Charterstone review

User Rating: 7.6

Covid-19 lock-down, was a perfect opportunity for playing board games. Charterstone, among others, was one of those games that happily filled my quarantine time and ensured I didn’t get bored. Since this is a legacy-game, it begged being played again and again until all 12 campaign games were completed. But let’s see if this first attempt of Stonemaier games in the legacy genre is a success.

Since I haven’t played any other of the popular legacy games, like Pandemic Legacy (that must have also been a hit during lock-down) I can’t draw parallels between Charterstone and other legacy games but I will tell you about my gameplay experience as objectively as I can. If you don’t know what a Legacy game is, remember that this is a game where you can make permanent changes, in the form of writing on the board or the cards with markers and stickers. The final look of the game will be decided largely by your team of players and will be unique.

First things first, let’s get to know a few things about this game. I will take care not to spoil the fun for you, so I will not get into gameplay details that deal with the progress of the game. Charterstone is a worker placement game at its core and it can be played by just one or up to 6 players in 12 campaign games. The game starts out with a few rules and basic components allowing you to delve immediately to the game and gradually adds new components and rules, transitioning gradually to a more eloquent and advanced experience as you progress through the game.

One of the first building in the village

The story behind the game isn’t much of a novelty. Players are settlers in the land of Greengully, sent by the Forever King to build the land and compete into having the most prosperous charter.

On the board, there are 6 different regions (charters), each of one assigned to a player (human or automa) to be developed in the best possible way. In the center of the board, there are some common village buildings (the commons) that provide some core functions of the game like constructing a new building, unlocking a crate, getting money or getting an advancement card.

The “Commons”

Gradually, the board will be filled with building stickers added by the players. At the start of the game each player gets a persona card, 2 workers and 12 influence points. Each turn a player can make one of the following moves: a) assign a worker on a building and gain the benefit or b) retrieve all workers from the board. A progress token, moving through the progress track controls when each game will end. It is moved forward each time a crate is unlocked, a building is built or an objective is scored. As each game progresses, players gather resources, complete objectives, fill the board with new buildings and unlock crates which add new content to the game.

And now let’s see how the game scores in each of our usual scoring categories:

Components

By opening the huge and rather heavy game box, you see a lot of boxed, some small and some bigger, a huge gameboard and rules leaflets.

Boxes, boxes, more boxes

The board has the special quality of all Stonemaier games, is made of thick cardboard and is an eye candy with very nice colours and graphics. Especially through the lockdown period, when one couldn’t easily go out, the green colours of the game, depicting the lang of Greengully, lets you fly a bit away of routine and dream of living in an dreamy, beautiful land like that.

Each player has 2 wooden workers (one small and one big) and 12 wooden influence tokens. There are also markers for scoring VP’s and a special marker for the progress track.

The resources of the game are prettily designed and they are all made of wood. A special mention should be made for the inclusion of metal coins as a standard in the box (they usually are offered as an extra). These certainly add to the quality of the game and spoil us a bit by making us want them included in every game using coins we get.

Sturdy wooden resources
All resources in their little bags

The game cards (and there is a whole lot of them) are of pretty good quality. Maybe they could be done on a little heavier cardboard but that would mean added expense.

All in all, components are top-notch like in all other Stonemaier games. 9/9

Gameplay

So this is not the normal worker-placement game, is it? Now, you can choose which buildings exist on your village and that is very exciting. Placing these building stickers on the board was actually one of the most fun things to do in the game and my little son and co-player couldn’t agree more!

The other most fun thing to do was opening crates. Whenever a building is built, there is a possibility that a crate icon is shown on its top rigght corner. Then, the player constructing the building, keeps that card and has the opportunity to open that crate by assigning a worker to the Charterstone. “Opening” a crate means, retrieving cards from the special “Index” box. These may include a new Persona, new buildings, advancement or objective cards. I liked the concept suggested by the game, that players may open crates at their own pace. Nobody obliges you to open a crate at any given time. New cards many times introduce new rules, that are pasted in the Chronicle book (rulebook) and are added to the core rules of the game. It’s not always easy to absorb this information so, this liberty is more than well thought.

The “Index” box. A lot of treasures inside!

There are many things to keep you interested in the game. Aside from gathering resources and completing objectives, you can get advancement cards like assistants that give you added bonuses when using the various building on the board.

