“Rest easy. Take your time. It is not going matter whether you walk out of that door now or in a few days. It wont change anything and to be honest, you’ll need you strength for the path ahead. The king is dead, or gone, or missing. He’s not here, heh. The sound you hear quietly on the breeze, the slight taste of iron in the air, that my friend is the sound of the inevitable struggles making their way here. So rest easy and take your time, for heavy lies the head that wears The Old King’s Crown.”
The Old King’s Crown is an asymmetrical part area control, part deck building strategy game where the aim of the game is to garner the most influence to win.
You can break the Old King’s Crown down into some very basic steps. Each of the main turns in a round is named after one of the seasons, starting with Spring where you’ll place your main Herald piece on one of the Region board sections, followed by Summer where you’ll place cards and and companies to bolster your campaigning, Autumn where you’ll resolve each of the locations in turn and the winner claims rewards locations. Finally to Winter where The Great Road is resolved in an auction bidding style, and Kingdom cards will be added to your player boards to boost your future actions and potential tactics. Hands are refreshed at the beginning of each year, while the entire set up is refreshed at the end of the year, with Heralds and companies being removed for the board. The game continues until the winner is declared. All very simple and straight forward. heh.
The above short break down is kind of true, but it gives the impression that players are all coming from the same place of power and resources. You’re all being dealt the same cheese sandwich and working from there. The truth is much more layered and intricate. You’ve all got a cheese sandwich, but the player opposite’s bread is sourdough, while the cheese on yours is a Red Leicester, and the player between you has a small dollop of coleslaw on theirs. As you play, each of the differences you’ll have available will give you advantages in certain match ups. While they don’t necessarily drastically change how you’ll play when compared to the likes of Root, you’ll find switching between factions will have its own learning curve that will push you early on to have your favourites. It pushes a level of nuance into the game and demands you pay attention as you play.
The Old King’s Crown has a lot going on, from the player boards with their own set of tactics to the various rewards you’ll be fighting for in the Regions. What starts off as a basic game of control, soon splinters across the entire table, as you race to take The Court, or harness cards from your sites of power, use the powers from the collaborator disks, or simply try to balance keeping enough of your company in operation, while making sure you aren’t reducing your hand size through attrition at the beginning of each round. As the seasons turn you can take timed actions that become available to you, that will hopefully give you an advantage when it comes to claiming the regions. Even at this point I feel like I’m giving you the briefest of overviews of the game and I haven’t really gone into detail on how it plays at any length.
Depending on the number of players, you’ll either be trying to reach 20 points of influence for 2 player games, or 15 for 3 to 4 players.
I’ve been keeping an eye on this game since I first saw it a couple of years ago at Tabletop Scotland and for a game that is meant to be in prototype form, its difficult not to confuse it with a final product copy. Everything from the card thickness to the player boards already screams high quality at you. The illustrations on the main region boards and player cards are exceptional. It’s not a stretch to claim that this is one of the most beautiful games that I’ve seen this year, with the art style reminding me very much of the classic Laputa anime. If I have any concerns, it would be on the size and contrast on the text boxes for some of the cards, as those with multiple actions require a study instead of a quick glance to understand what they mean and the flavour text takes up more box space than the actions they offer. the main Region board is a lot clearer and easily understood. Be wary when you have The Old King’s Crown set up for the full compliment of four players, then this takes up a reasonable amount of table space and depending where you are seated, you might find yourself have to do some standing up to check the various places you’ll be able to play. It looks stunning on the table.
The Old King’s Crown rulebook should be ‘rulebooks’. It reminds me of Root, in that the enemy of the game wasn’t the birds or the vagabond, but the way the game was taught that caused a few to bounce away from the forest. TOKC suffers from being a game that has a large number of intricacies and levels on how the game progresses through the round and therefore how you manage to impart that information on a new player. On first reading of the rulebook, you are left feeling slightly tired before you move a Herald or place a card as there is so much to take in, that you might feel slightly overwhelmed. I get the impression that this game has been taught normally with a designer or experienced player on hand to guide you through the first couple of moves and get you on the right track. I must admit that when I was first learning I tried to do so completely blind and ended up being stuck on something quite basic. That situation where you read the same sentence seven times and it ends up just being a nonsense that you can’t untangle. It would benefit greatly with individual guide sheets for each faction. So just like on Crescent Moon or even Wingspan, there’s a specific guide, using certain cards to help you understand you own aims and take you through what a typical turn is going to look like for your faction. The main rulebook suffers slightly because the game has so many layers, which is by no means a terrible thing. So take this as a warning rather than a slight against the decisions made. As a game where things aren’t finalised, I hope things will change to make the teach more manageable.
The Old King’s Crown will easily take up a couple of hours of your time and depending on the pace in which you play and the number of players will dictate whether this is something you spend a full afternoon on. The set up is actually fairly quick in terms of lay out and card organisation. So even in its most daunting days, you won’t get tired just by setting the thing up.
While I use the sandwich analogy to explain the subtleties in the different offerings of the factions, let me continue by saying that The Old King’s Crown is more like a chunky sandwich that a crunchy brain burning multi mechanic Euro style game. This is very much to its benefit. It will come as no surprise upon reading the acknowledgements in the rulebook that Leder Games were thanked for their support and their involvement, as this game is very much an appreciation to what that important design company has brought to the table with their range of titles. However, I cannot stress enough that this is very clearly Pablo Clark’s vision and design with influences as opposed to a Leder title wearing a different coloured hat. When I first saw TOKC a few years ago in Tabletop Scotland it made me stop and stare, and having now spent some time with it I can say that from what I’ve seen, I’m very excited to how it continues to play out. It is going to be a game that will demand your time in terms of multiple play throughs. I’m not currently convinced that you would find out what the game has to offer after four or five different plays such are the subtle ways in which the different factions play out. So while it doesn’t demand a campaign from you like Oath, you would be denying yourself the chance to play an extremely unique take on area control and hand management. It is going to suffer slightly the same way that Root does in terms of getting new players up to speed and completely comfortable in their individual roles. There’s a lot to like here, from the sites of power, to the control of Kingdom cards, to the strengths and abilities of each of the factions that introduce layers of meta. I’ve been struggling in the last year or so to see a crowdfunding game that creates some genuine excitement and actually deserves the hyperbole from real unpaid ‘critics’. You’re potentially going to see some glowing previews about this game, with some sliding in phrases like ‘potential classic’ ‘your new favourite Root’. I can tell you now that The Old King’s Crown is a robust, thoughtful and interesting game, and this crown isn’t dull and tarnished. This Old King’s Crown shines.
Being first player isn’t always the advantage you think it might be so sometimes it makes more sense to hang back and decide what order the regions resolve in.
This preview is based on the prototype version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this preview. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned. Quotations from this preview may possibly appear in relation to any marketing associated with this game.
If you would like to support more content on the blog then please consider backing us on Patreon. www.patreon.com/werenotwizards