The Red Cathedral
Architects who specialize in ice-cream shaped domes
Gain the favor of the Ivan the Terrible by completing the making your domes look the most ice-cream like.
I admit: given the state of the world today, I approached Red Cathedral with a certain amount of skepticism. Should we really be celebrating the Golden Age of Russian architecture at a time like this? But I needn’t have worried: for a game all about the glory of Mother Russia, it couldn’t be more German. Red Cathedral is, perhaps, one of the most quintessentially German-style strategy games we’ve yet encountered. By which I mean the game packs as many advantage-leveling, choice-forward, be-the-most-efficient-you-can-be-with-the-resources-you-have-type elements as it possibly can. And it does so beautifully, in a structure people can generally understand, and in a way that doesn’t take half a day to play. All of which, in theory, should make it among the best games we’ve reviewed. But for me, well, it spells inevitable disappointment, as my early choices fade under the glory of my husband’s perennially devastating late power moves. To wit, I’m a sore loser, which should surprise no one who reads these reviews.
The game sets up a random configuration of glorious towers to build, each in different sections, and each requiring a different suite of materials for construction. Acquiring these materials involves a truly original mechanic of moving different colored dice around a board, and trying to gain various advantages by using particular dice in particular ways. The rewards of choosing pieces of tower to construct, and constructing them, all add up to points which are tallied up at the end. The trick is to find the resources that work best for you, and use the ones you already have to best advantage. Also, depending on where you choose to move your dice, you can take advantage of various trades or free moves that get you closer to your goal. (These, likely, are meant to even the odds where the dice just ain’t falling the right way for you.)
The whole thing turns out to be swimmingly complex, especially for a game that comes in an unassuming medium-sized box. It ends when someone completes a certain number of towers, gaining extra favor from the tsar, and then all the points are tallied up. Yes, chance is involved, but if you lose a game of Red Cathedral you have no one to blame but yourself.
Predictably, Zach loves this game. He’s now figured out the strategies he likes and cannot wait to practice them more. This, inevitably, will occur at my expense alone, as our children now seem to have abandoned their patience with learning most strategy games (now that they can get out in the world again). And that, folks, is why this game will ultimately conjure feelings of “Must we?” rather than “Let’s!” when I’m invited to play. But hey, I married the guy and may as well humor him, right? And this isn’t fair criticism: Red Cathedral is a great game and you should play it.
I hate this game. I was bored. I was confused. I’m ready for my parents to stop making me play new games.