Game Review: Renaissance kingdoms, steam-punk fantasy in 'Courtier' and '011'
Fictional renaissance kingdoms and fantastical steam-punk adventures provide the themes for two new board games: “Courtier” from AEG, and “011” from ElfinWerks.
In “Courtier,” two to four players attempt to influence government ministers in the hopes of winning the queen's favor. The game board is a made up of 24 courtiers, including the admiral, the banker and the king. They are divided into eight coteries, such as military, commerce and the royal family, etc.
The goal of the game is to fulfill petitions by controlling various courtiers who have the ear of the queen on certain issues. For instance, one petition may require you to control the minister, the jeweler and the bishop to complete it.
On your turn you may play an influence card, which allows you to place influence markers (wooden cubes) beside a courtier. Players may also play power cards, which allow you to move already placed cubes around the board, and generally allow you to play dirty tricks on your opponents.
After a petition is completed a fashion card is drawn, which affects the board in different ways. The game ends when a fashion card states that the queen has been arrested. Players total up the point value of completed petitions and any other points they may have earned. The player with the highest score wins.
"Courtier" is a fun and intense game that forces you to be on your toes. At its heart, this is an area control and card game that is fast paced and quite engaging. I love how controlling the different coteries can give you certain advantages, and just how easy it can be to throw a monkey wrench into an opponent's plans with a well-placed cube. I really like the theme and artwork here as well, which effectively draws players into a world of palace intrigue.
“Courtier” plays in about an hour and is recommended for ages 10 and up.
“011” from ElfinWerks is an interesting steam-punk/fantasy board game for three to six players in which the Norse god Fenrir is returning to earth to inaugurate Ragnorok, the fabled end of the world.
Players have just 11 hours (or, 11 turns) to accomplish three tasks before they can stave off Fenrir and save the earth. As they move about a steam-punk version of Turin, Italy, players must locate which of the eight characters is the chosen one who can stop Fenrir. Second, they must search for pieces of music that must be played. And finally, they must locate a mystical organ whose music can avert the coming disaster. The first player to do all three, and maneuver the chosen one to the organ, wins the game.
There is a traitor mechanic here, however, as one of the players secretly becomes an agent of Fenrir on game turn five, and must meet his own victory conditions to win.
“011” is a very unusual game, both thematically and mechanically. For instance, players select a different character to play every turn, and a series of moving gears on the board determines which actions might be taken and movement points allowed. There is a lot to like here, and the mechanic for searching for the chosen one plays out a lot like in the board game “Clue,” though with a some significant twists.
On the whole, however, this is generally a slow game that forces players to interact with the board far more than with each other. There is a lot of downtime between turns, and players must also bid for turn order at the start of every turn, really slowing the action down. The way in which the organ is located is really neat, as are some of the other actions players can take, but generally the game didn't thrill me.
As one of my friends said while playing it, “I wonder if the real Ragnorok would be this bureaucratic?”
“011” plays in about two hours and is recommended for ages 10 and up.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the co-developer of the popular History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: email@example.com
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