Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 12 and up
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 90 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Hand/Resource Management
- Worker Placement & Area Control
- Child – Moderate
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Lift civilization out of the Dark Ages, one Peasant at a time
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek mixed!
- Child Geek rejected!
The Dark Ages were a time of war and sickness. As the economy and trade declined, so did the intellectual exchange of ideas. Civilizations became separated and closed off, defending themselves the best they could from raiders and other hostile forces. In the midst of these dark times, abbeys became hubs of a more civilized existence. Trade and prosperity was common, which often drew unwanted attention. You are tasked to improve your abbey and defend it. All the while, the world grows ever darker beyond your walls.
The King’s Abbey, designed by Randy Rathert and currently published by the Game Crafter, is comprised of 4 Player Aid cards, 4 Player boards, 4 Player pawns (in 4 different colors), 1 Starting Player meeple, 1 Darkness tracking pawn (used to track the Darkness, not attack it), 40 Monks that are represented by standard six-sided dice (in 4 different colors, 10 per color), 60 Peasants that are represented by wooden cubes (in 4 different colors, 15 per color), 4 Clergy Training cubes, 25, Wood resource tokens, 25 Grain resource tokens, 20 Stone resource tokens, 15 Sand resource tokens, 8 Tool Bag resource tokens, 8 Wagon resource tokens, 43 Build cards, 4 Altars that are represented by wooden cylinders (in 4 different colors), 4 Abbey Defense tracking cubes (in 4 different colors), 18 Crusade cards, 18 Event cards, 24 Tower cards (in 4 different colors and 4 different types), 50 Coins, 6 Resource Initiative tokens, 8 Trade tokens (in 4 different colors, 2 per color), 4 Shield tokens, 4 Vikings that are represented by standard black six-sided dice, 20 Wall sticks (in 4 different colors, 5 per color), and 1 Main game board. That’s a lot of components and believe me when I say we used a lot of sandwich bags to keep everything in order. As this is a review of the game’s prototype, we will not comment on the component quality. The illustrations by artist Anna Talanova do a good job of complementing and further reinforcing the game’s theme and underlining narrative.
Game Set Up
To set up the game, first place the Main game board in the middle of the playing area and hand each player 1 Player board. Every player will be playing to their own Player board and using the Main game board during the game. Any Player boards not given to a player should be returned to the game box.
Second, take the resource tokens and place them on their designated areas on the Main game board. Wood resource tokens go in the forest area, Grain resource tokens go on the field area, the Stone resource tokens go on the mountain area, the Sand resource tokens go on the sand pit area, and the Coins go on the Center Market area.
Third, place the Darkness tracking pawn on the bottom most “3” space on the Darkness track found on the Main game board. See “Game Variants” for details on how to make the game more difficult.
Fourth, take the Resource Initiative tokens, randomize them, and then place them in a single stack face-down on the Initiative Resource pile area found on the Main game board. For the duration of the game, this stack of is referred to as the Initiative draw pile.
Fifth, give each player 1 Wagon resource token, 1 Player pawn, 16 Peasants that match the Player pawn color (1 of the cubes should be the larger than the other 15), 1 Tool Bag resource token,2 “Battlements” Tower card, 2 “Gate Towers” Tower cards, 1 “Chapel” Tower card, 1 “Bell Tower” Tower card, and 1 Altar that matches their Player pawn color. Then give each player 4 Coins, 1 Wood resource token, 1 Grain resource token, and 1 Stone resource token.
Sixth, each player takes 1 small Peasant cube and places it on their lower left most “Pew” space found on their Player board. Then each player places 1 Clergy Training cube off to the lower right most “Friar” space of their Clergy Training area found on their Player board. Essentially, the Clergy Training cube is off the track at the moment.
Seventh, each player is given 9 standard six-sided dice that match their Player pawn color, leaving 1 die to the side for the moment which only comes into play when the player successfully builds and activates the Monk’s Quarters. Then each player takes their 1 large Peasant die and places it on their “Shield” square space (which is meant to represent the value of “1”) on their Abbey Defense track found on their Player board.
