Fantasy and adventure highlight three new games: For the Crown, 2nd Edition, from Victory Point Games; Asgard's Chosen, from Mayfair Games; and Lords of Waterdeep, from Wizards of the Coast. Do they deliver the fun? Let's take a look.
For the Crown, 2nd Edition
For the Crown combines the classic game of chess with a card deck-building mechanic. Two players set up what initially appears to be a standard chess board. Classic pieces, however, are replaced with a host of different and unusual units on cardboard chits. Additionally, each player begins the game with only one unit on the board, his king. Players also begin with a deck of 10 cards — six peons and four guards. Players draw a hand of five cards from their decks.
Each player engages in four phases on his turn. During the order phase, players may move or attack with units on the board. Next, in the action phase, players may play an action from one of their cards, usually training new units.
Many of your cards will have a certain amount of treasure printed on them, which is your currency during the buy phase. You may use any number of cards with treasure to buy more powerful cards during the game. These cards allow you to train more powerful units, among other things. Finally, during the housekeeping phase, you will discard your hand and draw five new cards.
The game evolves steadily over the course of several turns. Initially, you must focus on the deck-building aspect as you want to put more and better units on the board. Eventually, you must decide when to shift your efforts toward the board and attacking your enemy. Many units move and attack quite differently than in standard chess, so you must keep a close eye on your opponents' units to make sure that none of your units are in danger. Additionally, players can purchase more kings and other sovereign units. The game ends when one player's sovereign units are completely eliminated.
On the surface, the idea of marrying chess with a deck-building mechanic seems very odd. Yet For the Crown is an amazing game that succeeds on every level. Players must wisely divide their attention between investing in powerful cards for later use and in the unfolding strategic game on the board. Deciding what to do with the limited options you have will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Various decks allow for a lot of replay value, and no two games will play the same. Fans of deck-builders will have a field day while traditional chess players will undoubtedly enjoy this fun variation that adds worlds of dynamic tension to the familiar black and white board.
For the Crown, 2nd Edition plays in about an hour and is recommended for ages 13 and up.
Another game that combines deck-building mechanics with a board game is Asgard's Chosen, an adventure rooted in Norse mythology. The game begins by constructing a tile board and placing cities between spaces in the tiles. From the creature deck, a tisch of eight cards is set up.
One to four players start the game with 10 god cards. These cards represent the ancient Norse gods, like Thor, Odin and Tyr, and form each players' initial draw deck. Each player also places two heroes, a male and a female, upon the board.
First, players may play one of their god cards from their hand for its favor, essentially gaining a unique advantage that turn. Next, players may play a charm, another kind of card that offers advantages. During the campaign phase, players move their heroes on the board and engage in combat against other players or against generated militia units in unoccupied spaces.
Cards are drawn from the creature deck and the numbers on the cards are added together for a combat total, giving the defender his strength. The attacker may then play cards to beat that number and claim the space. After all heroes have gone, players may buy new cards from the tisch during the muster phase, but only with colors that match the tiles they control. It pays to control more tiles. Finally, during the renewal phase, players discard their hand and draw new cards.
Each god also has an appeasement condition, and once that is met that god is removed from play and added to a victory pile. The first player to appease an agreed upon number of gods wins the game.
The above is just the barest description of the rules and does not fully communicate the depth of this game. There is a lot going on here. For instance, each creature card has an opposing terrain feature, and the card may not be played on certain tiles.
Asgard's Chosen is an interesting game, and many of the relationships between the deck-building and the board noted in the For the Crown review are in play here as well. There are problems unique to Asgard's Chosen, however. Players must constantly scan their cards for mitigating symbols, colors and numbers, making this game very detail-oriented. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it just means there is a lot to know going into it.
Combat is not as interesting as it could be, either. The way random cards generate defense and the additional ways players interact with battle feel a little clunky. Overall, the game feels like it is just a little more complicated than it needs to be.
With its great theme, beautiful card artwork and engaging if complicated mechanics, there is no doubt some gamers will really take to Asgard's Chosen, but one wonders if it will catch the imagination of casual gamers.
Asgard's Chosen plays in about two hours and is recommended for ages 14 and up.
Lords of Waterdeep
A very different game mechanically is Lords of Waterdeep, a worker-placement game in which two to five players compete to earn the most victory points. The game board represents the city of Waterdeep, a mystical town of magic and adventure. Each player selects a color and draws a lord card which must be kept secret and contains a special bonus if completed by the end of the game.
Players attempt to compete various quest cards which grant victory points and other advantages when completed. Most quests require cubes of a certain color or money or both. Quests come in different types, and completing specific types may be important for certain lords.
Each turn, players place a limited number of wooden pieces, “agents,” in various buildings throughout the board. Each building allows a player to take a specific action, like gain colored cubes, gain money, play intrigue cards (which offer advantages and let players play dirty tricks on their opponents) or even construct more buildings that allow you to collect rent when other players use them in the future.
Lords of Waterdeep sounds like a very simple game, and in many ways it is. Nevertheless, game play really heats up as players see their opponents' victory point markers dart forward, compelling everyone to go for more difficult, and thus more rewarding, quests. Games that require you to make tough choices are a lot of fun, and Lords of Waterdeep is all about making tough choices. Each turn players will agonize over what to do next, trying to determine which building will bring them closer to competing their quests.
Lords of Waterdeep is a thrilling, straightforward game that offers real competition. It plays in about an hour and is recommended for ages 12 and up.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at SLCC. Cody has also appeared on many local stages including Hale Centre Theatre and Off Broadway Theatre. Email: [email protected]