Clickbaiting Era: Medieval Age

The haunting ghosts of expansions past, present, future, and extradimensional.

Era: Medieval Age has staying power. Since reviewing it a year and a half ago, it’s been on constant rotation at our home. Now it’s received a major expansion and a few collector sets. Rather than write the same thing all over again, this seemed like an appropriate time to instead pen thirty-two mini-reviews of every building in the game.

Why? No idea. This just happened.

Warning: This makes Era take much longer than usual. This isn't necessarily good. But yes, this is very cool.

Playing with all the stuff.

Part One: The Medium Stuff

The middle part of lists are always boring. Not great, not bad — just medium. Which is why we’re starting in the middle, so each successive portion only gets better. These are the middlingest structures in Era: Medieval Age, beginning with those nearest to worst and working our way toward the brighter end of the spectrum.

#22. Quarry
Which Set? Rivers & Roads
What’s It Do?
Two free stone every turn. Must be built near the map’s edge.

Ugh. Economic structures. Necessary but ugly, barely worth any points, tricky to fit neatly into your domain, and in the Quarry’s case, saddled with an inbuilt limitation. There’s nothing wrong with having to plop it onto the map’s edge. Aside from that being the usual deposit for scorch tiles.

#21. Lumber Mill
Which Set?
Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do?
Two free lumber every turn.

Look, I’m not complaining about free resources. Until the Rivers & Roads set added a few additional ways to pull in freebies, Lumber Mills were almost essential to getting your economy off the ground. Now it’s a choice between the Quarry, Lumber Mill, or Joinery, so build orders are at last competing for priority. At a certain point, you come to accept that free resources are so much more dependable than the dice. What makes the Lumber Mill superior? Mainly it doesn’t need to be stuck on the edge of the map.

#20. Abbey
Which Set?
Collector Set 2
What’s It Do? Two points per white (religious) building.

I’m a fan of anything that adds new scoring opportunities, and as an adherent of Era’s religious structures this should be an obvious favorite. So why is it languishing all the way back here in the twenties? It’s just too darn chunky. Sure, it claims to have an open spot in its courtyard, which would make it occupy eight spaces instead of nine. But you know which game doesn’t have a single 1×1 structure? Era, that’s which game. Call me back when there’s a fountain or a monument to fill in the cracks.

#19. Great Hall
Which Set?
Collector Set 1
What’s It Do? Four points per noble dice. Must be walled when built, and costs a noble die. Grants access to the special baron die.

Like all of the structures in the first collector set, the Great Hall is an abnormality. Rather than functioning as any old building, it costs a die to build, grants access to a unique high-threat die, and comes packaged with a fairly strict prerequisite. This last detail is a must: its die is so powerful that easy access would effectively guarantee someone’s ability to raid (or avoid being raided) for the duration of the game. Instead, it’s relegated to the last few rounds. Not likely to swing a losing game to your favor, and a glutton for prized urban real estate, but it sure feels powerful rolling five swords on a single die.

My sole artsy shot.

Gates and rivers.

#18. Weigh House
Which Set?
Collector Set 3
What’s it Do? One free treasure every turn. Two if the Weigh House is walled in.

Another economic structure, although it gets two things right. One, it doesn’t force me to stick it on the edge of the map, and two, it encourages me to get my walls built. On its own, that one free treasure is worth the effort of slapping this thing down, freeing me from the whims of burgher dice or marauding my opponents. More importantly, it disrupts the usual build orders. While it’s rare to have a walled-in area early on, structures like the Weigh House tip that pressure from an endgame consideration to something I’ll likely get to work on immediately.

#17. Gate
Which Set?
Rivers & Roads
What’s it Do? Permits Rivers and Roads to enter your walled area.

Gates are walls that let roads and rivers into your city, which makes them a necessary evil of the Rivers & Roads expansion. They demand more space-counting than before, although only to a minor degree — and anyway, Era has always been a game about measuring out one’s spaces. The bigger issue is that there are only eight gates in the entire box. Want a river to pass through your city? That’s two gates. Want to link a road in? That’s three. In a four-player game, somebody’s going to get stiffed. Take care to nab these early. Missing out could cost you the whole game.

#16. River
Which Set?
Rivers & Roads
What’s It Do? Doubles the score of any adjacent buildings. Triples them if they’re also walled in.

The base game of Era: Medieval Age was all about using walls to double the score of every building within their protective embrace. Rivers offer an adjacency multiplier of their own, but ratchet up that scoring potential for any building that meets both criteria. As in, any structure that’s both that’s both secure and has access to flowing water has its value tripled. That’s a huge potential reward, especially for some of the higher-tier buildings, but it brings risks of its own. Mainly because building around them, including the two gates that can wall in a portion of the river, constitutes a major pain in the backside. The good news is that the expansion’s central feature is transformative, adding a splash of geography to the plainness of the player boards.

#15. Chapel
Which Set?
Rivers & Roads
What’s It Do? Lets you reroll a die after your third roll, including a skull result.

Religion in Era has always been about control. Except, you know, in a good way. The Chapel follows the pattern by granting a reroll in much the same way as the white dice, but without having to first roll a quill. Between that and this building’s diminutive stature — it’s as small as a Longhouse! — there’s little reason not to invest in one at some point.

These peasants seem spoiled.

The humble longhouse.

#14. Armory
Which Set?
Rivers & Roads
What’s It Do? Two free swords every turn. Acts as a wall.

The Armory makes raids easier while also helping finish the boundaries of your city. I don’t think any more needs to be said.

#13. Keep
Which Set?
Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do? Grants a noble die. Acts as a wall.

Ah, the sturdy Keep. For a long time it represented my first addition to my starting dice pool. Raiding other players for resources is a good way to make friends and then keep them on their toes. Although raiding isn’t quite as strong in the expanded game (see: the Armory and both resource-converting structures), that additional die is still hard to pass up.

#12. Townhouse
Which Set?
Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do? Grants a burgher die.

To this day, I maintain that burghers are the least important of Era’s four citizen types. If it weren’t for the fact that you begin with a Keep, the Townhouse would have easily fallen back a step on this list. But as real estate becomes ever more precious, it’s hard to avoid the allure of how readily these things fit into your city — and how their constant output of stone, treasure, and build actions helps springboard a player into the game’s most valuable structures.

#11. Longhouse
Which Set?
Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do? Grants a peasant die.

Look, despite the perennial noble concern that the peasants are breeding too quickly, there’s nothing quite as unsexy as a busted-down hovel. But as Era offers new buildings and new approaches, it becomes easier than ever to overlook the basics. Food, for one thing. More than once, I’ve begun walling in a river only to realize that my kingdom lacks the essentials. The pool of Longhouses might not run dry very often. They don’t need to. Because they’re always there, like a reassuring blanket, offering an extra die that might actually feed itself.

Next, we’re examining the game’s worst offerings.

Posted on February 16, 2021, in Board Game and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Love this game too and fun fact: my partner is blind. As such, the production of this game raises it exponentially. I doubt this was a consideration when they were throwing around the high concept for Era but the deluxification of tabletop games has a hidden benefit of also making them more accessible.

    • Ah, that’s fascinating, Dale! Especially since Era is usually dismissed as “too deluxe” for what it provides.

      • Yes that is a criticism I have came across too. To the contrary, my partner could certainly claim that many board games are not deluxe enough! But hey who wouldn’t want a copy of Patchwork with actual textiles swatches which “velcro” onto the board!

        There is obviously a line somewhere but shaped resources and the like are appreciated as a new wave default.

  1. Pingback: New Year, Old Year: 2019 Revisited | SPACE-BIFF!

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