The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘To Court the King

Some recent thoughts

I played the actual Shades of Tezla light and darkness scenario. I don’t like the new orc/monster/dragon tokens scattered into the base game (because they make the variability much higher) but in a scenario designed for them, it was fine. But the rulebook font is so small that basically the TaoLing has to read everything for me now. (It was tough to read even when I bought it….)

Played another game of Race: Xeno Invasion (cards only). I should play more Race. Ditto Baseball Highlights:2045.

Apparently Favor of the Pharoah was a gift at a recent game convention, because many locals now have a copy, so I played it a few more times. I think its an improvement over To Court the King, but the setup is a pain.

Reading many new bridge books. Most are on card play, but I did buy Five Card Majors the Scanian Way, and it has many new ideas and a definite philosophy. (‘Scanian’ approximates ‘Scandanavian,’ possibly meaning mainly Swedish. I think.)

Hank and I use transfer bids in competition (transfer advances and after takeout doubles); the Scanians have more including over 1C without competition, which has some proponents in ACBL land and I would play when playing Standard, if any partner wanted to. Scanian also includes switch bids: oftentimes hearts means clubs and vice versa, especially in competition.

There are parts that are likely not legal in ACBL-land (like Multi-) … actually I stared at the new ACBL regs and Multi seems to be legal by the rules but not by the commentary. Also putting 18-19 balanced into the 2C opening. But even if you strip it down to legal, building a system to allow more judgement and multiple ways to bid the same shape and strength (depending on how the HCP are distributed) is intriguing. Also fun are fit jumps (jumps showing the suit bid and a fit with opener’s suit). Of course this is likely for interest only to serious tournament players, and even then most won’t care.

Written by taogaming

November 2, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Ticket to Ride — Team Asia

Played Team Asia today. It’s clever. You and your teammate each get 27 trains, and whenever you draw cards one goes to you and one goes to the community pool. Also, whenever you get tickets one goes to the community pool and you keep the rest if any. So each partner knows about 2/3rds of the tickets you are trying to get, and you can signal (via colors) what you want your partner to do, but (according to the rules) there’s no table talk.

(Of course, the easy way to win is still draw tickets that work together. I got Delhi to (long route to the NE) and Delhi to a Bangalore and I kept one other minor ticket. I put the long route to indicate those were the two major endpoints. And my partner revealed another long E-W route on the northern edge, so both of our ~17 point tickets used 80% of the same track).

I wouldn’t buy it, but I have plenty of TTR. Still, I enjoyed this a lot more than TTR Africa.

Rating — Indifferent+

The highlight of the day — an 8 year old pixie laughing with glee as she slaughtered the assembled adults in King of Tokyo. And that makes 25 plays for KoT. (Also made 75 FTF games of To Court the King)

Written by taogaming

June 14, 2014 at 9:50 pm

To Court the King Strategy Thoughts

My occasional co-blogger should write this, but won’t (for obvious reasons). As always, I’m ‘thinking out loud’ to see what attracts heat and challenges.

There are two types of cards — those that add dice (“dice”) and those that manipulate dice (“Control”). Dice are nice. You need at least seven dice to win; another die is never terrible. But without any control cards, you are at the mercy of your rolls.

Control cards

How many control cards do you need? Well, one possibility is none. Here you get the farmer, a handful of the ‘number’ cards. If you luck into the general, you could try to shoot the king. But it’s risky.

When rolling, have a backup. For example, if you are aiming for a General (six of a kind) and you can take a hunter (4 of a kind) if you miss, then you always get another die. Not bad. This is how I end up with a ‘no control’ board. A few Tier 1 extra dice (farmer, laborer, guard), and now with six dice I try for the General (and ‘fall back’ to the hunter or bishop). This works because the ‘number’ cards (Laborer, Guard, Hunter, Pawnbroker, Knight & Bishop) provide some control. As long as my opening roll matches at least one of those cards, then my matching die provides a free re-roll. (That makes the matching number card the equivalent of the merchant. But each additional number card isn’t another control, since you’ll usually aim for the same number, especially the king. But a nice spread of numbers is worth one control.)

Zero control morphs into ‘one’ when you roll poorly.

