Review: For the Crown 2nd Edition – chess with a touch of deckbuilding
The war between white and black came to the next stage. Technology is evolving and it’s not only archers, knights and rooks defending the king and queen. Options of your general are much greater and facilities has grown. Within the walls of the castle are barracks, blacksmith producing armor, soldier academy, but also support from a range of combat and non-combat units. There is a mysterious spy, sniper, night rider, but even a mysterious fortune teller, whose powers nobody knows. All they have only one goal in their mind. Beat the other side and finally dominate this checkered kingdom.
Head of this army in the decisive battle is none other, than you. But on the other side of the battlefield, there will definitely be similarly capable general and it is only on the game For the Crown 2nd Edition to decide the whole dispute. Game began to sound even more interesting to us from the moment, when we learned that its author is Jeremy Lennert, designer of cooperative game Darkest Night (review). And while second edition was published in 2012, its original idea preceded heroic saga mentioned.
Publisher of the game is Victory Point Games, a company, that is recently really attacking our tables with the influx of new and novel games. This time game took helping hand from illustrators Barry Pike III and Daniel Taylor.
Like all other new games from Victory Point Games, it arrives in a box wrapeed around in a cardboard case. From this pocket, you pull a drawer – box itself containing all the necessary components.
First in line is the game board, that includes space so faithfully known to all lovers of chess. Black and white checkered plan, measuring eight by eight boxes with marked place for a king. But it continues even beyond these square boxes, because whole board is rectangle, longer and contains game help and especially identifies three areas, you will use in the game. There are barracks, drawing and discard pile.
Seemingly the most important are sheets with units for punching out. There is quite respectable 123 of them inside the box and represent 24 different types of units, that can take part in a fight. Each piece of unit includes its name and an two-sided image – one side is tinged with blue, the other is done in yellow. Its color depends on side of the conflict, which will recruit it to its ranks. On the left side, there is on the edge a shadowed symbol indicating category of the unit.
But we must also emphasize, that these pieces are not just of any kind. In case you do not know the previous works from Victory Point Games, you will be probably surprised, that all these tokens are laser cut from soft and light material. That provides interesting and really unique touch and look. Associated with them is only one small drawback – you will get a little dirty and even the enclosed napkin will not help you enough.
One hundred and fifty cards brings you to a variety of skills. Without them, you would be powerless, and this means cards are the main property, which is going to help you in this struggle. It serves as a support of units, that you have on the board, but also for recruiting and more. They are not so scanty on information as the actual pieces. It includes a card’s name and also price in gold you have to pay to have it.
Under the initial line, there is a kind of rolled scroll with secret information. You will learn, which unit does the card belong to and what it allows you to do. It usually shows some kind of movement around the board. Beneath it is possible other second effect, which will help you in many ways. And underneath, there is second value in gold coins, that will be added by this card to your pocket in purchase phase.
For the Crown 2nd Edition could be described as a kind of Domichess (Chessminion). It is therefore clear, that players get their starting deck (like in Dominon), which in this case consists of six characters of peons and four guards. These cards are shuffled and create resulting drawing deck. You draw the initial five cards out of it. This is your starting hand.
Each game will offer a total of fourteen decks of cards. Four of them are basic (used in all games) and include champion, clergy, tower and consort. Remaining ten are randomly selected or you can use, for example in your first game cards recommended by the author (list can be found in the rulebook) in the white box, that represents notes not essential for playing. Each player takes one King, puts it with his color on specified space on the board. All other units are starting a game in the common stock, from where you’ll be able to buy them later on.
Players alternate in turns, with each one composing of several activities. At the beginning of your turn, you can perform actions, move and attack with your units. But because you do not have any (besides King) in your possession at start, you will not have much more to play with, so let’s see first, how you get more units on the board.
In the second phase of the turn (action phase), you can play any card from your hand to activate its effect. This card goes to your discard pile and you will be able to use it again later. But if you want to take a unit, you must sacrifice a card. Only this way you get a character, that is at the top on the card. In order to be able to think twice, you can clearly see units abilities printed directly on this card. If you decide to recruit a unit, simply take the appropriate token from common stock and place it into barracks on your side of the board. It will wait there, until you send it into the fray.
The actual turn begins always with orders, you can give to your troops. You can move them and attack enemies. In addition, there is finally a chance to send units from your barracks directly into combat. You can deploy them to any position in the first row on the board. But you can choose only one of these steps each round, so if you decide to strengthen the army, you will not have the option of movement and vice versa.