Eighth, take the Building cards and remove the “Starting” Building cards. Randomize these cards and deal 1 to each player. These cards are placed on the “King’s Abbey” rectangle space on the Player board, face-up. One Peasant cube is then placed on the “Starting” Building card’s top-right corner, indicating a Peasant is activating it. Players should all take a moment to read their “Starting” Building card’s special ability.
Ninth, take the remaining Building cards, shuffle them, and make 2 roughly even face-down Building draw piles on the “Building Market” area found on the Main game board. Draw 3 Building cards from each pile and place them face-down on the designated spaces in the “Building Market” area, starting at the space that is closest to the draw piles and moving down.
Tenth, shuffle the Crusade cards and randomly deal 1 to each player. Players place their Crusade card face-up next to their Player board, while the remaining Crusade cards are placed face-down on the “Crusade” space on the Main game board.
Eleventh, shuffle the Event cards and separate them into 3 different types. The types are “Disaster, “Viking”, and “Year of Plenty”. After making a pile for all 3 types, shuffle the piles and deal 2 “Year of Plenty”, 2 “Disaster” and “3 Viking” cards face-down. Shuffle this pile and place it face-down in the “Event” space found on the Main game board. The remaining Event cards can be placed back in the game box. See “Game Variants” for details on how to make the game more difficult or easy.
Twelfth, place the remaining pieces not mentioned yet off to one side and at the ready for when the game calls for them.
That’s it for game set up. Have each player roll 2 dice. The player with the lowest rolled value takes the Starting Player token, places their Player pawn on the “5” space found on the Prestige track that encompasses the border of the Main game board. In turn order sequence (going clockwise around the table starting with the player to the Starting Player’s left), each player places their Player pawn on the next highest number on the Prestige track.
Time to rescue mankind from the Dark Ages!
The Game’s Components
The King’s Abbey has a lot of pieces. They are all used and important, but the level of importance will vary depending on a player’s strategy. Here is a summary of the most prominent game components which should help make the game play a bit easier to understand.
The Main Game Board
The Main game board holds all the resources, cards, and tracks the growing Darkness, as well as individual player’s Prestige points. Everything to be purchased, concerned about, and feared can be found on this game board which is why it’s placed in the middle of the gaming area.
The Player Board
Each player has their own Player board. Game components from the player’s supply and taken from the Main game board will eventually find their way here. Players build to their Player board throughout the entire game by improving their Abbey’s defenses by using Tower cards and Wall pieces, as well as training Peasants and their Clergy. It might help you to view the Player board as the player’s war room where all the plans will be made and resource will be allocated.
Thematically, the dice in the game represent Monks who are going about completing tasks and bossing people around. Sometimes the dice value is used and other times only the number of dice are counted. Each die is a resource to be used and assigned, but how much they can provide – or even help – changes each round. The dice are, by far, visually the most boring component in the game, but they tend to be the base from which all things are built. Monks will fight for you, teach, build, lead, and go on Crusades. They are pretty awesome and limited. Use them wisely.
The Building and Tower Cards
A player can build up to 7 buildings that will provide the player with Prestige points, defense, and other additional abilities. Each player starts with a Building card at the beginning of the game. From then on, the players must purchase Building cards.
The Tower cards are very similar to the Building cards, but are specifically used to defend and reinforce the player’s Abbey and everything within its walls. Unlike the Building cards, the Tower cards are placed next to the Abbey on Tower spaces found on the Player board. Like the Building cards, the players will need to build them using their Peasant workforce. However, once built, they provide perches for Archers and other notable Abbey improvements that could turn a building of faith into a small castle ready to defend itself.
The Event Cards
Events can change a player’s plans for the round and reveal new opportunities for advancement. Or just be a slap in the face. There are 3 types of Event cards. The “Year of Plenty” and “Disaster” Event cards impact all the players and are resolved when drawn. The “Viking” Event card brings all the players together to defeat a common foe. The “Viking” Event card also offers players an opportunity to demonstrate their bravery and earn a lot of Prestige points.
The Crusade Cards
In a faraway land, glory and adventure can be found for brave knights. Mounting an expedition and supporting these knights is not cheap and the outcome is uncertain. Players can sponsor a Crusade by providing their own resources upfront. The benefits of doing so provide the player with resources and Prestige points. However, if the Crusade fails, the player will be penalized. Luckily, players can ask for assistance from their opponents, sharing the spoils of the Crusade together.
