggest army of knights and the biggest castle get bonuses and everybody gets points for the noblemen in their court.
(In the photo above, notice the iPad. Hannu hadn’t printed out the English rules. He just had them in his iPad, and so did I. Aren’t we modern!)
It’s an interesting game. The box says it takes 60 minutes. It first seemed impossible, as the first rounds took a long time. However, then the game got a lot faster and in the end we finished our five-player game (three newbies, two players with one-game experience) in 80 minutes. So, the 60 minutes is certainly manageable with experienced players.
This is a Queen game, so production values are great. The game looks gorgeous and everything’s functional. The knight tokens are wooden blocks of varying heights, and the heights are correct: a 2 knight is the size of two 1 knights stacked together and so on.
In our game, I thought I’d try making my castle automatic. In your castle, it’s possible to get stuff like new squires, gold and promote those squires to knights (one knight is apparently made by combining three squires together). Each of those actions requires a knight to activate it, but knights come in short supply — each player has just two to start with. You can get castle extensions, which make the actions happen every round. So, I wanted a fully automatic castle and ended up with a castle that produces one knight and one money each round, without any action from my part.
I fought in France, with better and worse luck. I did manage quite well, too. Hannu ran away with the game, scoring something like 80 points. I was second with ~45 and the rest of the boys were all clustered within five points around ~32 or so.
Nice game. It didn’t leave me with a burning desire to play it again, but I could, I could — and I know Hannu wants to play more, so I suppose I will. With experienced players, this should go a bit faster, so if we can get from box opening to box closed in 75 minutes or so, it’ll be just fine.
My rating for Lancaster is 7: good, but not great.