Anyway, how many control cards depends on group dynamics, to a certain extent. One more control, means your opponent has an extra die. That’s fine, as they’ll often miss out more often, for one fewer success. That’s a toss-up. Two extra controls means two dice down, and that’s trouble. Risky in a two player game; against four opponents at least one will get lucky.

If everyone gets one control, two can work. (Still, if you are in a group like that, try pushing for zero controls and accepting a fallback ‘one’).

Another tactical aspect is blocking. Sometimes you earn a Knight, but claim a Hunter. The knight is better, but downgrading to block an opponent may be worth it. [Especially in two player.]

One final general rule … Remember what you’ve got (and what’s not available). I often see new players make ‘practice rolls.’ For example, a player with 4-4 locked rolls 3-4-5, locks the four and rolls again (forgetting his philosopher). Often you make the roll anyway, but if you’ve hit your best card, take it. And if you’ve hit a good card and there’s some risk in a re-roll, be wary about improving. Remember, have a fallback.

Specific Cards

The Fool — Ooops. On the other hand, the fool provides (minor) control. Additionally, if the board locks (no more dice), you can take a Charlatan. This matters in larger games, when the king is claimed and no more dice are available. Or the fool lets you make a desperation shot at an important card (often the General) with an extra die fall back. Never aim for the fool, but it’s not a complete death sentence.

The Farmer — An extra die, but no control.

The ‘numbers’ — As mentioned before, they provide some extra control; in the final round a good spread of numbers (without anything else) translates to one reroll. Higher numbers are better. Both for the final roll and for the ‘total’ rolls (pawnbroker, especially). Remember that you can’t pick up these dice until after your come out roll. (BSW gets this wrong).

Serving Maid — The serving maid (add 1-3 to a single die), acts like a mini-astronomer. As long as you are going for a high number, she usually lets you flip one die to the number you need. But not always. On the other hand, she also lets you hit a die you don’t have (to make a straight).

Philosopher — The ability to move pips between two dice works well. If you have this (or the Alchemist) you are better off going for middle numbers, because there are more combinations that let you hit them. When rolling two dice aiming at 4s, 11 combinations have a target number. Of the 25 that don’t you only miss on 1-1, 2-2, 6-6, 1-2, 1-3, 5-6. So you can use the philosopher 60% of the time. If you are aiming at a 6 (or 1), you can only use it 40% of the time.

Astronomer — The astronomer provides a ‘super’ re-roll if you are aiming for N-of-a-kind. You roll until you miss, then you flip a missed die, scoop the rest and re-roll. A minor downside (he can’t lock a new number). The astronomer’s problem is that he only affects one die, and doesn’t combine particularly well. If I get an astronomer, I’m basically hoping for dice the rest of the way out.

Merchant — My least favorite control. Number dice provide a superior re-roll. The merchant is also best when you crap out on a large number of dice, when it’s least likely to happen. When you only have two dice left and miss (more typical) you’d really prefer an astronomer. And with one die left, he’s equal to the fool. I can’t imagine a situation where I’d take the merchant over any non-fool card, if I had a choice.

Noblewoman — The noblewoman is deceptive. I originally preferred the astronomer, but the noblewoman really is better (as she should be, requiring an extra die). The comparison is instructive. First, she turns any dice that are one less than your number into a safe play. If you have roll 3s and have the hunter and guard, you can keep the guard (2) die. If you miss and have an extra 2, you can lock two dice. [You don’t even need the hunter for this situation]. The ability to control parity gives you a safety. As long as you are going for evens, you can always guarantee yourself the philosopher. Each roll, take an even die or, if they are all odd, use the noblewoman. [Granted the philosopher isn’t a great play once you’ve got 5-6 dice; but it’s better than the fool]. You can’t guarantee the serving maid, but it’s close. A noblewoman and six dice often earn a bishop on the opening roll. (Try it. Take a farmer, laborer, guard and noblewoman). The noblewoman combines well with a second control card. With the philosopher (alchemist) you can often force two (three) dice to the same number. And with the nobleman …

Magician — Basically a super-astronomer, but in the endgame he’s no better unless you have a second control card, because he’ll improve your alchemist/philosopher. But that’s about it.

Bishop — The Bishop is a special number card. Since higher numbers matter in the roll-off for the King, having a Bishop is a free re-roll (and locked die). Unless you’ve got a philosopher/alchemist, in which case you may be better off going for the 4s.

