World Without End is a traditional Euro-style strategy board game, thematically built around events taking place in Kingsbridge’s fictional village from 1337 to 1361, nearly 200 years after the building of the imposing cathedral known as The Pillars of the Earth. Players take the roles of merchants, farmers, and builders striving for wealth and prestige while living a pious and loyal life. The object of the game is to gain the most victory points. These are gained mainly by taking part in various building projects and taking care of the inhabitants of Kingsbridge that are stricken by the plague, known as the Black Death. However, life in Kingsbridge is not an easy one. Players have to struggle to gain enough food continuously, show loyalty to the church and the crown, pay taxes, and deal with sudden misadventures that occur randomly during the course of the game.
production spaces: the Quarry (producing stone), the forest (producing wood), and the fields (producing grain)
various building sites in which players can contribute with stone or wood and gain victory point to Kingsbridge’s village with its houses and market. Some families fall ill during the plague and can be healed, granting VPs and various bonuses. In the market, players can trade wool and cloth for money.
The game takes place in 4 chapters (time periods), each consisting of 6 rounds. Each chapter represents a time span of a few years. Players take part in various building projects, thus gaining precious victory points while dealing with several unexpected events. At the end of each chapter, all players have certain obligations. Failing to meet them costs victory points and additional penalties occurring at the beginning of the next chapter. In each round, the same sequence of actions occurs:
The active player (the one who has the active player token) reveals an Event card. Events can be immediate or have a lasting effect till the end of the chapter.
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After resolving an immediate event, the event card is oriented in a special city council space on the game board’s top edge. The active player chooses an orientation that fits his current goals, as it affects two elements in the game: each player’s personal income and a special bonus for the active player only.
Players receive their personal income according to the card’s orientation.
The active player receives his special bonus as he favors either the Prior / Prioress, the King / Queen, the Guild Master, the Merchants, the Earl of Shiring, the Bishop, or the Outlaws.
Beginning with the active player, each player plays an action card. All players have the same set of 12 action cards. These actions include: selling wool or cloth at the market, exchanging wool for cloth (which is more valuable), building a house that provides a bonus when rented, rent up to 2 houses, getting a grain, getting a resource (wood or stone), getting piety from the cathedral, taking care of ill people, taking part in a building project contributing wood or stone, or repeating the action chosen in the previous round. In this phase, players choose a card to play, and they discard another one. This way, during the whole chapter, they will play 6 actions and discard the rest.
At the end of the chapter, players have the following mandatory obligations: Show that they live a virtuous and pious life by paying 2 piety, show that they have enough food to sustain themselves by paying 2 grain, and pay a tax. To determine the amount of tax, the active player throws a dice. Upon failing to fulfill one or more of the above duties, players lose victory points and suffer additional penalties at the beginning of the following chapter, such as losing their income in the first round of the next chapter or playing one less action card. It is possible to avoid the additional penalty by paying 1 Loyalty.
At the beginning of the third chapter, the plague hits the village, and certain plague counters are placed, face down, on each house of Kingsbridge; each round, a family in one of the houses may fall ill and can be cured using the appropriate action card to give victory points plus other bonuses to the players who choose this action. To take care of the ill, players must have enough medical knowledge.
Now let’s go through our usual scoring categories:
All components of the game are wonderful and of high quality. The game board is visually stunning, with the village of Kingsbridge and its surrounding lands have drawn, making the players felt England in the 14th century.
Resources (wood, stone, grain, wool, cloth) are made of wood, appropriately colored. They also have shapes that resemble their real form, especially grain and cloth. That is somewhat rare in a standard edition of a game. Houses are also made of wood and have the shape of houses, in each player’s color. All other components: piety and loyalty markers, cover markers, money, and medical knowledge are made of thick cardboard with attention to detail and with appropriate shapes as well. Action and event cards are made of thick paper, and they deserve a special mention. They are elaborately designed, and their background has the visual feel of the paper used in the Middle Ages. That applies to the players’ screens as well. All in all, components will satisfy even the most demanding gamer. Thumbs up to Michael Menzel, responsible for the game’s artwork and graphics. 9/10
World Without End has rich gameplay and depth that will challenge strategy game lovers. Luck plays a role in the game but not in a way that can spoil a player’s strategy (at least not entirely). After all, life is full of surprises, and things cannot always go as planned. I think this was the designers’ concept when they decided to incorporate the game’s Event cards. Some of them are really frustrating and can mess up your plans but think of it as a challenge to your mental skills.
Plus, they enhance the replayability factor. They are eleven event cards for each chapter, and in each game, you randomly choose which six of them will be included. This way, each game is different from every other. The game is all about maintaining an often fragile balance between catering for food supplies, money, and piety, which are the duties all players have at the end of the chapter. And between all these, struggling for resource gathering and gaining victory points by building projects. A design element that some people may object to is how personal income is determined: by our opponents. It could be regarded as another luck element, but I think it makes the game more interesting and unpredictable. Never during any of my games have I felt that my fate was in the hands of random events or luck.
Each player takes their turn in orienting an Event card, which is a good opportunity to get what he needs and the favor’s bonus. Moreover, by manipulating action cards and houses, it seems that you can be in control of your strategy. That is easier in 2-player games than in 4-player because, in 2-player games, you will be controlling your income 50% of the time, whereas in 4-player, only 25% of the time. As for player interaction, there is not much of it in this game. Opponents’ resources are hidden behind special screens, so you must pay attention to what other players get and need. The only way you can interfere with their plans is by orienting an event card so that they don’t get something they need.
However, on most occasions, you will be consumed by your own problems and orient the card to get what you want. In fact, you don’t really have the time or the urge to bother with what other players do; you have enough troubles of your own. There are so many things to do in this game that you can’t easily get bored of it. I am always willing to play a game of World Without End at any given board gaming night. 8/10
Though the game is not very complex, and there is really not much to do in every round, it takes a little time to get accustomed to all game components and the game’s strategic elements. World Without End is rather easy to learn but difficult to master. What will especially puzzle you at first is what your priorities must be. There is so much to decide about orientating the event cards, and playing your actions will be hard. After playing your first game, you will probably get the whole picture, and you will start doing much better and appreciate its depth. 7/10
World Without End is a thematic game. This element is strongly supported by the text printed in italics on event cards that describes a particular event from the book and the formidable gameboard that brings the book’s world to life. All the mechanics are also tied to the theme, from selling wool to healing ill people and the sudden occurrence of events that influence life in the village. If you have read the book, you will appreciate the game more, but even if you haven’t and you are looking for a Eurogame game with a strong theme, this game is definitely for you 9/10
The game’s depth and versatility guarantees that you will not easily lose interest in it. The random event cards and the way personal income is determined to ensure that no two games will be the same. Ι am, personally, more than willing to play The World Without End at any given time. 7/10
It’s not fun, in a way that you will laugh while playing it, nor will it trigger humorous comments between players. But I consider it fun to challenge one’s mind to overcome obstacles and manipulate the game mechanics in the most resourceful way to win. However, whining about misfortunes due to event cards can be kind of fun, don’t you think?. 7/10
Equally good with any number of players
Some may be annoyed by the luck factor or the way income is determined.
According to our new scoring system, scoring categories have different weights. Components have 15% weight, Gameplay 40%, Learning curve 5%, Theme 5%, Replayability 25%, Fun 10%. According to this system and the above scoring in each category, the overall weighted scoring of the game is:
Overall Rating – 7.8