Walls, Coins, Resources, and Peasants
There are a number of other game components that should be mentioned and play an important role in helping the player attempt to win. The Wall pieces are used to improve the defense of the player’s Abbey, but their construction takes resources. The resources in the game include Grain, Wood, Stone, and Sand. These materials are all necessary to build, grow, and flourish. Coins are a special kind of resource that give the player the ability to buy and trade when the markets would otherwise not allow it. Finally, the Peasants are the workforce of the player. They are used to build, defend, and improve the land. Without their help, the player cannot hope to succeed. Their help, however, is not immediate and players must move them through their Abbey and send them out the door before they can help.
Out of the Darkness
Note: The game play for The King’s Abbey is rather involved and the rule book does an excellent job of describing what each phase and action is focused on. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we will only summarize game play here and encourage you to read the freely available rule book to learn more if you want additional information.
The King’s Abbey is played in 7 rounds. Each round consists of 12 distinct phases. A typical game round and its phases are summarized here.
Phase 1: Roll Dice
Each player starts with 9 dice with a chance to collect all 10 of their dice during the course of the game if they can manage their resources correctly. Thematically, the dice represent the Monks who will help the player manage the local peasantry, go on crusades, direct the collection of resources, and if need be, defend the Abbey from invaders. Yes, life in the clergy was downright diverse and dangerous.
After the players roll their dice, they are kept in front of them until assigned.
Phase 2: Draw 1 Event Card
The Starting Player now draws the top-most Event card and reads it out loud. If this is the first round and the “Viking” Event card is drawn, it’s placed at the bottom of the Event draw pile and a new Event card is drawn. All players must follow the instructions on the Event card and the effects of the Event card remain for the duration of the round.
When the “Viking” Event card is drawn, the 4 Viking black dice are rolled and placed on the “Viking” Event card, unless you are playing a 2-player game, in which case only 3 Viking dice are rolled. The dice values are placed so the highest is located at the top-most column space and the next highest directly below that and so on.
Going in turn order sequence, each player must place 1 or more of their Monk dice on the “Viking” Event card that matches one of the Viking dice values. Failure to do so will penalize the player 1 Prestige point, 1 Peasant cube is placed on the top-most column for the players, and they take no further actions during this phase of the game. However, for every Monk die a player uses to match a Viking die, the player received +1 Prestige point.
After every player has had 1 opportunity to place 1 or more Monk dice to the “Viking” Event card, it’s time to determine if the Viking raiders were driven off or their pillaging went unhindered. If there are more Peasant cubes than Monk dice, each player loses 1 built Building or Tower of their choice, with any resources attached to it returning to their respective supply pile. If there are more Monks than Peasant cubes, the Vikings have been defeated and the player with the most Monk dice receives +3 Prestige points. Regardless of the outcome, the “Viking” Event card remains in play until the end of the round, locking any dice and cubes placed on it.
Phase 3: The Abbey and the Crusades
In turn order sequence, each player now places their remaining Monk dice to their Abbey or they can send them on a Crusade. Players are never required to use all their dice, but they cannot move the dice once they are set. Any dice used in previous phases are not considered available.
Train the Clergy
At the start of the game, each player was given 1 Clergy Training cube that was placed in their Abbey. As the game progresses, the player can improve the education and ability of their clergy (essentially “leveling them up”) by spending up to 3 dice with values between “4” and “6”. These dice are placed next to the Clergy Training area and the Clergy Training cube is moved one space up the current column until it hits the top. At which point the Clergy Training cube continues its journey by going to the very bottom of the next column to the left. Whenever a player hits the top of one of the Clergy Training columns, they get a bonus. Bonuses include extra Peasant movement, additional resources, and better defenses. The bonus is immediately recorded. The four clergy levels are Friar, Deacon, Bishop, and Priest.
