Avignon: Pilgrimage: Preview

Fairway’s been anxiously awaiting this moment: the release of Button Shy’s standalone expansion to his favorite wallet game ever: Avignon: Pilgrimage.  Join Fairway as he pushes and pulls his way to great religious victory in this preview of Button Shy’s upcoming Kickstarter.

Avignon: Pilgrimage is a standalone expansion to Avignon: Clash of Popes which brings a new set of characters to the Avignon realm. Pilgrimage is coming to Kickstarter early next year and can be played by itself or added to the base game. Like the original, Pilgrimage is a two-player, tug-of-war style strategy game.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. Pilgrimage like its predecessor, Clash of Popes, is easy to teach, but tough to master.
  2. There is a good amount of strategy and player decisions packed into so few cards. The constant multi-front, tug-of-war struggle creates a number of opportunities for strategic play.
  3. The small footprint makes this game easy to bring anywhere.

Game play ^

Avignon: Pilgrimage and Clash of Popes are both two-player, strategy games.  They play exactly the same way. The only real difference is that Pilgrimage comes with rules on how to combine the characters.

In Avignon, players are rivals in the candidacy for pope. Players are vying for influence by luring members of the medieval church to their side. The winner is generally the first player to attract three members to their side.

To play, the five-card map depicting the journey from Avignon to Rome is set out in the middle of the table.  A deck of church members is shuffled and the first five are set out face up in a row next to Genoa (the middle location).  The winning player will be the one to coax three of the in-play members to make the journey from Genoa to either Avignon or Rome.

Players will take turns taking two different actions — though, the first player only takes one on the first turn.  There are only four possible actions: beseech, chastise, excommunicate and petition. In plain English, you can: pull a member toward you, push one away, discard the member from the map and replace it with a new one (at the same spot), and use a member’s special power.

In Clash of Popes, the game had six different members. Pilgrimage adds another six different members. The member’s special powers (their petition) are all unique.  The rules of Pilgrimage let you mix the twelve members from the game by telling you which Clash of Popes characters to swap for the Pilgrimage characters and vice-versa. The result is that you always have one of each “class” of member.

The game proceeds back and forth between the players until someone wins.

On the green ^

The Avignon games are surely a gem in the Button Shy collection. They’re easily one of my favorite wallet games and the original game travels with me almost everywhere. There are a whole bunch of reasons for this.

Strategy. For me, Avignon scratches an itch: a simple, strategy game that doesn’t have a huge footprint. Even compared with other Button Shy strategy wallet games, Avignon takes the cake. The strategy is simple to grasp. There is some luck in the initial selection of characters (and their distribution) as well as what gets flipped during an excommunication, but otherwise, it’s pure strategy. The selection of moves requires some thoughtful reasoning, and, ultimately, whether I win or lose is almost entirely dependent on how I play.

As a perfect example, when originally playing with the new Nuncio character, we originally felt like his petition power was very powerful.  After a game or two, we’d devised counter strategies. It was quite a brilliant gaming experience, really.

Theme.  The two games definitely have an intriguing theme: a papal election. There’s something dark about setting a tug-of-war, strategy game in a medieval struggle for religious power an influence. It’s probably not something everyone would appreciate, but I do!

Play time. Set up to clean up of any given game is less than ten minutes, but let’s be serious: you’re going to play it more than once.  Avignon is a bit like Pringles: once you pop you can’t stop.

Where it comes up short ^

Perhaps the only real concern I have about the game, and it’s a source of unending confusion, is that the orientation of the cards matters for the purposes of the iconography.  So, unless you rotate all the cards each time (suggested by the rules), one player gets to do mental gymnastics to decipher which cards go in which direction when petitioning.


In the hole ^

Avignon is a terrific example of what microgames can be. I carry Avignon with me just about everywhere. The original, Clash of Popes, packed a good amount of replayability into the small footprint. Pilgrimage only makes it better by adding new characters with new petition powers and opening up new strategies. The game play and objectives are simple and readily teachable, but engaging. When we break it out, we’re never able to play just a single game.

Avignon: Clash of Popes and Avignon: Pilgrimage both earn Birdies. ^

Fairway was provided a copy of Pilgrimage in order to write this preview. He already owned Clash of Popes. He was not otherwise compensated for this preview.

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