King for a Day Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (designer suggests 12+)
  • For 3 to 5 players
  • About 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading & Writing
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Auctioning, Bidding, & Trading

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • How well you wield power and influence is more important than how long you keep it

Endorsements:

  • Game Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

After generations of war, the leaders of the land have set aside their swords and shields to seek peace. It is decided that one King should rule them all, but who should wield such power and what does it mean to the other leaders? Again, the swords are picked up and the shields made ready, but a wise elder devises a plan to keep the peace and to share the power. It is decided that each day the power of the realm will fall to a new leader and focus would be put on serving the people and not self-interests. This pleased many as there would at least be peace…and opportunity.

King for a Day is a card game comprised of 11 Deal cards, 71 Resource cards (iron, wood, stone, and men), 44 Buildings ((Mill, Mansion, Store, and Fortress), 7 Goods cards , 5 Player Aid cards (double-sided), 15 large coins (representing the value of “5”), 30 small coins (representing the value of “1”), and 1 notepad. Not included, but necessary, is a pen or pencil for every person playing.

What you get with the game (crown and golden scepter not included)

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first separate the  Buildings and Goods cards into separate decks (one deck each representing each Building) and place in the middle of the playing area, face-up (should be five stacks of cards when completed). Shuffle the Resource deck and deal 2 cards to each player, face-down. Note that Resource cards should always kept hidden from other players. Place the Resource deck next to the Buildings and Goods cards. The coins should be placed in a pile to the side and within easy reach of all players.

To each player, pass out a number of coins so that the total value is “12”, 1 Player Aid card, 1 sheet from the notepad (referred to as the “player’s scroll”) to write on, and a pen or pencil. Each player should now put their name on top of their scroll using the title of “King” or “Queen” where appropriate. For example, “King Cyrus the Awesome”.

Randomly select a first-player and give them the Deal deck to be placed in front of that player, face-down. The first-player now draws the top card of the Deal deck and the game begins.

Buildings, Goods, and Resources

King for a Day is an empire building game, of a sort. The players are attempting to build their own cities by harvesting the resources around them and then building and producing goods to become more influential in the land. Some of what the player can build will generate income  (Mansions, Mills, and Stores) while some will not (Fortresses and Goods). Regardless, everything a player builds will count as points at the end of the game.

Of course, one needs to have the correct material on hand to build anything. This is where Resources come into play. Raw materials like iron, wood, stone, and men are needed to build, but gathering the materials and hiring competent workers takes money. A player must balance all of their resources in order to build what they want when they want it.

Let’s Make a Deal

On a player’s turn, they are the “King” or “Queen” for the day. They have absolute power and can assign to other players deals that only the monarch can provide. Unfortunately, this power is short-lived and only remains with the player for the duration of the round, but the deals they make can last the entire game. How they use their power and influence will determine if they are victorious. Along the way, they must also attempt to keep other players happy as well as weak. No easy task when you consider that every round a new King or Queen will be attempting to do the same thing with their own goals in mind.

The player who is now the King or Queen will first draw a Deal card and read it out loud, along with any “suggestions” on what they are looking for.  At this time, all the other players write down what they would be willing to give to the current King or Queen in order to be given that Deal. Note that the Deal must go to another player and cannot be taken by the King or Queen. Such blatant misuse of power is way too visible to be a viable strategy.

When writing to the King or Queen, the other players may offer resources, gold, and even previously won Deal cards. At no time can the players talk to each other and all proposals on the scrolls are kept secret. Once the player has written down their proposal, the King or Queen collects the scrolls and reads them silently, selecting the offer that pleases them the most. The King or Queen will announce the name of the player who will be given the Deal card and whatever was offered on the scroll is exchanged between the two players. The scrolls are returned to their owners and the deal (be it accepted or rejected) is crossed out.

