ERA box

‘Era: Medieval Age’, A Roll and Build Game

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ERA box

Build your very own miniature city in Era: Medieval Age!

What Is Era: Medieval Age?

Era: Medieval Age is a roll and build game for 1-4 players, ages 10 and up, that takes about 45-60 minutes to play. It’s designed by Matt Leacock and published by Eggert Spiel. You can purchase a copy for $69.99 from Eggert Spiel, or check your FLGS.

Era: Medieval Age Components

This game comes with a lot of plastic. Inside the box you will find:

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 71 buildings
    • 9 Keeps
    • 18 Longhouses
    • 16 Farms
    • 5 Churches
    • 3 Monasteries
    • 2 Cathedrals
    • 5 Townhouses
    • 3 Guildhalls
    • 3 Markets
    • 3 Hospitals
    • 3 Lumber Mills
    • 2 Universities
  • 32 walls of various lengths
  • 27 Scorched areas
  • 36 Dice
    • 5 Blue
    • 5 White
    • 8 Gray
    • 18 Yellow
  • 25 Plastic pegs for tracking
  • 5 Tracking tokens
  • 4 Plastic player boards
  • 1 Pad of score sheets
  • 4 Player screens

My first impression when I received the game was, wow, this is a bigger box than I expected. But once I opened it and realized the number of components inside, it made sense. Unlike many games, the box for Era: Medieval Age is exactly the size that it needs to be. The publisher did not include a lot of fluff, but they did provide a wonderful insert that holds all the pieces securely so that when you open the box, everything is in its place.

ERA insert
The game comes with a plastic insert. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

As for the component production Era: Medieval Age is top notch. The buildings have just enough details like doors, windows, and veneer to make them feel realistic. The dice have rounded corners and etched symbols that contrast with the dice color for easy readability. The back sides of the player screens provide some information for reference while rolling dice (building costs and symbol affects) so that you don’t need to reference the rulebook. That being said, the screens are low, and I found myself tipping them up to read them, but nonetheless, I still appreciated having the information right there.

ERA components
There are lots of buildings in this game. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

And the boards…well, the boards are hard to read. They are a pale yellow color with etched symbols and numbers for tracking resources and so forth; however, there is no color distinction. Not to worry though because the publisher has heard the criticism and now offers stickers for the boards. While not the ideal solution, the stickers are easy to apply and now make the boards readable. If you were to pick up a copy today, it should come with the stickers; however, if your copy is lacking them, then you can purchase them for the cost of shipping from the publisher.

ERA boards
Boards with and without stickers. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

How to Play Era: Medieval Age

You can download a copy of the rulebook here.

The Objective

The goal of the game is to score the most points by constructing the best city.

Setup

Begin setup by separating all the buildings into individual piles of the various types. Also, separate the dice into piles by color. Then place the tracking tokens next to the supplies where everyone can see them. Use all 5 tokens in a 4-player game, but only 3 tokens in a 2 or 3-player game.

Next, give each player a player board, a screen, and 6 pegs to track their resources. Additionally, each player will receive 3 yellow dice, 1 gray die, 1 keep, 3 longhouses, 1 farm and 3 (4-unit long) walls from the supply. Depending on the number of players, everyone will take 0-2 scorched areas as well.

Use your starting buildings, walls, and scorched areas to begin construction of your city. The keep must be placed exactly in the center of the player board. Besides that, you can place the other structures anywhere you want.

When everyone is done, each person rolls 1 grey die and whoever rolls the most swords is the starting player. That person takes the starting player peg and inserts it into the upper right-hand corner their board to track the steps of a turn.

ERA setup
Game setup. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Gameplay

Each turn consists of six steps. The first three steps can be done simultaneously, if players wish, while the latter three are completed in turn order. The active player for each round tracks the steps on their player board, using the starting player peg.

Step 1: Roll. Behind their screens, players roll their dice, Yahtzee style, which means that you can roll your dice up to three times, keeping whatever dice you want after each roll. The only caveat in Era: Medieval Age, is that if you roll a skull, you must keep that die and cannot re-roll it.

Step 2: Collect. When everyone has completed their dice rolls, all dice are revealed and everyone collects the resources shown. Resources include trade goods, stone, lumber, food, and culture. These are tracked along the top of the player board and each resource has a maximum limit. In addition to what is shown on your dice, you also gain 1 food for each farm in your city.

Step 3: Feed. Next, you must feed your people by paying 1 food resource per die. If you do not have enough food, increase the number on your disaster track. The disaster track will count as negative points at the end of the game.