Improve Abbey Defenses
All players have a base Abbey defense of “1′ (defense is noted by Shield symbols). Improving the defenses of the Abbey can be done by building an Altar, Walls, or adding Archers to towers during the Build phase of the game. Or, if the player likes, they can take any Monk die rolled and add it above and to the right of their Abbey Defense tracking cube. Each die added this way increases the Abbey’s defense by +1, albeit temporary.
Players can use their dice to complete the dice placement requirements for Crusade cards. For example, “4 of a Kind”, which could be any 4 dice with the same rolled value. Completing Crusades earns the player resources that can be used during the round and Prestige points that are kept hidden until the end of the game. Players who do not complete Crusades will be penalized Prestige points at the end of the game. If help is needed to complete a Crusade, a player can ask another opponent to provide Monk dice. A deal must be stuck between the players on how the Crusade rewards should be split.
A player can take back all the dice and cubes on uncompleted Crusade card at the start of a new round. Doing so resets the Crusade card, but all dice and cubes return to the player’s supply for use. Completing a Crusade card returns the Monk dice back to the player to roll, but the Peasant cube is returned to the Abbey and placed in an empty Pew space. Completed Crusade cards are flipped over and remain face-down until the end of the game.
Players start the game with 1 Crusade card, but are never forced to draw anymore. Crusades are a risk and one more focus area for the player to possibly obtain Prestige points. However, like everything else in the game, completing the task will take resources and there isn’t a lot of time. A player can always draw more Crusade cards, but risk penalizing themselves if they reach too far.
Phase 4: Building
Beginning with the Starting Player and continuing in turn order sequence, each player can now select 1 of the Building cards in the Building Market space by paying the purchase price in Coins. When the last player in the turn order sequence selects their Building card, they immediately can select a second. The turn order is then reversed, with each player selecting their second Building card. This continues until the Starting Player selects their second Building card.
Players are never forced to buy a Building card and may pass on their turn if they like. Once a player passes, they cannot buy a Building card for the duration of the round.
Purchased Building cards are placed in the owning player’s supply, waiting to be built. A maximum of 7 Building cards can be built during the game, but the player is always welcome to buy more than 7 Building cards in total. However, any Building cards not built at the end of the game will penalize the player’s total Prestige points.
Phase 5: Resources and Initiative
Beginning with the Starting Player and continuing in turn order sequence, players now place their Monk dice on the “”Wood”, “Grain”, “Stone”, and “Sand” Resource spaces, as well as the Initiative space. The players are using their dice to collect necessary resources for building and to lock in their turn order position.
A player can only play 1 of their die to the top 4 spaces for the resources. However, there are bonus spaces available if the player elects to place 2 dice on their turn instead of 1. This option is only available if the bonus space has not been taken by another opponent.
The total number of resources the player will receive is equal to the total value of the numbers on the player’s dice divided by the number next to the Resource space (we rounded up so players always received at least 1 resource).
A player can obtain a lot of resources during this phase, but players should collect their bounty with caution. During the end of the round, no player is allowed more than 3 resources of each type. There is no such limit for Coins, however.
If resources are not needed a player can focus on initiative. By placing one of their dice under the Initiative space on the Main game board, the player can take the top Resource Initiative token from the stack. At the end of the round, they take back their die and become the next round’s Starting Player.
Phase 6: Move Those Peasants
Peasants start at the back of the Pew spaces in the player’s Abbey and move forward. When they are at the very front, they can be moved to the Baptistery space which is a launching point to move the Peasant to buildings. Each player is given 1 Peasant move which means the player can move 1 of their Peasants 1 space. Peasants must move into a free space, which means they cannot leapfrog over each other and skip a space in the process. Moving a Peasant from the front Pew to the Baptistery is considered a free move, but only 1 Peasant cube can occupy a space at a time.
From the Baptistery space, the player can lift their Peasant and place it on any inactive and built building or tower to make that card active. Moving a Peasant from the Baptistery to a Building card is also considered a free move. By placing a Peasant on a building or a tower, the player gains the card’s special ability for the duration of the game for as long as the Peasant remains.
Phase 7: Building and Training
The players will have an opportunity to collect the blueprints for buildings, towers, altars, and walls. During this phase, the player will put their workforce to use and build, as well as train their local peasantry to be more than just pitchfork wielding automatons.
