Crowns Game Review

crowns_top

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 2 players
  • Approximately 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Bluffing and Misdirection
  • Area Control

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Two armies engage each other on the battlefield of honor.

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

When two Kings meet on the battlefield, both sides know that only one crown will survive. After preparing, strategizing, theorizing, and planning, the two Kings meet each other on the field of battle. Their choices both before and during the warfare will determine the winner. One will rise triumphant while the other will fall in defeat.

Crowns, by Sovereign Games, is comprised of 1 game board, 32 red discs, 32 black discs, 2 cloth bags (1 red, 1 black) with draw strings to hold the discs, and 1 large divider card that also doubles up as a player reference for the different army units in the game.

Game Set Up

Note: Prior to your first game, you will be required to apply 64 unit stickers to the discs. While not difficult, it will take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete the task. Plan your first game accordingly.

To set up the game, first unfold and place the game board in the middle of the playing area and in between the two players. Each player should sit across from each other.

Second, have each player take all the discs of one color. The players should take a moment to organize their discs into the different tiers and by unit. Use the large divider card to help identify which unit belongs to which tier.

Third, place the large divider so it separates the game board in half. Players should now complete the rest of the game set up behind the divider and not look at what their opponent is doing.

Fourth, each player now builds their army. A single army is comprised of any combination of 8 Bottom, 4 Mid, and 1 Top-tier units including the Crown for a total of 14 units. We’ll discuss the different units in a moment.

Fifth, players now places their selected units on the game board. The game board is a 9 square by 9 square grid for a total of 81 squares. The board is further divided into two different regions. The first region is the 27 squares (3 rows) in front of each player. This is the player’s home region. The second region is also made up of 27 squares (3 rows) but all the squares are red instead of the uniform tan that is shared across both the players’ home regions. This is no man’s land. Players now place their selected units anywhere in their home region. The only rule that must be followed is that the Crown units must not be placed in a corner and no unit can be initially placed in no man’s land.

Example of one of the many possible ways to build an army and place them

Just one of the many possible ways to build an army and place them

Sixth, and only once each player is done placing their units, the large divider is removed to reveal the full board to all the players. Place the divider to one side for quick reference and remove any remaining discs from the game. Players should also take a quick moment to confirm that their opponent has built their army using the correct number of units.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and begin!

Rank and File

On each disc is an icon that represents a specific unit in the player’s army. Keeping in mind that a player always custom builds their army before each game, the battlefield can look very different each time the game is played. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each unit is imperative to win the battle.

Note that facing counts in this game. The “front” of a disc is noted on the large divider card with dashes and is determined by how the player is looking at. The “front” is always towards their opponent, regardless of how the individual icon is currently rotated on the disc or shown on the divider card.

The Bottom-Tier

The Bottom-tier soldiers are the most abundant and least skilled. They are, never the less, the backbone of any army making up the bulk of the forces.

  • The Pikeman (Shield) moves 1 space either forward or to its left of right. It cannot be captured by an opponents unit from the front, but is vulnerable from all the other directions.
  • The Footman (Single Sword) moves 1 space in any diagonal direction.

The Mid-Tier

The Mid-tier are the professional soldiers and are much better equipped. As a result, they move further and are more effective on the battlefield.

  • The Calvary (Horse) moves up to 3 spaces forward, backwards, left, or right. Because they are mounted, they can continue to move even after engaging and capturing an opponent’s units, but only one unit can be captured per turn.
  • The Man-At-Arms (Double Swords) moves up to 3 spaces diagonally, but after its second movement, it can shift direction for its last move.
  • The Archer (Bow) moves up to 2 spaces and in any direction or can fire to capture an opponent’s unit, but not both. If the Archer is used to capture an opponent’s unit, it can target any unit 1 space directly in front of it or 2 spaces in all directions. The arrow the Archer uses is not blocked by friendly or enemy units as the arrows are shot over them.

