Medieval Academy Review

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Medieval Academy is a game by Nicolas Poncin, published by IELLO. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of a medieval squire. They will be competing in several different training categories as they try to outdo each other. The player that can wisely position themself above all the rest will be knighted by King Arthur and declared the winner.

To begin, the 7 game boards are placed in the center of the table in an arrangement that is referenced in the rule book. Each board is placed with the white bordered face down. The parchment is placed near the boards with the hourglass marker placed on turn I. The coat of arms are sorted and placed near their corresponding game boards. Each player chooses a color and is given 10 wooden discs in that chosen color. The player then places 1 disc on the starting location of each game board. They place the remaining 3 discs in front of themself. The learning cards are shuffled. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played over 6 turns. Each turn is divided into 6 phases; deal 5 learning cards to each player, draft the learning cards, play the learning cards, scoring, reset and change the first player. The first phase is to deal 5 learning card to each player. Simply put, the first player takes the deck of learning cards and deals out 5 cards face down to each player.

The next phase, players draft cards. They start by looking at their hand of 5 cards and choosing one of them. It is placed face down in front of them and the remaining cards in their hand are passed to the player on the left. The direction changes each turn. So on the odd turns, players will pass to the left and on the even turns, they will pass to the right. Players continue with choosing a card and passing the remainder until each player has 5 cards in front of themself. When this happens, each player picks up their 5 chosen cards into their hand.

In the third phase, the players play cards. Beginning with the first player and continuing in clockwise order, each player will place one of the cards from their hand face up in front of them. They then move their colored disc on the corresponding board by the card’s number value. This continues until each player has played 4 of their 5 cards. The last card is not played. If a player’s disc moves onto a space already occupied by another player’s disc, the player simply places their disc on top of the other player’s disc. When the scoring phase comes around, a disc on top of another disc is considered one rank higher. If a player’s disc goes completely around the track and back to the beginning, the player places an extra disc from their supply on the top of it and moves the 2 discs as one. The King’s service board stops at 12 so this can’t be done on that board.

The fourth phase is scoring. Scoring is done on a board by board basis beginning with the Gallantry board at the top and continuing through the others. Some boards will score every turn while others only score on certain turns. The time is noted at the top corner of each board. Players will gain or lose Chilvary points based on where their discs are on each track. This is indicated with the different Chilvary tokens for each board. Players will place these in front of themself face down so other players don’t know eactly how many points the other players have. Before scoring the other boards though, the players score the Gallantry board. In this case, players do not gain any points. Instead they will be able to move a disc on one of the other game boards by a certain amount, starting with the 3rd ranked player and continuing in reverse order to the player ranked 1st. After all this has been done, the remaining boards can then be scored. One thing should be noted, if a player’s disc has not moved from the starting space, they are unable to gain any positive points from that particular board. They may still receive negative points though. The King’s Service board gives points based on where the player is on the track. The space and points are indicated on this particular board.

The next phase is the reset phase. After scoring at the end of the 3rd phase, all the discs on the Gallantry, Jousts, Tournaments, Education and King’s Service boards are returned to the starting space. This is indicated on each of the aforementioned game boards. The Quest and Charity boards are different and the discs on these do not move.

The last phase is to change first player. At the end of each turn, the first player token moves to the player on the left of the current first player. The hourglass is then moved to the next higher number on the parchment signaling the beginning of a new round.

All this continues until the end of the 6th turn. At this point, players count up the points from all their tokens, subtracting the negative points from those certain tokens. Players then compare their scores and the player with the most points is the winner.

The game also has a couple of advanced rules and rules for 2 player games as well as several different variations. I won’t go into great detail of these but will give a brief overview of each. There is an advanced rule that allows a player to move one of their discs that is below others in a stack to the top of that stack. There is an advanced rule for the Gallantry, Jousts, Tournaments and Education boards that forces only the last ranked player to move their disc back to the starting space on reset. The next to last player moves to the 1st space, the next lowest player moves to the 2nd spot and so on. In regards to the 2 player games, in one version there is a neutral player that both players will make decisions for. The other 2 player game allows each player to play 2 colors, summing up their points between the two colors. The order for playing cards is shown on the Lancelot rule card.

