Jerusalem is a game by Michele Mura, published by Elfinwerks. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be trying to control key areas in the city of Jerusalem. These areas will provide different resources that they will use to expand their power by building their castle tower. The player that can grow their prestige and thereby their tower the highest will be declared the winner.
To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the table with the coins separated into 2 piles nearby. The event cards are shuffled and 3 of them are placed face down in the spaces at the top edge of the board. The remaining cards are returned to the box, not to be used. The action cards are shuffled and placed in a facedown stack next to the board. The 4 office cards are placed face up beside the board. The black wooden cylinder is placed on the “1” space of the calendar. The colored wooden cubes are placed within easy reach of all players. Each player now chooses a color and receives a player screen of their chosen color which is set up in front of them. This is where players will be keeping their resources, hidden from the other players. They will also receive 2 gold coins and 2 silver coins. They place the cylinder of their player color on the “0” space of the prestige track. They then receive a Baron pawn of their color which is placed beside their player screen. Finally they take the tower floors of their color and place them beside their screen as well. The first player is chosen and play now begins.
The game is played over 5 rounds. Those rounds are divided into 4 phases which are completed in order. Those phases are bid for offices, deploy squires, collect revenues and event. The first phase is the bid for offices phase. This phase begins by taking a number of action cards equal to the number of players and placing them facedown beside the office cards. Players will then bid on which office they will control during the round beginning with the player with the tallest tower. That player will decide which office card is auctioned and then they declare their opening bid. Players may then either raise the bid or pass. If the player passes they are out of bidding for that office. Once all players have passed, the highest bidder take that office card, placing it in front of them. They are then out of the bidding for any other office. The next player to the left of the previous highest bidder now becomes the first bidder and the process starts all over. This continues until only one player remains without an office. They will then take the last office card and an action card as a consolation prize. Once everyone has an office card, each player receives one action card. Beginning with the lowest number office card, players take turns choosing one of the face down action cards that were placed earlier by picking them up and looking at them. The remaining cards are then passed to the next player in turn order and continuing until all players have chosen a card.
The next phase is the deploy squires phase. This phase begins with players receiving a number of squires determined by the office that they control. Players will then place these squires behind their player screen. They then may place some or all of their squires onto the board in turn order based on the office that the player controls. These squires can be placed in any of the five districts or Tower of David. They may be placed in the large area or either of the two smaller ones. A player also has the option of placing their Baron pawn on the board. This pawn makes it where no other player can place any squire in that area. To place a Baron, the player must also place at least 3 of their squires in that same area. There are a few exceptions though. The player that has the tallest castle tower can not place their Baron on the large are of the King’s Palace. Likewise, if a player is tied for the tallest tower and they have the most prestige, they can’t place their Baron there either. One other option that a player can do is they can hire mercenaries. To do this the player pays 3 Bezants per squire. These squires can be placed immediately or saved for later. A player may also remove squires from the board to gain 1 Bezant for every 3 removed this way.
The third phase is the collect revenues phase. This phase is divided into 4 steps; the Tower of David, privileges, revenues and construction. The first step is the Tower of David. If a player controls the Tower of David, they receive one Bezant and they are allowed to move one squire from the Tower of David to any other area in the city that is not blocked by a Baron. The next step is privileges. If a player controls either the Patriarchy, the Market or the Nobility they will earn the special privileges that the area provides. The Patriarchy allows the player to remove a squire from behind their screen and return it to the supply to draw the top action card from the stack. The Market allows the player to purchase up to 4 prestige by paying 2 Bezants per prestige. The Nobility allows the player to steal a prestige from another player. The third step is revenues. Beginning with the King’s Palace, players will determine who controls each area and earn the revenues shown on that space of the board wither in Bezants, squires or prestige points. The fourth and final step is construction. In this step, players in turn order must spend prestige points to add as many floors to their castle tower as possible. Each floor costs the number of the floor plus 1 point. So for example, the second floor would cost 3 points of prestige. This step is mandatory and players must build as many floors as they have prestige points to build with.