The Top-Tier

The Top-tier is the siege equipment. These are large machines of war which are rare on most battlefields. When used, however, they tend to decimate the enemy, but are also the target of many attacks.

  • The Tower (Siege Tower) moves 1 space in any direction or moves 2 spaces directly forward and either forward diagonal. The Tower cannot be captured from the front or either forward diagonal position, which includes attacks from Archers and Ballistas.
  • The Elephant (Elephant Head) moves up to 4 spaces and in any direction. Like the mounted Calvary, the Elephant can continue to move even after engaging and capturing an opponent’s units, but only one unit can be captured per turn.
  • The Ballista moves up to 1 space and in any direction or fires it’s arrow-like bolt, but not both. The Ballista can capture an opponent’s unit by moving on to it or firing at it. If firing, it can target any units 3 spaces directly in front of it or either of its forward positions. Like the Archer, it can fire over friendly and enemy units.

The Crown

The Crown sits heavy on the even heavier armored Lord or Lady who commands the battlefield. Their thick armor makes them poor combatants and slow. As a result, they cannot capture another unit and can only move 1 space in any direction. In truth, they have no business being on the battlefield whatsoever, but when was the last time a General ordered a King or Queen to do anything and kept their head? Exactly…

For Crown and Country

The game is played with each player taking a single turn. On a player’s turn, they select one of their units and move it in accordance to the rules that govern it. Captured units are immediately removed from the game.

Game play continues until one of the endgame conditions are met.

Winning the Game

The game is won several different ways. If any of the following conditions exist during game play, the game immediately ends.

  • If a player has their Crown captured, their opponent wins the game.
  • If a player only has their Crown or their Crown and 1 Bottom-Tier unit on the game board, their opponent wins the game.
  • A player decides to forfeit, in which case their opponent wins the game.
  • A player can declare a draw if their opponent makes the same unit movement 3 or more times in a row resulting in a stalemate, in which case, neither player is the winner or the loser.
  • Both players agree the game is a draw.

To learn more about Crowns, visit the game’s web site or the game’s web page on the Game Crafter. You can also play Crowns online for free against a friend or the computer if you want to “try before you buy”.

Prediction

Crowns is a pretty interesting game. It is played much like Chess, with each unit having a specific and unique variable movement rule. For our players who are familiar with variable movement in games, this won’t be a difficult concept to grasp. Then things get a bit more involved with three interesting twists. First, the army units represented on the discs all have different ways they can attack or be attacked. This is very much like  most miniature combat games today. Some units can attack further than others, are immune to attacks from certain directions, and all have their own limitations and strengths. Second, each player custom builds their army by selecting 13 units to defend their crown and defeat their opponent. Players have an opportunity to tailor their game play in accordance to what they feel comfortable with and what they think their opponent will select. Third, players are given freedom to set up their side of the game board by placing their selected units in different positions and arrangements. This means that every game we will play will be different. That is very, very cool.

For the Child Geeks, I don’t anticipate any issues, but there is a bit of a learning curve. Each unit moves and attacks differently. There are only 9 units in total, however, and the large divider doubles up as an excellent quick player reference sheet that shows how a unit moves and attacks. It might take a game or two for the Child Geeks to feel comfortable, but Crowns is certainly not the most difficult or challenging game they have been asked to learn and play.

I think the Parent Geeks are going to like this one, too. If, nothing else, they will enjoy it if their Child Geeks do. Crowns looks like a very interesting 2-player game that is different every time you play it. That’ll keep the game feeling fresh to the Parent Geeks who might have to play this game a lot. Additionally, if the Parent Geeks have Child Geeks who plays Chess and Checkers with them, they’ll enjoy this new twist that takes a bit from each game to form something new.

The Gamer Geeks are going to be pleasantly surprised by this one. At a glance, it appears to be pretty uninteresting or unique. One need only read the very short rules to quickly see that this is a game that has a lot of strategy, makes use of tactics, and is surprisingly deep in game play as well as challenge. The customization aspect will really appeal to them, as they will be able to create their own armies and tailor them to their own particular strategies and tactics.

