04th Nov2019

‘Walls of York’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail


Walls of York is by no means unique in its depiction of a medieval wall being used as a way to ringfence resources or to claim an area, and in fact, by doing so, it goes up against one of the most popular heavyweights in modern board gaming history; Carcasonne. Unfortunately, where Carcasonne is an almost perfect gateway game because it is both simple to pick up, but also challenging to master, Walls of York offers a fairly short term thrill that is let down by fiddly and somewhat boring gameplay.

Each game can be played by two to four players, and everyone involved will have access to their own board made up of four double sided sections. The first slightly fiddly bit that you’ll encounter is that each board must be made up of the same boards in the same orientation, which in itself isn’t too difficult to sort out, but you’re then supposed to clip a thin cardboard frame around the boards – which never works as it should. In the end I abandoned these cardboard strips and left them in the box.

You’ll also likely have noted that there is a cool custom dice tower made in the style of a medieval gateway. This is definitely a cool prop, and into it the players will chuck three blue dice (one must go down each section) to indicate what kinds of buildings must be surrounded during the upcoming round of gameplay. With the two elements of setup done, any player rolls the large red dice and then all players simultaneously place plastic wall pieces onto their board in the pattern shown on the dice – alternatively, a player may place one wall piece anyway they like.

The objective of each game of Walls of York is to encircle as many of the required buildings (as rolled on the dice tower) as possible, whilst avoiding Viking radars. Once a player has completed their castle to their satisfaction, they begin to take gold on each turn that their opponents are still building. In the end game scoring, the player with the most gold will win, but there are penalties to gold that come into play should a castle be incomplete, or if a player collects too many viking tokens and ends up being raided.

Each game of Walls of York is played over two rounds, meaning that the process is repeated twice. Interestingly, only the player with the most Viking tokens at the end of each round will be raided, and the player who is raided in the first round will give up their tokens at that point, making it unlikely that they will be attacked again in the next round. I have to admit that it’s a little fiddly to play two rounds like this, but the Viking rule is actually quite cool and I think I’d like to have seen a way to use it more than twice per game.

Essentially Walls of York begins as a novel little thing, with the players taking their walls and building the structure how they see fit, and those feelings are fairly well enhanced by the presence of the plastic wall pieces, the dice tower and the oversized dice. The boards themselves look OK, but I’d say the characters and icons on them are a bit generic. Either way, you’ll have fun for about ten minutes, but it’s not long before you realise that every player is just doing their own thing with no interaction whatsoever.

I have a few issues with it as a result, especially because the board setups are identical for each player. I do appreciate that this keeps the game balanced, but I do kind of wish that everyone was dealing with different layouts, because among like minded players, it often transpires that sections of the castle will look exactly the same from one player to the next. Simply put, you’re each placing the same pattern of wall pieces (rolled by the red die) onto the same board, so if there is one obvious strategy (which, to be fair, is hard to spot due to how much iconography there is) it’s likely that multiple players will go for it.

That said, Walls of York is still a fair bit of fun for a short amount of time, and whilst I might complain about the fact that it takes place over two rounds, each one only takes about fifteen minutes. The fact that the red die is rolled for everyone on every turn and pieces are placed simultaneously is a good thing, and when you’re sitting smugly with a completed castle collecting coins, it doesn’t feel like downtime. I think Walls of York will suit younger players and it’s definitely a light game, so as long as you come into it knowing what to expect, there’s some fun to be had here.

*** 3/5

Walls of York is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator


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