Praetor is an upcoming worker placement game from NSKN Games set in ancient Rome. Players assume the role of a Roman engineer tasked with building up the Eternal City. Caesar will reward the engineer who can improve Rome the most!
Praetor is a worker placement game where your workers are represented by dice. The number of pips on each worker, represent how experienced that worker is. The more experienced a worker is, the more effective it is at performing many of the game's actions. At the same time, many of the actions players can send their workers to do will increase that worker's experience, but when workers get to 6 pips, they retire and are no longer considered active.
To build a new building, the player selects a building from those available, returns the required resources to the supply, and places the building into the city grid. Each building tile shows how many points the player receives for building it, and the player can also earn bonus points if she can place the tile in such a way that the color of the plazas in the corner of the tile match the tiles that have already been placed. Building a building requires a worker, and whichever worker is used to build, will gain an experience at the end of the round. Not only does the player building the building get favor points, she also is adding a new tile to the board - and one that she can get a benefit from even if other players use it.
Obviously the most interesting thing about Praetor is that the workers in the game gain experience and eventually retire. This mechanism is made even more interesting by the fact that each worker a player has costs (at least) 1 gold at the end of each round. This includes retired workers. So having a worker gain experience is great, because they get stronger and can perform more powerful actions. It is also good because once a worker retires, the owning player gets bonus favor points (the earlier the better). But, having to pay for workers who are now retired can be a major drain on a player's economy. Figuring out the timing of when to retire workers is a lot of fun.
This balancing act is further complicated by the building tiles. I mentioned before that the red tiles will grant a worker experience, while green tiles will not. So one might think a viable strategy might be to level workers up to 5, and then use them on green tiles. This will certainly work - but not as well as one might think. The green tiles' activation abilities are not affected by a worker's experience. The market tile (which is green), for instance, allows a player to interact with the market - regardless of the experience level of the worker placed there, the action remains the same.
Praetor is a fantastic game. I think its biggest strength is while it does change things up a bit, it doesn't reach too much. It innovates just enough, while keeping the core ideas of worker placement intact. This allows players who speak the language of games to get into the game easily, while making the experience mechanism accessible and easily enjoyable - without having to jump through too many mental hoops to get there.
I would absolutely recommend Praetor to pretty much anyone who is reading this. I don't think it would be a good first worker placement game, but as a second or third game with this mechanism I don't think there are many more innovative, accessible, or interesting worker placement games to be found. I give it an 8.0/10.