World Without End is a traditional European-style strategy board game, thematically built around the events that take place in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, from 1337 to 1361, almost 200 years after the construction of the imposing cathedral known as The pillars of the earth. Players take on the role of merchants, farmers, and builders who strive for wealth and prestige while leading a pious and loyal life. The goal of the game is to get the most victory points. These are mainly obtained by participating in various construction projects and taking care of the inhabitants of Kingsbridge who are affected by the plague, known as the Black Death. However, life in Kingsbridge is not easy. Players have to continually fight to get enough food, show allegiance to the church and crown, pay taxes, and deal with sudden misadventures that randomly occur during the course of the game.
The most important component of this game is a huge four-panel board of excellent quality that represents Kingsbridge and the surrounding lands. On the game board there are several places like:
- production spaces: the quarry (producing stone), the forest (producing wood), and the fields (producing grain)
- various construction sites where players can contribute stone or wood and earn victory points
- the town of Kingsbridge with its houses and market. Some of the families get sick during the plague and can be cured, giving HP and various bonuses. In the market, players can trade wool and cloth for money.
The game takes place in 4 chapters (time periods), each of which consists of 6 rounds. Each chapter represents a time span of a few years, during which players take part in various construction projects, thus earning precious victory points and having to deal with various unexpected events. At the end of each chapter, all players have certain obligations. Failure to meet them costs additional victory points and penalties that occur at the start of the next chapter. In each round the same sequence of actions occurs:
- The active player (the one with the active player token) reveals an Event card. Events can be immediate or have a lasting effect until the end of the chapter.
- After resolving an immediate event, the event card is oriented on a special town hall space at the top edge of the game board. The active player chooses an orientation that fits their current goals, as it affects two elements of the game: the personal income of each player and a special bonus only for the active player.
- Players receive their personal income based on the orientation of the card.
- The active player receives their special bonus as they have the favor of the Prior/Prioress, King/Queen, Guild Master, Merchnats, Earl of Shiring, Bishop or Outlaws.
- Starting with the active player, each player plays an action card. All players have the same set of 12 action cards. These actions include: sell wool or cloth on the market, exchange wool for cloth (which is more valuable), build a house that provides a bonus when rented, rent up to 2 houses, get a grain, get a resource (wood or stone ), obtain the piety of the cathedral, care for the sick, participate in a construction project by contributing wood or stone, or repeat the action chosen in the previous round. In this phase, players choose a card to play and discard another. Thus, throughout the chapter, they will play 6 actions and discard the rest.
At the end of the chapter, players have the following mandatory obligations: prove that they live a virtuous and pious life by paying 2 piety, prove that they have enough food to support themselves by paying 2 grain, and pay a tax. To determine the amount of the tax, the active player rolls a die. By failing to fulfill one or more of the above duties, players lose victory points and suffer additional penalties that occur at the start of the next chapter, such as losing their income on the first round of the next chapter or playing one less action card. It is possible to avoid the additional penalty by paying 1 Loyalty.
At the beginning of the third chapter, plague strikes the town and certain plague tokens are placed, face down, on each house in Kingsbridge. Each round, a family in one of the houses can get sick and can be cured, using the appropriate action card to award victory points and other bonuses to players who choose this action. To care for the sick, players must have sufficient medical knowledge.
Now let’s go over our usual scoring categories:
All components of the game are very beautiful and of high quality. The game board is visually stunning, with the town of Kingsbridge and the surrounding land beautifully drawn, giving players a feel of 14th century England.
Resources (wood, stone, grain, wool, cloth) are made of wood, of the appropriate color. They also have shapes that resemble their real form, especially grain and cloth. That’s kind of rare for a standard edition of a game. The houses are also made of wood and have the shape of a house, the color of each player. All other components: piety and loyalty markers, deck markers, money, and medical knowledge are made from thick cardboard with attention to detail and appropriately shaped as well. The action and event cards are made of thick paper and deserve a special mention. Its design is elaborate and its background has the visual feel of paper used in the Middle Ages. That also applies to player screens. All in all, the components will satisfy even the most demanding gamer. Kudos to Michael Menzel, who is responsible for the game’s artwork and graphics. 9/10
how to play
World Without End has rich and deep gameplay that will challenge strategy game lovers. Luck does play a part in the game, but not in a way that would mess up a player’s strategy (at least not entirely). After all, life is full of surprises and things don’t always go according to plan. I think this is the concept the designers had in mind when they decided to bring Event cards into the game. Some of them are really frustrating and can mess up your plans, but think of it as challenging your mental abilities. The more they improve the replayability factor. There are eleven event cards for each chapter and in each game you randomly choose which six of them will be included. In this way, each game is different from the others. The game is about maintaining an often fragile balance between food supply, money, and piety, which are the duties that all players have at the end of the chapter. And among all these, fight for the collection of resources and earn victory points by participating in construction projects. One design element that some people may object to is the way personal income is determined: by our opponents. It could be considered as another element of luck, but I think it makes the game more interesting and unpredictable. Never during any of my games did I feel like my fate was in the hands of random events or luck. Each player takes a turn targeting an Event card, which is a good opportunity to get what you need plus the added bonus of favor. Also, by manipulating the action cards and the houses, it seems that you can be in control of your strategy. That is easier in 2 player games than in 4 player games because in 2 player games you will control your income 50% of the time, while in 4 player games only 25% of the time. As for player interaction, there is not much to this game. The opponents’ resources are hidden behind special screens, so you have to pay attention to what other players get and need. The only way to interfere with their plans is to orient an event card so they don’t get something they need. However, most of the time you will be consumed with your own problems and orient the card to get what you want. In fact, you don’t have the time or the inclination to worry about what the other players are doing, you have enough problems already. There are so many things to do in this game that you can’t easily get bored. I’m always up for playing a game of World Without End on any board game night. 8/10
Although the game is not very complex and there really isn’t much to do in each round, it takes a bit of time to get used to all the game components and the strategic elements of the game. World Without End is quite easy to learn but difficult to master. What will especially puzzle you at first is what your priorities should be. There is so much to do that decisions about the orientation of event cards and the play of your actions will be difficult. After playing your first game, you’ll probably get the full picture and start to do much better and appreciate its depth. 7/10
World Without End is a theme game. This element is strongly supported by the italicized text printed on the event cards, which describes a particular event from the book, and by the formidable game board that brings the world of the book to life. All the mechanics are also linked to the theme, from the sale of wool in the market, to the healing of the sick and the sudden appearance of events that influence the life of the town. If you’ve read the book, you’ll appreciate the game more, but even if you haven’t and are looking for a Eurogame game with a strong theme, this game is definitely for you. 9/10
The depth and versatility of the game ensures that you will not easily lose interest in it. Random event cards and the way personal income is determined ensures that no two games are the same. Personally, I’m more than willing to play World Without End at any time. 7/10
It’s not funny, so you won’t laugh while you play it, nor will it provoke humorous comments among the players. But I find it fun to challenge one’s mind to overcome obstacles and manipulate game mechanics in the most ingenious way to win. However, complaining about misfortunes due to event cards can be a bit of fun, don’t you think? 7/10
- beautiful components
- challenging gameplay
- good topic
- Just as good with any number of players.
- Some may be upset about the luck factor or the way income is determined.
According to our new scoring system, the scoring categories have different weights. Components are 15% Weighted, 40% Playable, 5% Learning Curve, 5% Theme, 25% Replayability, 10% Fun. Based on this system and the previous score in each category, the game’s overall weighted score is: