Charterstone, where to begin. From the moment I saw this was being produced I latched on and waited… and waited. You know what happens when you’re THAT excited for a game to release? Sometimes you’re let down hard! So how did my much anticipated Charterstone do? Let’s take a look… spoiler free. For that reason there will be a level of vagueness to everything here, though I hope to cover it well enough for you to know sufficient information to think about your purchase.
Charterstone is a 1-6 player legacy game from Jamey Stegmaier and Stonemaier Games. Players are citizens of Greengully, a beautiful place ruled over by The Forever King, an immortal king players must appease. Starting their own charters within a larger village, players will build new buildings, gain new resources, better themselves and meet new people along the way. It is, in a word, charming.
The style of Charterstone lends itself to a somewhat cutesy vibe, with adorable artwork, bright colours and a feeling of lightheartedness; all of which only add to the games overall allure (oh and character racial / gender diversity, bravo Stonemaier Games).
Charterstone is made to a standard that is truly mind boggling. From a double-sided tri-fold board that you can use with a recharge pack (sold separately should you wish to play again), to dual-use stickered cards that work extremely well in bringing everything to life. It’s just a thing of classy wonder.
The rules work in a sort of learn as you play manner. We had only a few instances of head-scratching as we tried to work out what to do, it’s all put together really well. New rules will be added each game, some changing things a little, some changing things a lot and all fairly seamlessly.
Like the other legacy games on the market, Charterstone features boxes you will open when prompted by the game. Inside each is something new, adding to the game in some manner. Your character too has its own box, in which you will keep everything accrued relating directly to your charter / character. You will also keep track of your victories and character updates on the outside of the box. Again, this is a genius use of an otherwise redundant piece of storage, you have to hand it to Jamey Stegmaier here, everything is just so elegantly done and well thought out. Bravo.
“you have to hand it to Jamey Stegmaier here, everything is just so elegantly done and well thought out”
The main part of Charterstone is the Index Box, a magnetic flapped box filled to the brim with cards. Dependent on your actions you will remove cards from this box, thus adding new rules, or – to remain vague and spoiler free – other in game aspects. Again it should be noted that everything is streamlined to the last detail. The cards you draw at certain points are noted within the lid of the index box, in a tiny font no one in my group could read, but we didn’t need to because there’s a handy reference sheet included in a larger font… Like I said, classy.
At its heart Charterstone is a worker placement game. Place a worker, gain some goods, fulfil requirements with said goods, grow / construct / score. There’s other objectives too, if it sounds light, it is, but with a rich deep gooey centre (did I just liken Charterstone to the best soufflé you’ll ever have, quite possibly).
Manage your resources, use your workers wisely, fulfil objectives and score higher than the other charters and herein lay more charm, Charterstone is a competitive legacy game, that for all intents and purposes feels like a cooperative romp of exploration and joy. At no point in the 12 game campaign did I feel any sort of competitive urge overtake me (but in fairness I play for fun, I’m not overly competitive). So it should appeal to all gamer types, competitive and otherwise.
I believe I’ve covered everything I can without dipping into any sort of spoiler, which would be a travesty to do, because Charterstone is magical and you need to learn that for yourself. Should you buy Charterstone? YES, all the yes. Charterstone is a game families will enjoy and even hardcore gamers should find something joyous in. Is it worth the price tag, most definitely, how many of your other board games have you played 12 times?
The big question is will you have the time to pull in 12 games with the same people? I believe the charm of Charterstone will bring those people back to you after your first couple of games, because you just want to know what that Forever King is up to. The story is a pleasure, like some nostalgic throwback to a good Choose Your Own Adventure novel, opening new adventures with each sitting. Have I gushed enough? Should we end on a high? No?
Well, Charterstone though near blisteringly perfect does have just a few minor issues. One rule we missed for a few games, until it clicked, despite it being stated in the rules (could just have been a mistake by us). A Gameapalooza follower stated they found Charterstone annoying, because by the end of the overall adventure their charters had useless buildings within them because of the way points work at game end scoring. This was not really something our game suffered from, but I put it here as an opposing opinion (thanks Kim). Another suggested one player could fly ahead (though in our final game the scores seemed much closer than we had anticipated). Overall however everyone agreed on one thing, Charterstone was a fun game experience.
Stonemaier Games are known for great games, with the likes of Viticulture and Scythe in their back catalogue. I posit that Charterstone is yet another fine example of their very own motto: “to create memorable, beautiful, fun games that engage and delight gamers worldwide”.
“I posit that Charterstone is yet another fine example of their very own motto: “to create memorable, beautiful, fun games that engage and delight gamers worldwide”
Charterstone is to me one of the most memorable game experiences I’ve had, there’s no denying it is absolutely beautiful from the box to all inside. It is fun, engaging and delightful… even to this gamer in the Antipodes, far from Stonemaier’s home of St. Louis in the US. (Stonemaier motto fulfilled!)
I urge you to buy Charterstone, an utterly delightful game that should be enjoyed by all gamers and non gamers alike. Not many game sessions end in hugging, cheering and high fives and that is exactly how our Charterstone campaign ended, I’d tell you why, but then you’d have to kill me.
Go buy it and send Jamey Stegmaier your unmitigated gratitude when you’re done.