Before I begin, I was sent a copy of the prototype and will receive a production copy should the game fund in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview. If you would prefer to watch a video of this review check it out below. You can learn more about the game here.
Engine building, grid tile placement is about the least sexy pitch I can think of for a game. It is. Yet, both of those mechanics are ones that I have grown to really enjoy over the past year or so as I have gotten deeper into doing reviews. It makes me regret that I had avoided them for so long.
There is something quite satisfying about playing games like this, especially as they are close to multi-player solitaire games. I know a lot of gamers do not like that, but I enjoy the challenge of simply having to out play your opponent, rather than out sabotage them.
Enter Feudal Endeavor, a game about managing your fief during the time of Catherine the Great. Your will spend your turns bidding on land tiles to place in your fief. Adding these tiles will unlock ways you can spend your resources in order to gain others. These resources then get flipped in order to purchase more land deeds in the future.
The catch here, is that each round you will have an opportunity to fulfill the empress’s will. There will be cards out which ask for a specific order of colored lands in your fief each round. If you are able to fulfill one of those then you will earn points, should you not be able to do that, at least you will be able to send her a tithe, which might be worth points at the end of the game.
The only other thing that really plays a huge part in the game is the initiative order. The initiative order, or Empress’s favor is the tie breaker, and it resets in whenever a player claims a deed.
So what do I like about this game?
I appreciate the simplicity of the bidding system, yet at the same time I really enjoy the incredible amount of strategy that goes into bidding. You see there are so many different options of what you can bid on, and there are so many ways that they can all help, especially early in the game. Along with this the way that each deed lets you bid different resources to claim really keeps each round feeling fresh.
I enjoy the puzzle nature of laying the deeds out in your fief. It is good fun trying to out-think you opponent and make sure you are able to claim the deeds you need, but at the same time it feels so good when you can make your opponent think you are going for a deed you aren’t and they over pay for it. So good.
I like the idea of the theme, but in practice it does not really extend to the deeds themselves. Some of them make complete sense…yes you pay money here and you get horses, but other times it feels like the deeds are just mechanical and not particularly thematic. On the other hand the part of the game where you work to claim the favor of the empress is a real delight and really feels thematic.
While we enjoyed the game at two players I do think that it will play significantly better at 3 or more players. The bidding just feels a bit anti-climactic at two players because it is definitely possible to go several rounds and not have any fights over deeds, which is a big part of the fun.
There are some issues with the components in the prototype. Some of the colors are very close and can be hard to tell apart. In the same vein the goods that you can bid to purchase land deeds at the top of the deeds is hard to read when it is in the center of the table.
Note: I have been told by the designer that this is a known issue and it is being fixed moving forward.
I had the pleasure of having the more deluxe components for the resources,and while they definitely add something to the game, one of the people I played with took the purple soldier resource upside down and thought it resembled something a bit unsavory. Once I told them it was, in fact, a hat they got it, but perhaps that should be rethought.
Bringing it all together
Feudal endeavor does some good stuff with bidding and creating your own personal fief, the inclusion of ways to please the empress’s ever changing whims is a delight as well. The them is not fully realized in all aspects of the game, and there are some component issues, that are being rectified in the lead up to the next kickstarter launch. The game plays quickly, and if you are looking for a bidding game that shines at higher player counts then this is one to look at.
The Empress demands less words!
* Fun bidding system, interesting tile, grid placement mechanics
* The Empress;s pleasure and whims really add a lot to the game
* Theme is only partially realized
* Has some component issues that need to be addressed
* If you have three or more player this is a bidding game that will be great for game nights. It plays quickly and easily with minimal player interaction, but you are always paying attention to other player.