Reviewed by Herb Levy
THE ROAD TO CANTERBURY (Eagle-Gryphon Games, 2-3 players, ages 14 and up, 45-60 minutes; $79.99)
Greed, Pride, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth, Wrath and Envy. If those Seven Deadly Sins haven’t piqued your interest, then you haven’t been paying attention! In this Alf Seegert design, inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales, players will have to deal with those sins. Now, where there is sin, there is also a need for pardon. Players assume the roles of “pardoners”, using fake relics as necessary, to absolve religious pilgrims of their sins – but with an ulterior motive. Money is collected for these pardons. To win, players compete to make the most money while travelling along The Road to Canterbury.
The center of the play area is a board showing all Seven Deadly Sins in a “Circle of Sin”. Last Rites tokens are placed in the center of that circle and the Parson piece randomly begins on any of the sin spaces. Companies of Pilgrims, represented by blue, yellow and burgundy play mats, flank the Circle of Sin with the fourth side given to a map of the road to Canterbury. From the deck of 7 Pilgrim cards (each marked with their own “Sin of preference”), three are randomly drawn and placed on top of each company mat. Players choose a screen and corruption cubes in their chosen color (black, brown or purple) and are dealt 5 Sin cards from the Sin deck. (Should any receive a “Death Approaches” card, that is returned and another card drawn in its place.) A tableau of 3 Sin cards are placed by the Sin deck, three Pardon cards by the Pardon deck. A deck of Relic cards are also shuffled and placed face down. Everyone begins with 3 coins hidden behind their screens.
A turn begins by playing a card. As mentioned, there are three types of cards: Sin, Pardon and Relic. If a Sin card is played, it is placed adjacent to one of the three companies. Doing so allows that player to place a “corruption cube” on the matching sin on the Circle of Sin. (If this placement completes the circle giving that player a cube on all 7 Sins, a monetary bonus is collected.) If the Sin placed is the SEVENTH sin on that company, that Pilgrim suffers sever consequences: death! The player who placed it gets a “reward” of one of the Last Rites tokens.
Pardon cards are played on a Pilgrim who has acquired sins. A Pardon card will pardon ALL Sin cards of that type attached to that Pilgrim. Matching Sin cards are now flipped face down – but they still count towards the deadly seven – and that player collects money based on how many Sin cards have been flipped! (If the Parson happens to be on the space matching that Sin, he “denouncing” of that sin it counts as an extra card and the Parson then advances to the next sin in that circle.) The player also places a corruption cube on that Pilgrim. “Death Approaches “cards are color-coded to each of the three companies. When drawn, they attach themselves to the matching company and count as the Sin preferred by the Pilgrim of that company. Relic cards are chance cards – all of them good – that can move a card from one company to another, allow you to play two cards in succession and more.
Once cards are played, there is a Reckoning. If any Pilgrim has 7 or more Sins on their company, they have died! The player with the most corruption cubes on that company now moves one of their cubes to the Canterbury map, placing it on the next available stop on the road to Canterbury, immediately collecting the bonus (from 2 to 10 coins). Tie? Then the player with the most Sin cards in their hand has the edge. Now all cards are discarded, the deceased Pilgrim is placed, face down, under the company mat, with remaining corruption cubes of ALL players left on the card. (This will become important later on.) A new Pilgrim card is drawn to fill the now vacated space on the Company mat. At that point, if the active player has a Last Rites token, it may be played to take an extra turn. Otherwise, the active player draws back to five cards (taking from any of the three types of cards) and the game continues in clockwise order. If a Death Approaches card is drawn, it immediately attaches itself to the matching color company. If that causes the death of a Pilgrim (being the 7th card), no Last Rites token is collected.
When the last space on the Road to Canterbury is filled, final bonuses are calculated. The player with the most cubes on the road earns 20 coins, second 10 and third 5. For the most corruption in each company, players earns bonuses of 15, 7 and 3. Each unused Last Rites token is worth 3 coins. The player with the most money wins!
The Road to Canterbury is actually a re-release of the original, 2011, game. But time has treated this game well. The bizarre theme – encouraging corruption and earning money to defraud hapless Pilgrims – is certainly different. Moral issues aside, this is a game of timing as well as hand management as players need to consider when to play Sins in order to set up lucrative pardons, when to draw Pardon cards to be prepared to absolve Pilgrims of their sins (and collect money) and when to play Sins to claim your Last Rites token and your spot on the road.
It is tempting to play sin after sin to bring about the demise of a Pilgrim and cash in on that bonus spot on the road map. But you should temper that temptation as corruption payouts increase the more you “pardon” the sinner (from 1 coin for pardoning 1 card to 16 if 4 or more cards are pardoned) and more corruption on each Company can result in a big influx of money at final scoring. Of course, luck is an element that needs to be reckoned with since there are card draws; “Death Approaches” appearances in particular can foil your timing as brutally as your opponents. But this just adds to the unpredictability which is what life and death are famous for, making travelling on The Road to Canterbury a trip worth taking. – – – Herb Levy
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