Tournament at Camelot Review - Tabletop Gaming
- Game Type – Trick taking card game
- Number of Players – 3 – 6 (with a two player variant)
- Mechanics – Trick taking, variable player powers
- Difficulty – Easy
- Release – May 2017
- MSRP - $24.99
I've never really loved traditional card games. Most of them are fine, but with so many other great card games out there I've never been that enthused about playing them. With that in mind I wasn't super stoked about Tournament at Camelot. Sure, it looked great, but with my lukewarm feelings on this style of game I didn't expect much. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised to find a nuanced, addictive game that all my friends loved as much as I did!
In Tournament at Camelot, players are all various figures from Arthurian legend, fighting to win a grand tournament. The goal of the game is to reduce another player from 400 to zero life while having the highest life yourself. The game ends when a player goes to zero and the player with the highest life at that point in the game wins.
The game is played over several rounds. Each round players get a hand of 12 weapon cards with which they will play 12 melee rounds. Whoever lost the last melee round (or whoever is left of the dealer in round one) starts by leading with a card, after which all the other players have to follow suit or discard a card and lose 5 life points of “shame” damage for not being able to join the melee. Whoever played the lowest card takes all the cards that were played and at the end of the round players lose 10 life for every card with a poison symbol and 5 points for every other card. Then the deck is reshuffled and new hands are dealt out to start the next round. So far this sounds a lot like Hearts but there are a few special rules that really make the game interesting. First, everyone has a protagonist card that gives them a special game changing power. For example, King Arthur can add 3 to any sword card he plays, Tristan gets an extra card once per round that they can swap with a card they played, etc. Each player also has a companion card which gives them another ability but only after they've taken a certain amount of damage. The other special rule are the Godsend cards. After each round, the most wounded players get to draw a card from the Godsend deck that gives them a special ability they can use in the next round. This is a nice catch up mechanic that feels very well balanced.
The game is very easy to learn and the rule book does a great job assisting with that. They give visual and written examples of pretty much everything, which may be overkill for some people, but as a guy who doesn't have much experience with traditional card games it was a nice touch. They also put a few key points in sidebar boxes that stand out from the rest of the page, which was very useful through the first few games.
You wouldn't think that a game like this would be good at conveying a strong theme but it pulls it off. Just having the suits be weapons and the player powers accurate to the Arthurian characters would be good enough, but this game also goes the extra mile by including a lot of fluff about Arthurian legends. The first page of the rules just give you a brief history of the setting and every protagonist and companion card is filled with text on the back letting you know what their story is. None of this was necessary for the game but it's really a fantastic touch that adds a lot to the game.
All that you really need to do is deal out a few cards and shuffle some decks so there's not much too it.
I love the art style here. It's very evocative of medieval England and helps with the immersion into the game. I can see some people not enjoying the style but the art itself is great even if you don't like the style. The cards and tokens are all very sturdy and I really like the look of the tarot size cards, however I do have a small complaint here in that the tarot size makes the cards annoying to shuffle. I love the look of them though so it a small complaint. I also feel the need to mention the box. It might sound weird but I was really impressed with the box itself. I have a lot of small box games and most of them have flimsy boxes made of thin cardboard which makes them light and portable at the cost of durability. The box here is made of nice thick cardboard and feels fantastic to hold.
So far I've been really impressed with every Wizkids small box game I've played and Tournament at Camelot is no exception. It plays quick and is easy to teach but still has enough strategy to keep veteran players interested, which is always a tough line to walk. The game looks phenomenal and manages to add a ton of flavor to a type of game that is normally bland as dirt. Everyone I've played this with has loved it and I can see it being a perennial group favorite for a very long time.