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As a game store owner, I spend a lot of my time looking through distributor sites looking for games that my customers may have missed or not found yet. Sometimes when I’m researching reviews and such, I’ll discover one that gets me excited enough to grab a demo copy. That’s how I discovered For Crown & Kingdom, designed by Dave Mansell and published by Rio Grande Games in 2016.

RELATED: My Tabletop Game To-Do List For 2017

For Crown & Kingdom can handle 2-4 players and takes probably 10-15 minutes per player. I played a two player game and it took 25 minutes. The heirless monarch is dying, and players are the dukes and duchesses trying to gain the throne by being the first to earn support from all the provinces in the land. In the 2 player game the board consists of 6 provinces and in the 3-4 player game it is 9 and 12, respectively. Each player has five characters to move around the board (Duke/Duchess, Thief, Scholar, Knight, and Merchant). Each character has a special ability that may be activated after they are moved. Players take turns during set up placing one of their characters on the board until all characters are placed. Each player gets two coins, and the game begins.

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On a turn, a player can do 3 things, in this order: Bribe, Move, Activate. Moving is easy. You simply move the chosen character clockwise by the number of spaces equal to how many characters are on its space. So if the Scholar starts the turn on a space that has two other character tokens, she must move three spaces clockwise. After moving, the character’s special ability must be used. The Scholar’s ability is to perform whatever the space she lands on indicates (return an imprisoned character to the board, remove another players support token from this province, etc). The Knight imprisons another character, the Merchant earns coins from the bank, the Thief steals coins from another player, and the Duke/Duchess is how you score your support in a province. On a player’s turn, if the Duke/Duchess ends its movement on a province where that player has the most characters, then a support token is earned for that space. When a player has a token in each province at any time, they immediately win the game.

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Understanding moving and activating makes the bribing mechanism easy to understand. Before moving, a player can spend a number of coins to break the rules once that turn – (move counterclockwise, move less spaces than normal, place an imprisoned character back on the board, immediately use a character’s ability, or even have the Duke/Duchess score on this turn without having a majority). The bribes add more strategic opportunities in a game that is quite rich with strategy already.

And that is what I enjoyed most about For Crown & Kingdom. For a game with such easy setup and basic rules, there are some excellent choices to be made. The game requires you to pay attention to the opponent’s pieces and think ahead. For instance, if you see that your opponent has enough money to free an imprisoned character, you might wish to steal from him on this turn. Keeping an opponent’s Duke off the board makes it impossible for him to score any support, obviously placing him at a disadvantage. There is ample give and take between players and I felt like I always needed to be slightly ahead of my opponent in planning in order to have a real shot at winning.

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The character pieces are solid wood and double sided (male and female) and the board is pretty enough, though nothing spectacular. There are no dice and no cards, which is also kind of cool. There is no luck at all involved in the game. I really enjoyed the brain stimulation For Crown & Kingdom provided. I think it might be interesting with 3 players and possibly too tedious with 4 players due to having to keep track of 20 characters on the board. For now, I think this one will be at the top of my 2 player suggestions, because it provided just the right amount of game for 30 minutes or less.

There you have it. If you want some good, old fashioned strategy in a pretty package, check out For Crown & Kingdom. I really liked it a lot. What would I give for crown and kingdom? Two thumbs up, that’s what!

Thanks for reading and keep on nerding on.

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