Designed by Jamey Stegmaier | Published by Stonemaier Games
1-6 Players | 60 Minute
“The immortal Forever King has selected 6 citizens of Greengully to start a new village far from the Eternal City. Congratulations for being chosen! Your goal is to bring the greatest glory to the Forever King so you may rule the village in his name. After spending all day flying over the kingdom, the zeppelin sets down and the guards open the hatch for you and your companions.” (From Charterstone)
In this light-hearted, legacy, worker placement game, players take on the role of leading one of the village’s 6 charters. You’ll be in charge of managing your workers, gaining resources and expanding your territory. In Charterstone, you won’t play a single game, but a series of games intertwined, slowly revealing the story of the village and the mysteries surrounding it. Place your own personalized touch on the game by permanently naming characters and locations. New rules, characters and opportunities will arise in a game where the true joy is in revealing the unknown.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Since much of the pleasure of playing Charterstone exists in discovering the game, I’m going to do my very best to present a spoiler-free review. I’ll hit on the theme, general tactics and strategy, and components, but not on any of the surprises so I don’t spoil your own journey.
In a world where it’s not uncommon for a new game to come with a 20-page rulebook, Charterstone comes with very limited backstory and direction. While this is a little unsettling, I found it strangely refreshing and intriguing… Even the game’s setup is a mystery!
To begin, players are left looking at an empty board and box full of various shaped containers. The rules clearly state: Don’t open ANYTHING unless specifically instructed. Within minutes you’ll begin to dive into specific boxes revealing the game’s components, primarily made up of coins and a variety of wood resource tokens. Players are then instructed to claim their charter chest, revealing their 2 regular workers and influence tokens.
Each charter will receive a specific set of cards featuring resource buildings. These resource buildings feature stickers that when placed, will permanently alter the board from that moment on.
Play revolves around the simple task of placing a working, paying or collecting a certain number of resources and possibly receiving a benefit.
Initially, there are a limited number of actions available on the board. A central community area called “The Commons” sits in the middle of the board available to any takers. This area is made up of places, allowing you to trigger basic actions such as building a new building, cracking open a new crate (mystery cards revealing unknown benefits), the ability to gain new workers, etc.).
In addition to playing a meeple on the board, you might also play on a space held by another player (your or your opponents). In that case, you’ll be able to bump that player from the board, sending them back into the owners hands. You also have the option to retrieve all your players from the board, resetting them for you next turn.
There are a number of areas where you might choose to score additional points. The Progress area determines when the game ends. When players achieve certain actions the progress marker moves along, potentially earning that player a bonus and forcing the game ever closer to it’s end. The Reputation and Quota areas also allow for bonuses triggered when players meet certain goals in these respective areas.
Players earn points from actions and cards and the player with the most points at the end is declared the winner.
At that point you’ll gather your cards and resources into your own personal Charter Chest and carry those over to future games. The Chart Chest also allows you to keep track of your individual game victories. The full Charterstone experience takes place over 12 games. At the end of the campaign, the true Charterstone winner is declared.
Of course, the actions and decisions aren’t always that simple. As the game evolves, the challenges and decisions evolve with it… but I’ll leave that for you to discover.
There is even a bit of an epilogue for the game: Once finished with the legacy mode, the game plays as a regular worker placement experience – BONUS!
COMPONENTS & ARTWORK
As with any game coming from Stonemeir, the production is top-notch. The box is always sturdy and the pieces are never cheap.
The artwork in Charterstone has a fun, cartoony-vibe that’s terribly inviting and just down right pleasant. The characters all look friendly and everything is superbly illustrated. The artwork as a whole has a very light, friendly feel. This makes it inviting for family and friends to jump right in.
Again, the components are top notch. The game comes standard with metal coins, heightening an already quality line-up of wooden tokens and resources. The board is double-sided, featuring the exact same village on both sides. This comes in handy since once you’ve completed the legacy game, one side will be covered in stickers and forever changed. Stonemeir does provide a recharge kit allowing you play the game over from the start on the reverse side of the board.
Stonemier is one of the most consistent, high-quality, game publishers in the business and I never worry that I might be underwhelmed by what’s in the box… Charterstone is no exception.
Charterstone, to me, feels a lot like one of those addictive online games. At first you might be skeptical of the entire thing. Where are the warriors, dangerous villains and battles? But something keeps calling to you. You reluctantly dip your toe in just to get a feel only to find yourself hours, days and weeks later fully invested and wanting to come back for more. Suddenly you find yourself joining Charterstone groups online – sharing stories about naming a character after your childhood pet because it “just felt right.” Where you once thought it was silly that the publisher offered a recharge pack for the game so you could play again, you not only swing for it, but also purchased the app version of the game to feed your cravings between board game bites.
Ok, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but Charterstone is that approachable and engaging to a wide audience.
I do have a confession, Charterstone is my first, true foray into the world of legacy gaming. I have a few on the shelf (including Pandemic Legacy: Season 1), but I haven’t had the guts to crack the plastic and take them for a spin.
How can I commit to playing 10, 20 or 30 games of the same game? What if I don’t like it?
As I discuss my feelings and experience uncovering new pieces of the gaming adventure, know that I haven’t yet been desensitized to the unique ideas and offerings behind a legacy game. It’s all new to me!
At it’s heart, Charterstone is a game that wants to tell a story. As the game progresses, questions are raised and new ideas are revealed. That’s not to say the revelations don’t affect the gameplay – because they do. The new elements are introduced gently, never deviating too far from the pleasant, family-friendly, worker placement world created at it’s core.
The game’s mechanics are simple enough to easily pick-up, while the strategic decisions are just challenging enough to keep you engaged from start to finish. I never felt confused about what to do or how to achieve what I wanted. Your competition will definitely provide that healthy dose of tension pushing the game forward. What are they doing? Why are they taking that path? Maybe I should be doing that? The Process path quickly ticks away leaving you only so many turns to accomplish your goals.
The real delight of the game—and possibly a staple of legacy games in general—is that this is a game that keeps on giving. Opening new crates and revealing new sets of goodies has a strange affect on me. Suddenly, I find myself drifting away from my strategy in an effort to gain a new crate and reveal it’s goodies. It’s Christmas everyday in Greengully.
I think for the cynic, this may be a little on the lighter side, but I love the fact my kids can jump in and we can run through the game as a family. There aren’t too many games out there providing engaging strategy where my younger kids can still easily participate. Everything overall seems to hit the right notes for an engaging, family game that offers a bit of a new experience for most players.
- The production is great and the theme inviting
- The legacy aspect is great fun for a legacy newbie like myself (possibly for legacy vets as well)
- The balance between accessibility and engaging hits the right notes
WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT?
- Gameplay is a bit on the lighter side
- As with any legacy game, gathering all your players for 12 games can be a challenge
Charterstone was a great experience for me and my family. The theme is inviting, the gameplay engaging and overall production, top notch. Games never seemed to drag and the entire experience flew by. If you’re willing to commit to playing the game from start and you have limited reservations about permanently altering a board game (yikes!)… I highly recommend Charterstone.