Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 29 December 2015

I learnt it at knight school: Medieval Academy

Game: Medieval Academy

ManufacturerBlue Cocker Games

Designer: Nicolas Poncin

A good knight is strong, able to fight off his kingdom's enemies on horseback or on foot with whatever weapons he can find. But we aren’t here to train good knights, you will not be good knights, you will be great knights. A great knight is as smart as he is strong, brave in the face of insurmountable foes, yet kind in the eyes of his people. A great knight is friends with the king, and finally, and I know this is the bit you are all interested in, a great knight is favoured by the princess. Don’t go thinking this is easy, we pick from the finest boys of age in the land and each year only one becomes a knight! If you think you have what it takes, then welcome, to medieval academy!

Medieval Academy is a card drafting knight training game for 2-5 players, in it you choose cards which represent your time spent studying/training. The game is round based and after each round you get evaluated on certain tasks and get rewards based on how you did, other tasks are only evaluated at certain rounds or at the end of the game, these tend to offer bigger rewards, but require a full game of focus to win them.

The game plays fairly typically for a drafting game, each player starts with a hand of 5 cards from which they choose 1 to keep, they then pass the remaining 4 to the next player that player then takes 1 card and passes the remaining 3 on etcetera. At the end of each round you will have a hand of 5 cards that you chose during the drafting. Then each player plays 1 card from their hand at a time and moves their counter up on the respective track by the number on the card. Since players play 1 card at a time this allows you to hold back good cards to surprise your opponents, you only play 4 of your 5 cards which leaves you with an option on what to play.

There are 7 tiles on which you play cards, but only 6 card types, combat training cards are shared between the training on-foot and training on horseback tiles. The first tile is the princess’ favour tile which scores each round, the player with the highest score on this track gets to move one of their tokens on one of the other 6 tracks forward 3 spaces, the second player gets to move a token 2 spaces and (in a 4-player game) the third gets to move a token 1 space. The two combat tiles (horseback and on-foot) score each round and both play the same, the highest player gets 3 points, the second gets 2 points and the third (in 4+ games) gets 1 point. As they are separate tiles, this gives you a choice on where to play and this increases competition. The final tile that scores every round is education, however this tile penalises the last player and second last player rather than rewarding the top players. Each of these tiles resets at the end of round 3, so you can secure an early lead and try to keep it, but after round 3 the competition is back on.
How the game looks at the end of the game, note that some tokens are on top of another token, when this happens the player on top is considered ahead, so it may be worth playing cards later to get the advantage.

The King's favour tile only scores on rounds 3 and 6 (the game is 6 rounds long), King's favour gives you 6 points if you made it at least half way along the track and 12 if you made it to the very end within 3 rounds, after scoring the track resets so you have 2 chances to get those points. The dragon tile is a game-long competition for a whopping 17 points for the first player, 10 for the second and 4 (in 4+) for the third. Donating to the poor is the final tile and likewise is a full-game competition, if the dragon was the full-game combat then the poor are the full-game education, the player who donated the least loses 10 points and the player who gave the second least loses 5.

The game has a 2-player variant which features a fake third player, this is actually done fairly well with the third player always taking the highest value of their choices (which is often how real players play), if there are choices they are either randomised or chosen by the first player (represented by the giant sword marker that gets passed around each round) so you can slightly manipulate the third player to attack your opponent, but these options aren’t abundant.

What I’ve explained so far is just the basic game, Medieval Academy has an advanced mode, which is entirely plug and play. Each tile is reversible and has a more complex version on the other side, so you may decide that you want to play with the complex dragon one game, or perhaps that the complex king isn’t fun for you so you’ll play with everything but. This variety is welcomed, though since we often end up teaching the game to new people, we haven’t had much of a chance to try them yet. There is also an advanced 2-player mode that doesn’t involve a third player, we’ve not touched this.

Some of the cards in the game, the higher numbers also come with a more knightly picture, I'll leave it to you to find out why princess 5 and begger 2 are the best cards!
Medieval Academy is a quick, fun drafting game. It works best without people who will agonise over their draft (you know who you are!) and instead take a quick look, pick and pass along, no-one likes it when there becomes a road block in the drafting with 3 piles of cards waiting to be perused by 1 player! With fairly simple rules it’s a nice game to use to introduce someone to gaming or playing with new players, and if they get hooked then you can always up the ante with the reverse sides. I will say that the best strategy seems to be to do everything you can to avoid the negative points, the positive points seem to work themselves out as you play, but a lack of education throughout the game can cost you dearly.


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