Game: Medieval Academy
Manufacturer: Blue Cocker GamesDesigner: Nicolas Poncin
Medieval Academy is a 2-5 player drafting game. The appeal of this game for me was primarily how much I enjoy drafting mechanisms and of course the artwork, by Piero, definitely draws you in and gives the impression that this should be a lightweight, introductory drafting game. The key element that ensures the replayability is the reversible tiles of the modular board, however we have not played these and therefore this review is of the standard set-up.
In Medieval Academy, each of you is a knight-in-training who must pursue different tasks in order to graduate at the end of the game as the bravest knight. Each task is represented by one of the 7 tiles making up the board, these are; wooing the princess, fighting on horseback and fighting on foot, education, entertaining the king, fighting the dragon and giving to the poor. Points are awarded or deducted at different stages of the game depending on your standing against your opponents in each of these challenges. At the end of 6 round the player with the most points after all positives and negatives are taken into account is the winner and the bravest knight.
The game proceeds in 6 rounds. In a round, each players is dealt a hand of 5 cards and selects one before passing the remaining cards to their neighbour. This continues until all player have 5 cards. The cards represent different amounts of time spent pursuing each task, for example a 5 in fighting will allow you to move forward your marker 5 on one of the fighting tracks when you play it, thus higher numbers are more sought after and your particular strategy, or indeed an attempt to block the other players may dictate which kind of card you select.
|The board set up, showing how the modular boards can be used to make a more complex game by flipping them.|
Once all players have 5 cards they take it in turn to play one and move the correct marker forwards. Only 4 out of the 5 cards are played and the order you play them in can be very tactical, playing for the ‘solo’ tasks first, such as the king and holding back on the more directly competitive tasks until later in the round.
Four of the game boards score at the end of every round; the princess allows the players in first, second and third (in a 4+ game) place to move forward other markers of the board, the two fighting boards reward points for first, second and third (in a 4+ game) place and the education board deducts points from the players in last and second last place. These competitions and the king board all reset at the end of round three.
Other boards are more long terms goals; the king rewards points at the end of round 3 for players who have travelled either half or the whole way around the board, the dragon is a 6-round fighting competition, awarding large numbers of points for the first, second and third (in a 4+ game) place at the end of the game and giving to the poor deducts high numbers of points at the end of the game from the players in last and second last place.
The game can play really quickly across the player count, so long as no-one gets distracted during the draft or over analyses things. There are also plenty of tactical decisions which keep me interested when playing, although I am keen to try the move complex game boards which appear add a higher skill level to the game by rewarding more precise movement of your token around the tracks. Like most drafting games, this one does suffer with just two players, needing a dummy player to make it work, however the upkeep of the dummy player is not too fiddly and can add another tactical element to the game. Most of the time I’d still rather play a drafting game designed for two, such as Tides of Time, but for a slightly meatier game, I still think Medieval Academy is a good choice for two.
The endearing theme and simple mechanics make this a great choice as a family weight game or a gateway game. I think I could probably teach Medieval Academy to my non-gamer parents and have success. It remains to be seen if the more complex boards keep us hooked on the game or if the advanced two-player variant can make it see more table time for just the two of us. For now we’re having fun introducing this one to new players and I love the artwork and theme so the Yellow Meeple gives Medieval Academy a 7.5/10.