Published on October 5th, 2015 | by Luke Turpeinen0
4 Games, 8 Kingdoms
8 Kingdoms is Now on Kickstarter
Broomstick Monkey is back with another microgame: 8 Kingdoms! This new venture further expands on their Royal Strawberry universe. You might remember their previously funded game (Imperial Harvest) which took place in the enchanted strawberry fields of a fantasy empire.
8 Kingdoms looks to combine classic card games with thematic elements and modified gameplay. The game rules easily fit 2-8 players, and are all essentially variants of games like Rummy and Rook. While the games are all simple, the variant rules are interesting and I like that you get multiple ways to use the same deck of cards.
One of the main differences that the four games in 8 Kingdoms have with other card games is their different collection of cards. There are eight different suits which represent each of the different kingdoms of Royal Strawberries. All the cards in each suit are ranked 0-21, representing the lowly jester all the way up to the emperor. Some games use more suits, some less, which helps keep the games different from each other.
As someone who likes classic card games, I’m always interested in trying out new ways to mess with the older card games. The core ideas of bidding, trick taking and set collection are central elements of many games and they get their chance to shine in this simple game format.
The copy we played with was a prototype, but I hope that the final product has a couple of changes. I’d like to see larger and/or more colorful art on the cards. The art will be customized by backers during the Kickstarter, but I hope the frames look nicer in the final product. In that same vein, a lot of the suit iconography is very similar and doesn’t read particularly well. Scourge and Treasure cards could also use some symbols differentiating the two types. Graphic design in general could use some clean up here, though the illustrations are wonderful.
Kingdom Quest is a variant of Rummy with a drafting mechanism taking the place of a constant hand. Every turn you draft three cards from you hand and pass the cards in the direction of play (which changes after every hand is depleted). Player score points based on sets and runs that they collect in their face-down piles.
The bit that made Kingdom Quest interesting to me was that you are assigned a suit as “yours” and every card of that suit you draft stays in your tableau for successive hands. That means that if you draft the 3-4-5 of your suit in the first hand and score a 3-card run, on the second hand if you just draft the 6 of your suit you’ll still score a 4-card run (3-4-5-6).
This would be a great game to play before introducing someone to a more heavy drafting game, like 7 Wonders or a Magic the Gathering booster draft night. By assigning suits, everyone knew exactly what to hate draft in order to mess with other players and it felt less aggressive to do so, maybe because the game encouraged it more.
A 3-player game took us about 20 minutes to play.
Control & Chaos
Control & Chaos is a trick taking game, similar to Rook. After the hand is dealt, players bet how many tricks they think they will take that hand (eg: “I’ll win five tricks”). You get a point for every trick you win, and five bonus points for winning exactly the number of tricks you bet you would (no more, no less).
For those who don’t know what a trick taking game is, allow me to explain. In Control & Chaos you’ll get a hand of 16 cards (in the 3- or 4-player version) and there is a central deck. Each round (called “tricks”) there will be a player who “leads” that round/trick by playing the first card. Each player in turn order then has to play a card of that same suit from their hand, if they can. The player with the highest ranked card that has been played “takes” the trick.
If you’re not careful with your hand, you could get into a situation where you just can’t win as many tricks as you said you would. It also goes the other way- crafty players can pay attention to which cards you’re using and trap you into winning one too many tricks to get your end of hand bonus.
The variant here mostly comes from the addition of extra cards that are suitless but have special uses within the game. The Barbarian, for example, changes the winner of the trick to the player with the highest ranked card, regardless of suit. These Chaos cards make the game much less predictable and reduces the effect of card counting.
Scourge is a blind bidding game where card counting and bluffing are your main pathways to victory. Each turn you will be bidding against the other players in an auction for a special card. Treasure cards generally give more points and are won with the highest card played. Scourge cards are worth less but have special abilities and are won with the lowest card played.
Each player has an identical hand, and the game is mostly about knowing which treasure/scourge cards you really want. In Scourge ties always lose, going on to the next card further down the line. This means that if two players both play their highest ranked card, then neither of them will get it. This element of second- and triple-guessing your opponent brings to mind the best parts of the Poison Challenge from Princess Bride.
Scourge is incredibly simple and fast paced, and could easily be played as a pub game or a family game.
Redemption is a kind of variant of Cheat or Bullshit, though you aren’t discarding cards on your turn. The premise is to guess how many cards of a suit are held by all players. Redemption uses all eight suits, and each player has a hand of 10 cards, and there are special cards that mess up the count a little, so this is no easy task.
The starting player picks a suit and guesses a number- the amount of cards of that suit that they think are currently in everyone’s hands. Each player does this, increasing the number by at least one, but changing the suit claimed to whichever they’d like.
If there is a player who thinks this number is too high for the suit mentioned, they can challenge, or “doubt”, which calls for a count of the suit in question. Whoever was wrong takes a “Scourge” card though after the first round, winning doubters give all of their Scourge cards to the loser.
Scourge cards are bad because at the start of a hand you face a number of cards outwards (ie towards the other players) equal to the amount of Scourge cards you have. You don’t get to look at your own outward facing cards. Oh, and every round the hand size goes down by one. Once your hand size and your scourge pile have the same number of cards in them, you’re out of the game.