Step 4: Disasters. Depending on the number of skulls you rolled, bad stuff is going to happen to you…or possibly to your opponents. 1, 2, 4, and 6+ skulls rolled will affect you in a negative way, possibly moving you up higher on the disaster track, or maybe forcing you to remove a building from your board. However, rolling 3 or 5 skulls results in your opponents either placing a scorched area on their board, which makes that area unbuildable, or destroys one of their buildings. Note, that buildings/areas completely surrounded by walls are protected. Thus, there is a strong benefit to completely enclosing some or all of your city.

Step 5: Build. During this step, each player may build any number of buildings and/or walls equal to the number of hammers rolled, assuming that you have the resources available to pay for them. Unused hammers have no effects. If all the buildings of a specific type run out, then flip one of the tracking tokens.

Step 6: Extort. This last step compares all the swords and shields rolled by everyone. Starting with the player that rolled the most swords, they get to demand one resource of their choosing from every player who either rolled less swords or not enough shields to defend. Then, the next player with the next highest number of swords gets to do the same to each player below them, and so on. Players may choose to not give the requested resource, and instead, move their peg up their disaster track by one.

At the end of each round, check to see if all the tracking tokens have been flipped. If they are, then the game ends and everyone scores. If not though, then pass the starting player peg to the next player.

Note that the dice come in 4 different colors and you can earn extra dice by building specific buildings. Each color focuses on specific symbols. For example, the yellow dice have more food resources on them while the gray dice have more swords/shields. If you find yourself lacking in a certain resource, then try to build the structure that will get you the die associated with it.

ERA game end
An example of an enclosed city. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Scoring

At game’s end, players will tally their points as indicated on the score pad. You receive points for buildings constructed in your city (double the points if the building was entirely walled in), bonus points for specific buildings if that building’s condition was met, and finally points for the amount of culture you have. Then, subtract the number shown on your disaster track. The player with the most points claims victory!

Why You Should Play Era: Medieval Age

At the top of my list of why you should play Era: Medieval Age is because you get to literally build a 3D medieval town. This really brings the theme to life and makes the game fun because win or lose, you will have created something unique in the end. But that’s not the only reason to like this game. What also makes Era: Medieval Age stand out to me, compared to other roll-and-write type of games, is the player interaction. While the central focus of the game is you constructing your board, the ‘Disaster’ and ‘Extort’ phases remind you that there are other players at the table and you might need to adjust your strategy accordingly.

Overall, I found the experience of playing Era: Medieval Age very enjoyable. I love the dice rolling to get resources because it adds a push your luck mechanic where sometimes you will get exactly what you wanted while other times, the randomness will leave you short of the the resources you desired. But regardless, you will typically have enough resources to do something every turn. The game is easy to learn, and after a few turns, the rounds move quickly as everyone becomes acquainted with the turn order.

All of this is not to saw that the Era: Medieval Age is without its flaws. My play group found that during the ‘Build’ phase, since the starting player gets to use all of their build actions before the next player goes, they have the potential to take several buildings/walls all at once. That means that later in the game, when you have built up your dice pool and are creating lots of resources, the starting player can potentially take several key structures before any of the other players have the chance. This can be frustrating when you only needed one more wall to enclose your city and suddenly the last player before you takes the last four, for example. While I haven’t tried this, you could create a house rule that allows players take only one build action at a time until everyone has completed all their build actions. I believe that this would make your decision of what to build more impactful since some options might not be available by the next time it backs around to you.

Either way, I think that Era: Medieval Age is a thematic, tactile experience with the right amount of strategy and player interaction. It keeps everyone constantly involved and engaged throughout.

But if you enjoy your roll-and-build games with less player interaction, don’t fret because you can also play Era: Medieval Age by yourself. When considering whether to purchase a game, a solid solo feature always makes the game more enticing to me. In Era: Medieval Age, the solo game plays exactly like the normal play, but with a few adjustments.

You build your starting city with the same components as the multiplayer game, but add one more scorched area at the start. Also, during the ‘Roll’ phase, you will roll 2 gray dice and 1 yellow die for your imaginary opponent. These will be used during the ‘Extort’ phase to compare swords/shields. At that time, if you have more swords, you can choose a resource from the ones shown on these dice. But if you lose, then the imaginary opponent will take a resource from you unless you choose to take a disaster. The last tweak is that skulls only affect you regardless of the number rolled. The solo version plays over 8 rounds, at which the end of, you will add up your score and compare it to the chart in the rulebook to see how well you did.

I found the solo version of Era: Medieval Age to be superb. Since it plays similarly to the multiplayer game, I didn’t have to learn a whole new rule set, and could dive right in after playing it multiplayer. The solo play is quick and allowed me to try different strategies. And like the multiplayer game, regardless of how well I did, I had built something unique in the end. Either way, with friends or by yourself, Era: Medieval Age is a modern game that will be staying in my collection.

ERA village
What will your medieval city look like? Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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