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  Should cost around €12.00

The ROSE KING is a reprint/republishing of Dirk Henn's game of many years ago (1997) in fact it's a 20 year celebration of a quality 2-player strategy (and luck) game.

The components are 1 Game Board with what looks like a piece of parchment printed on it and overprinted by a grid comprising of 81 squares, one edge of the board shows the Red Rose of Lancashire and the other, opposite edge, carries the White Rose of York, the central edge of the Lancashire side also shows the Royal Crown of England. Each player has four Hero cards specific to their Houses, showing the Red Knight or Blue Knight along with the Rose of the House. There is a single Gold (Yellow) wooden Crown which begins in the centre of the board and is used by players on their turn to mark the space on which they have just placed a Power Token of their House. The Power Tokens number 52 and are double-sided, York on one side and Lancs on the other. There is also a deck of 24 Power Cards which are shuffled and five dealt to each player - these cards determine the spaces on the board where the players can place their Power Tokens - players may have less than five cards available to them but never more than five.

The five Power cards for each player are positioned face up with the Crown on the cards in the same orientation as the Crown on the board. Both players can see all cards and may use what their opponent's hand shows to form their strategy for each turn. The  drawing of new cards can only occur as the player's action for the turn and may not be taken as an action if the player already has five cards in front of them - you cannot take a new card and swap out an old one at any time. The game ends when the last Token is played.

Players have one action per turn and this is from a list of options, Play a Power card (and thus place a Power Token), Draw a Power card (as mentioned previously) or Play a Power card and a Hero card at the same time.

 

Lancashire plays first and as the Red player has five cards in front of them already the only option is to play a Power card and place a Token. From the cards in front of them the player selects one and moves the Wooden Crown from its starting space, at the beginning this is the centre of the board but from then on it is on the last space it was moved to and has to be moved on from there. Part of the Tactics can be to get the Crown into such a position that your opponent's cards don't allow them to move it and your cards allow you to move it. If a player cannot draw a card (they have 5) and they do not have any cards that allow the Crown to be moved to an empty space they may have two possibilities - one is to miss a turn (possibly turns) until the Crown is in such a position that the cards in front of them can move it to an empty space, or they can (if they have a card that lets them) play a card that lets them move the Crown to a space occupied by an opposing piece; to do this they have to play a Hero card at the same time. If they have no Hero cards remaining they cannot take this option.The Action cards are reshuffled when the deck is exhausted, Hero cards are returned to the box when used.

 

The game continues with players trying to connect their pieces orthogonally (ie diagonal placements do not count as connected) into the largest areas possible. At the end of the game the scores are decided by multiplying each players separate areas with each other. This means that if you have a single Token on a space, surrounded by opposing Tokens or not attached to another Token of the same Faction, it is 1x1 = 1 if there are 2 connected Tokens they multiply 2x2 = 4 and progressively if you have a block of 12 Tokens that area scores 12x12 = 144. Every area is multiplied with itself for one side and added up and the result noted, then the value of all the areas of the other side are determined, added up, and a winner determined by comparing the two results.

 

As far as game mechanics go there aren't many. To put a piece on the board you need to play a card that shows the arrow pointing in the correct direction and for the required distance - you have to use each card's distance and direction fully, no "up to's". To flip an opponent's piece over so it shows your Faction you have to play a card with the right direction and distance and also forfeit one of your 4 Hero cards. Once a Token is placed on the board it cannot be taken off, although it can be flipped, that space is constantly occupied throughout the remainder of the game.

The strategy and skill is in how you play your cards, especially your Hero cards; tactics are either forcing your opponent into a space where they cannot move out, thus allowing you to bring more  of your Tokens into play or by using your Hero cards at the right time to force a break in your opponent's areas. For example if your opponent has an area that contains 9 Tokens its value currently stands at 9x9 = 81. If you can split that into a  two areas of 4 tokens each (remember that you will have flipped the joining Token to your faction) then the value of your opponent's areas has drastically reduced down to 32 (4x4=16 twice). As I said before, knowing when and where to use your Hero cards is a major important tactic.

The luck factor comes in with the drawing of the cards - skill outweighs luck but unfortunately luck can prevent the skill factor having a say at times. (as in when you do not have the Action cards to allow you the necessary movement).

Dirk Henn, the author, is well known for his work with Queen Games Company for whom he produced many a fine game. The ROSE KING for Kosmos is one of his best.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015