Paupers’ Ladder Review: Dragons, Birds & Virtues

Review by Stephen Mingo

“Garolium Scraggart, beloved ruler of the people, has died.” The back of the box of Paupers’ Ladder begins, setting the tone of this game where you play a lowly Pauper in Garolium’s tournament. Your goal, along with your bird companion, is to learn 3 of the 5 virtues; generosity, fellowship, bravery, knowledge and magnificence. The game by Russ Law and Paul Stapleton is stated as a 14+, taking 60-90 minutes to play and is for 2-4 players.

I was delighted to be able to get in touch with the designers and be afforded the opportunity in these lonely pandemic times to also try the single player expansion, ‘One Lonely Pauper’. This will be one of very few single player board game varient I’ve ever played, but because it feels like it’s been an age since I’ve sat at game night playing a meaty tabletop game with my friends, I was very excited to get stuck in.

So let’s peel back the cellophane and get stuck in! Oh don’t you just LOVE that new board game smell? Again here, kudos goes to another quality board game developer who has the foresight to include ziploc bags and a silica gel packet, care has been taken here. For the initial single player run through, I chose Dagris Screbin, a lamp lighter from Blacksand. I set up the board as instructed and then flicked open One Lonely Pauper to adjust to the solo mode. I had a little helper when it came to popping the tokens out…

The birds on offer as your companion are a swift, a magpie, a crow and a canary. A crow seemed fitting for my character. The first difference in the single player mode from the main game is the introduction of a difficulty level. For the sake of a first play through, I chose easy mode. Which meant a simple flip of my Pauper card to change to K’zaah Hoi’z, a scavenger from Blacksand.

Initially, it seems like there are a lot of rules to read when you’re eager to get stuck in. Video tutorials and information are available at www.bedsitgames.co.uk. There is also a useful Hungry Gamers walk through video on YouTube. I started with the scenario Garoliums Tournament and set up board as instructed, the goal was to simply learn 3 of the 5 virtues.

You start each game in a city and each city has an equipment shop deck as well as a quest waiting to be completed. Ready for first turn… In solo mode your turns are counted by timeline tokens. In the game you move region to region, not square to square which gives you flexibility when it comes to exploring. You turn a card over for each region you move into and deal with what is presented to you.

Once you get going, like many other games, it clicks and all makes sense suddenly. It’s very satisfying to play. Strategy is key, pick which virtues you want to focus on to achieve a timely win.

Single player results: I learned the virtues of fellowship and genoristy. I was one recipe short of the knowledge virtue, I didn’t see a dragon to try to get the magnificence virtue. Tip, monsters equals coins usually! It was a good first play through, the game makes sense and is an enjoyable strategy game suitable for an evening with some friends and a crisp pint of ale down at your local Paupers tavern.

 

So what’s it like with more people? For obvious reasons we can’t meet up and try a 3 or 4 player game just yet, but we put Paupers’ Ladder through it’s paces as a 2 player game and the results were quite pleasing indeed. The game has the feel of the old Discworld game Ankhmorpork smashed together with elements of Munchkin, both two of our all time favourites so it’s easy to see why we liked this.

In an homage to the old Warhammer White Dwarf magazines, here’s our battle report. I chose to be Dagris Screbin again, while my wife, Emma, was the ever pink Brinnie Lanklot. Early on in the game the board started getting full of some unwanted ingredients and treasure chests, strategy comes into it here as you can potentially fill up the regions your opponents are so clearly focusing on.

The legendary Ice dragon made an appearance in the mountains but nobody strong enough yet to beat it and obtain the virtue of magnificence. I scored the first virtue, strength, having collected 42 of the 40 points required from defeated monsters in my trophy room.

Both of us were after ingredients for the dragon at this point as we plan to obtain special swords or spells to aid us in the final battle. But the mines, where the dragon heart is likely to be found, are now full! Change of plan. Emma bought the recipe book item in order to learn her final spell without needing the ingrediants and gained her first virtue. The transmute spell then allows Emma to discard some of those ingredients currently clogging up the mines if she wants, for gems of course.

I finally got the dragonsbane sword from the shop, a rare item, and then got my second virtue after finally getting the yeti claws, spending many turns relentlessly exploring the mountains in order to do so. I learned the dragonfire spell… It is now time to go fight that dragon. Emma has a vast pile of money and could be about to earn her second virtue easily.

In the end, it came down to one lucky final dice roll, I killed the dragon and got my third and final virtue to win the game! Emma’s thoughts were that Paupers’ Ladder is pretty good once you know what you’re doing. The sheer number of components can be off putting to a novice player, but once you understand the mechanics it all clicks into place and makes sense. And with the game over, the only downside is there are a lot of pieces to pack away. A downside quickly negated by the ziploc bags provided.

In summary, Paupers’ Ladder is a great board game by Paul Stapleton of Bedsit Games. It’s easy to see why it currently holds a 7.4/10 on board game geek. With a 60-90 minute play time, this game is worth picking up and can currently be found for around £36 including expansions from the Bedsit Games website (https://www.bedsitgames.co.uk).

Happy gaming and stay safe!

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