Charterstone is a legacy game, by Stonemaier Games, in which each player completes a district in a city during 12 games. The end picture of each game is the starting point of every subsequent game. After 12 games, the city is finished and you have created your own unique game by playing which you can keep playing indefinitely. Because a legacy game revolves around discovering, in this review I will not reveal more than what you know after you have read the rules yourself and have prepared the board for the first game. So you do not have to be afraid of spoilers.
If you open the Charterstone box for the first time, you will find a double-sided board in which only the middle and the edges are printed. Furthermore, you see a lot of dense boxes in different sizes. You can already open some of these boxes during the first game.
Each player gets his own Charter Chest in which you keep your own game material. This way you immediately start with two game pieces in the shape of a figure. During the 12 games you play, your box will always become fuller and fuller.
The box with Index on it is jam-packed with cards, including cards with stickers that you will stick on the board and in the game rules. In the first game you will see a number of them and during the game you will discover more and more.
In the scriptorium you will keep and store the other game material, such as money and the raw materials. The archive is empty at the beginning of the game, but here you save used cards that you will no longer need. And then there are four numbered boxes of which the content will only be revealed in the course of the games and so I will not say anything about it.
Charterstone is a job creation game. When you place the plate on the table for the first time, a number of buildings are shown to which you can send your men to carry out actions for you. The further you get into the game, the more buildings will be built by the players, the more actions there are to choose from. During your turn you place one of your tokens on a building and you carry out the corresponding action. If you put your token next to a different token, that other token goes straight back to his owner. If both tokens are on the board at the beginning of your turn, you have to take a turn to get them back. There are roughly two types of buildings in the game: buildings where you get something (money or raw materials for example) and buildings where you convert something into something else (for example raw materials to a building). Some buildings also yield points.
A progress trace is printed on the board. Every time certain actions have been taken (for example, building a building), you put the token on this track a step forward. Sometimes this triggers a certain bonus. When the token reaches the last square, the game is over. Whoever has collected the most points at the end of the game wins the game.
The Charter Box is not only used to store certain things (eg your dolls) between two games, but also to keep track of how well you have done each round. For example, if you win, you note that on your Charter Box. The number of victories you have won counts after 12 rounds to determine who has become the overall winner of the game (and of course there are also other things to do with it, but what exactly is still secret at the beginning of the game).
Conclusion: Charterstone, legacy for the ages?
I find Charterstone difficult to rate. And because I want to do justice to this game, this means that for this time I take the liberty to write quite a few paragraphs about what I liked and disliked about this game.
On the one hand, Charterstone is a decent board game where you can gather points in different ways. After every game (especially if you lost) you start to think about how you could do better next time. The game also pleasantly surprises a few times with what you can discovered. The game material is also well made.
But on the other hand, there also are some weaknesses to the game. The biggest negative is that rounds lasted very short. You can often finish in half an hour. If you are with more players, the game will definitely take longer, but I think that you still have about the same amount of turns per player (for every extra player, a fixed number of squares are added to the progress track). So you do not actually have time to try a longer strategy.
Another important minus I found that in the first three rounds there was not so much to do because there were not that many buildings on the board. The game became much more fun when the board started to fill up. Because you can only play the game 12 times in Legacy mode, it is a bit of a damper when the game only really gets started in game four.
The box says that the game is playable for children from 14 years. On this basis, I expected a somewhat spicier game than what Charterstone is. I personally think that you can play the game perfectly with children from the age of 10. Charterstone is perfectly suited to play in a family setting and certainly not just for enthusiasts. In my opinion the game could have been much more complex than it is now.
The story is more of a side issue than that it played an important role in how the game unfolded. Charterstone is a solid game in which the game system develops (new mechanisms are added) and not so much the story. Yes, you can sometimes give names and stick stickers, but for us the theme never really lived.
I also think that the game shines more if you do it with more than two players because you can discover more. In the box there are still rules with which you can bring additional fictional players (NPC’s) into play to ensure more competition if you are with fewer players, but we did not want the extra administrative actions that you would have to perform. We wanted to play for ourselves and not waste half of our time doing tasks of fictional players.
I also have my doubts about how nice it is to play the game now that the Legacy part has ended. I can certainly see that it is possible, but i don’t really feel like it at the moment. For me, the core of the fun of playing a Legacy game is to discover how the game evolves. By taking that away, the heart of the game is gone.
What I find very positive is that it is possible to play the game a second time without buying a complete new box. You play on the back of the board. You still have to buy a so-called Recharge Package for about 35 dollar, which contains the necessary replacement parts (so all new cards, but no new resources and money). In this way I would like to try the game with four players again to see how the game goes. I would have a head start because I have some knowledge about what is coming, but that advantage would not be so great that it would not be fun for the others to play with me.
All in all, the downsides are there but don’t outweigh the positives. I think Charterstone can be to easy for veterans though. But I can imagine that the game will be a lot of fun if you play it in a family or family context, where children and people with less playing experience join.