Medieval Academy is my go-to game for introducing people to drafting, which is one of my favorite game mechanisms. The game is short, fun, and easy to grasp.
There are 2 major forms of drafting: simultaneous hidden drafting and sequential open drafting. Medieval Academy uses simultaneous hidden drafting.
Simultaneous Hidden Drafting
In this form of drafting, every player starts with an equal number of hidden resources, usually cards. Each player simultaneously picks a resource (keeping it hidden) and then passes the remaining resources to the player on their left (sometimes right). This then continues until there are no resources remaining to pass.
For example, in Medieval Academy each player starts with 5 cards. Everyone picks a card and passes the remaining 4 to the player on their left. Then everyone picks a card from the 4 passed to them, followed by the remaining 3 cards being passed, etc.
Simultaneous hidden drafting is also used in Epic’s cube draft and dark draft formats, Magic: The Gathering’s 8 player draft, Sushi Go!, Seasons, and 7 Wonders.
Sequential Open Drafting
This form of drafting is not used in Medieval Academy. Sequential open drafting involves a set of resources available to all players. Players then take turns selecting resources. This is usually done by “snaking” between the players. For example, in a 4 player game with Adam, Becky, Carl, and Diana the order could go like this:
Adam picks 1st
Becky picks 2nd
Carl picks 3rd
Diana picks 4th
Diana picks 5th
Carl picks 6th
Becky picks 7th
Adam picks 8th
Adam picks 9th
Some other games that use Sequential open drafting include Epic open draft format, Catan (opening settlement placement), Smash Up (official faction selection), and Heroscape (unit selection).
How to Play
The goal of Medieval Academy is to compete in 7 categories to become the best knight.
Lay out the boards as shown in the picture below.
Place the respective coat of arms markers near their respective boards.
Each player chooses a color and places one of their discs on the first space on each board; order does not matter on the first space of a board.
Place the hourglass marker on the first spot on the draft direction board.
According to the rulebook, the player who strikes the most chivalrous pose takes Excalibur to determine the first player.
This game consists of 6 rounds with 3 parts.
This game uses simultaneous hidden drafting described above. At the start of each round, each player is dealt 5 cards. Players simultaneously draft 1 card at a time and then pass the remaining cards. (The direction the cards are passed changes after each round. The hourglass marker keeps track of the current direction.) This continues until each player has drafted 5 cards.
There are 6 types of cards available for drafting. Each type of card corresponds to one (or two in the case of Jousts and Tournaments) boards in play. Each type of card ranges from a value of 2 to a value of 5 (except Jousts and Tournaments which have no 2s). 5 is the best value. 4 of these 5 cards will be played in the next phase to advance a player on that respective board.
Once everyone has finished drafting, players take turns playing a card. Each card advances a player’s disk a number of spaces on a single board. You can never split movement. For Jousts and Tournaments, they share the same card, but you can use it for either board. If your movement would put you on top of another player’s disk, you are ahead of that player. You continue this process until everyone has played 4 of their 5 cards.
After the final card is played in a round, certain boards score. Each board (except Jousts and Tournaments) scores differently. You either want to be ahead of other players or at a certain point on the board. The 7 boards are as follows:
- Gallantry: This board scores every round, and it is the first board to score. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place (in a 4+ player game) finishers are able to advance any one of their disks. First, the 3rd place finisher advances 1 piece 1 space. Then, the 2nd place finisher advances 1 piece 2 spaces. Finally, the 1st place finisher advances 1 piece 3 spaces.
- Jousts/Tournaments: These boards score every round. The player in 1st gets 3 points, 2nd gets 2 points, and 3rd gets 1 point.
- Education: This board scores every round. The player in last gets -3 points. The player in 2nd to last gets -1 point.
- King’s Service: This board scores on the 3rd and 6th rounds only. Relative position does not matter on this board. If you make it to at least space 6, you get 6 points. If you make it to space 12, you get 12 points.
- Quests: This board only scores on the 6th round. The player in 1st gets 17 points, 2nd gets 10, and 3rd gets 4.
- Charity: This board only scores on the 6th round. The player in last gets -10 points, and the player 2nd to last gets -5 points.
After round 3, the Gallantry, Jousts, Tournaments, Education, and King’s Service boards reset. All disks on those boards are returned to the first spot of that board. Play then resumes as normal.
Points you get (positive and negative) are kept face down so no one can check a player’s current score. All players on the start space are tied for last. This means that if you are on the starting spot you can not gain points, and you always lose the maximum amount of points. As a reminder, being on top of another piece means you are ahead of that piece, just not for the starting space.
The game ends after the final scoring of the 6th round. After that, everyone adds up all of their points. The player with the most points wins.
I stumbled across a demo of this at Gen Con, and I had to buy it. Drafting is one of my favorite game mechanisms, and I think this is a very good introduction to it. This isn’t one of my favorite games since it is fairly light, but I do enjoy playing it. More importantly, I am able to get more people to play a drafting game with me.
It is also pretty satisfying when you put your disk directly on top of another player’s. Generally, it doesn’t feel that awful when someone puts their piece on top of yours though. Most games are also fairly close, and it is not a long game either.
I haven’t experimented much with the variants the game includes. In my next game, I plan on trying out at least a couple. The one that seems the most interesting is the dueling knights as opposed to the Jousts and Tournaments boards. In the dueling knights variant, you can support either or both of the knights. The knight that gets the most support awards more points. While the game works perfectly well without the variants, adding them in could give the game enough depth for it to get more play.
Currently, I frequently introduce this as a new game, especially if the players have never drafted before. Without adding in the variants, it isn’t a game I want to play all of the time, and I do not know if the variants will change that. However, I believe I have more than got my money’s worth out of this game, and I am happy with the purchase. This game will definitely be seeing more play.