Thursday, 1 September 2011

Kingdoms of Crusaders

Plays: 2Px2.

The Game

I received a review copy of this card game from Right Games, a Russian game publisher which has been publishing games in Russia for some years and is now venturing into publishing English versions of some of their games.

Kingdoms of Crusaders is an abstract game which reminds me of Battle Line. The base game is a two-player game, but you can play with up to four with two copies of the game. I'll just describe the two-player game here.

Players fight over 5 locations by playing cards on them. Hand size is five. On your turn you draw one card and then play one card. A location can have at most four cards per player. Once all locations are full, the game ends, are you determine who has won which locations.

Each card has up to five different icons. You try to make sets with these icons. Whoever has bigger sets wins a location, e.g. I win if I have a set of four similar icons and you have at best a set of three. If tied, compare number of sets, e.g. two sets of three beats one set of three. If tied again, compare icon type, e.g. a yellow (knights) set of four beats a brown (spearmen) set of four. If still tied, check the next biggest set type. This probably sounds more complex than it actually is. It's much easier to explain using cards to make examples. If you win more locations than your opponent, you win the game.

The Play

Despite the simple rules, there can be much agonising over how to play your cards. Whenever you play a card to a location, you are committing yourself. You can't undo. It's a constant struggle of waiting for your opponent to commit and then trying to play cards that would be just enough to beat his best possible combination. At the same time you try not to commit yourself too much and stay flexible, which is not easy to do.

In the first game that I played against Michelle, I took the lead in winning two locations, but she came from behind to win all three remaining locations. In the second game her card draws were rather poor, and I easily claimed three locations.

Game in progress. The game comes with a narrow strip to mark the 5 contested locations, but since I played a two-player game, it was quite unnecessary. In the fourth location, Michelle had played 4 cards, which meant her side of the contest was full. I could still play two cards. She now had two sets of three (green and brown). If I could make a set of four with my yellow, I would win. If I could make two sets of three (yellow and blue would be the only possibility given the current cards already played), I would win.

This is one game where it's better to hold your cards this way instead of fanned out.

I was in a dilemma over the location on the left. Having two sets of three (red and green) and the potential to make up to two sets of four was good, but Michelle had the potential to make three sets of four. Now I was trying to wait and see what card Michelle would play, before I played my fourth and last card.

Card back. I like the artwork of this game.

The Thoughts

Kingdoms of Crusaders is a simple and quick card game, yet it has many difficult decisions. It should be easy to teach non-gamers or those who mostly play traditional card games. Afterall the game is abstract. The five colours are basically five suits. There is some luck in the game, but skill is rewarded, just like many traditional card games. This game can be a good filler, since it's pretty quick.

If you are visiting the Essen game fair in October this year, Right Games will be at Hall No. 7, Booth 7-05.


Paul Owen said...

Fascinating. You're right, it sounds very much like Battle Line, but in that case each card has two characteristics (rank and color), whereas in Kingdoms of Crusaders, it appears that each card can have up to five symbols (but each is binary - so, only 31 possible different cards, I would assume).

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I have not counted the combinations and number of cards. I suspect there are probably 30 different cards in the game. I don't remember seeing a card with all 5 colours.