Yesterday I got a group together to play Pillars of the Earth. Last time I played, I wasn’t thrilled about the two-player game. The four-player game is much better — yet still I dropped my rating from eight to seven.
First the good parts: with four, the game has plenty of tension. As just about every place in the village will be occupied by a master builder, there’s some real competition. Being the first player in a round is important, particularly if you’re looking for a good craftsman. Also, it seems the game isn’t such a luck-fest some would have it: in our game the places went in decreasing order of earlier experience. With the craftsmen being same each time, knowing them is a big benefit.
Then the bad: there’s still an annoying bit of luck there. The master builder draw is the problematic bit there… But it is a matter of taste, I believe, and not an objective flaw. Your best laid plans can be disrupted with some bad luck in the draw. Sure, it balances out to some extent, but if you get the bad deal on a critical round, it can hurt. Then again, I can see why the designers installed such a random mechanic there, as it indeed takes lots of long-term planning from the game, which I’m sure was the original intent.
The end of these thoughts is this: the game is good, but not great. It moves pretty swiftly — our game took 90 minutes and could’ve gone a bit faster — and offers some nice tension and some room for forward planning. Without a plan you’re lost, but it is also important to realize your plans can go awry, so don’t take things too seriously.
It was fun to play, even though I ended up on third place by the grace of tiebreaker. I’m still selling my copy, probably sooner than later.