Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Andrei Novac


No. of Players:
2 - 5



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Praetors were official magistrates in ancient Rome. Through the centuries the capacity and the function of this office changed enormously - in the democratic times Praetors were true magistrates, but later the imperators reduced their power to imperial administrators and many Praetors were a kind of province governors. It is this later time Praetor by NSKN GAMES focuses on, setting the players up to take part in the attempt to build a strong and organized Roman city in Britain which may prevent the Scottish barbarians from invading the lands south of the Hadrian's Wall. Taking the roles of engineers, the players compete for the favor of the Caesar, and the most successful player will be appointed Praetor of the finished city (so there is the connection with the title of the game).

But no sweet without sweat, and so we start the game with only a well-designed player board before us, some workers and resources and a small initial city build up in the middle of the table. The city is built with the help of medium-sized square city tiles that are placed side by side in a given pattern. Next to a gold mine for every player, we start with a worker camp, a market and an imperial outpost in our city.


On the player boards we keep track of our morale and - more important - we place our active and retired workers as well as our novices (that are workers still in training). As you can see the training and the experience of our workers plays a major role in the game, and I will come back to this point later. In fact, the workers are our main resource for building new city tiles, and they are also used to activate the already finished tiles.

In the action phase, we can take actions to place a worker from the individual player stocks of active workers onto an available city tile from an outlay, take it and place it next to other buildings and thus expand the city. Some of the new city tiles demand other resources, too, that must be paid before the city tile can be built. As a reward, we gain new favor points, depending on the city tile and the position it is placed. In their corners all city tiles have a specific colored pattern and the more of the patterns fit to the neighboring city tiles the more favor points are awarded to the player. This sometimes leads to a longer period of thinking, slowing the game and - as stated by some players - not really fitting the theme. To my mind this is not really reprehensible, since the fact that a building needs to fit to its surroundings certainly is a recurring element which can be found in other city-building games like Big City. But I must admit that the mechanism sometimes leads to longer periods of downtime, especially in the end game when there are many positions you can place your new building.

After the building process we flag the building we have just added to the city by marking it with one of our markers. As a result, we will now get a payment every time this building is activated in later rounds. This brings us to the next possible action. All buildings of the city can be activated once in a round by placing a worker from your active worker pool onto an already built city tile. If this building tile does not belong to you, it is time for the payment as explained above. After a possible payment, the player who has placed the worker gets the benefit of that city tile. Basically there are three types of city tiles. The first type is for getting new resources that are necessary to build the city tiles (including gold, the currency of the game). The next category is for getting favor points (the game's victory points) and points for your morale level which influences the amount of favor points we gain for activating some other city tiles (important for the final scoring!). The last category are special city buildings to acquire and train new workers, trade resources with the bank and build city wall tiles for gaining even more favor points.


A special attention should be paid to the labor camp that enables us to activate retired workers once more. To understand the great significance of this building I have to explain the interesting mechanism which is applied to simulate the training of your workers. All players begin the game with three workers with 1, 2 and 3 experience. Each worker is represented by a die, so the experience is simply indicated by the number of the die. What is the experience good for? Well, there are many buildings whose benefit depends on the experience of the workers. So, a lumber mill will gain you wood equal to the experience of the worker that was used to activate the building etc. As a rule, it is normally it is a huge advantage to use experienced workers for activating the buildings.

But how do they gain experience? After each round, when all players have activated their available workers, the workers that were used for the building of new city tiles and workers that were used to activate city tiles for acquiring new resources, favour or morale points will gain one experience level (as a result they are just turned to the corresponding side). Over the time, as the workers are represented by standard six-side dice, there will come a moment when a die is turned to "6". This is the time when a worker retires, and from that moment on he cannot be used as a normal worker any more. However, like the normal workers demand their wages, a retired worker demands a pension payment in the update phase, the last phase of each round. This may be very annoying indeed for there is no chance to get rid of these retired workers, but at least there is one building, the mentioned labour camp, that can be activated to use a retired worker as if it was an active one. And yes of course, it counts as a worker with 6 experience. I really liked the whole idea of retiring your workers since the pension system was very common for Roman soldiers and government officials, but in gaming terms the idea of using the retired workers with an experience of 6 is a mighty advantage, sometimes resulting in a run for the activation of the labor camps. In some situations this may considerably influence the rest of the game.


All in all, I would say Praetor is a well designed worker placement game with some refreshing new ideas. I liked the idea of building up the city and thus expanding your available actions. As the outlay of available city buildings is determined randomly, no game of Praetor will look the same. On the other hand, this also can lead to some balancing problems, for example if there are only a few of the stronger buildings available in the city. Like with the labor camp, in some rounds the game will focus on a run for these mighty buildings. However, in most situations the general mechanism works pretty well without such disturbances.

In my opinion, especially the element of the retired workers makes the game worth to play. Praetor is not intended to be a heavy strategic game, but on the other hand it is not the typical family game either. A positive aspect certainly is the fact that it can easily be explained and understood by new players, and if you can see over the fact that in some games - depending on which buildings are in play - there are minor balancing problems, it should really be worth a try, if you generally like worker placement games.

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Copyright & copy; 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany