Designed by: Philip duBarry
Art by: Tim Baron, Matthew Ebisch
Published by: Funhill Games
Play time: 30-75 Minutes
Review copy supplied free of charge by the publisher.
Due to the review copy of Wisdom of Solomon arriving just before the Kickstarter began and the campaign having just six days left as I write this, this is going to be a short review so that you can at least get an idea of how it plays. So let’s just leap head-first into this, shall we? And please, forgive me if my writing is a lot rougher than it usually is, which is certainly saying something.
You’ll be acting as a Governor for King Solomon, the very king known for building the famous temple of Solomon during the golden age of Isreal. It’s your job to expand the King’s influence by constructing new buildings, grabbing resources and helping out with the temple. Whoever manages to curry the most favor with the King by the end of the game will be crowned the winner. In other words, it’s about victory points, baby.
Wisdom of Solomon is a worker-placement game where players will take it in turns to plop down one of their workers and do the associated action over the course of several in-game years. It’s worth saying right now before we get further into this quick review that Wisdom of Solomon is a fairly bog-standard worker-placement game that does little different or new, so if you were seeking a fresh experience this isn’t going to be it.
So let’s break down exactly where you can go and do in your pursuit of those glorious points and the favor of the king.
By visiting the Market you can sacrifice some influence to purchase a max of three available resources, paying the amount shown underneath the resource cube, or you can opt to sell a few of your spare cubes, this time earning the amount of influence shown under the space that you select to sell to. The key here is that the leftmost spaces are the cheapest and the further right are the priciest, and you’re free to buy and sell from any space you wish, thus the first player at the market each round can get the best possible bargains. It’s even possible to buy low and then sell high in the same turn, if you like, perhaps picking up some copper for two points of Favor before then selling it back for four.
Each round the market gets refreshed with new resources from the limited stockpile so that there is always two of each kind available to buy. The existing resources and the new ones also get pushed to the leftmost spaces so that they are at their cheapest sale values.
These resources can be used to purchase new buildings at the Foreman’s Office where you can pick from the three currently available building cards, with new ones replacing any bought ones at the end of the round. Each building offers a reputation bonus, plus extra reputation based on which slot it was next to on the board. Finally, buildings also net you special abilities once bought, like earning extra resources when you visit a region of Isreal or even giving you extra action spaces that do handy things like turn brick and into points.
But you can also spend resources to help build the mighty temple by going to the Levite and buying one of the tiles that were randomly distributed on the temple at the start of the game. It’s important to note that for every other worker already on the Levite space you have to cough up an extra resource, so it pays to visit this space early if you can. Each tile is going to be worth a random amount of Favor, making them a riskier prospect than just buying a new building, but there’s the potential to score some big points. More importantly, once the last tile on the temple has been removed the end of the game is triggered, so you always need to be thinking about when you want to start bringing things to a close or whether somebody else is attempting to finish the game early.
Visiting the Levite also grants you a Fortune card which you can then play by going to either the Market or the Trader. These special cards do a variety of things, including doubling the resources you gather from your network (more on that later) and letting you select one of your placed workers take the corresponding action again.
Another way to grab resources is by visiting the various regions of Isreal, plopping down one of your workers to claim the resources shown there. This is where one of the game’s more interesting mechanics comes into play, because after you take the build action at the Foreman’s you can then take one of your customs houses and place it in any region that has an open customs house slot. You also then get to take a road piece and lay it down so that one end starts in the region you just placed a customs house in, and the other sits in a new region. The reason for this is that you can’t claim any resources from an area where an opponent has a customs house unless you also have a customs house there. As for the roads they form a network that lets you claim resources from connected areas of Isreal, thus if you build your network smartly you could net numerous copper, wood and other goodies from a single move.
While the rest of the game is quite standard stuff, this little battle for control of Isreal’s various regions is pretty interesting and produces a lot of good decisions, though having to visit the Foreman’s space before being able to play a customs house does help stop one player managing to build up an early network.
If you still don’t have the resources you want or need the trader is the place for you as it lets you trade a single resource for any two resources available in the resource piles. These piles are quite limited based upon the number of players so that does stop the trader for being abused, but he does feel a tad overpowered.
The final location resides just outside of the temple and is actually made up of four different spots collectively known as the Holy Places where you can send your workers. Each of these imparts powerful bonuses, like being able to draw three Fortune cards or getting one of every resource. However, there’s a bit of a catch because to use a Holy Place you need to send ALL of your remaining workers there, ending your year until the next round begins. But as an extra reward for being the first player to claim a Holy Place you get the first player token, enabling you to get the pick of the board next round. But I have to say that being first didn’t feel as valuable as it does in other worker-placement games. Sure, there are limits to how many workers can be placed on a spot, but you don’t normally find yourself locked out of a location until later in the round. Still, first pick of the buildings or the Levite can be useful.
As for the components they’re…okay. There’s some nice artwork courtesy on the Fortune cards and building cards. nut everything else speaks to the game’s smaller budget, which is of course entirely understandable but bears mentioning regardless. The board is perhaps the biggest example as it’s brown with buildings that don’t really look like buildings, and a temple that doesn’t look like a temple. I’m also not a fan of the temple tiles having plain backs, or the tiles you put on regions at the start to denote that the region can’t produce anything.
The simple truth of the matter is that Wisdom of Solomon didn’t connect with me. This doesn’t mean it’s somehow a bad game, indeed it’s a competently designed from start to finish. But I couldn’t find any reason to get excited about, no reason to play it over the small pile of other worker-placement games I’ve got sitting on my shelves. The theme feels dry, the components are nothing special and the gameplay is well enough done, but these days that isn’t quite enough. The only thing that really grabbed my attention was the custom houses and roads because that led to some fun decisions.
So, should you back it? No. At least, I don’t think so, but at the time of writing the project has been successfully funded, so clearly I’m the odd one out.
Wisdom of Solomon called for £7,500 in Kickstarter funds and has thus far earned twice that. To get the game you need to pledge about £33 with an expected delivery of December. If you wish to back the game or see more about it you can visit the Kickstarter page.