Teaching the game to the Child Geeks was surprisingly easy. All I did was demonstrate how the different units moved and then reinforced it by showing the same movement on the large divider. Once I felt confident that the Child Geeks knew how to correctly read the large divider to determine how a specific unit moved and attacked, it was just a matter of getting the game started. I also spent some time talking to the Child Geeks about what made a good “balanced” army, as well as starting position. And so, after some interesting “what if” scenario discussions with my oldest little geek, we set up the game for our first play. While I worked on building my army, I asked my oldest his thoughts on the game so far.

“Really neat. It looks like Checkers, plays like Chess, but feels like a miniature combat game!” ~ Liam (age 8)

An outstanding observation and he is 100% correct. Let’s play the game and see if it is a winner or dies on our table.

Final Word

Crowns both frustrated and enthralled the Child Geeks. Their frustration came from their armies not living up to their expectations. One Child Geek kept telling me, “that’s not how my army was supposed to attack.” When I asked for a deeper explanation, he said he thought his units would “behave” differently in the game. This is most likely the result of the Child Geek not fully understanding how the unit moved and attacked. Regardless of a win or a loss, all the Child Geeks we played it with very much enjoyed the game. They liked how you could customize your army and each game was different. There was a great deal of analysis paralysis, but this is no fault of the game. It does demonstrate, however, the need to ensure that there is enough time set aside in the day to play the game at a leisurely pace so players don’t feel rushed or pushed.

My oldest little geek builds his army while his younger brother helps

My oldest little geek builds his army in secret while his younger brother helps – ignore the Play-Doh

The Parent Geeks also very much enjoyed it. This was especially true for those Parent Geeks who are technically Gamer Geeks, too. They really liked how you could customize the armies, had to build and place them without knowing what your opponent was doing, and all the different ways the game could be played out. Analysis paralysis was just as rampant with the Parent Geeks as it was the Child Geeks, however, and there were some long pauses while players attempted to figure out what they should do next. When the game was over, there was nothing but praise for Crowns and the Parent Geeks thought it was an excellent casual 2-player game that was going to quickly become a big hit on their family gaming table.

The Gamer Geeks were a bit giddy on this one, but to be fair, the Gamer Geeks we tested this game with are also big Chess and miniature players. This was intentional as I wanted to see how Crowns “felt” to Gamer Geeks who were used to creating large miniature armies and spending a lot of brain power thinking several moves ahead to outwit their opponent. Both the Gamer Geeks agreed on two very important points. First, the game was surprisingly deep and allowed for strategy and tactics, but did not overwhelm or crush the players. Second, they wanted more. With only 9 different units, the game became “old hat” to them after they played it 4 times in a row. “I want wizards, thieves, engineers, and whatever else I think would do well on a battlefield!” exclaimed one Gamer Geek. Despite the lack of more units to use and lose on the battlefield, the Gamer Geeks happily approved the game.

Crowns was a real delight and surprise for us. We have played other Chess-like games in the past that made playing Crowns an easy task. For example, Dragon Face, Penguin Soccer, Rise, Treehouse, and Skyvale. But the game also feels a little like Hoplomachus, Homestead, Heroscape, or Zerpang, but on a much smaller and easier to manage scale.

I am very much in agreement with the Gamer Geeks that Crowns needs more. It’s great right out of the box, but after playing it 10 or so times, I’m ready for more variety. Perhaps the game designers will consider an expansion pack. If not, it would be easy enough to create my own. Any game that has you thinking about it well after you have put it away is most certainly worth looking into.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
Tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Crowns Game Review

  1. Jason Glover says:

    Very cool looking game. I have had my eye on it due to the streamlined design and mechanics. It is now on my short list. Thanks again for the great review Cyrus!

  2. Pingback: Crowns is Father Geek Approved! | Sovereign Games

  3. Pingback: Castle Danger Game Review (10th Anniversary Edition) » Father Geek

Leave a Reply