The General — Two extra dice is huge. Yes, they could all miss, but often in the endgame you’ll lock all of your dice except the last three or four (because when you are rolling 5+ dice, you are favorite to get at least one of your number. Even at 4 dice its ~50%). If you are aiming for the general when rolling six dice, you aren’t the favorite. But if a guard/hunter/laborer is available you’ll have a safe backup for a 7th die. Without a safe backup, things get interesting. If I get to 4 of a kind and can use my only control for a 5th die, I’ll just grab the bishop and try again next time. With seven dice the general is much easier to get. [Of course, he may be gone]. The other nice aspect of the General is that you’ll be even with dice against opponents who have one less control than you, unless they also have the General.

Alchemist — Like a super philosopher.

Nobleman — Mildly inferior to the noblewoman (He can’t modify 5s, and can’t alter the parity on any dice). However, he does combine amazingly well with his mate for the final showdown. Roll all your dice (keeping any guard, pawnbroker, knight and bishop die on it’s card). If all of your dice show 3-6, use both powers at once to convert everything to sixes and be done.

Queen — The bonus for claiming the King first is an extra die that you can set whenever you use it. That makes this a ‘second’ re-roll (assuming you have the matching number card for the first one). And you go last in the roll-off, and win ties. A great power.


If you are about to get a double-move, you can often play ‘safe.’ But if a card you really need is running out you may have to take it.

One endgame question is when to grab the King (and Queen). The other reasonable choice is to take a General. I think it depends on what you have. If you take the General, assume that the Queen will go next turn. If you have are last (and go next) I’ll usually take the General, then go for the Queen. In that situation, the other players (or some of them) may not have a great move. They may have to take an additional control and be 2-3 dice back. Also, if you made a weak roll for the King (Seven ‘2s’, or so), then the General becomes a better option.

The General Variant

I prefer the variant that makes the General’s dice a different color, and must be locked first. When playing with that, the General is still a good card, but then you often have the decision on the 2nd roll … do you use your control on the General to lock that extra die? I’m not a fanatic on this, I think it pushes the balance a bit closer (but it wasn’t far off in any case). One nice aspect (IMO) is that it makes two controls a viable option, and increases the value of the Merchant. Also, in games without the variant a “General-less” player didn’t seem to win very often.

If playing with the Variant, zero controls becomes much harder to pull off. The extra dice for the General don’t help as much in the early game, because you can’t pick which dice to lock as freely. He’s still worth going for, but you’ll definitely want some control.

Written by taogaming

March 3, 2007 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Strategy

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Another Session…

Played a few more games of To Court the King … and The Princess dug around the closet looking for it. I’ll be playing this often for a while.

I also tried Ruse & Bruise again. This works much better with 3-4 than with 6. More control, and less downtime. A fixed fun game, I guess. I do think that the scoring bonus for getting all categories is a bit much. While it isn’t impossible to win against someone who doubles, it’s unlikely. (Assume that they get the 3 in each category and take two extra cards, thats 34 points. You’d need five ‘5’s and three ‘4s’ to catch them, or a double). I think a flat +5 points would be better. And with less than six players I should reduce the distribution of suits. (Say, six suits of 4-5 cards each, instead of six cards). Fun, mostly mindless.

I broke in my new copy of Stephenson’s Rocket. SR joins the almost-elite group of games I’ve owned, sold, and gotten again. A good game, but one that I can go a few years without playing (I sold it right before my move, if I recall). I could stand to play again fairly soon though, it’s been a while. Solid.

Since the group dwindled to two, Combat Commander was the order of the day. We played Scenario #3, which seems a hard slog for the Axis. The objectives are fixed, and the Russians have a 16 VP objective at the far side of the board. The Germans have to cover ~12 hexes of movement and take it in 8 turns. However, since I had split my forces wily-nily, my opponent just played for the surrender. Luck was on my side, as I won (or drew) several melees where I was the mild underdog. A few quick time advances and it was over. Honestly, we could have called it after turn five … the Germans had lost both leaders and were on the verge of surrendering themselves.

