Kings' Struggle Review - by WizKids
Quick Glance: Kings’ Struggle – WizKids
Game Type: Card Game
Number of Players: 3-6
Mechanics: Negotiation, Set Collection, Trick-Taking
Introduction/Overview: Kings’ Struggle, designed by Robert Burke, is a negotiation game masquerading as a set collection/trick-taking card game. There will be wheeling and dealing, and almost inevitable back-stabbing. You had better really like your friends before sitting down to the table for this one.
Gameplay: A game of Kings’ Struggle last 7 turns. On each turn, players will choose 1 card from their hand to play. If your are the first player, you must play your card face up “tipping your hand” to the other players. Everyone else chooses a card and puts it face down. Those cards are then flipped face up. This is when the chaos begins.
In turn, each player executes the action on their card. If someone has played a card with a “Negotiate” action, then all players can bargain with that person. You can bargain money/points/promises of future actions...pretty much anything in game except for changing the turn order or changing cards (although there’s one character that even allows that). The catch to all this negotiation is that if part of the bargain can’t be resolved immediately, it’s not binding. So, if on my turn Chris agrees to put his +5 token on my character when it’s his turn to act in exchange for 2 gold. I have to pay him the gold now, but I just have to trust Chris to follow through on his turn.
After each player has had a chance to play their card, the totals of the cards in play are compared. Any and all cards that share a value are discarded! Then, the player with the highest valued card wins the trick (unless a card ability says otherwise). They collect all the cards that were played, and set them aside in a pile.
After 7 rounds, the game ends. Each gold is worth 1 point. Then each card you’ve collected is either put into a Power set, or a run. Long runs have the highest point potential, but getting several sets of the same value card is also a valid strategy, but only in 5-6 player games as with 3-4 players, there aren’t enough of each card to score very well.
Rulebook: Thorough almost to a fault. There are nearly 2 full pages in the rules about what kind of deals are binding and non-binding. Trying to read through this section the first time turned my brain to mush. Luckily, in a more basic sense all the examples boil down to: “You can make the deal you want, but only the parts you can finish now are binding.” There are a couple other limitations, but for the most part you are able to negotiate for whatever you want in order to have things go your way each turn.
Theme: Pretty much non-existent. There’s not even some made-up back story in the rules about what the king’s struggle is. Is there a peasant uprising in the offing? Are there neighboring kings looking to do a land grab? Does he have an unhappy home life? What is the struggle?
Set-Up/Takedown: It’s a card game where each player only has a 10-card deck. The hardest part of set-up is deciding to play Day or Night Mode. In Day Mode, everyone starts with their entire 10 card deck so it’s slightly easier to attempt to read your opponent’s potential plays. In Night Mode, players blindly discard 2 cards from their decks before the game starts. Leading to far more randomness, and less strategy.
Components: The stand out part of this game is the art by Weberson Santiago & Luis Francisco. It has a very stylized, angular look that I quite enjoy. The cards and tokens are of good quality. Overall, a very solid production.
Solo-Play: If I had multiple personalities, maybe.
Final Thoughts: Kings’ Struggle is for people that enjoy games like Diplomacy, but don’t have several hours to sit in a room and yell at each other until nobody wants to talk to each other anymore. I’ve enjoyed a few negotiation games in the past (Sheriff of Nottingham and Cosmic Encounter in particular). The non-binding aspect of future action negotiations in this game really turned me off. Also, I can’t help feeling like the scoring in this game is tacked on. This game is about negotiating...set collecting is just a by-product. I can see groups that will absolutely love this for a quick, stab each other in the back style game. I give originality points for the idea of mixing genres like this. For my tastes it’s just not a game I would want to play very often.