Feudum Review

FEUDUM (Odd Bird Games)

For reasons that best go unspoken, you and your mates have been kicked out of the kingdom and are now left to make a new life for yourself in foreign lands. Determined to make the best of it, you set out in search of wealth and veneration. Will you take the path to heightened enlightenment? Seek royal favors? Farm the earth to earn an honest living? It’s a wide-open land… except for when it isn’t with feuding Feudums each seeking out their own glory.

Judging a game by its box, the first thing to note about Feudum is its juxtaposition of a decidedly complicated and lengthy game with beautifully done storybook-like illustrations. There’s no reason that heavy games need to look dour, other than the obligatory tables and text that they may require, they just usually end up turning out that way. It isn’t only “children 8 and up” that enjoy fun though, but be ready for what’s in store for you after the shrink wrap is off.

Randomizing the location tiles at the start of each game, players choose an initial character pawn and starting location in the central lands of the map. Secret objectives and advantages with the Royal Writ cards are dealt out, the Guildhalls of the market, monastery, royal hall, military barracks, alchemist’s chamber and farming barn are stocked and players are then ready to begin the game!

Reading through the rules or watching (pausing and rewatching) the helpful online video, Feudum can feel dizzying for all of the options that lay before you as strangers in this new land. Each turn players choose 4 actions from a deck of 11 cards available. Playing these cards one at a time in turn order, each card comes with its own special abilities and chain-linked rewards and consequences, further complicated by trying to determine what actions your opponents may take and how that will leave the board for your turn. The map and what resources you find available can quickly establish ways to maximize your actions, but can also be isolating in their effect if you get too reliant on them alone. For all of the actions laid before you each turn, the feeling of frustration over what you still aren’t able to do is never far behind.

With elements of area control, action management and economic mechanics all playing together, Feudum is a game that works brilliantly within itself and nowhere is that more apparent than with the interlinked Guildhalls. Forming a chain of resources, players compete to control these Guildhalls with specialist pawns and control of related basic locations and feudums (improved locations). The player with the most influence on the guild, the Guild Master is able to perform the “push” action that allows resources to be moved to the next guild while scoring veneration points. The player with the second most influence, the Journeyman is able to perform the “pull” action that draws resources from the previous guild while scoring veneration points (though not as many). All other players can interact with the guilds through trades that add or subtract from the resources available to them.

That’s only one part of Feudum‘s interconnected gameplay and there is an exciting array of other ways to play and be most venerated by the game’s end. Royal Writ cards offer secret objectives to score at the end of the game, moving twice in a turn moves you along the Epic Voyage track, status in Guildhalls comes with veneration in addition to the push and pull actions, tending landscapes and ruling locations, glory in battle, and much more all factor in to scoring. In what must have been session after session of careful playtesting, there seem to be just as many ways to play as there are to win. It’s a new land, what will you make of it? What will you make of yourself? Win or lose, it’s a fun afternoon of adventure to set out on! (Odd Bird Games) by David C. Obenour