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Paupers Ladder Review

- Quest, Battle & Climb your way to victory

Players: 2 - 4

Playing time: 60 - 90 minutes

Designed by: Paul Stapleton

Published by: Bedsit Games


Paupers Ladder is an exploration fantasy game from Brighton based indie board game developers Bedsit Games. I had the pleasure of meeting designer Paul Stapleton at Tabletop Gaming Live this year and he was kind enough to give me a copy to review. I also picked up some big name games over the weekend but found myself gravitating towards Paupers Ladder when I got home and reached for a game to play from my new shelf of shame. It has so much to offer through an array of mechanics including area movement, card drafting and set collection and is definitely one to watch.


Components:

- Game Board - 4 Pauper Cards - 4 Bird Cards - 144 Outcome Cards - 36 Recipe Cards - 240 Region Cards - 50 Equipment Cards - 35 Quest Cards - Lucky Charm Die - 4 Pauper Meeple - 4 Bird Meeple - 50 Gems - 4 Virtue Markers


The land of Brighthelm is well named considering the brightly coloured and vibrant game components in Paupers ladder, from the game board to the quest cards. A lot of the components are pretty simple including the player boards and cards that are all made from a thin cardboard with a glossy finish to them. My favourite by far are the Pauper meeples, or should I say GIANT meeples, each coming in a different colour to represent each player. Yes, giant meeples. Roughly 3 or 4 times the size of a regular meeple in other games. Players are constantly interacting with these meeples so I think it's great the designers made them a bit different. The game board can also become a bit busy towards the end of the game so the fact they stand out definitely helps.

A regular sized meeple for scale


Gameplay:


The day of the tournament is finally here and you and the other Paupers are competing to gain the greatest power of all, to become the heir to a proud legacy. Each Pauper will set out on an adventure to seek virtues in generosity, knowledge, bravery, fellowship and magnificence and the first to learn three of them will be crowned the winner.


Each player must first choose a Pauper. Every player board is double sided with different characters that each has their own unique special ability. Depending on how many players there are decides which side of the board you will be able to pick as some abilities may not make any sense or be too strong in a 2 player game. During each turn players will take an action with their Pauper, to explore new areas, fight monsters and attempt to complete quests. But, they're not alone as each player also gets to choose a bird companion to take around with them. Each bird can then be powered up to access a unique ability. Companions also get to take an action every round, meaning that on a player's turn they can take two actions.

So, now that you're all set to go it's a good time to learn about the virtues that you will be seeking out. There are five altogether and the first to three is the winner:


  • Generosity - Obtain and discard a certain amount of gems (money), depending on player count, from your purse, to the bank.

  • Knowledge - Learn five recipes.

  • Bravery - Earn and discard enough strength points from hazards found in the wild.

  • Magnificence - Defeat and discard a dragon from your trophy room.

  • Fellowship - Complete 3 Quests.

To gain these virtues, players adventure out into different terrain and search the area by drawing from a specific deck of cards. In these decks will be items, enemies, ingredients and many more. When an enemy is uncovered, the player can either fight it or leave it for another Pauper to fight. When choosing to fight, they draw a card from their own personal deck of cards which is used as your Paupers strength. It contains cards numbered from 1 - 6 and depending on which card you draw is how hard you hit. If your hit is higher than the enemy's, then you win. It's essentially like rolling a D6 but some cards can have buffs and abilities that can potentially add to your strength. I love this mechanic as it gives the game a very mini Dungeons & Dragons feel to it. It also displays similar mechanics from popular game Gloomhaven. It's not without its annoyances of course as a lot of it is luck based and it can get frustrating when you don't pull the cards you need.

If the fight is successful, players gain whatever reward is printed on the card. This can be gems or items but most importantly for the Bravery virtue, an amount of strength that can be added to your trophy room. Fighting enemies is a great way of building up virtues including Bravery and Generosity at the same time and also Magnificence if you're lucky enough to take down a dragon! If players decide not to fight or they lose the battle, the enemy stays there and the area cannot be searched further until it is dealt with.


Throughout your searching, you will come across a wide range of ingredients and these are used to complete recipes. You start off with three recipes and every time you learn a new one you can choose another one from the supply. These recipes can be super handy as they give you an extra ability to use. I like to try and get all of my recipes as quick as I can! Once you reach five learnt ingredients, you are awarded with the Knowledge virtue.

Lastly, there are four City Regions in the land of Brighthelm consisting of a shop and a quest board. Paupers can choose to buy from an array of items including special rare items that can aid you in difficult tasks, such as taking down a dragon, or they can choose to complete a quest. Quests can be a range of many things, such as having to discard gems in a beach region. Sometimes quests are completed instantly and sometimes you have to go back to the City to hand it in. Once you have completed three you are rewarded with the Fellowship virtue.

Pros:

  • Thematically makes you feel like you are a hopeful Pauper through questing, fighting and crafting.

  • The bird companion stops the game from being too slow as you get two actions per turn.

  • Only needing 3 out of 5 virtues means you're not always battling for the same thing.

  • Vibrant and high quality components.


Cons:

  • A very luck driven game. If you prefer games that require planning and strategy, this may not be for you.

  • Because it is luck driven, it can turn into a long game as you're not pulling the cards you need to finish your objectives.

  • There are only 4 rare item cards in the whole game which means each game you play has the same ones. I would have loved for them to include more so each time you play was a bit more random.


Final Thoughts:


And that's a run down of Paupers Ladder. I really enjoyed this game when I first played it and every time after that so far. I do wish there was slightly more variation when it comes to item cards and possibly player abilities as it could become repetitive the more it gets played. I would love to see an expansion with some extra variance in it as I would snatch that up in a heartbeat. It definitely feels to me like a compressed game of D&D and that's a great accomplishment to fit into a 60 minute board game. Can you turn your Pauper into a Prince.. or Princess? Find out by heading over to Bedsit Games' website and picking up a copy of Paupers Ladder for yourself.

Disclaimer: Paupers Ladder was kindly gifted to be by Bedsit Games but I am not being paid for this review and all opinions are my own.

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