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Paladins of the West Kingdom; My Favorite Shem Philips Game Yet

Paladins of the West Kingdom is my favorite game so far from Shem Phillips. And yet I'm still not keeping it.

While every time I play another of Shem's games, I enjoy it more than the last...they still all fall short of making me feel like they are games I should own. Don't get me wrong, they're all incredibly well designed, mechanically sound, visually appealing, easy to teach....Shem has clearly hit upon a formula that works well for a lot of people. And yet that same formula to me has mostly resulted in a slightly soulless feel. 

In all of these games, from Raiders to Architects and now Paladins...I play them, I see the engine at play, and yet it always feels like the engine works together because it has to work together, not because it makes sense. When I play a game like Le Havre, everything interplays and makes sense. When I play a game like Troyes, everything feels like it's just meant to interact. And yet when I play Paladins, everything feels like it had to work together....in order so that the game would exist. 

Don't get me wrong, the end result is still a magnificent engine...but the combination of too many games and always being on the lookout to cut games, means I want something more. I want a game engine where it all feels like it's meant to be work together, and not just that it had to. I want a system that is as addictive as it is mechanically sound. I want a game that pulls me in, and not a game that I merely recognize as being great intellectually, and not emotionally. 

Perhaps Viscounts of the West Kingdom will do it for me....it definitely looks amazing, I'll definitely give it a shot....the good news is that every Shem Phillips game has been better than the last for me, so at some point something might actually stick.

2 comments

  • Shem is literally crushing games like Barry Bonds did HRs in the home run derby!

    Matthew Strickler
  • Just played this for the first time this past Wednesday. I liked it but agree with you that it wasn’t enough for me to want to own it.

    I also feel like there is a little too much ‘luck of the draw’ factor for a 2 hour game. The timing of the right Paladin card drawn at the right time could make a huge difference (for example I got the ‘build garrison’s without needing provisions’ Paladin on the last turn where I really wanted to build my remaining 3 garrisons requiring 2-3 provisions each! – very nice for me, but also very lucky). And of course the purple cards getting 0-2 coins and the colors of meeples you have available on the resource card you can choose from add more luck factor. Which character cards available at any given moment for what you you need for VP end game or immediate needs could be another ‘luck of the draw’ aspect.

    I felt like the engine building investments need to be focused to succeed but the game mechanics forces upon you an INABILITY to focus (because the investment in one color of pieces moves you up on a DIFFERENT/OTHER color of track advancement)…this gave me a distracted disjointed off-kilter feel.

    I really like the different options available at all times and see the balanced intent with all the blue-red-black tracks & colors feeding each other and the cards’ ability’s interconnecting. But I wonder if all those options are not as varied and truly optional as it appears. I feel like there are things about the game which are pre-programmed for you if you want to have any chance to win. I feel like you must get the free stuff granted to you by your starting character card. I think you must do the green developments as soon as you can. I feel you must utilize your chosen Paladin’s discount/free ability or else you’re throwing away “free money”. So with all the availability, if those are the only things which really advance you the most, is it possible the game is really just a rat maze where to get the cheese in the least amount of time you must follow this one path given to you by your initial character card, Paladin card draws, and taking meeple cards that help you get developments as quickly as possible.

    At the end of the day it does feel like it’s just a lot of variety of ways to get/do all the same stuff on different samey-feeling tracks all put together in one big pot. The icons to do various actions are all over the place on the board & cards – accessible from lots of different places. This gives flexibility but it also makes everything feel the same. I’d liken it to a meatlover’s pizza with too much meat….I like each meat on its own and I really like a meatlover’s pizza to a certain point…but it is all just variety on one thing – meat – and once you go beyond a certain amount of the same thing it’s not quite as good anymore.

    It’s a fun game and a good game but if I had 2 hours of gaming to fill there are other options that would be my personal preference (some examples: Imperial, Concordia, Grand Austria Hotel, Troyes, Power Grid, Amerigo, Nippon, Manhattan Project, Glen More II: Chronicles, Terra Mystica, Goa, Le Havre, 1846, 1830, Cyclades, Coimbra, Dogs of War, Tammany Hall, Yamatai, Cuba, Last Will)

    Dave Smith

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