Why care about the Deal cards? Simply put, they are game changers. They allow the person holding them to break the rules that all other players must abide by. This can provide a player with an incredible advantage. Of course, a player must also decide if the Deal is worth it and if they can afford it. Better put, can they afford to let the Deal fall into their opponent’s hands! Add in the fact that the Deal cards are randomized, and each player must constantly evaluate their strategy and tactics as the power base shifts and new opportunities for advancement will suddenly appear and just as quickly be gone! Of course, there is nothing stopping a King or a Queen from quietly suggesting that already played Deal cards would be gladly accepted as payment later on in the game.

The Toils of Leadership

After the Deal card has been assigned, each player will now have a turn to take one action, starting with the player to the left of the King or Queen. Note that Deal cards come into play immediately and can be used by the winning player as soon as possible.

On a player’s turn, the following steps are completed:

  1. Collect Income: if any built Buildings produce income, the player collects that amount now, adding it to their pile of wealth.
  2. Take One Action: one and only one of the following actions can be taken.
    • Gather Resources: the player states the number of Resource cards they will draw and then pays the cost in gold. Drawing only 1 card is free, but drawing up to 4 costs 9 gold.
    • Commission a Building: the player pays the number of resources necessary to build one of the available Building cards, placing discarded Resources into a Resource discard pile and gold back into the pile of unclaimed wealth. Once paid for, the Building card is collected and placed in front of the player. Note that you cannot “make change” with Resource cards, but a player can pay 3 gold to reduce the cost of one resource (wood, iron, or stone) by one (for example, a building that requires 3 iron would only cost 2 iron).
    • Commission Goods: the player can buy one Goods card by paying 6 of any one resource. Like Buildings, only one Goods card can be purchased on the player’s turn and the card is placed in front of the player as soon as it is paid for.
  3. Discard: a player cannot have any more than 10 cards in their hand after completing their action.
  4. End Turn: player announces they have completed their turn and the next player now goes.

Once the player who is the King or Queen for the round completes their turn, the Deal deck is passed to the next player in turn order, identifying them as the new King or Queen. Play continues with the new King or Queen drawing a Deal card as noted above. Once all players have had a chance to be a King or Queen twice (or three times if playing a 3-player game), one final round is completed, but no Deal is made. Once everyone has had their final turn, everyone counts their points.

Winning the Game, Ruler of All

Once all players have completed their final round, every player now counts points. As there is no scoring track, one player will need to record the scores.

Each player should add the total points from the following cards played in front of them.

  • Add the total number of points from all Building cards
  • Add the total number of points from all Goods cards
  • Add any additional points given by Deal cards

Lastly, players are awarded bonus points. If two or more players qualify for the bonus points, then all those players get the points.

  • 5 points to the player who has the most Men in their Resource hand
  • 3 points to the player with the second most Men in their Resource hand (not counting zero)
  • 5 points to the player with most Goods cards
  • 3 points to the player with the most gold
  • 4 points to the player with the most Deal cards (not counted in a 3-player game)

The player who has the most points wins the game.

To learn more about King for a Day and read the complete rules, see the game’s official web site.

Prediction

My oldest little geek has become more and more interested in resource management games. According to him, these games make it feel like he is “doing something” while playing. I can certainly understand and appreciate that comment as resource management games require the player to be much more involved. It is also a great sign that my oldest little geek will one day be more than happy to site down at the table with me and play a 3 to 4 hour game.

But not yet.

He is still learning and his “geek stamina” only allows him to keep focused for an hour with diminishing returns shortly thereafter. That’s why games like King for a Day are going to be a hit with him. They are relatively light but still require the player to be engaged and actively reviewing the table. For my 4-year-old, this game will hold little interest. It is a bit too abstract and a bit too involved for him at this time. He is drawn towards the building and puzzle games, already showing a real talent for visuospatial challenges.

When I presented the game to my oldest little geek, he was rather excited about “building a city” but was cautiously optimistic, as his last experience was something of an emotional rollercoaster. I assured him that this game was going to take less than an hour and was going to be much lighter than some of the more recent worker placement and bidding games we have played. Ever the little geek and a trooper, he agreed to give the game a try.