Beginning with the Starting Player and continuing in turn order sequence, each player builds whatever they can or wants using their collected cards. Resources and money will be used to construct buildings and to train peasants into archers.
To pay for a building, players simply turn in the required resources and coins listed on the Building card they purchased earlier and currently resides in their supply. Then the player places it on their Player board. Prestige is earned and recorded immediately. Any Peasants sitting on the Baptistery space can immediately move to the newly built Building, as well.
Other than assigning Monks to defend the wall, players can place Peasants as Archers. For 5 Coins, any 1 Peasant in the Pews or on the Baptistery can be turned into an Archer and placed on a “Battlement” or “Gate” Tower. Each Archer provides the defense value listed on the card.
Walls can be built and placed around the periphery of the player’s Abbey for 1 “Stone” resource each. There are total of 5 Wall sections on the Player board. A completed Wall gives the player more defense and an additional +8 Prestige points.
If players do not have enough resources, they are given 2 trades per game. Players can build up to 2 of the same building in the same space for a bonus (improving the building, basically).
Phase 8: Harvest
The Harvest phase is completed in 3 steps. Each are summarized here.
Step 1: Lambing
As in “the birthing of lambs”. If any player has built the “Sheep Farm” Building that has a Peasant cube on it, they collect 1 Sheep. Sheep are tracked by taking 1 of the player’s Peasant cubes in the supply and placing it on the Sheep Farm. Yes, the Peasant just became a sheep. Mmmagic! A total of 5 polymorphed Peasants can be housed on a Sheep Farm at a time. Lambing will not occur if the Sheep Farm has only 1 or fewer Sheep located on it. See what the game designer did there?
Step 2: Gardening
If the player has a “Garden” Building with a toiling Peasant cube plowing the earth, they collect 1 Grain for every 3 Grain they currently have.
Step 3: Peasant Feeding
Players must now feed their Peasants. The amount of food they require is based on the current Peasant population in the Abbey. In a strange and horrific twist of fate, the sheep that were once peasants can be slaughtered to feed the other peasants. If no sheep are available to butcher, grain can also be used.
Failure to feed the peasants will cause them to be removed (i.e. “die”) and returned to the player’s supply. Removed Peasant cubes must come from the Pews, Buildings, and Towers. The player will also lose Prestige points.
Phase 9: Attack the Darkenss
There is no real “darkness” to attack in this game. Rather, the darkness is used as a metaphor for the famine, attacking raiders, ignorance, sickness, diseases, and all the other wonderful things that were prevalent during the Dark Ages. It is, in short, chaos and it’s a real threat to the player’s attempt to create a civilization behind their protective Abbey walls.
There is a Darkness level that must be matched or beaten by every player. The current Darkness level is noted on the Darkness track found on the Main game board. Each player now calculates their total defense value and compares it to the current Darkness level.
If the player has a total defense less than the Darkness level, they lose 1 Peasant and 2 Prestige point for each Darkness level they did not match. Like starving their peasants, the player can determine where they pull their Peasant cubes from.
After each player resolves their defense against the Darkness, the Darkness level increases by +1. The Darkness, you see, grows ever darker. Dark, darker, darkest, and so on.
Phase 10: Collect Income (i.e. Tax Time!)
Players now count the total number of Peasant cubes they have in their Pews, Baptistery, Buildings, and Towers. For each Peasant cube counted, the player collects 1 Coin.
Phase 11: Crusade Rewards and New Crusades
A player is given 1 Crusade card at the start of the game, which means the player is required to at least finish 1 Crusade during the game or risks losing Prestige points. At the cost of 1 Coin, players can buy a new Crusade card in turn order sequence. Players can attempt to complete a total of 2 active (face-up) Crusades at the same time during the game.
If a Crusade has been completed, the rewards for doing so are now collected. If an opponent assisted, the rewards are split per the arrangement made by the players. If Prestige points were promised, they are not collected until the end of the game.
Phase 12: Reset
Now the round comes to an end, but a bit of cleanup and maintenance is required. Players can do the following in turn order sequence or all at once. I suggest you do it in turn order sequence for your first game.
First, the player who took the Initiative space during phase 5 now takes the Starting Player meeple or it remains with the current Starting Player if no other player took the Initiative space.
