SPOILERS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
So my gaming group has been playing Charterstone every game night for the last 5 game nights. We’ve been having a great time, and I wanted to give some explanations of how the game is played, and some tips on what you should expect and how to have a better gameplay experience.
Just a heads up, while my normal strategy videos might give you some things to think about that might give “you” advantage, I recommend that you share these tips. They’re mild spoilers and the intent is for everyone to get the most out of the game. They might give you a slight advantage too, though that is merely a side effect.
What is Charterstone?
Charterstone is an economic city building game. A bit more precisely, it’s a legacy game, which effectively just means that there are permanent consequences for future games based on previous games. In fact, in this particular legacy game, the rulebook itself starts mostly blank, with the rules getting unlocked as you play the game.
Charterstone has some like RPG elements, including an interesting somewhat dark-fantasy storyline that you reveal over the course of the twelve games that consist of the core game. Your king has decided to expand and granted you a charter to help grow the shared village.
Over 12 games, you’ll unlock a storyline, new rules, new buildings, and new strategies. In addition, you have a box that you permanently unlock different advantages and upgrades for your charter, all of which combine to make your charter somewhat unique and when combined with the entire village and all of the various upgrades, a unique gameplay experience custom to your gaming group.
At this point, I’m going to talk a bit about the first game, this is very mild spoilers as I’m not revealing anything that you wouldn’t discover on your first play, but again, you’ve been warned.
When you first start the game, you have just your persona, a box, a couple buildings, a meeple for you and your assistant, and some influence tokens. The board has six empty charters, then some core buildings in the center of your village. Each player controls one of the charters and each player can only build in their charter.
You build by peeling stickers off of the cards you get first, and putting the sticker into your charter. The remaining card often has whats called a crate, and you can “open” the crate to pull more cards out of the box and add to the game. This action is called the charterstone action and is the primary way that more cards get added to the game.
Each turn, you either place a worker onto the board to activate a building action, or take all of your workers off the board, that’s it, which makes the turns fairly quick.
Some actions require you to spend influence, often triggering the progress track to move as well. When the progress track ends, the game finishes after the next complete turn.
Influence is often used for victory points, there is a quota track, a reputation track, and there are objective cards, all of which require influence and can give you victory points either immediately or at the end of the game.
In case it isn’t obvious yet, at this point you’ll have put stickers onto your board, so right from the get go you’re making permanent changes that you can’t quite undo.
If you want to play the game again, you can buy one refresh pack and turn the board over, in fact, that’s how I’m showing you this, as the other side of this board has our game on it with lots of spoilers.
There are more boxes, more cards, more tokens, more every thing inside the box, but you’ll need to play a few games before you get to see those.
My first tip, now that you know a bit about how the game works, is to avoid winning the first couple games. Yup, you heard me right, I highly recommend you avoid winning the first couple games. There is a catch up mechanic which gives an advantage to the ones who don’t win. Not only should you not win, but if everyone chooses not to try to win, you may find that your group has built up its village more early on, which means that later games will have more options.
Build as much as you can build the first two games. Later buildings in the game dramatically change the game, the more you build and then charterstone those buildings, the more quickly you’ll get to the advanced strategies that really allow you to define your strategy.
Don’t ignore the quota track. Like all games, you want to constantly think about action efficiency. In this case, you can measure action efficiency by how many victory points you gain per resource spent For example, the quota track says you get 3 victory points for 1 resource. If you’re the first person to do a quota for 2 or then the first for 3, you get a bonus victory point. In the beginning of the game, it takes 1 action to gain 1 resource. Effectively, that means you get 3 victory points for 2 actions., at least to start. What I really like, as someone who explores a lot of games, is that every game, this calculation becomes slightly different as new buildings unlock different options to gain and spend resources. However, when you’re calculating the value of an action, make sure that in general, each action gives you at least 1.5 victory points.
Who has what building matters. In the beginning of the game, you and your assistant meeples can go anywhere in the village to get what they want from a building, even if its already taken. Later in the game…you’ll have advantages at using the buildings in your own charter versus the buildings in someone else’s charter. I can’t say much more than that without causing the spoiler gods to come crashing down on me. However, the important bits here, is that IF you can get a building for someone else’s charter and place it into your charter, you may be able to pull off a combo more readily than someone else.
To elaborate “just” a tiny bit, each charter begins the game with the ability to produce one particular type of resource, say wood or brick. Later in the game, you unlock buildings that require brick to do things it makes sense for brick to do, or buildings that require wood to do…well things wood would be required for. Sometimes buildings get into the general available pool, if you grab one of them, now while you may produce the brick, you might have a powerful building that lets you use wood. This will do two things for you, the wood player might be tempted to use your building more often, but also, you might be good at two different components of the game instead of one, because your buildings blend both brick and wood.
Your Charter box has a few different tracks that you permanently mark as you play each game. One side is capacity, one side is generally what you start each game with. These seem similar but in effect are very different. Capacity eventually restricts how much of a resource you can hold. That’s a little spoilery about game 3+, but its on the box, so just go with me here. Glory on the other hand, lets you start each game with the thing that you unlocked. For example, if you unlock the resource glory , that means that each game you can choose a resource and add it to your supply.
Just to reiterate, that means if you end a game with only 1 resource capacity, at some point you will only be able to retain 1 resource, but if you spent all of your resources you’ll have 0 resources. On the other hand, if you’ve unlocked the resource glory, then even if you ended the previous game with 0 resources, you’d add 1 of any resource to your pool.
This means that in general, glory is more powerful than capacity.
Bonus Tip #6
Out of all of the glory tracks, I think the advancement track is one of the most powerful, being able to take an advancement at the beginning of each game can be VERY powerful.