Games We’re Playing – Pillars Of The Earth

By | September 27, 2007

Pillars of the Earth is a cathedral building game, based on the novel by Ken Follett. With restricted resources, employees and choices, and the constant challenge from competitors with the same aims as you it’s an interesting mediaeval parallel to modern business.

Your objective is to win, and to do so your must become the most highly regarded cathedral builder. You’ll need to generate cash to buy resources, and you’ll need to attract the most skilled employees and provide for them.

With limited resources available it’s important to prioritise effectively. It’s easy to develop a strategy when you have plenty of choices available, no resource constraints and no competition, but when you can only make a limited number of moves which will never secure everything you want you need to think creatively and make tough decisions about what really matters, shutting off options which would be nice to have for the future.

Players will fail where they have not given enough consideration to the consequences of the choices they have planned, both intentional and, more commonly the unintended consequences. Cornering the market in stone for your Master Mason may seem important, but if you’ve traded in your lowly Mortar Mixers to achieve that, then her productivity will be severely restricted.

Money matters, without it you can’t make quick decisions to invest when opportunities arise, and you’ll struggle to attract top talent, but if you dedicate your time to getting rich without investing in your people you’ll quickly be overtaken by players who have taken the long view and built up the skills in their teams.

Focusing resources in one area and driving through a plan without a constant scan of the environment may mean missing new opportunities as they arise, allowing more open minded competitors to capitalise. If you’ve committed all your labourers to the gravel pits when a Master Carpenter becomes available, then if he comes on board you’ll need to leave him idling about until you can redeploy people to the forest.

Your competitors will also make decisions not only to further their own ends, but also to damage your chances. If you’re hoping to impress your clients by securing a Bellmaker and Organ Builder as your cathedral near completion then you need to keep quiet about it or someone else will ensure there’s insufficient metal around for them to deliver.

Winning Pillars Of The Earth requires planning, effective prioritisation, balancing your resources, developing your team, keeping your mind open to new opportunities and a close eye on the actions of competitors. Would you win?

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