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Rüdiger Dorn




The new RAVENSBURGER game Die Baumeister von Arkadia by Rüdiger Dorn takes the players back to the time of medieval city building. In the game four major Families participate in the building of the fictional city of Arcadia, and the players will take the roles of architects who construct the new buildings on behalf of the families.

The gameboard features a square gridwork of empty city spaces where the different kinds of buildings will be erected. In the middle, a special 4x3 squares area will be placed, and here the city's castle will be built. To prepare for the game, all the building tiles are separated by shape and placed in ordered stacks next to the gameboard. Also, a deck of building cards is shuffled and placed close by as a drawing pile, with three cards from the pile being revealed as an alternative open drawing area. The parts of the castle are different, since they are plastic playing pieces resembling small, square towers, and on top of each castle piece a seal featuring a colour of one of the four families is printed. These castle pieces are divided into two stockpiles of 12 pieces each (3 pieces of each colour) and one additional pile with one piece of each colour. These stockpiles will be used for building the different levels of the castle. Each of the players receives a starting hand of four building cards and three workers of his colour, and he hides his possessions within his tend upon which an additional four pennants will be placed.

The game then starts, and during his turn a player may either place a new building or place one or more workers on the gameboard. To place a new building, the active player chooses one of his hand cards and takes the appropriate building from the open stockpile. He then may place it on the gameboard, provided that it touches with one of its building spaces either a neighbouring building or a worker of any of the players. On top of the building, the player places a familiy seal of the colour indicated on the card, and if the newly placed building should cover one or more spaces with camps for hired workers the player also will be allowed to take one hired worker figure for each such space he could cover. Finally, the player ends his turn by drawing a new building card.


As indicated, a player also may opt to place workers instead of placing a new building. He may then chose one of the buildings on the gameboard and place one or more workers from his own stockpile on empty spaces neighbouring the building.

If, by the placement of a building or workers, all neighbouring spaces of a building should become occupied either by buildings or workers, an evaluation will take place. For each worker figure matching the colour of a player that player will receive a family seal of the colour of the seal lying on the finished building, and after all workers have been evaluated the seal on the building will be given to the active player whose action led to the finishing of the building. Also, the initiation of an evaluation allows the active player to add one piece to the castle, and here the player may chose from the castle pieces available for the current level of the castle. Thus, the players first must finish the first level of the castle before they are allowed to take pieces from the stockpile of the second level, but since the interior of the castle has a garden only ten pieces will be used for both the first and second level. Thus, each time a level is finished, two castle pieces will be left, and these pieces will be placed with the stockpile for the third level of the castle.

As indicated, each castle piece shows a coloured family seal on its top, and these seals will be used when the players try to gather victory points. At the beginning of the game, the building site of the castle is empty, but the building spaces already display a total of eight family seals (two of each colour). Every time a player adds a castle piece, he will be given the choice which colour he wants to add and on which building space the piece is placed. Here the pennants fluttering from the players' tents get important, since - at the end of his turn - the active player also may decide to discard one of his pennants. Using this option will grant the player two additional workers of his colour, and he will also be allowed to exchange some or all of his collected family seals for gold. The value of each seal is determined by the number of matching coloured seals visible on the building site of the castle, so that the clever choice of new castle pieces and correct timing as to when to use the pennants will have a great influence at which value a player may cash in his seals.

The endphase of the game will begin upon the finishing of the second level of the castle, and now each player will be given just one more turn. When all players have finished their final turn, they will count their gold (workers, pennants and seals have no value) and the player with most gold has won the game.

Whereas many players considered RAVENSBURGER's last major publication Celtica as being too light, I heard quite a few positive remarks on Die Baumeister von Arkadia before I started my own testing. Thus, I was eager to see whether the game really was worth the buzz, or whether the - to my mind absolutely undeserved - underrating of Celtica has led people this time to overreact into the opposite direction.

True enough, Die Baumeister von Arkadia comes with a nice scoring mechanism and some tactical options which might be seen amiss in Celtica, but upon closer examination I would not qualify one of these games to be of a higher level than the other on terms of playing fun or playability. For my taste, both games are perfect family games where the gameplay keeps its spice due to its balance and the late determination of the final winner, and although Die Baumeister von Arkadia on first sight offers the players more tactical choices it will only be possible to exploit these options if experienced and unexperienced players participate in a game. With all players being on an equal level, it is difficult to take a great lead since the randomized card engine and the limited availability of coloured pieces for each castle level effectively keep the game from getting off balance. To sum it up, the games mainly differ concerning their playing time, but as far as playability is concerned both of them are strong representatives of RAVENSBURGER's traditional branch of family games.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany