Lancaster is a worker placement game with a wealth of opportunities to screw over your opponents. If that isn’t enough to get your dander up it’s got a lovely theme (raising Knights, fighting the evil French and more importantly each other) and it’s beautifully constructed. The game features a stack of solid wooden pieces. I dare say if your game collection caught fire Lancaster would burn the longest…..
The unburnt version of the game sees up to five noble families moving through three phases five times to gain as much favor (score) as possible with the King. “Hey look at me King! No hands”.
Like most worker placement games you compete to build your economy and score points. You have a number of options in this regard. Your pool of Knights which start weak and few can be increased and upgraded and placed worker style on either your home castle spots for some safe but small economic rewards, on the castles on the English map for better rewards but a competitive environment or off in France to score favour points from the king risking getting tied up there or worse still captured and ransomed.
The central map is clever. Each castle of which there’s ten or so give you rewards in the shape of nobles and/or some economic rewards. The nobles when claimed come to your castle and like an elderly relative never leave. These well to dos give you more voting power for the next phase
Parliament phase sees players either voting in new laws or keeping the ones in place at the moment. The laws consist of things like the player with the most squires gets a free knight. For every three nobles you have you get some kings favor. Person with most Knights at war gets some points and so on. The trick here is to keep laws in place that suit you and block ones that favor others. Just like real life.
The last phase then is resolution where the Knights pay out on what they’ve claimed and the Knights come home. Except for those Knights who didn’t win their battles in France they get stuck out there and have to continue fighting next round.
Another thing that has to be mentioned is the squires. These guys add to the strength of the knight when pushing another knight out of a spot on the map. The only thing is. If they later themselves get pushed out of a claimed spot by an even bigger Knight and his entourage they bugger off back to general supply leaving you to clean your own armoires trousers. The central map is nearly always contested and getting all the Knights on there is like trying to squeeze everything into a Ryanair overhead locker. Going early and late into a fight and figuring out what squires a player has behind their screen is key. Blow your wad to early and your done. Let someone muscle in and not have enough force to dislodge them later well, your done too.
There’s a wealth of paths to winning the game. Every single point is hard earned. Every move is a brain burner and the important lessons of anticipation and disappointment are relearned every turn.
I really like this game. The pieces are lovely and solid. The rules are straightforward. The theme is good. It’s close run, there’s always a way of winning if you can just find it…. I didn’t. But I didn’t come last. By one point! A victory of sorts. Will have it at Knavecon 7 on the 30th of April