Theme and What is it?
The beloved ruler of Brighthelm, Garolium Scraggart, has passed away. Garolium meant a lot to the people of the land and there will be much mourning. She always tried to help the poor of her country and she died too soon with her work unfinished, or was it?
As knights and other royals descend on the capital to begin jockeying for position and an eventual power grab at the throne, a decree is sent out that was written by Garolium herself before she died. It states that the crown will be given to the winner of a tournament. This will be a special tournament that will only be open to the poorest in the land. The winner of this tournament will be the one who can prove that they have all the virtues that are required to make a great leader. Brighthelm’s paupers now have a chance to climb the ladder that will lead them from the poorest areas of the land right to the throne.
Pauper’s Ladder is an area exploration/set collection game for 2-4 players.
The end goal of Pauper’s Ladder is to be the first to acquire three virtues. This can be done through a variety of ways. Some examples include, donating money to charity, obtaining resources and creating potions, and creating a large trophy room of creatures and hazards you have bested.
Each player is assigned a Pauper which has a few unique character abilities. They also receive a bird as a companion. The two characters begin to move across the land as they explore each region. When exploring, players draw a card from the deck of the region they are currently exploring. These cards have resources, hazards and events. When a card is drawn and set in the region the players are located in, they have an encounter. An encounter can be with any of the card types listed above and encounters can be successful or fail. Success can lead to more equipment, gold, resources and trophy points.
As players explore the land and discover its secrets, they will begin to fulfill the requirements to unlock certain virtues. As virtues are gained, players keep track of them on their player boards and the first player with three completed virtues win the game.
Pauper’s Ladder has a very detailed rulebook. At first it seemed a little intimidating, but once I made it through the book and set the game up it was not as daunting as it seemed. I played through seven or eight rounds by myself to make sure I understood what I was doing, double checking against the rulebook.
After I had completed this initial test run, I had my ten-year-old daughter play a game with me. She was kind of hovering around while I was setting up and testing the game, so I knew she was interested. We took our time going through the first game. While exploring the regions there are many things to encounter and we wanted to make sure we were doing everything correctly.
We enjoyed exploring and trying to figure out what virtues we should be focusing on. Because there are five virtues and you only need three to win, we spent extra time trying to figure out which virtues would be the best to go after based on where we were at in the game.
The game ended up being longer than I expected, but it did not feel drawn out. We were going at a slower pace as we were getting used to the mechanics.
The game is full of surprises. It was fun to see what would happen next as we explored.
Game Build Quality
I will not comment on the production quality of the game since I received a pre-production prototype that had many hand-crafted elements. If I am able to get a copy of the final production, I will update this section at that time.
The artwork is very stylized. It has a strong vector quality to it and works well with the theme. The art is very uniform and the theme moves through all aspects of the game in a very cohesive and unifying manner.
I like the vibrant colors that are seen throughout Pauper’s Ladder. The game is about rising up from a bad situation to become something new and exciting and I think that the colors help with that feeling.
My daughter really liked the artwork too. I think that is why she started to hover around while I was setting up the game. She saw the box and it captured her interest.
There are a number of things that I really liked about Pauper’s Ladder. I really had fun exploring the land because new things popped up that changed the course of the game. Which leads me to the second thing I really like…there are multiple paths to victory. You have to figure out what three of the five virtues will be the ones to chase and that choice can change as new elements are added to the game through exploration.
Age Range & Weight
As I started looking over Pauper’s Ladder it seemed like it was going to be a heavier game, but once I understood how everything worked it turned out to be very accessible. The age recommendation on the box is 7+. I am not sure if my 7-year-old would be able to keep up with this game. I am sure he would enjoy exploring and fighting off creatures, but I don’t think he would do well trying to figure out which virtues to focus on. My 10-year-old did great with it. She picked it right up. My gut says that maybe a 10+ rating would be closer, but that is just my experience.
Pauper’s Ladder has plenty to offer. It can be taught fairly quickly making it a game that can be enjoyed by lots of different types of players. It also has some depth to it which will appeal to seasoned gamers.
The artwork and theme tie in very well and combined with exceptional playability provide an experience that will not soon be forgotten. Exploring and seeing what the world of Brighthelm has to offer is a rewarding endeavor. It provides twists and turns and makes players reevaluate their current viewpoint on which path to victory is best for them.
Keep an eye out for Pauper’s Ladder and give it a try when it is available. It looks like it is all set up to be a very promising game.