Second, all players now collect their dice from their Player boards, completed Crusades, “Viking” Event cards, and any currently located on the Main game board.
Third, any Building cards still remaining in the Building Market are discarded and new Building cards are drawn to replenish the Building Market in full.
Fourth, each player must now look at how many Sand, Wood, Stone, and Grain resources they have. If a player has more than 3 of any of those resources they now have an opportunity to trade it in for Coin or return it to the resource supply on the Main game board. A player is never required to reduce their total number of Coins during this phase. In fact, the more Coins the player has, the better off they are.
Fifth, all the Trade tokens are now reset unless ending the 7th round. In which case, players should now skip to final scoring.
This completes a game round. The next round now begins starting with phase 1 noted above.
Victory Over Darkness
The players have done it! They have survived plagues, ignorance, and violence, but only one player will win the game. At the end of the 7th round, and after all the players have completed their final trades, Prestige points are counted. Players now flip over their completed Crusade cards and add the Prestige points earned to their total. If Prestige points were shared as part of a bargain to assist in completing the Crusade, they are now divided up and added to the players’ total. Additionally, two other sources of Prestige points are possible.
- Each surviving Sheep is worth 2 Prestige points (they are not turned back into Peasants, however)
- Inspect buildings and building duplicates for possible additional Prestige points
Now players determine how many Prestige points they are penalized. Subtract the listed Prestige points from the player’s total from any Building cards that were not built and Crusades that were not completed.
The player with the most Prestige wins the game!
I found the game to be well-balanced and challenging right out of the box and so did many of our players. If you find the game too challenging or not challenging enough, you can adjust the game’s overall difficulty as follows.
Not So Much Dark As Poorly Lit Ages
For an easier game, reduce the number of “Viking” Event cards or remove them completely. To make it even easier, only play with the “Year of Plenty” Event cards. Better yet, give each player 3 starting Peasants in their Pews before round 1.
Gads! Where Did the Sun Go? It’s Crazy Dark!
For a more difficult game, replace one “Year of Plenty” Event card with a “Viking” Event card. If you like being punched repeatedly, only use the “Disaster” and “Viking” Event cards for 7 rounds of pain. You can also adjust the Darkness track initial level value at the start of the game by placing it on the second “3” space value directly above the first and lowest “3”.
To learn more about The King’s Abbey, visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign.
All but the most experienced and patient of our Child Geeks were able to play and last through an entire game of The King’s Abbey. This is a game that requires players to think a lot about what they will be doing now, a bit later in the round, and in the rounds to come. Games like this can be difficult for younger and inexperienced players due to what is perceived as an overwhelming number of choices. The older Child Geeks have had experience with games like The King’s Abbey and knew that the best way to go about their first game was to simply learn and connect the dots. For those Child Geeks who looked at their first game as their only opportunity to play it, the found their game playing experience to be very stressful. According to one overly stressed Child Geek, “I hate this game. I don’t know how to make points. Look how far behind I am and I can’t even finish my Crusade!” In the game’s defense, he refused help and wanted to go about playing the game his “own way”, which is both brave and foolhardy. Another Child Geek said, “This is a tough game. I like what it’s about and can see how things work, but I have a hard time with the Peasants.” The Child Geek makes a good point. The Peasant cubes can be tricky to grasp at first if the player doesn’t understand that the Pews are nothing more than a type of ladder. Peasants climb “forward” until they can be baptized and sent off by the Abbey to do work for the church and the king. Thematically, it makes sense. Visually, it can be difficult to grasp at first, especially when the Clergy Training cube goes in the opposite direction. The growing Darkness was also found to be a real gut punch for all the Child Geeks, with the most skilled being able to defend against its growing strength, but the majority of Child Geeks being overwhelmed. In the end, the moderate level of learning the game, its complex critical thinking, and abundant choices were too much for the majority of the Child Geeks, resulting in a rejections from our younger geeky generation.