In the last round of the game, the King of Jerusalem grants three gifts to the players. This happens before the last construction step. Players must reveal all the resources they control from behind their screens. Prestige points are then awarded for having the most squires behind a player’s screen, having the most Bezants being a screen and for having at least one action card behind the screen.
The fourth and final phase is the event phase. During the game this only occurs in the second, third and fourth rounds, not in the first and last rounds. In this phase, the event card for the current round is revealed and the instructions for the particular event are resolved. Once resolved, the black cylinder is moved forward one space on the calendar. This movement happens each round. Players then return their office cards, placing them beside the board. They also must remove their Baron pawn from the board if it is present. The game starts back over with phase 1 from this point. This all continues until the end of the fifth round. At this point players compare their castle towers. The player who has the highest tower wins.
This game has some really nice looking pieces. The cylinders, squires, barons and tower floors are all brightly colored wooden pieces. These are really sturdy and nicely made. The coins are thick cardboard and have a really thematic look to them. The event, action and office cards are really nice and the artwork looks amazing. Each one has a very thematic look and feel to them. The player screens are a little thinner than the coins but are brightly colored and have some thematic looking shields on them. The board is a masterpiece and looks like something from a painting. It is really nicely detailed and has a very great feel to it. I really like everything that comes inside the box. The only thing is that I wish that the tower floors had looked more like actual tower pieces instead of primary colored blocks. For me it kind of kept me from being fully immersed into the theme that the game presented. Other than that, I’d say the quality is really great.
8 out of 10
The rulebook for this game looks quite nice. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book. It is a bit thick but this is because it’s a multilingual rulebook, thus all the extra pages. Everything is explained really well and is simple to understand. There are some really nice sections for both the Office and the Event cards that explain each one in great detail. There is also a section for action cards that shows references for each of the different icons on them. Also included in the book is a special 2 player variant that changes up the game just a bit. Everything looks really nice and I saw nothing that was difficult at all. Overall, I’d say that it covers everything quite well.
8 out of 10
This is a rather fun game. It focuses mostly on bidding and area control. As detailed in the rules above, each office provides a different ability as well as giving the players a set number of squires to use. Let me say that it does matter which office you get. Getting a lower office provides more squires and a better turn ranking but the ability isn’t as great as the higher offices which provide less squires. You really have to balance out which one is more important to you for that turn. Events can be a major turning point and can really mess up your plans. Most of them have you removing squires and even a Baron can’t stop this from happening. One key move that I found to be helpful is removing your squires from areas that you know you’re not going to win to gain some coins. You just have to make sure that you don’t allow your opponent to completely overrun the board with their squires or you’ll be playing catch up the rest of the game. Area control seems to really be the main mechanic of this game and it’s what you’ll spend most of the game doing. That’s fine as this is where the game excels. I enjoyed the game. It’s a bit longer than I’d like though as most games sessions are around the hour and a half mark. That felt a bit too long for me. The good thing is that the setup time is fairly short so that helps out a bit. All in all, the game isn’t bad. It’s fairly simple with a fair dose of strategy thrown in. That makes for a pretty good game.
8 out of 10
Jerusalem is medium weight game of area control with a dose of bidding thrown in. It’s a game with a play time of around an hour and a half. That seems a bit much for this game but the short set up time makes up for it. The artwork is really nice and thematic. The only problem for me is the tower pieces. I really felt that they should have been more tower like and less bright colored blocks. The game is not that difficult but has a good heaping helping of strategy included. Fans of games like El Caballero or Kingdom Builder will probably enjoy this one. It’s got a great feel to it and is one that strategy game fans will probably like even without having the depth that many strategy games have. I rather enjoyed the game. I would recommend it. Give it a try, it’s one that just might grown on you.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Elfinwerks at their site.