Paladins of the West Kingdom Review
Stats at a glance
The Architects of the West Kingdom worked their best to develop the cities of the post-Carolingian empire, but the constant threats of Viking, Saracen, and neighbor attacks have forced you to defend your kingdom.
The players represent Francia’s nobles and are tasked with setting up defenses and proactively eliminating, but also converting the enemies to their cause. To help the nobles, the King sends his finest Paladins to assist the players and turn the tides of war!
However, the internal struggles for power do not cede even when faced with a grave threat. While defending the borders, Francia’s nobles will also compete for prestige, honor, and wealth amongst each other!
Brief Overview of Paladins of the West Kingdom
Paladins of the West Kingdom is the second game in the West Kingdom trilogy and the fifth game in Shem Philips’ line of worker placement games. You might have heard of Raiders of the North Sea, one of the most popular board games ever made.
Even though there are two trilogies and a third in the making, each of the games brings something new and distinguishing to the table, including Paladins.
Paladins of the West Kingdom can be played by 1 to 4 players and takes about 2 hours to complete. It’s the most complex game of the series and can be quite a challenge to get into, but once you’ve figured out the rules, it’s intuitive and very deep.
Considering that it’s a heavy game, and if you’re looking for something easier with the same art style and feel, check out Architects of the West Kingdom. If you prefer the Viking theme and raiding instead of defending, then Raiders of the North Sea is the game for you!
Versions & Expansions
Paladins of the West Kingdom: City of Crowns
The City of Crowns expands the core game with new game board components and player boards. The theme revolves around dukes, barons, and other nobles that can aid you throughout the game.
Keep in mind that this expansion does not increase the number of players and makes the Paladins even more challenging, so you should get it once you’ve got a good grasp of the core game!
Paladins of the West Kingdom Collector’s Box
The West Kingdom Tomesaga
The West Kingdom Tomesaga is a universal expansion for the games from the trilogy. It changes the premise of the game and turns it into a campaign or cooperative experience for 2 to 6 players.The West Kingdom Tomesaga
Unboxing Paladins of the West Kingdom
The game includes the following components:
- Game Board in 2 Parts
- 4 Player Boards
- 1 Rulebook
- 50 Silver
- 40 Provisions
- 1 Start Player Marker
- 1 Resource Marker
- 245 Cards
- 112 Workers
- 32 Workshops
- 28 Monks
- 28 Outposts
- 28 Jars
- 12 Attribute Markers
Paladins of the West Kingdom comes in the same-sized box as other Shem Phillips games, but it includes a lot more components.
With the lid off, we get the same box art on the cover of the rulebook. The 36 pages of it are fully illustrated and feature detailed explanations, notes, and examples.
Next up, we’ve got the workers in six colors, buildings, and other miscellaneous tokens — over 200 of them. The thing that designers get right every time and I love it is the use of wood instead of plastic.
Each piece is easily distinguishable by shape and color, and wooden pieces are naturally heavier and more durable than their plastic counterparts. Garphill Games – the publisher, gets this right with every Shem Phillips & S J Macdonald release.
Another interesting design feature of Paladins is that the player boards are massive and look like they’re supposed to be the game board. Double-sided, each board has a player and an AI side and is very readable and easy to track.
The game board is also unusual – it’s very wide, but it’s quite short. This shape works surprisingly well because of how large the player boards are – place it in the center, and it takes up very little room, allowing you to position boards on either side.
The card artwork is stellar as always — the artist’s characteristic design makes the game instantly recognizable, yet the theme of knights, devout people, and nobles gives it a fresh look.
The components of Paladins of the West Kingdom are excellent, but I have one minor, and a major issue with the game.
A minor annoyance is that some of the outsider cards feature artwork from previous games — I immediately recognized ones from Raiders of the North Sea. Considering that they are outsiders from around Europe, it makes sense for them to reuse these designs, but I just wish they added new ones instead.
The one major complaint with Paladins is the game box — yes, the box is the worst component of this game! When you first open it everything will seem fine, but once you pop the cardboard pieces and try to put everything back in, you’ll realize that it just won’t fit, and the box should’ve been a size bigger.
How to Play Paladins of the West Kingdom
The most challenging part of Paladins of the West Kingdom is the initial learning curve. To fully grasp the game, you’ll have to play through it at least a couple of times, but I’ll give you a quick rundown of how the game flows.
The setup of the game is divided into the game board and the player boards. I won’t go into details but it’s important that I at least mention where some of the card types are located for future reference.
King’s favor and order cards are placed on the board, while the remaining card decks are placed around it along with silver coins. The decks include:
- Townsfolk cards
- Wall cards
- Debt cards
- Suspicion cards
- Outsider cards
- Tavern cards
Each player gets their own map with workshop, monk, outpost, and jar pieces covering respective tracks. On the left side of the board, the players will track their three attributes. Next to it, each player will find an identical paladin card deck.
During each of the 7 rounds, players select a new paladin and 6 workers. Going around the table, players will take actions with their workers until all players are done.
Except for the first, each round starts with the passing of the first player marker, followed by the reveal of the king’s cards on the game board. King’s orders provide scoring bonuses if you complete them, while king’s favors add new actions for players to take. Tavern cards are the next piece to be revealed.
Drawing and selecting a paladin is a core element of the game. Every round, the players draw three cards from their paladin deck, choosing one card to place at the bottom of the deck, one at the top, and one to play.