The Parent Geeks fall into two subtypes. The first subtype consists of casual and non-gamers who enjoy lighter games that provide more entertainment than challenge. This group includes moms, dads, and grandparents who are still learning about games and all they have to offer. The second subtype consists of more advanced players who seldom have the time to play bigger and more complex games. If you live in a house with kids, you know full well how little time the adults have as they chase their children around, getting them to school, picking them up, feeding them, and putting them to bed, while at the same time juggling their own jobs. This subtype is fully capable of playing games Gamer Geek’s enjoy, but lack an elitist attitude.
Where am I going with this?
Simply put, the Parent Geeks who liked more complex games and were able to make the time to play loved The King’s Abbey. The Parent Geeks who enjoyed more casual games did not. According to one casual gamer Parent Geek, “I understand how to play this game, but it feels too heavy to me. I just want to play the game and enjoy the company of those around me. I feel like I am spending too much time focusing in on the game instead of the players.” A more advanced gamer Parent Geek said, “This is an excellent game. Took 1 round to learn how to play it and every game we’ve played since is different. This is a game I can buy and will always know that it will provide a new challenge. That’s a good buy and a good game.” When all the votes were in, the Parent Geeks were split. The more casual Parent Geeks rejected The King’s Abbey and the more advanced gamer Parent Geeks gave it their full approval.
The Gamer Geeks listened to the rules, walked through the first round, and then sprinted. None of our Gamer Geeks found the game to be difficult to grasp, but none of our Gamer Geeks found The King’s Abbey to be an easy game to win. According to one Gamer Geek, “This game has an excellent mix of randomness, planning, building, and resource collecting. I think there is something for every gamer here.” Another Gamer Geek said, “I keep wondering what I should focus on. Sometimes the game makes it obvious and other times it’s completely ambiguous. Makes it difficult to plan for everything, but I guess that’s part of the challenge.” Yes, it is. The Gamer Geeks felt that the game was too big to completely wrap their arms around, but never once did they suggest it was too much to manage. As one Gamer Geek put it, “You can’t focus on everything. The game is like a big stove. You have to put some of your plans on the back burner and hope that you can get back to them before they burn.” The Gamer Geeks found The King’s Abbey to be a challenging game, full of lots of interesting strategies and tactics to consider. They would play it again and then again, which is perhaps the best indicator that a game is enjoyed by gaming elitists. Not surprisingly, the Gamer Geeks voted to approve The King’s Abbey.
The King’s Abbey is a gamer’s game, but within a casual gamer’s grasp. The different phases of the game rounds are easy to follow, logical, and help build the game’s tension. What some players may not like is that you cannot plan for everything. Random events will occur and new challenges will suddenly block you. There will be times when there seem to be unlimited options and other times where there might only be 2 or 3 viable paths to travel. I will say this: money rules all. If you are able to stash away enough Coin, you can weather any storm.
I really liked The King’s Abbey. I didn’t find it difficult to understand, but I did find it challenging to play. Each game is different which makes it tricky to learn from past experience. Luck does play a role in this game, but it’s a very small role. Luck can be trumped by good planning, but there is no way to plan for every contingency. You will get hit, you will suffer loses, and there will be times when you feel hindered. But this is not a game about doing big things. This is a game about survival, tenacity, small steps, and triumphing despite the odds. The final factor that determines who wins is total Prestige points.There are many different ways to earn Prestige, which gives players alternate means to achieve their goals when their plans become spoiled. Which is a very good things, since there are many ways to lose Prestige points, too.
Player interaction is minimal, except for fending off Vikings and completing Crusade cards. According to one Gamer Geek, “I really like what the Crusade cards are about. To me, the Crusades are like the Ticket to Ride Destination Ticket cards. They are worth points if you finish them, but will hurt you if you don’t. This extra bit of game play for points on the side really makes me happy.” Unlike Ticket to Ride, players can help players. This opens up a whole new opportunity for opponents to work together, resulting in some cooperative play.
Our Gamer Geeks found The King’s Abbey to be entertaining and challenging, while our more casual, younger, and non-gamers found it to be tedious and frustrating. The King’s Abbey is unapologetic throughout. This is not a game you play once and fully understand. Your first game will be different than your second, which will be different from your third, and so on. This means there is something new to learn and be challenged by each time you play. If this game sounds interesting to you, do make the time to attack the darkness.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.