28 June 2022
One Thick Coat
Eternal Palace is a familiar game, with a pleasing artistic twist. For the most part, you are rolling, grouping and placing dice on a board to trigger a variety of effects, primarily collecting resources and building with them. The idea being, you’re competing Japanese nobles vying to contribute the most to the reconstruction of the Emperor’s palace monuments. So far, so Euro. But you’re also artists, it turns out, each with a blank canvas you’re aiming to fill with painterly detail, to best impress your regal boss.
Most of the board locations, then, have a twofold function. One is to trigger the effect when you place your dice there, having openly rolled, then secretly grouped them at the start of each round so they add up to your desired location-matching numbers. The other is to award you with a painting layer, though this may take a number of revisits.
Let’s say you’re after kaolin (whatever that is), which you need to help build the Dragon Kiln. You require a dice total of nine to grab some. If you achieve this with two dice and place them, you gain one kaolin; if you put in three dice, you’ll gain three kaolin. Either way, you’ll also move up a place on a little track, which, when you reach the top rewards you with painting layer number nine – a strip of die-cut card depicting a tranquil meadow. You then place this on your canvas stand, carefully inserting it into the other numbered layers of your composition. Additionally, if you’re the first player to reach the top of the track you can also add a feature to your painting. An impressive tower, perhaps, or a golden statue of a lion.
The first player to achieve eight layers wins some bonus points and triggers the end of the game, while the player with the longest sequence of consecutively numbered painting layers also earns a bonus. This is where the aforementioned artistic twist becomes a little less pleasing. You’re rewarded for piling on the layers and packing your painting with as much detail as possible, but the truth is the most beautiful compositions are simpler and cleaner, with fewer elements. Here the theme jars significantly with the abstract objective; it’s a little irksome that by effectively messing up your painting, you score more points.
As is the fact that no game goes by without each player accidentally knocking over their fragile cardboard canvas, scattering all its bitty layers (the inclusion of some little clips might have helped). Additionally, the central board is rather small and cramped, quickly crowded with fiddly tokens and markers, while it is hard to navigate in places.
Still, at the heart of the game there remains a lovely concept – making a gorgeous painting – and it is satisfying to see it come together on your dinky tabletop canvas. Even if the dice-placement that drives it is a little less artful.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
The art-building side of the game is its most attractive element (so long as you’re not too butter-fingered or bothered about thematic veracity); otherwise it’s a solid, rather than spectacular, dice-placement affair.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED TOKAIDO…
Though it’s a completely different genre mechanism-wise, the Japanese setting and art-creation element will likely endear Eternal Palace to fans of Antoine Bauza’s coastal-stroll game.
Designer: Steven Aramini
Publisher: Alley Cat Games
Time: 60-90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Painting insert
- 80 Painting layers
- 5 Canvases
- 75 Markers (in five colours)
- 25 Dice (in five colours)
- 5 Dice screens (in five colours)
- 5 Canvas stands (in five colours)
- 90 Wooden resource tokens
- 107 tokens
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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