Battle for the Throne: A Review of The Rose King
Can you outwit, outthink, and out-plan your opponent, in this highly strategic two player game?
The game board shows a grid of square spaces with a crown in the center. At the start of the game each player starts with four hero cards and five power cards. Power cards each show a number, and one of eight directions. On your turn, if you have a valid move to make, you must either play a power card, play a power card with a hero card, or draw a card. Your hand limit is five. You cannot choose to draw a card if you already have a full hand. If you do not have a valid move, the other player will keep taking her turn until you have a legal option again.
Playing a power card moves the crown in the direction shown on it, and as many spaces as the number on it. The numbers range from one to three. The crown must move the full number of spaces shown on the card. If that would take the crown off the board, you may not play that card. The crown must also end on an empty space. Once the crown has moved, the player that moved it places one of his colored tokens on the spot the crown finishes on.
If you play a hero card with a power card, then the crown may finish its move on a square that has another player’s token. If you do this, you replace the token with one of your own. Once a hero card is played, it is removed from the game.
Both players keep their power cards face up in front of them, so you always know what cards your opponents can play.
Once the last token is played or neither player has a legal move, the game ends and players count up their score. You earn points for each group of tokens you have on the board. The more tokens you have adjacent to each other, the more points the group is worth. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
The Rose King is elegant in its simplicity. The rules are so simple to teach and learn, and the setup so fast, that you can start playing almost immediately. But with that simplicity comes a great deal of strategy and depth. Playing it, you can see its connection to such classic games as Chess and Go. It’s easy to learn, but hard to master!
But while the rules to the game are simple, the scoring at the end can get a bit onerous and you’ll probably have to pull out some paper or a calculator to add your score up. The theme, while nice and united with some lovely graphic design, is still mostly pasted on. At heart this is an abstract game and some players might be disappointed by that.
It is always nice to find a good, solid two-player game, however, and if you love strategy you’re likely to enjoy The Rose King. Elements such as the hero cards and the fact that players keep their cards face up in front of them adds a lot of fun strategic choices, and you’ll probably find the game too close to call until near the very end.
Pros: Two player game, elegantly simple rules
Cons: Some players will find it too abstract, scoring can bog you down at the end
Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.