I cannot fathom how people claim CC:E has little to moderate luck (as one geeklist poll on luck shows). It’s just a chaotic system. Much more so than Twilight Struggle. One revision ‘three quick time triggers in an 8 turn game’ is probably average, given the deck composition. I mean, each die roll is a 1/36 shot, and about 1/3rd of the cards are die rolls (that’s a SWAG). Since it’s happened in 3-4 of my 8 games, I’m going to assume I’m not an outlier. I should pay more attention to how many cards are drawn/discarded vs. rolled in a game. That knowledge would help.

So, I won in a cakewalk, but I’m still enjoying the game. Some of the scenarios do seem to be lopsided. But Scenario #3 would make a good teaching scenario (with the Russians as the new player). The objectives all start open and the Russians can play almost all their cards (except for confusion orders) as the scenario defender. And no radios.

We rounded out the day with two quick games of Attika. Still a fine 2-player game.

Written by taogaming

February 26, 2007 at 11:04 pm

To Placate the Princess

We broke out To Court the King on friday night and Jacqui liked it. So when The Prince took his nap, we set it up again. The Princess, who had been about to use the computer, saw us and joined in. With a bit of guidance, she crushed us in the first game.

We played four games, and Princess wanted to keep playing. Honestly, TCtK is a touch beyond her (I have to point out some plays here and there) but she has a legitimate shot to win (unless she gets too few dice). But I think she’ll pick it up if she keeps playing.

So your bright 7-8 year olds may be able to handle this. And the younger set seem to enjoy helping The King and Queen roll the dice, even after waking up cranky.

And I still prefer weakening the General variant, not just because he’s strong but because I feel it gives more variety to the game (by increasing the value of control cards).

Written by taogaming

February 25, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Here I Stand, et al.

Today I got in another game of Here I Stand. Since only I had played before (and that was 8 months ago), the rules were … shaky. I had re-read the rules several times (recently) and most of them are nicely laid out, but still. There are many rules. Protestants get 2VP per Electorate post Schmalkaldic League (oops).

The big rule I missed was that the reformers (and catholic debaters) all have special powers that can be used during religious actions. [To be fair, I played England last game, it never came up]. The rules for that took me a long time to find, even when I was sure they existed. This does deal with one of my criticisms … the papacy and protestant actions are more decisions than just spending CP and throwing dice. The real choice is when to commit. I think 90 minute turns are going to be the norm for three player games (since you have to juggle two powers), so I don’t suspect you gain as much as I’d hoped. (I suspect 60-75 minutes will be normal with six, although diplomacy will make that vary).

We (again) started at the 1517 scenario and got four turns done. It took 5 hours, plus some setup and cleanup. [We had to end the game after four turns]. On the fourth turn three powers had a shot at winning, and I controlled two of them. Needless to say, I lost.

Having played two quick games, I’m still intrigued and hope to get in one more game before New Years.

We tried Mag Blast, a simple little “Take that” game of space fleets. You know something, I enjoyed it. Quick, simple, fun. No great decisions, but amusing. Played twice. I also sampled King’s Gate, which was fine. Similar to Samurai (King’s Gate is by Reiner), it improves on some aspects but adds a ’56 Chevy full of chrome. Rounding out FFG’s silver line, we played the tedious Arena Maximus.

I pitched a few games of Tumblin Dice, and got in a few games of Um Krone und Kragen, which looked fine (albeit one bad die in the game). You know, I’m becoming more convinced that we should play with my General Variant.

And I closed out with a game of LotR — The Confrontation.

A nice day of gaming. Ain’t vacation grand?

Written by taogaming

December 19, 2006 at 12:31 am

Um Krone und Kragen & robustness

I just thought I’d mention I’m playing uKuK (“Uck-Uck”) on BSW time these days. That I’m playing it at all (online) impresses me. After all, my first game took 30 minutes, as compared to 5-10 minutes (for two player). The GUI routinely thwarts my plans. (I think I’ve figured out the Alchemist, finally).

But now that the game takes 10-15 minutes, the “Online penalty” isn’t bad. Granted, most games are faster online, but there you have it.

I’ve played about 25 games now (half online), I still have the gut feeling that “Racing to the Feldherr” still works, but I’ve started to win a few games where I don’t get it, and lose a few where I do. I can’t admit that the game is balanced (otherwise I’d have to give up my Game Critic’s card), but it’s not just a race. I’m certainly going to get this when it shows up.