The paladin rewards two new workers for the round, but as workers come in different colors, no choice will be the same. Additionally, they provide certain attribute boosts for a round and come with a special ability.
At this point, the players reveal their paladin cards and collect the two workers. Then, players pick tavern cards in order, which determine the colors of the remaining four workers.
Now, everyone can take turns and use their workers to gain certain benefits or pass to close out the round.
In Paladins of the West Kingdom, actions can cost one or more workers and may require certain worker colors to complete. Apart from the actions on their board, players may also place their workers on the revealed king’s favor cards on the main game board.
The general premise is that the actions on the left side of the board are meant for building an engine or gathering resources, while those on the right increase attributes or provide victory points.
Apart from the worker color and quantity requirements, certain actions also require certain attributes and provide others. Commission requires the black attribute and rewards blue, fortify requires blue and rewards red, garrison requires red and provides blue… you get the idea.
Even scratching the surface on actions would make this section way too complicated, so I’ll just list them off with a brief description:
- Develop: 2 workers & 4 silver to build a workshop.
- Recruit: 1 or 2 workers & silver to gain a townsfolk card.
- Hunt and Trade: 1 or 2 workers to gain resources.
- Pray: 1 cleric & 2 silver to remove workers from a space.
- Conspire: 1 worker to gain 1 purple worker and a suspicion card.
- Commission: 3 workers & provisions to gain monks.
- Fortify: 3 workers & provisions to build walls.
- Garrison: 3 workers & provisions to make garrisons on the main board.
- Absolve: 3 workers & silver to remove jars and gain benefits.
- Attack: 3 workers & optional silver to attack outsiders.
- Convert: 3 workers & silver to convert outsiders.
The remaining concepts include tax, debt, suspicion, and the inquisition. These are either mandatory actions or they trigger when a certain condition is met.
With the seventh round over, the game ends, and players score points for a total of 10 areas which include attribute tracks, right-side actions, debts, as well as silver, and provisions in stock.
The player with the most points is declared the winner, with ties broken through the king’s orders, and then the level of suspicion.
Your First Game of Paladins of the West Kingdom
The beauty of Paladins of the West Kingdom is that each point track can lead you to victory. To make the most out of it, you need to commit to a few of them, rather than be all over the place with your actions.
Despite many ways to score victory points, Paladins of the West Kingdom is not a point salad game, so just keep that in mind. To this end, you should fully utilize the king’s orders, and the paladin’s abilities to gain significant bonuses.
Let the king’s order steer your game in one direction, and synergize it with your paladin. There are a lot of actions you can take in Paladins, but they boil down to a loop of gaining resources to develop and gain victory points.
Pros & Cons
- Deep and Replayable Game
- Quality of Components
Paladins of the West Kingdom is the 5th installment in a series of games that largely overlap in gameplay and art direction. And yet, it’s clear that the designers have way more great board game ideas than they do time and money to execute.
The solution — standardize what can be done, like game pieces, box size, the art, and focus on the mechanics. Even if you played a few of the previous titles, Paladins will still offer a unique experience.
Paladins of the West Kingdom is a completely different beast to Raiders and Architects. It’s a much heavier game, with more decision-making and strategy, something that none of the previous games match.
I cannot complete this section without mentioning the quality of the components. From cards and game boards to a couple of hundred wooden pieces, Paladins is packed full of high-quality game components that are more than capable of enduring the dozens, if not hundreds of sessions you’ll put this game through.
- Barrier of Entry
- The Box Is too Small!
The heavier a game is, the harder it is to learn and get into — this is a known tradeoff to any board game player. However, I feel that it’s important to bring up with Paladins because the previous games have set different expectations.
Raiders, Architects, and other Shem Phillips games can be learned through playing and minimal prep-time. To get a game of Paladins of the West Kingdom going and not last 4 hours, everyone will have to read through the rulebook and study the game, which may catch some players by surprise.
The only real issue with Paladins is that the box it comes in is way too small to fit all the pieces, and I’m not the only one that has experienced this issue.
The logical way to pack all the components is to sort them by players and create sets that will make the next setup faster. Not only is this not possible, but if you don’t pack the pieces together and neatly, the box won’t fully close.
I get that the designers wanted to stick with the same box size as before to stay consistent, but they could have at least made it deeper to accommodate all the pieces.
Paladins of the West Kingdom Review (TL;DR)
Paladins of the West Kingdom is the deepest and arguably the best installment in the West Kingdom trilogy, and arguably a better game than Raiders of the North Sea.
The game offers a ton of strategies and alternate victory paths that will depend on your resources and the actions of other players. If you want a strategy worker placement game without the point salad, you’re going to love Paladins of the West Kingdom!
I’m sure a lot of people have been waiting for Shem Philips to make a more serious game, but honestly speaking, I was not one of them. For me, Raiders of the North Sea strike an ideal balance between engaging gameplay and light-weight, and it’s a game I still regularly play with the more casual crowd.
And yet, I couldn’t help but be excited when I got my hands on Paladins, as I knew it would hook me in — and it certainly did.
It’s clear that Shem Philips and S J Macdonald figured out the recipe for making a great worker placement game. Despite playing Raiders and Architects just recently, Paladins felt similar, yet entirely novel at the same time.
We hope you enjoyed our review of Paladins of the West Kingdom! Have you tried this game before? Or any of the other games in the West Kingdom Trilogy? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.