Teaching the game does not take long. There are only a few actions a player can take and most of the information is visible on the table at all times. The only part of the game that the player must manage is their hand which isn’t that big of problem with a hand size limit of 10 cards. My little geek quickly understood the game, what was expected, and eager to give it a go. He particularly liked the bidding aspect and trying to “win” the Deal cards. So, after answering any other questions he might have, demonstrating a round, and shuffling the cards again to play the game, I asked him his thoughts on King for a Day so far.

“I like it! Easy rules and I like how each player gets to be the king for a round, deciding who gets the Deal card.” ~ Liam (age 7)

Let’s see if King for a Day delivers a royally good time or is quickly usurped by another game.

Final Word

King for a Day does two things right. First off, its game play is very straight forward and easy to learn without being a “dull game” to play. Players must think, must manage, and must always be reviewing their own standing to play the game competitively. Second, the player interaction makes the game into a strange political power struggle as players create  teams and can directly disturb the balance of power at the table, but gain something in return. The end result is a game that feels a little bit bigger than what it really is without pushing its weight down on the players to struggle with. With quick game play and ever shifting points, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the intrigue and possible “under the table” deals being played out right in front of you. What did my opponent pass to the King? Why did the King let that player win the Deal when they are ahead? Just a few of the many questions you’ll be asking yourself during the game.

My little geek greatly enjoyed King for a Day and wanted to play again later that afternoon. The game’s level of player interaction really pleased him and he enjoyed building his city and collecting resources. The simple math and light reading made the game easy and fun. I’m pleased to say he came in second and would have most certainly won if given another round of play.

Parent geeks and Gamer Geeks also enjoyed the game. For the parents, the level of social interaction and light game play was perfect for the family table. The Gamer Geeks immediately recognized its “geek value” and gladly played it through. The level of game complexity increases sharply depending on who you play it with. When I played it with novices and non-gamers, the game was more about building as quickly as possible then trying to skunk the other players. When I played the game with hardcore gamers, every resource uses was a painful decision to be made because one slip up could cost you the game! The sliding scale of competitive difficulty was a wonderful treat.

My oldest little geek writes down his proposal for the Deal card while his younger brother looks on

Gamer Geeks, King for a Day is a resource management empire building game that plays fast and allows for player interaction to influence the game itself. With very little in the way of game bits, the game can be set up and played quickly with up to five players. This makes it a wonderful game to play on-demand, before a heavier game, and a nice way to end the evening. The only thing you need to worry about is what deals your opponents are making and why they are smiling evilly at you.

Parent Geeks, this is a wonderful game to play with the family and friends. Even your non-gamer friends will appreciate King for a Day which just might lead them to even bigger games in the future. The game play is easy and flows effortlessly from one player to the next without feeling formulaic as each round has players silently bidding for special powers. You might very well find yourself strangely engaged as you attempt to outbid and out fox your opponents while leveraging your own power base to obtain victory!

Child Geeks, this is a great game to learn how to play and will lead you down the path to more complicated games. You’ll always know what your opponent’s have built, how much money they have, and what Deal cards they can use, but you’ll never know how many resources they have available to them. This makes is something of a guessing game as you attempt to out bid your opponents while not weakening your own position in the process! You’ll have to think through your moves, but the game moves fast and feels exciting from the very first card to the very last!

King for a Day was a wonderful surprise. When I first reviewed the rules and looked at the cards, I figured the game would be light enough to play with just about everyone but not terribly loved by the Gamer Geek crowd. How wrong I was! Turns out everyone, from Child Geek to Gamer Geek, enjoyed the game and was ready for more. The real magic is the bidding. Whenever you have players directly interacting with each other instead of through the game, it creates a different social experience each and every time. Depending on who you are playing with, the game will be relaxed or downright nasty. AWESOME! Do give King for a Day a good look when you get a chance!

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....
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One Response to King for a Day Game Review

  1. Carl Salminen says:

    Nice write-up! I think I could even get my hack-n-slasher friends to give this a try. They get bored if there aren’t orcs to slay and armies to crush but occasionally, if a game doesn’t take too long, they’ll engage in something like this, especially when there aren’t wood cubes and workers to place and goods to convert.

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