It’s no secret how much I love Architects of the West Kingdom.
Even with my top 4 games being GMT Games, Architects still managed to get into the Top 5 games played of all time for 2022.
With the Works of Wonder expansion just having reached here (one play so far and I enjoyed it!), I think it’s about time to review the first expansion, Age of Artisans because, after all of that COVID nonsense, I’ve finally played it enough to review it!
The Age of Artisans expansion adds a couple of things to the base Architects game, and both of them are good improvements.
What does it add?
Let’s take a look.
Since I did a review of Architects of the West Kingdom, I will just talk about what the expansion adds.
The first, and most important, thing the expansion adds is the larger “Artisan” meeple that you can place on the board.
The Artisan has a couple of special abilities that make it better than your regular workers.
It counts as two workers when you place it, so if you get one Wood per worker at the location, you would get 2 Wood. However, once it’s placed, it’s still just one worker (the next worker you place there will also make it so you get 2 Wood).
Also, when you place it, you can ignore one Virtue loss. So if you put it in the Black Market, you won’t lose a Virtue!
That can be quite nice.
The second thing the expansion adds is the Adornments/Tools cards.
The cards are dual-purpose. They can either be Adornments like above (to in these two cases, either a new Building card or some more stone) or they can be Tools that you add to your Apprentices.
Adornments will give you an immediate benefit as well additional victory points at the end of the game.
If you use the card as a Tool, then you attach it to one of your apprentices.
This makes it so that, when you use an Apprentice’s ability, you can also do the Tool’s action as well.
For example, the Acolyte above not only gives you a Building card when you build in the Cathedral, but also lets you free a worker from the prison when you do that.
You can get a Tool when you go to the Black Market, but otherwise you can get a Tool or an Adornment by placing a worker in the Guild Hall on top of a worker you have already placed.
This means you will lose even more workers, but you may get a huge benefit from that. A tool won’t cost any money but an Adornment costs silver.
The new Guild Hall which lets you do this also adds a way to flush a couple of Apprentices from a stagnant Apprentice market. This happens when you build (either a building or in the Cathedral) and place a worker on the spaces with the two blue “x” cards)
Of course, there are a bunch of buildings and apprentices that take advantage of these new things.
One other wonderful addition, so much so that they recommend you do it with the base game too, is that at the start of the game, players draft one Apprentice from the initial outlay. The original game, as fun as it was, made it hard to really get going. This initial draft gives you a boost up and the game really needed it.
The Age of Artisans expansion also adds a 5th player colour (orange), which broadens the play count and definitely makes it a better game. Being able to play 5 if you want really helps!
For endgame scoring, the expansion adds a couple of things.
First, as mentioned above, the Adornments add VP to your buildings that you have attached them to.
Tools will get you VP based on how many Tools you have in play. For the 1-5 tools that you have, you will gain 1/2/4/6/9 VP based on how many you have.
Finally, it comes with two new characters whose powers have something to do with the new abilities.
Walaric allows you to have your Artisan count as 3 workers instead of 2.
Gisela lets you, when you get a Tool and, you also get the Adornment bonus for the Tool card.
That’s a ton of stuff!
Is Architects of the West Kingdom: Age of Artisans a beautiful medieval structure that is still standing tall today? Or is it a straw hut that the Big Bad Wolf blows down with a sneeze?
You know Architects of the West Kingdom is one of my favourite games?
This expansion just reinforces that.
Every one of my minor criticisms of that game is taken care of with Age of Artisans.
Lack of a score sheet? Check (though the Garphill Games scoring app makes all of that superfluous).
Inability to wipe the Apprentice choices when none of them meet any of the players’ desires? Check.
Need a bit of a head-start and some suggestion of where you want to take your strategy?
The initial apprentice draft helps with that (I kind of knew it was coming when that was the initial rule in Paladins of the West Kingdom).
I love the dual-use Tool/Adornment cards as well.
The Tools make your apprentices more efficient and beneficial and the Adornments give you a nice one-time boost and also more victory points for your buildings.
Tools also give you points, but in a “how many Tools do you have at the end of the game” way, where you get points based on how many you have. You have a limit of 5 apprentices so the maximum Tools you can have is 5. (One player character lets you have 6 apprentices, but you still only get maximum Tool points at 5).
The fact that you have to lose another one of your workers to get either one (there is a Black Market space that can also give you a Tool, but other than that) can make the worker economy tighter, making the decisions even juicier. Do you really have the workers to spend to do that?
If you’re going for a high building strategy, Adornments can help with that but that is a lot of workers you are burning.
The Tools are just really cool, giving your apprentices a bit more power. The building one in the picture above, when attached to an apprentice, will let you draw a building card whenever you use that apprentice’s ability.
Age of Artisans also gives players some new apprentices and buildings to use, and they are pretty good too.
The buildings above give a good overview of how they are (and I really appreciate the expansion symbol in the top right so you can remove them if you’re not using it).
Not all of the buildings are endgame scoring ones, but I liked these because they incorporate the other new cards. Victory points per Adornment in the Cellar or Virtue for each Adornment in the Arcade.
The Arcade and the Meeting Room would give a player who’s using a Black Market strategy a bit of a boost at the end of the game. I can see that working out really well.
Many of the apprentices also make use of the new abilities and the Artisan as well.
Some are just basic (I love the Lookout, which makes it so you get the power of one extra worker when you go to the Guardhouse) but others actually reference the new expansion stuff.
The Strongman above says that if you place your Artisan somewhere, you capture all workers of a single colour at that space. You can use it to capture all of your own workers, but you can’t capture your own Artisan.
Since I mentioned the Artisan, let’s talk about it for a moment because this also is a great addition to the game.
Your Artisan is the bigger meeple along with your other 20 (so you technically have 21 workers now, softening the blow of using workers to get Adornments and Tools slightly).
I love the placement ability of counting as 2 workers in a space. It can be handy for resources, but also in other locations like the Town Hall where you can immediately pay to capture two colours of workers with the placement of only the Artisan.
In addition to that ability (and I keep forgetting this one, actually, even with the new player aids), you can ignore one Virtue loss when you place the Artisan. So if you put the Artisan in the first Black Market space (which costs you 1 Virtue), you won’t actually lose that Virtue.
Also quite handy! Especially if you are doing a Black Market strategy.
I said it above and I’ll say it again.
Age of Artisans makes an already awesome game even better. I can’t imagine playing without this expansion now that I have it.
(This review was written after 4 plays)