At it’s heart Dynasties is a simultaneous selection game. You take over china via a little duel of cards … there are 5 provinces, 9 turns and scoring after 3, 6 and 9. (Each province gets a marker at the start of the game that shows how much it’s worth each time). Both players place a card for each province … the higher card adds the differences in armies (or removes the differences in armies … each province only has one army).
There’s a neat idea — armies are (somewhat) tight, and the player losing (with fewer armies) picks the order of resolution. If you win, you must place armies, and if your reserves run out, you must steal them from another region.
Another good idea — the 1-6 cards recycle, but the 6 card can only be used once per province … and it costs you one reserve army per use. The more powerful cards are one shots.
For an abstract, I like it. It’s really a 2 player Adel Verpflichtect. But … it needs development. Too many of the one shot cards are unanswerable. You can play a +1, which means your card is one more than your opponent. Where’s the fun in that? If you are up a few armies, you play that, and even if they play the +2 (which costs an army permanently) you win the province. What’s the point of a guessing game when one selection will always win?
You may find high level Rock Paper Scissors stupid, but it exists and kids all over the world play it (or some variant). Nobody plays Rock, Paper, Paper.
It would be nice if all the card had a counter or two. For example, if the 3 card cancelled the +1, it would be a risk. The 4 could cancel the plague. Etc. There wouldn’t be that many rules.
So I wanted to like Dynasties, but during the scoring round, I could see unstoppable plays in provinces. Ho hum. You could argue that means that you should have goals in the penultimate round (“If I get to +2, I’m unstoppable … if he gets to +1, I have no defense against X”) but that doesn’t peak my interest. I want this to be fast.
Also, I think you start with a few too many armies. (21 for 5 regions and marking permenant losses). Tossing a few into the box from each side would leave more scope for tactical play where you try to sucker your opponent into playing a large number, then go small and watch them overconcentrate (winning one province but losing 2 more). In theory that can happen now, but it doesn’t matter much. If one player has to do that, they’ve got all their armies on the board.
(Actually, if we played a rule wrong and both players added armies to the board, that would probably fix this game. Did we play a rule wrong?).