Clickbaiting Era: Medieval Age

In this fantasy game, hospitals create immunities to the plague. Hahahasob

Keeping everyone healthy with a hospital.

Part Three: The Top Ten

Get ready to fight me, Era nerds.

#10. Wharf
Which Set?
Rivers & Roads
What’s It Do? Swap one resource for another resource. Must be built on a river.

One of the best additions to Rivers & Roads is flexibility. How many times have you been buried in timber but entirely cash-poor? Or the other way around? Striking the right balance is Medieval Age 101, yet the whims of all those rolls can force you into a corner. That’s where the Wharf comes in. First, it’s really pleasant to say. Try it now. Wharf. Wharf. Second, you can now swap one resource for another. That’s crazy powerful. There’s no longer such a thing as being “one resource short” of a cathedral.

#9. Monastery
Which Set?
Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do? Set one die before your second roll.

I mentioned the testy relationship between religion and control earlier in this essay, and the Monastery is the big bad of forcing your rolls to come out the way you want them. Need treasure? Just flip one of your dice to its treasure side. The only thing preventing this building from breaking the entire game is that you have to select the outcome early in your three rolls. It also helps that the Monastery is worth decent points, and even has that little spur for letting it barely touch a river without hogging up too much waterfront property.

#8. Hospital
Which Set?
Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do? Adjacent buildings are immune to disease.

Disease used to be the harshest thing that could happen to your kingdom. Now it’s potentially even worse, since you’re more liable to crowd structures around the river or next to roads. The Hospital negates at least some of that problem. This makes it the perfect centerpiece for your most crowded buildings. Space everything around it just so, and you’ll never have to worry about rolling double skulls again.


This is the most oppressive town of the whole Medieval period.

#7. Church
Which Set? Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do? Grants a clergy die.

Clergy dice are how you mitigate bad rolls — including natural disasters. Because two of their faces are quills, which let you reroll any result, it’s possible to see the outcome of a roll before making a few final adjustments. Those adjustments aren’t wholly certain, but it’s a great way to remove a skull or try to rejigger your resources.

#6. Cathedral
Which Set?
Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do? One point per die.

Now here’s a scoring goal I can get behind. Pretty much everything in Era demands dice. Gathering resources, avoiding the plague, raiding your neighbors, earning culture, even building the buildings that make the game function. The Cathedral turns those dice into more than hungry mouths and uncertain outcomes. Now they’re worth a few extra points. Even better if the Cathedral is walled in. The only thing better is a—

#5. (Super) Cathedral
Which Set?
Collector Set 1
What’s It Do? One point per die. Costs a clergy die. Grants access to the special bishop die.

The Cathedral is a variant introduced by the first collector set, and it’s basically the game’s cheat mode. Like the Harbor and the Great Hall, it costs one of your dice to build. Unlike its peers, it isn’t limited by a weird restriction on where it can be placed. If you can manage it, going straight from a Church to a Cathedral will never be a bad decision. Its scoring potential remains intact, while adding a unique die that spills out tons of resources. The only downside is that somebody else might build it before you. In which case, it becomes #31 on this list.

#4. Trade Fair
Which Set?
Rivers & Roads
What’s It Do? Force a one-to-one resource trade with an opponent, then gain some culture.

This isn’t the first building that grants some flexibility to your economy, but it is the one that weaponizes it. Raids are the bane of peaceable builders everywhere. Now you can turn around and slug your aggressor in the nose by trading for whatever they stole, while also earning culture as a bonus. That culture doubles if the Trade Fair is walled, which adds even more incentive to get your city running sooner than later. The tradeoff is the Trade Fair’s hulking size, a tempting reason to leave it beyond your walls.

Apart from some serious wasted space thanks to that awkward Trade Fair / Great Hall placement.


#3. Joinery
Which Set?
Rivers & Roads
What’s It Do? One free build action every turn.

It’s easy to forget that Era’s most limiting resource is the build action. On many an occasion I’ve watched someone amass stockpiles of resources only to simply forget that they also need the actions to spend those resources on buildings. The Joinery doesn’t solve the issue on its own, but an extra build action every turn is more formidable than it might sound. No longer are rolls protected simply because they gave you a build. Now you can keep rolling for something more suitable.

#2. School
Which Set?
Collector Set 3
What’s It Do? One free culture every turn. Two if walled.

More than once, I’ve won on the back of Schools alone. They’re pricey for their size and raw value, but the earlier you get them running the more culture they’ll pump out. Erect two in a walled city and you’ll be swimming in free points. It’s like social commentary or something.

#1. Wall
Which Set?
Era: Medieval Age
What’s It Do? It’s a wall.

There’s plenty I like about the expansions. How they offer alternatives to old build orders and add new scoring opportunities. Yet nothing has quite supplanted the wall. It’s still the way to ensure you score loads of points, and functions as a defense against fires and scorch tiles as a bonus. Sure, the river is worth a look. But even with the river’s own scoring multiplier mixed in, walls are more important than ever. In one sense, Era is about walls and their importance to Medieval society. How the wall distinguished classes, privileged certain swaths of real estate over others, and concentrated wealth by proximity. It was the drawing-inward after the population fled the old classical cities. More than a scoring system, Era’s walls function as a reminder that boundaries were physical as much as perceptions. At least until cannons started knocking them down.

There we have it: all thirty-two reviews. Holy smokes, that took forever.


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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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