Tabletop Game Review – Charterstone

Charterstone by Stonemaier Games
Price: ~$70.00
1 to 6
60 minutes
Perfect for:
Groups who enjoy legacy work-placement, engine-building, and village creation games

Charterstone is a game of civilization crafting! Played over 12 connected and evolving game sessions, individuals will gradually construct their very own town alongside others on a shared board. But while people may be neighbors, they compete to gain the most favor through prosperity. As the story progresses, new buildings, abilities, and inhabitants become unlocked, and secrets revealed. Before discussing the gameplay, here’s bit more on the theme from the publisher, Stonemaier:

The prosperous Kingdom of Greengully, ruled for centuries by the Forever King, has issued a decree to its citizens to colonize the vast lands beyond its borders. In an effort to start a new village, the Forever King has selected six citizens for the task, each of whom has a unique set of skills they use to build their charter.

To begin Charterstone, 1 to 6 players choose the faction they will play as for the duration of the game which correlates with one of the six basic materials available (iron, bricks, pumpkins, etc.). The gameboard begins relatively barren, with a few common locations available to all where materials can be exchanged to receive victory points or to unlock new buildings (which are placed permanently with stickers) as well as new rules and resources that expand options. On a turn, players place workers (and sometimes additional allies) to receive that location’s benefit such as: acquiring more raw materials; growing their personal town; or earning victory points. At the end of a session, the amount of victory points collected will help players unlock abilities for future games (such as the amount of resources they can hold onto to use next time) and the person with the highest total claims an overall win.

RELATED: Tabletop Game Review – Forgotten Waters

What works in Charterstone is the evolution of the worker-placement mechanic layered upon an exciting every-developing narrative yielding a transformative gaming experience. The first iteration of the legacy game lays out the basic activities underscoring the heart of Charterstone—gather resources strategically to optimize how to collect victory points. But as the game unfolds, a myriad of variables become unlocked which truly allow each future session to be a completely new experience. While this review won’t spoil any of those secrets, know that they are plentiful and make each Charterstone chapter highly engaging and fresh. Over the course of the 12-game arc, the decisions made will determine the course of events as the complexity increases.

Players who feel overwhelmed with an abundance of choices and rules (that can change from game to game) may not enjoy Charterstone as much as others. While many will enjoy the expansive nature of the game, it is a bit easy to forget every detail given how many there are associated with each action (and this number progressively increases with playthrough). For example, during one game a player may have a temporary power granting them an extra +2 victory points each time they visit a specific space on the board. It would not be difficult to consistently overlook this given the multitude of other things to plan and keep track of, and doing so would likely change the outcome of the game.

Charterstone is a fantastic blend of mechanic, theme, and story that offers a wide array of clever and creative twists and turns. The first couple of games are somewhat deceptively simple, and then the experience explodes into a highly engaging and immersive experience. While newcomers to the genre may feel a bit inundated with the choices available and corresponding rules, experienced gaming groups are likely to relish this event.

Recommended if you like: Gloomhaven, Pandemic Legacy

Final Grade: A

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