When it comes to variations, there are quite a few. In each case, the white bordered side of the boards are used in place of the normal side. There is the Jousts and Tournaments variation where players gain more points for whichever knight is winning and less for the one that is losing. The Gallantry variation which uses the bet card. Players that are ranked on this board are able to move their token a number of spaces equal to the number of cards they played of the bet on type times the amount of spaces their rank gives them. The Education variation uses the Secret Codex card and 0 point coat of arms tokens. When scoring players choose one of the face down tokens that are placed on the codex card giving them either 0 or negative points. The 0 point tokens are then given back after the end of the turn. The King’s Service variation uses the scroll tokens. When a player passes a scroll token on the board, they take the scroll. Only when the scroll on the 12th square is taken does the board reset. The Quests variation does not use the quest coat of arms tokens. At the end of the game, players add or subtract points for the number of positive coat of arms tokens they possess with the ranked players getting additional points for every token or every pair of tokens. The Charity variation also doesn’t use it’s coat of arms tokens. Ranked players instead exchange a negative token for up to 2 positive tokens with a value of 3 or less from the Jousts/Tournaments or King’s Service tokens of the last ranked player.

The game also has a Gallantry and Magic expansion that isn’t included with the basic game. The expansion consists of a double sided board with a Gallantry side and a Magic side. This board allows for 2 more variations. The Gallantry expansion replaces the original Gallantry board with the new one and allows players that are ranked during scoring to choose up to two different bonuses from the board. Those bonuses include taking the first player token, playing their fifth card, moving a disc one space on any board, moving 2 spaces on a board with a sword symbol or moving 2 spaces on the King’s Service board. The Magic variation adds the Magic side of the board as an 8th board to the mix. This board allows any learning card to be played on it. When it’s scored ranked players are allowed to move any of their discs a number of spaces as indicated on the board. They’re also allowed to split up amoungst several boards if they so desire.

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COMPONENTS
This game comes with a lot of great looking pieces. Before I get to that let me just say, the artwork for this game is really awesome. I love the feel and look of it all. Everything from the cards to the boards has that same whimsical yet beautiful design to it. The boards are all nice and thick and are very sturdy. The cards are really great quality as well. The different tokens and extra cardboard pieces are really great too. I really like that the turn tracker is a parchment and the token for it is an hourglass. It just adds to the theme and feel of the game. The first player pawn is a fairly large cardboard version of Excalibur. You also have the player discs which are wooden and brightly colored. Needless to say, the game is high quality and full of theme and flavor. I love every aspect of the components. I feel like everything was well thought out and thematically it just works. It’s definitely a well designed game.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rule book is really well designed. There are lots of pictures and several examples of gameplay throughout the book. It’s well thought out and everything flows from one point to the next. It’s very easy to read and simple to understand. There’s a great setup example for the basic game with pictures and everything. All the phases of the game are broken down and explained thoroughly. You should have no trouble at all with understanding how to play. The advanced rules and different variations are broken down really well so that you can customize your game to your own likings. Also included on the back cover is a great reference for the 6 phases of the game. Of course, the game is so simple and easy to understand, you shouldn’t need it. Overall I’m really pleased with the look and feel of the rulebook and found it to be really well done.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a great game that’s really fun to play. It’s not a difficult game but it’s one that will make you think. At it’s heart, the game is simply a card drafting game. Of course the different boards make it much more than just that. With some boards giving bonus points and others giving negative points, you really have to plan what you’re gonna go for each turn. There is a bit of luck involved as you really don’t know what cards are gonna be drawn and what you’ll get in your hand. You will also have to think about what the other players have been doing and what they might do when making your choices. The game has lots of different variations and ways to play thanks to the double sided boards making this highly replayable. Fans of card drafting games like Fairy Tale, 7 Wonders or Sushi Go should enjoy this one. The light and whimsical look and feel of the game is one that even younger players can enjoy. It’s even simple enough that they can play and enjoy it. My 6 year old enjoys it quite well. As a matter of fact, she asks to play it fairly regularly. Don’t let that fool you though, the game has some strategy to it as well. Just because it’s simple to play doesn’t mean that you can’t make it harder for more advanced players. The variations and advanced rules can up the ante a pretty good bit. It plays well with pretty much any number of players. The play time really depends on the number of players, the fewer the players the less time it will take. Usually it plays in around 20-30 minutes. I’ve really enjoyed it and think this one really improves on the card drafting mechanic.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Medieval Academy is a light weight game of card drafting. The game doesn’t take long to play. Most game sessions last no longer than 30 minutes. The artwork for the game is very light and whimsical and is one that even my 6 year old daughter enjoys. The components and theme of the game are great. I really enjoy how well thought out everything was designed. I really enjoy the game and find that there is a lot of replayability thanks to the many variations through the use of the double sided boards. Fans of card drafting games like Fairy Tale, 7 Wonders or Sushi Go should really enjoy this one even though it takes up quite a bit of space thanks to the many boards that have to be laid out. The game is quite simple but is one that can be ramped up for more advanced players as well. I highly recommend this game. It’s already becoming a family favorite around my house. I’m sure you’re family will enjoy it too.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out IELLO Games at their site.

www.iellogames.com

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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