Cutthroat Kingdoms Board Game Review & Overview
I recently had the chance to meet Bryan Merlonghi, game designer and self-proclaimed humanist, for beers and to play his upcoming release from AEG: Cutthroat Kingdoms. We laughed, we cried, we stabbed each other in the back. Cutthroat is a hand-building, area control, negotiation game for up to 6 players that easily scales and with expansions will be able to play many more people. Here's my review. From AEG: "Cutthroat Kingdoms is a social game that brings all the intrigue and betrayal of medieval marriage into your home. Work with or against other players at the table in this completely open negotiation game full of territory control, role-playing, backstabbery and plague." This is one of the most accurate pitches of a game that I have ever read.
In Cutthroat Kingdoms you are the lord or lady of your house, battling for control of territory. This is done with hand-building and hand management. You seize control of territories by positioning different color armies and mercenaries to guard or fight in specific territories represented by a circle of cards in the center of the table. Each house starts with a certain number of personal armies and is strong in a specific color. Turn phase is very simple. We start with drawing an event card, which allows you to collect all income that is owed to you through the territories you occupy. Second, you spend your money, buying mercenary soldiers, hirelings, feast cards or even gems. Hirelings are special characters with unique traits and abilities that add depth to your hand. Next, it's time to take some land. This is done by occupying a vacant land that is adjacent to a land you already occupy. Combat is fairly simple in this game, you must defeat a specific color soldier with the same color in your hand.
For instance if your opponent had out a red, green, and purple solider protecting the land of Stonehold, then you would need to put down those 3 soldiers in that specific order to clear it out. Mercenaries only count as there color when they are first placed but become colorless when guarding a land and can be defeated with any color. If there is a territory in-between the land you currently occupy and the land you want to attack you need to ask permission to pass through. This is where the negotiation kicks in. Any deal can be made during the game with only one general rule: the word 'Yes' is binding, so if you answer 'yeah' or 'sure' you can back out of a deal at the last second with no penalty. This makes for lots of fun and plays a huge role in a lot of peoples' strategy. There are also a couple of other cool mechanics in this game. In the Event deck you will find Event cards. Some, like the Plague, are bad, and some are great, like Wealth, where you gain income from all your owned lands. We also have the Royal Wedding, which is an event that occurs halfway through the game. The Royal Wedding is where you can marry your Royal Heir off to another house to gain allegiance. You are now working as a team to win, including combining your VP. Every lord or lady has a bastard heir, these are shuffled into the hireling deck. You want to find it before your opponents do because if they hold your bastard at the end of the game it's worth half your VP. They've nabbed your secret and are holding him, or her, ransom.
Finally, at the very end of the game, there is a Royal Feast. Players pass feast cards to other players at the table. Be careful because the Feast deck holds poison in it, and your neighbor may be trying to slip it to you. You can combat this by having your tasters try your food for you to make sure it's safe. From the second you see the game you feel the theme. You are taken back to the time of hand-to-hand combat in chainmail, marrying off your children to secure diplomacy and allegiance. Things like the Plague cards and the Royal Feast really help bring a deeper experience. The card art is great, along with the quality. I have seen prototypes for the box, and even the counters, and they also look really awesome. The gameplay is fun, along with negotiations you are constantly involved. This game rewards people for paying attention and planning ahead, as the strategy can get very deep. Personally this is a must-own for me and another hit coming from AEG. I love how social this game is and how easy it is to play in a social environment like a bar or party. A simply great game from an awesome designer, look to pick up your copy in stores in 2017! What's your favorite social game? Tell us in the comments below. Keep gaming Mike H.
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