The rack is damn wobbly. But still, the ornamentation has to be put in place. Our construction crew could have waited another day, then maybe the section below us would have been finished and the scaffolding would not be so dangerous and we would not have had to risk our heads and necks. But no, the foreman insisted and baited us with an extra ration of food and a few more Rubles. However, he had not said how fast we had to be. And then it’s simply step by step, no matter how small they are. The main thing is that we arrive safely at our destination and can put the decoration on the Red Cathedral.
Already at the SPIEL 2021 it was said that you have to have a look at The Red Cathedral by Shei S. and Isra C. from the DEVIR publishing house and definitely play it. Well, unfortunately we didn’t get to play a game at the SPIEL, but in the meantime we have played a few games, so we can give our personal subjective verdict on the board game in our usual professional manner. Of course, you can only find out how it turns out when you read our review of The Red Cathedral.
Have fun reading!
The Red Cathedral has yet to be built
One thing first, there is no Red Cathedral. There is a St. Basil’s Cathedral, located in the Red Square, which looks suspiciously like the cathedral on the cover. Maybe that’s why DEVIR Games, the publisher, thought before we have to pay royalties or something, let’s just call our board game The Red Cathedral.
However, the rulebook refers to the historical background of St. Basil’s Cathedral. And how could it be otherwise, this is of course not yet finished at the beginning of a game and we, as the Tsar’s master builder, are supposed to finish it. Of course, it would be better if we worked together, but who works together if he or she wants to get the success in the form of victory points all for themselves?
So we roll up our sleeves and quickly build our part of the cathedral. Fortunately, the construction of the cathedral is different in every game. Depending on the number of players, randomly selected building sections come into play. And sure, these building sections are quite simple. First floor, several mezzanines and of course a roof to keep the rain out.
However, these are just the blueprints of how the cathedral should look. Of course, each construction phase has different requirements for resources. And of course, you guessed it, we don’t have them yet, we have to get them first.
Stone by stone
And these resources are of course almost classic: stones, wood, clay and, to add a little splendor, of course gold and gems. Once we have enough, we can use them to complete our previously reserved building sections. Because collecting and simply building is not possible. Before I can do that, I have to place a marker of my color on an unfinished section to mark out my territory.
And yes, so far the board game is also unspectacular. I have actions to collect resources and I have actions to complete building sections with the help of resources. As I said, you’ve seen it all before. The trick in The Red Cathedral is the dice-collecting-inserting mechanism.
I get resources by cleverly drawing or moving dice. On a roundel with a total of eight fields there are the coveted resources. The number of resources I get depends on the number of dice that are in a field. It is precisely this number and the associated yield that I can determine with a little luck. This is because the dice eyes determine how far a die can move. So when it’s my turn, I look to see which dice are favorable for me and which resources I can get hold of.
But simple mindless collecting and then building with once is not. Because I can’t store as many resources as I want in my warehouse. And simply discarding superfluous resources doesn’t work either. And this is where The Red Cathedral becomes interesting for me. Because the right beat of the board game has to be hit. When do I collect cheaply? And when do I deliver the resources from my warehouse to the construction site before my warehouse is literally full?
The Red Cathedral is almost a beautiful, fine board game
And this beat is simply fun for me. Of course, my fellow players also make sure that they get the right beat. This is how the true face of Red Cathedral becomes apparent after the first few games. It’s not a simple standard Euro-collecting-turning board game. No, it is a race. The faster and more skillfully I get resources by using the dice, the faster I complete my building sections. The faster I complete them, the faster the game ends. And you guessed it, the more sections I complete by then, the more victory points it rains for me.
In the end, there is also a majority score, where I may be able to poke my way into a lucrative tower that my teammates have actually dominated so far by cleverly placed decorations. Deciding which tower sections I actually want to build requires even more criteria than just my available resources.
However, The Red Cathedral also has a few cracks in its beautiful front. The cool dice mechanism in particular causes a considerable downtime. It noticeably slows down the otherwise fast gameplay. Especially when we played it with a full four players.
If I want to get the resources, I need the cubes. And these are dynamic. If I have gained the resources of a field, I roll all the dice that were in this field again. This of course changes the dice values and the next player can start to think about what to do with his or her turn. If he or she perhaps wanted to collect wood before, it may now be that the emeralds are just to be had profitably.
Or even worse: All the dice on the board don’t fit into my strategy at all and the game throws a spanner in the works during the race for victory points. This can not only frustrate me, but also cost me a lot of time until it’s my turn again.
The Red Cathedral is entertaining
Even if the slowing down by the dice somewhat reduces the fun of the game, The Red Cathedral remains an interesting board game for me. So, of course, I can already do something to maybe influence the dice a little bit by re-rolling them once in my turn. But hey, let’s face it, everybody knows it, the curse of re-rolling the dice, which makes the dice look even worse. And also, of course, it makes me rethink my turn again.
But this is justifiable for me, because the race element into the Red Cathedral makes the game even more appealing. And especially if I can even beat the other players at the table, it’s worth the wait during the dice roll.
The Red Cathedral almost managed to replace my favorite dice race board game Rajas of the Ganges. But the dice-thinking downtime was too high for me, Rajas of the Ganges is simply faster.
It’s also not to be sneezed at in board game households plagued by space constraints that The Red Cathedral comes in a very handy format. This way, the game box is nicely filled and I don’t just put air in the cupboard or Kallax. Of course, this also has quite ecological effects. Less box size for the same amount of fun doesn’t just mean more space for other board games in the household. It also means less energy used to ship the game.
I hope this will come with more board games as well. I already have enough air on my shelves anyway.