Filler Games · Reviews

Review of Meeple Steeple

IMG_20180914_202309.jpgGame: Meeple Steeple

Designer: Craig Zipse

Published: Black Oak Workshop

Players: 2-4

Playtime: 15-30 Minutes

Play Type: Cooperative Dexterity/ Resource Management

 

 

Synopsis:

The king has ordered the top builders in the kingdom to construct a new steeple. The builders must work together to efficiently and carefully build a steeple from bottom up. The number of workers are slim, and hazards are bound to happen. Only careful planning and quick thinking will allow the builders to be successful in their task.

Game Play:

The goal of Meeple Steeple is to work cooperatively to get the steeple piece played before players run out of workers or the steeple falls down.

During set up, each player will take a number of engineers depending on the number of players. Then, players will divide the different levels of the steeple into stacks, and separate the cards by level. Remove the ascend and steeple cards from each deck, then shuffle each level of cards separately. Once the decks have been shuffled, place the corresponding ascend and steeple cards on the bottom of the appropriate level. Then place the Level 1 cards under the largest pieces of the steeple. From there builders will place each level under the next largest piece, with level 5 being under the smallest sections, to the right of level five, place the steeple piece. Finally shuffle the hazard cards, and place the pile of workers near by.

Each turn players will draw a card from the active level of tiles. They will then perform the action listed. There are five possible card types:

  1. Build: Players will take a section of the steeple from that level. Using the 2-4 of the  workers available and that tile, players will try to build the steeple taller.
  2. Ascend: Players will go to the next level of steeple pieces
  3. Descend: Players will go back one level of steeple pieces
  4. Hazard: Players will draw one hazard card and lose the number of meeples pictured
  5. Steeple: This card appears only in level five. This card allows players to place the steeple piece.

A player has two options when drawing a card. The first is successfully carrying out the action required. The second is using an engineer to re-engineer a project. When re-engineering, players discard an engineer meeple, then discard the card drawn. The discard pile is then reshuffled into the deck for that level, and a new card is drawn. This can help players avoid hazards and also allows players to shuffle the ascend card, possibly making it easier to reach.

The other way an engineer may be used throughout the game is to gain three discarded workers back.

Once players have built all the tiles in a level, that level is considered to be closing. Players continue to play cards until an ascend or descend card is drawn. Once one of those two cards are drawn, that level is removed from the game, and players will not return to that level again.

Players will win once the steeple piece is successfully played. Players lose when there are no worker meeples available to be placed during a build action, or if the steeple collapses.

Components:

IMG_20180916_180257.jpg

I was provided a prototype copy of Meeple Steeple for review purposes, all components are subject to change. 

The prototype you see in the following photos is a handmade copy of what the final game will be. Due to this, I expect that there may be some significant changes between now and the final production of the game.

The game has wonderful table presence, as most dexterity games do. There is something about a delicately balanced tower that catches people’s attention. The pieces are simple but effective. The variety of sizes in the tiles makes the game difficult, but not impossible. Players will likely have to switch strategies dependent of the size of their current level. It is crucial during game play that the meeples are all the same height, and there was clearly attention paid to that. The meeples are all consistent to allow for level building.

I will say that currently the steeple base has a distinctly Romanesque style, which adds thematically to the game, but may not appeal aesthetically to all players. This is consistent though with the level cards and hazard cards as well. This style of art may not draw players in at first sight. That being said, the designer has paid close attention to theme. This art style would be the one commonly found in steeples throughout the Middle Ages.

 

Overview:

Positives:

  • Easy to Teach
  • Cooperative Dexterity
  • Adjustable Difficulty
  • Engaging
  • Light Strategy

Negatives:

  • Only 2-4 Players
  • Luck Based Elements
  • Possible for Player to Never Build

Meeple Steeple is a unique twist on the dexterity game mechanic. Unlike most dexterity games, it focuses on cooperative play rather than competitive. Additionally, the idea of having only a set number of resources to use to build makes the game have additional tension that is not always seen in all dexterity games.

Like most dexterity games, Meeple Steeple is easy to teach to new players. It could easily be taught to children over six years old. The cooperative nature also supports playing with families, as adults will be able to assist children in game play easily. However, there are elements of the game that may be frustrating, especially for young children.

One such element would be that players could go the entire game without building. Players with especially bad luck have the chance to only ever draw hazard cards or ascend/descend cards..meaning that their turns may be short and rather dull. We had one game where the only time one of the players built was on the steeple piece.

However because of the cooperative nature of the game, even when players are unable to build, they still tend to be engaged on other player’s turns. The ability to give feedback and suggestions allows players who may not build to still feel as though they are having an impact on the steeple. The addition of the engineer meeples should also help players have the option to redraw cards and have a higher chance of being able to build when necessary.

While the game is accessible to children, adults have the option of making the game easier or more difficult based on the number of workers they allocate to themselves to build. Players can experiment with the number of meeples they use to make their tower, but they will quickly realize that if they use four meeples for each level they will run out and not have enough available to complete the steeple. There is some light strategy in knowing how many meeples to use, and when to use engineers to shuffle the deck.

The tallest steeple made was 17 tiles tall including the steeple. There are a total of 21 tiles, so placing every single one before the steeple is almost impossible. Players will have to strategically use those engineers to shuffle the cards, ensuring that they do not have to place every single tile to complete their steeple. While this figuring of strategy may not be for  gamers seeking a heavy game play experience, players who enjoy a light game should enjoy Meeple Steeple.

If you enjoy games such as Meeple Circus, Rhino Hero, or Beasts of Balance, you may enjoy Meeple Steeple. Similar to these games, the focus of Meeple Steeple is on dexterity, but it also has the added elements of resource management and cooperative play.  It creates an engaging environment for players of all ages. However, keep in mind that it only plays up to 4 players. If you are interested in hearing more about it, keep your eyes open for the Kickstarter in November.

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