CATHEDRAL (or Cathedral World)


Cathedral, by Family Games, under license from T.O.Y.S. International Inc.

The rules of this game do not acknowledge any inventor, but the mysterious name Robert P. Moore appears printed on the back along with the date 1978. Possibly he designed it in that year.

This is a two-player game. Each player has a set of shaped pieces. My edition is the "Global Village Edition", in which the pieces are all resin castings of little sculptures of famous buildings, such as the Taj Mahal, Parthenon, Westminister Palace, St. Basil's Basilica, and Sydney Opera House. An earlier production of the game had the pieces made of wood, which represented medieval buildings to be placed inside a walled town. The game is not cheap, and the cost comes mainly from the producers' decision to make the components in a very fancy way. In fact, the only significant thing about a piece is its base's shape, and so it could be just a piece of flat card. The fancy pieces add to the game of course, but it is a shame that they put this good game beyond the pocket of many people. Perhaps a simpler version should be made.

The player with the lighter-coloured set of pieces goes first by playing the special piece. This was a cathedral in the original edition, and cruciform. In the Global Village Edition, it is a memorial to the people of the world (who consist of one Arab, and lots of European-looking types). After this, players alternate, placing down one piece in each turn. The rules are very simple, and the game is nice and quick. The players try to claim areas of the square board by surrounding them with their own pieces. Once an area is claimed, only the owning player can place pieces there. One way to stop a player claiming territory is to place one's own pieces where they interfere with his formation, but there is a danger here, because if a player can surround one lone piece of his opponent's, then that piece is then removed. The game carries on until one player can no longer fit any of his pieces on the board. At this point, each player scores the pieces he has failed to place on the board.

The game is slightly skewed towards one player, because one player goes first, so the best way to play it is to have two rounds, and total the scores of the two rounds to find the outright winner. After the first round, the players swap pieces, so each has had an identical opportunity to benefit from any advantage of going first. The starting piece is a neutral piece owned by both players, and this has a few simple rules associated with it. One frustration with this is that there seems to be little to be gained from having the choice of where to put it, as any place seems as good as any other.

If you can afford the price tag, and are looking for a two-player game, I'd recommend this one. It looks and feels nice, it is quick, and the winner is the one who played better. There is almost no luck in it at all, and a better player will win quite consistently. When choosing where to play a piece, it is tempting to concentrate on claiming space or getting rid of big awkward pieces, but this would be at the expense of letting an opponent build towards a bigger claim, or missing out on an opportunity to change the board radically with a well-played larger piece later. Because it is so quick (perhaps five minutes per round), you will want to play a few games of it.

Tip: if you have the Global Village Edition, be sure to label the pockets of the vacuum-formed storage trays before you take all the twenty-eight pieces out, or else it will take you ages to put the game away, as each piece only fits in one pocket.



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