Reviewed by Herb Levy
KRONE & SCHWERT (CROWN & SWORD) Queen, 2-5 players, 60-90 minutes; $39.95)
Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, best known for his Game of the Year design, Carcassonne (Summer 2001 GA REPORT) revisits Medieval Europe in his new creation, Krone & Schwert (Crown & Sword). However, rather than spending time in the tranquil, pastoral world of Carcassonne, in Krone & Schwert, players are nobles intent on expanding their kingdoms and building cities and cathedrals in a land of unstable and volatile political alliances.
Krone & Schwert comes packed with lots of nice looking components: five gameboard sections showing plains, mountains and forests in square andSpielsituation octagonal spaces, 10 cathedrals and 26 castles, 28 small and 10 large cities, coins (representing victory points), player screens (for keeping victory points hidden) and a deck of Action and Event cards, “People” cards and markers (used to show ownership of territory).
The board sections are placed together to form the “kingdom”. (The number of sections used is the same as the number of players.) The People cards are shuffled and placed face down. The Game Cards (minus the Game End card) are shuffled with players dealt a hand of 4 cards. They also receive 2 vote cards (a Crown and a Sword) which comes into effect later. Now, the board is seeded as players place one of their markers on any empty territory on the board followed by placing another marker on another (but non-adjacent) empty territory so each player starts with control of two areas.
Players are allowed to spend 3 Action Points (AP) on a turn. Options available include build a structure, draw a card, expand your territory, seize an unoccupied territory, attack an enemy held territory, declare a revolt against the King, and play “Incite Revolt” or “Papal Action” cards. (At the beginning of the game, there is no King. The player who is the first to construct a castle AND a cathedral becomes the King.)
It costs 2 AP to build a structure which may be a castle, small city, large city or cathedral. In all cases, you must play the corresponding card from your hand and the space where you are building the structure must be under your control.Karte zum Bau einer Kathedrale WHERE you build your structures are limited. Castles may only be built on mountain spaces, cities on plains and cathedrals only in large cities.
Drawing a card costs 1 AP and is always a good move since there is no hand limit. If an event card is drawn, the event occurs immediately. Events include city scoring (where all players EXCEPT the King get 1 VP for each city they have constructed) and unrest (where 2 People cards are drawn with any swords revealed left in play). Another card is drawn to replace it. (If no King is in play as of yet, the event card is discarded with no effect.)
Expansion of territory requires the play of a card. Card generally indicate whether you can expand into 1 or 2 territories. However, each expansion costs 1 AP. You can also “seize” an unoccupied territory without the use of a card. But this costs 3 AP and ends your turn.
A player may attack an enemy held territory provided that the territory does not contain a structure. For an attack to be successful, the attacker must play cards with a combat strength higher than the number of castles owned by the defending player. The only defense available to the defender is the play of a “Truce” (which calls off the attack) or “Ambush” (which eliminates the highest played attacking card). Each player is limited to only one attack per turn. And, of course, a player may try to revolt against the King.
As Mel Brooks said, “Being the King is good”. In this game, being the King is great – but it also makes you the prime target. As the King, you generate VPs via taxing, earning 1 VP for each of his castles. This is a power the King should always exercise because the downside is relatively slight, all that happens is that one “People” card is drawn. People cards show either a crown or a sword. If a crown, the people are happy and the card is discarded. If a sword, there is unrest. The sword stays in play and counts towards unseating the King should a revolt occur.
At the cost of 1 AP, a player may declare a revolt against the King. That player places his vote card with the Sword face up while the King places his vote card with the Crown face up. All other players secretly and simultaneously choose which side to support by placing their vote cards face DOWN. In addition, all players, King, Rebel and supporters, may commit as many cards from their hands as they wish in support of their cause. All cards are then revealed at once.
Each vote card in support of the king is worth 2 Strength Points; each card supporting the Rebel results in two People cards being turned over and any swords appearing added to any already in play. Cards played in support of each side are also added. The side with the most Strength Points wins. (A tie goes to the King.) If successful, the King gets 2 VPs for EACH of his Cathedrals. Each of his supporters gets 1 VP for their Cathedrals. Should the Rebel usurp the throne, the rebel now becomes the new King. He also gets 2 VPs for each of his cathedrals AND 1 VP for each of his castles. His supporters also get 1 VP for each of their cathedrals. All People cards are then shuffled to make a new draw pile and the top card is revealed.
As Victory Points begin to accumulate, the game nears its end. When a new King is chosen, the new King’s current VP total is revealed. Should it reach a certain amount (10 VP with 2 players up to 25 with 5 players), the Action cards in the discard pile are shuffled into the draw deck with the Game End card shuffled into the last 20 cards of the deck. The game continues until the Game End card is drawn. At that point, the game ends immediately and a final scoring round happens.
All players gets 1 VP for EVERY structure (castle, small city, big city and cathedral). The player (or players) with the largest single territory (consisting of connected spaces) earns a significant 5 VP. The player (or players) with the second largest territory gets 2 VP. Finally, the player who is King at game’s end is rewarded with an additional 5 VP.
The strength of Krone & Schwert lies in the multiplicity of viable strategies. There IS more than one way to win. Unlike many other games of territorial conquest, the emphasis here is on expansion, NOT combat. Attacks against your enemies are an option but NOT an equally attractive option. This tactic is not to be used lightly as cards used in an attack may better be used elsewhere (in peaceful expansion or in support of the King or Rebel, for example). Better to save your strength in moving against a foe to prevent an opponent from claiming VPs for the largest or second largest territories. In our games, we’ve had players manage to build more than their share of those powerful cathedrals and win. (A real possibility since cathedral and other structure building is dependent on drawing the needed cards.) Yet players with fewer cathedrals have also managed to be very competitive – and win – by expanding their kingdoms and choosing the right alliances.
The key here is choosing your sides judiciously. This means trying to get a feel as to who is in the lead, supporting the weakest player to be King and then, when the time is right, snatching the crown – and holding it – by careful card play. Throwing your support to Rebels and the Crown – at the RIGHT time – will keep you in the game. (Choose unwisely and it’s a virtual “off with his head”!)
The biggest knock against the game is not with the game but with the company. Queen continues to ignore the English language market as the rules (and cards) are not in English! Why such a large population of potential customers is ignored is a mystery for another day. Fortunately, English translations are available on the net. (Once again, Boardgamegeek to the rescue [www.boardgamegeek.com])
Krone & Schwert combines territorial expansion with political possibilities. It’s not enough to just grow your kingdom. You have to make sure you are on the “right side” when unrest threatens the throne. This makes for lots of choices and lots of decision making – and makes for a very good game! – – – – – – Herb Levy
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Winter 2003 GA Report Articles