The Road to Canterbury

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pic965757_md[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Getting it right is a very satisfying thing. When you risk your money on something that’s not done yet, have to wait for months, pay even more money because the Post Office is a bit of a con and the tax people decide that a gift is something they should get money for and don’t give you an easy way to claim that  money back.

Still, when you get your game and everything from the moment go is a success, and there are barely any hiccups… boy it’s worth it!

That’s exactly what happened to me with The Road to Canterbury after I backed it in Kickstarter.

I bought this game because the concept was so bizarre and the concept artwork so nice, I had to have a go. Of course, me being me, I couldn’t just buy the one copy. I bought three.#

So what was it all about? Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Tales of Canterbury in the Middle Ages and it’s become an icon of English literature to this day. The tales are a collection of poems and stories about people on their way to Canterbury. One of the tales is told by the Pardoner. A pardoner was a church representative who would sell pardons to the public in order to get rid of their sins, thus ensuring they can get into Heaven upon their deaths.

In this game, the players play as pardoners making a living out of selling fake pardons to travellers on their way to Canterbury. Of course, there is no sale to be made if the people don’t sin, so you’ll have to tempt them to sin. The more sins you forgive them, the more money they pay you. However, as we all know, sinning is deadly and after seven sins, your travellers will die, leaving you without the chance to forgive them the sins left behind.

Throughout the game, the players will travel the road to Canterbury and when they reach their destination, the player with more money wins the game. There is a bit more to it to the rules, but basically, that’s it. So yes, the game is very simple indeed and it’s a strange one that is to be played by two or three players.

pic1131229_md[1]This is not to say this is a small game, though, which takes me to the next section of my review, the quality of the components.

The two boards that form the game area take a fair bit of space and they are gorgeous and very, very, very sturdy. The artwork is taken from paintings and illustrations from documents from the Middle Ages, which have been extremely well chosen.

The cards are also rather sturdy, but here’s what’s clever about them: The artwork is a lot simpler and more subdued than the boards.

“So what?” you might be thinking. Well, let me tell you. The illustrations they’ve used are rich, detailed and full of colour and charm. If they had added over-elaborate artwork to the cards, everything would have become a bit too much and turn into a visual muddle. When you have a game as big and busy as this, one is, you don’t want to distract people from what really matters, the game play, with illustrations that are not truly needed.

Anyway, the game looks gorgeous and takes some space. Not a bad thing.

Does it play nice, though? Oh yes!

After you get to grips with the rules, it is a true joy to play. This is not because the game is complicated, it is not, but because the rules have been laid out in a way that makes them very difficult to understand and they haven’t been well indexed either. It feels like the guys at Gryphon Games have tried to make the rules as comprehensive as possible, overcomplicating things in the process. Despite the lovely layout and the very high quality paper, the rules are difficult to follow and even more difficult to reference.

The game is highly competitive. And it can be very, very annoying when one of your fellow pardoners forgives some sins you’ve so carefully been planting in the pilgrims before you get your “fair” chance. But then, that is also what makes it fun, and fun it is indeed.

Also another word of warning, it takes longer than the box suggests. Which is no bad thing, mind you. It is a terrific fun to play and it doesn’t get heavy at all, even on longer games.

Having said that, you probably won’t want to play it time and again in one session. The immediate replayability factor is not huge, though you’ll be left wanting to play it again and again.

The only thing that stops this game from being a great family game is that can only be played by a reduced number of players. Again, not a bad thing, but you won’t be able to take this game out on a standard game group. If you have less players one day though, get this out, you’ll have a blast, get to play a game that’s very different from most other games out there and looks and feel absolutely gorgeous.

A tremendous success and well deserved four stars for The Road to Canterbury!


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