The Advancement mat

Apart from regular objectivs, there is also a special objective in each game, called the GrandStand which is a goal most players will seek. Simultaneously, you must build your charter in a meaningful ways, trying to think of nice combos, that is buildings that work well together.

Objective cards

There are also two other areas on the board I haven’t talked about:

a) the Reputation track . Reputation can be earned in many ways and provide an end-game benefit.

b) the Quota Track. A way to gain VP’s and reputation by selling commodities

There is a lot lot more about gameplay thingies that I can’t get into without spoiling the fun for those not having completed the game, so I’ll just stick to the point that this game can keep you happy and entertained all the way through.

One thing that spoiled the fun a bit is the development of charters. I have played the game throughout with one more human player and an automa player. Although I saw charters controlled by human players, being nicely developed, the rest of the charters were rather randomly developed. Some buildings were actually useless, not combining with the other building on board. This has a great impact to the overall experience of the game when it is played after finishing the campaign, as changes to the board are permanent. If the game is played during the campaign by more than 4 people then the problem seizes to exist.

The big surprise about Charterstone is that you can still play the game as a regular worker placement game after you have completed the campaign. This certainly makes the game feel more value for money than other legacy games. Moreover, if after finishing the campaign, you still feel like trying it out once again, the game offers a double board. You can just order a second pack of campaign components and start out again by flipping the board. Excellent design idea!

All in all, my gameplay experience of Charterstone was most rewarding and it’s one of the games that kept me the best company at difficult times. 8/8

Learning Curve

This is a game starting out with very simple rules and gradually adding more and more rules to finish the final game concept. This is a great idea, however in reality doesn’t work that well. I had a hard time understanding some of the basic rules and had to read through the rulebook and FAQs many times to sort it out, though being an experienced player. At the end all was sorted out, but it spoils the fun a bit. 7/7

Fun

Chartstone is a fun game to play. There are many things to keep you interested throughout the campaign. I found particular fun in the concept of giving names to the personas of the game as well as the assistants. Placing stickers on the board was eventually the most fun aspect of the game for my little boy that accompanied me throughout the game. 7/7

Theme

Not a lot is revealed about the game at the start, just the very basics. I can’t tell you more without spoiling the fun, but the thing is theme has not a strong presence in this game, not that this could be a problem. 6/6

Replayability

I have played a few games through after completing the campaign, with different sets and number of players. The experience was a bit downgraded by the presence of some building not quite fitting in with the others (especially in charters not controlled by human players during the campaign). However the game played nicely and players had fun. Most certainly there are better worker placement games out in the market but considering that this originates from a legacy game, I think it is quite an achievement that is can also be played after the end of the campaign. 7/7

Final Verdict

I spent many hours of happy gaming, while playing Charterstone. Its’ strong points lie in the mystery of what lies ahead in the next crate you will open, the beauty of its components and the challenges in gameplay that will keep you interested till the end. If for a minor glitches in rules, it’s a great game to introduce you to the legacy-style of games. It’s more value for money than any other legacy game as it can be played two times as a campaign and as many as you like as a standard worker placement game.

According to our scoring system for board games, scoring categories have different weights. Components have 15% weight, Gameplay 35%, Learning curve 5%, Theme 5%, Replayability 25%, Fun 15%. According to this system and the above scoring in each category, overall weighted scoring of the game is:

Overall:  7.60


If you like this game, you can buy it from the link below along with other games from Stonemaier Games  :

Summary
Its' strong points lie in the mystery of what lies ahead in the next crate you will open, the beauty of its components and the challenges in gameplay that will keep you interested till the end. If for a minor glitches in rules, it's a great game to introduce you to the legacy-style of games. It's more value for money than any other legacy game as it can be played two times as a campaign and as many as you like as a standard worker placement game.
Good
  • beautiful, high-quality components
  • interesting gameplay
  • placing stickers on the board
  • opening crates
  • can be played as regular game after the end of the campaign
Bad
  • not very balanced board when finalized
  • some rules ambiguities
7.6
Good
Components - 9
Gameplay - 8
Learning Curve - 7
Theme - 6
Replayability - 7
Fun - 7
Written by
Maria is an avid board gamer, interested also in video games, movies and tennis. She is also an accomplished surveying engineer and a proud mum.

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