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Looming above the rolling hills and forests, you watch as a shadowy figure emerges. The ground shakes as it lumbers nearer; the serfs and peasants run for cover.  You stand your ground. This is your chance; the battle must be won. The Behemoth draws near and you ready yourself. You clutch the hilt of your axe tighter, sweat dripping from your brow. You rush to meet the monster head on and earn your place among the most venerated in the Knights guild. This adventure and more awaits you in Feudum!

Will you join the Alchemists and create strong potions? Or join the Farmer and tame the land? Perhaps selling goods among the Merchants is more your style. If you’d like to travel the land and spread good tidings, the Monk requests assistance. If none of these entice you, maybe a lavish life as Nobility is more appealing…the world of Feudum awaits you!

Introduction to Feudum

Feudum is a game unlike anything I’ve played. It’s an open world euro that allows players the opportunity to creatively choose their own paths to victory.

I had the pleasure of catching up with the designer, Mark Swanson to ask a few questions about Feudum.

Question: What was your inspiration behind the world of Feudum? I’ve noticed an artistic similarity between Where the Wild Things Are.

Mark: Great question. Well, the mechanics of the game, the theme and art come from different parts of my brain. But, on the art side of things, Yes, "Where the Wild Things Are" is one of my inspirations behind Feudum. I also love the artwork of Alexandre Roche (Troyes), as well as Expressionist painters like Bernard Buffet, who used thick black lines, and etchings and muted colors! I love all things Sci-Fi and Fantasy and I grew up on J.R.R. Tolkien, Piers Anthony and David Eddings.

As for the mechanics, I love non-linear videos games like Grand Theft Auto, and open-world experiences like Shadows of the Colossus. I wanted to invent a game where you could eek out your own medieval existence and choose your own path. This gave rise to archetypal medieval characters like the Farmer, Merchant, Alchemist, Knight, Noble and Monk...and their unique abilities.

Question: How did you create your economic system and the relationships between the Guilds?

Mark: I've also been fascinated by games with economies, but I had never seen one with an entire cyclical, economic ecosystem featuring symbiotic relationships between one player to the next. So, I invented one. I started by arranging archetypal medieval characters in a circle, surmising what they might need from each other, and how they might interact one with the other. After trial and error, I reasoned that a farmer might send raw goods to a merchant for sale within his shop. The merchant would sell said goods to the Alchemist who might use them concoct an early form of gun powder called, Krud. These barrels of Krud would arm the knight, who would, in turn, send an emissary to the Queen who would seal his diplomatic charter with a royal seal. These same seals would grant land to the monk, who would utter prayers for rain and bountiful harvests via the rosary, and send alms to the poor via the surplus. In this way, the theme informed the mechanics.

Overall Gameplay

Round Sequence

Each epoch is made up of 1 or more rounds. Each round consists of 5 steps:

Step 1: Take Actions

All players secretly select 4 out of their 11 action cards. Then, each player executes them one at a time in turn order.

 

 

Step 2: Nourish Pawns

All players must sustain pawns on the board with food and/or wine.

Step 3: Roll Progress Die

Roll the progress die to determine a region tile to remove.

Step 4: Advance Epoch Marker & Score Epoch (If Triggered)

If a new epoch is triggered, advance the epoch marker, score veneration points and replenish the board with resources as directed. Otherwise go to Step 5.

Step 5: End Round or End Game & Final Scoring

Pass the starting player marker clockwise and begin a new round. If epoch 5 was triggered during the round, the game is over. After scoring the epoch, perform final scoring.

On Your Turn

All players secretly choose 4 action cards from their decks to create a hand for the round. Unselected cards are set aside. When everyone is ready, the starting player plays 1 card face up and carries out the action. Play continues clockwise, one card at a time, until all players have played all 4 of their chosen cards.

Each card has a regular action and a special ability (in the lower right hand corner of the card) that can be utilized in the advanced game.

The regular action cards are:

Migrate - You may migrate 1 of your pawns to or from the board.

Move - Your total movement allowance is equal to the number of pawns you have on the board. Movement may be divided among multiple pawns. Pawns move from 1 location to the next and may move along roads or special vessel routes.

Influence - You may add 1 influence marker to each location containing one of your pawns.

Improve - Turn in the required resource to improve a location you rule

Explore - If you rule an outpost, you may play the explore action. Draw 2 Royal Writ cards, +1 card for each additional outpost and/or feudum ruled, and keep 1 of them.

Harvest - If you rule a farm, you may play the Harvest Action to randomly draw 5 goods from the haversack to place beside 1 of your farms, and score 1 VP.

Tax - If you rule a town, you may play the Tax Action to collect 2 shillings.

Conquer - If 1 or more of your pawns occupies the same location as an opponent’s pawn or feudum, you may attempt to conquer and remove it from play.

Defend - If an opponent attacks 1 of your pawns or feudums, and you preselected the Defend Action, you may flip it over out of turn and add +1 to your defense and score 1 VP. If no one attacks you during the round, you still collect 1 VP.

Repeat - The Repeat Action lets you execute any action card you have already played during that round again, provided it features the (x2) symbol at the top.

Guild - A Guild Action lets players interact with 1 of the 6 guilds that flank the game board.