Every soldier moves little bit differently, like in real chess. This greatly varies the power and use of each of them. Hero jumps into an elongated L like a knight, Dragoon is a cross between a king and knight, while Gryphon moves one square diagonally and only after that flies in straight line in one of the selected directions. Moving to spot, where enemy unit is located means you attack. Such a unit is captured and moved back into common stock.
Only after these two stages comes a chance to buy a new card from the menu of fourteen decks. Each card has a value in its upper right corner and you must pay for it by playing cards (only those, you have previously not used for anything else).
At the end of turn, rest of unused cards from your hand is put on discard pile and you draw a new hand from drawing deck. If it goes empty, you shuffle discard and make a new draw pile. But that’s, what we already know by heart.
Game continues with recruiting new units, moving and capturing them as long as a player does not lose all his sovereign units. Indeed, you can have more of them, not only the king, but also an Anointed. At that moment, second side of the conflict immediately becomes winner of the battle..
For the Crown offers tactical chess spectacle, enriched with a pinch of luck and above all a great deal of variability. According to some players we tried this with, this is exactly, what classical archaic game needed. But there are also many opponents, who are strongly opposed, because it is an interference with their beloved game and centuries of unchanging rules.
You will have to think twice to use cards from your hand during the game. You only have a limited number of actions and a large offer to choose from. It is not easy to make decisions and have clearly planned tactics for several moves ahead. But you need it, if you want to succeed. Game is providing many paths to victory in every match and it’s only up to you to decide, which to use.
Really interesting element of the game are the barracks, where you first have to recruit and train your units. Only from here, you can send them into battle, which adds new tough decisions. But not only will it make bringing new pieces to board more difficult, but also reduces impact of what cards are you really holding.
Due to the number of units in the game, it is not easy to keep track of all the possible moves on the board. Sometimes you can catch your opponent by surprise or the other way around. This difficulty is compensated by option to have more royal troops on the board, which will delay loss in the event of an error. And it is very good, because one mistake does not make you a winner or loser in here.
With the number of different cards and soldiers, there is related also one distinct advantage. Each match is, due to randomly assigned deck of ten cards, completely different. You can buy only units, that are allowed with cards, so you’re a little limited. In addition to a gain of new army unit, you must discard a card, which is often a touch decision. But the generals must always be able to work with what they have available.
Dominion influence works surprisingly well in the game and it does not interfere with tactical battle on board in any way. The actual movements is always integral part of turn and cards only offer ways of expanding and improving them. Well, here we encounter a difficulty, that there are cards allowing double movement. Such attacks are almost undefendable and can fully turn over balance of a game. These cards seem too strong for us and we chose to play without them.
Game time is kept within reasonable limits, while length of the game can vary a lot. Sometimes you can settle everything in half of an hour, another battle can takes hour or more. This depends entirely on the players, who sit opposite to each other and enjoy the tactical combat. Ability to plan is just as vital as instinct and you should not take much time to think in your turn.
Graphic is simple and is based on symbols, just like the classic chess. It fits quite well to the nature of the game itself. Cards contain clear informations about their abilities. After punching out pieces for the first time, you should pay attention to them and carefully wipe the counters, where dust remains after laser cutting. We recommend this activity to be repeated before each match, because tokens tend to get your hands dirty. And you need to move them around each turn.
For the Crown is an excellent mix between two popular games. It takes more from the chess side, so you would have to think a lot. But also luck enters the game with Dominion side and above all a lot more options, so you can not figure things out completely to the last dot, as in the classic game. And here is, where your paths will part. If you like chess, but do not mind, that someone transforms it into something totally different, then you will have great fun with For the Crown. But if you enjoy chess just like it is and cling to traditions, then you better keep away from this game.
Review: For the Crown 2nd Edition – chess with a touch of deckbuilding
For the Crown: 2nd Edition tells a story, about fantastical beings invading a fairytale world of chess. Two generals are now on a brink of battle, they will be buying cards and with their help recruiting the best warriors of all types, sending them into a checkquered arena. Game connects basic principles of deckbuilding, where players are drawing five cards each round and play them for their skills. But this time, its not only activation or buying, because cards offer also other usage – units recruitment. Players move these troops into their barracks and only then can send them out on the battlefield. Match offers lots of options and variability for two rivals, everytime with a little different experience. Generally its a more demanding abstract game, when it comes to thinking and imagination of future turns. This is also reason, why game requires more time to play, because an even match can last about an hour. Just as with chess, it can also end very prematurely. Simplicity and accessability of mechanics makes it a great choice for less experienced players and all openminded chess players. Its only a shame, that those laser cut pieces are getting your hands dirty. For the Crown offers excellent and well elaborated mix of deck composition with units on the battlefield.