Guild Membership

Guild membership is a crucial part of the game. Not only does it enable you to perform the push and pull functions during a Guild Action for immediate veneration points, it also earns you recurring VP at the dawn of each epoch. All guilds interact with the guilds adjacent to them. When you play the Guild Action, you may trade, push or pull goods, depending on your guild member status. Any player may trade at the guilds, but only the Journeyman may pull goods from the guild preceding it, and only the Guild Master may push goods to the guild after it.

The Guilds are:
Miss Allison
Farmer

Lord Brett
Merchant

Lord Arthur
Alchemist

Sir Marcus
Knight

Queen Anne
Noble

Brother Justinius
Monk

The Queen's Army Expansion


The Queen’s Army is a solo player variant that pits you against Queen Anne in an epic battle to score the most veneration points over five epochs.

The Queen plays the game with unlimited resources (goods, shillings, influence markers and king’s seals) and no movement restrictions. Any actual resources she acquires along the way are put into her play area, and earn her veneration points!

The Queen’s actions are governed by the Automa cards, which are played one at a time from each numbered deck, alternating with your actions until the round is over. The Queen’s action cards are similar to yours, with a few minor exceptions. The major difference between solitaire and a group game is that the Queen has all the resources needed to take her actions. The Automa can be a brutal lesson in resource management if you aren’t careful.

The Queen’s Army is a good way to learn the basic rules of Feudum before attempting to teach a larger group. It’s also a solid option if players would like to recreate a co-operative experience; the possibilities are endless!

Can you thwart her quest for the King’s demise, while securing your own prestige? The adventure awaits!

What Did I Like?

This is easy. I loved everything about the game outside of the initial growing pains of learning it!  The best inclusion, in my opinion, is the option to play a basic version of the game that allows new players to enter the world and explore the game much easier than going straight into the foray of advanced options. While even the basic game is complex, it does help new players learn the flow of the game and how the economy ebbs and flows based on player’s decisions. I really enjoyed the action programming of setting up a sequence of cards to attempt to create the strongest combination possible for that turn.

The components are what you would expect from a high caliber game. The cards are linen finished, the board is extremely sturdy and the wooden bits and guild pawns are easy to identify. The iconography of the board is good and ties well into the overall theme.

The art and open world of Feudum is what puts it a cut above the rest for me. Heavy gamers are being extremely spoiled with thematic euros in 2017. Lisboa, which I recently reviewed, is one of the most thematic euros I’ve played and now I’m adding Feudum to that list. Players will feel the game come alive as they struggle to control the land, achieve guild master statuses, defeat epic monsters and strive to become the most venerated in all the land.

The immersion and depth of Fuedum gives way to one of the most unique euro experiences to date. Feudum’s re-playability is unparalleled, as each player will rarely experience the same game twice. The sand box design allows players to interact with the world in ways few games have achieved. The interactions of the guild members will intrigue players as the game incentivizes you to play your role in the economy instead of attempting to stall or thwart other players.

What I Didn't Like

If you're reading this, you are likely in 1 of 2 camps. You're backing or have purchased the game and interested in my thoughts or your interest is piqued and you'd like to know more. I'm not going to sugarcoat this for you.

The sheer amount of information to digest can be overwhelming.

This is not a game for the faint of heart. As with other heavy weight games, it will reward players who take the time and effort to unravel it's mysteries and dig deep into the world. If you're looking for a light-medium game that you can play once and shelve, this is not the game for you. Of course, this isn't a problem with the game, because if you are backing it or bought it, you should have an idea of what you're getting into. 

Feudum will take players multiple games to understand the ins and outs of the system. This is one of the few games I’ve played that can honestly paralyze any player with options because there is no real “correct” way to play, outside of following the rules. Players can spend too much time evaluating and finding the “perfect play” when choosing their cards for the round.

The Catch-22 of Feudum, from the games I played, is that the advanced game mode is the best way to play the game. It allows players to strategically plan turns ahead and allows for stronger combinations of actions. Unfortunately, because of these synergies, it also intensifies analysis paralysis.

Other than complexity, the only other complaint I have is that new players will rarely win Feudum. There are far too many intricacies and synergies to juggle for a new player to efficiently control. As long as new players are aware of this, and willing to enjoy the game for its design and theme, I don’t see it being a hindrance at all. Besides, you’re going to want to play again mmediately...then you will be more experienced!

Conclusion

If you enjoy heavy games, Feudum is a must play and I daresay a must own, for you. Mechanically, the game operates unlike any game I’ve played. The pushing and pulling of economies between each guild is one of the most intriguing design elements I’ve ever seen. The immersive world of Feudum is begging to be explored. As you play, you can feel and see the game come to life.

The open-world sandbox reminds me of video games like Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Players will be challenged to find the most innovative and creative ways to control the land, earn veneration points and outwit their opponents.

The mark of a great game, to me, is that players regardless of winning or losing, walk away enjoying the experience and Feudum is the epitome of a great game.

The rules of Feudum are only the foundation; you will be challenged to exploit each guild as prolifically as possible. Feudum takes many of my favorite mechanics e.g. action programming, area influence, hand management and mixes them together to create an unforgettable experience.

Do you have what it takes to become the most venerated in the land? Can you withstand the forces of the Queen and take the throne?

Check out this incredible complete rules and set-up video for Feudum! 

Feudum earns 10 veneration points out of 10. This is a must play/own experience for any heavy board game enthusiast.
You can back Feudum and the newest solo expansion, The Queen’s Army on Kickstarter, today! The Kickstarter campaign ends August 20th!

The Board Game Spotlight was not paid for this pre-view nor was any reimbursement offered for this article.