Does BSW have all of the rules right? I thought that you couldn’t take the Ritter/Bischof dice (etc) and roll them on the first roll? But I got rules wrong on this all the time. uKuK is a remarkably robust game, in wrong details wrong seem to the gameplay. I suppose ‘fault tolerant’ might be better.

A fair number of games are fault tolerant (at least to the level of mistakes I seem to be making … no major rules wrong, but minor details), but a fair number of games seem to just fall apart. Of course, now that I’m typing this I can’t think of them offhand, but I distinctly remember being on both sides of the following conversation:

“I don’t like Game X”
“Why not?”
“Oh, it’s too simple. You just Flarf the Garnax.”
“You do know you can only Flarf once per turn?”

I’ve played uKuK under at least three sets of rules (an initial set, another set after asking Tom some questions, and the BSW set) and it works reasonably well in all three.

Just in case you think the Feldherr is too powerful (and I’m sympathetic to that), here’s the “Feldherr reduction variant”

The Feldherr’s two dice are a different color (you’ll need two more dice for this). You must set aside at least one Feldherr die on the first roll.

Written by taogaming

May 27, 2006 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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New Titles in unfair nutshells …

… since I don’t have time for a full review.

  • Time’s Square — Fun tug-of-war where you sometimes push the rope. Part of the Kosmos 2-player line, by Knizia. Suprisingly strong theme, at least for me. Review later.
  • Jumpin Monkeys — Fling things. Leaping Monkey Style! Something to cleanse the palate before …
  • Thurm und Taxis — Played again, won handily with the ‘play five routes and end the game’. Inoffensive game, but I suspect that strategy executed efficiently will dominate. Others have had the same thought, tested it, and found otherwise.
  • Um Krone und Kragen — I like Tom’s new dice game (which I had saw several years ago) and have played ~10 times. Not with the right rules, mind you.
  • Guns ‘N Cash — Another palate cleanser, oozing theme. And styrofoam guns.
  • Blue Moon City — We hit an endgame problem, which seems odd for a Knizia. Perhaps it works if everyone’s at the same level. On the other hand, I have no strong urge to play again.

More later? Probably not. I’ll start writing full reviews after I get home and recover. (I’ll also look over my notes, which I don’t have with me).

Written by taogaming

April 15, 2006 at 9:00 am

Greetings from Lovely Colombus

And the answer is — yes, they do have a business center! Anyway, it’s hours aren’t as convenient as I’d like (closed from 11pm to 6am? What gives?), so I’ll keep this brief.

Played my first game of Hacienda, which seemed fine. There are apparently multiple rule-sets (basic, advanced, and it sounds like plenty of options that people can mix and match … possibly at their peril). Anyway, played the basic game and it seemed fine. I’d like to try it again, but I wonder if this game isn’t fundamentally too Tikal-like for my long term tastes. Arguing for Tikal is the three action points per turn, arguing against is card and money management. I think that the cards (and cash) move this game far enough away from Tikal-ness for my tastes. But I liked all of those games well enough after one play, too.

Played two games of Roma (with a variant rule). It’s a nice, short- to middlin- game. Players take turns rolling three dice, and have a card (building or character) that they’ve assigned to each number, some numbers being empty. You spend dice activating those cards, or earning money, or drawing cards, but you can only keep one card per turn.

You lose a VP for each number you don’t have covered, but many of the cards force your opponent to remove their cards. You win when either player runs out of VP or the bank breaks (most VP wins). Seemed nice, although I have plenty of short games. One hint for future game designers. When you have the reference section of cards that explain all their semi-obscure symbols: Alphabetical order.

I know, I know, random order seemed like a good idea at the time. But trust me.

Another dice game — Um Krage or Kronen (that’s not exact). Her you start with three dice, and have to roll certain combinations to get you more people. For example, a roll of a pair gets the bauer, a total of 15+ gets the schnitzengruben, etc. These people provide powers (like more dice and dice manipulation). These let you get better people (like the guy you need a five of a kind to get). Eventually someone gets the king (who needs 7 of a kind). Then you enter an elimination round where you are just trying to make the best X-of a kind, and whoever makes it wins.

Krage is a mid-length game. Perhaps 30-45 minutes. Although with fewer players (we played five) it comes down I imagine.

And, of course, I played that game I won’t mention. Three times. And Caylus. And even a quick game of Twilight Struggle.

If you want a full report, Rick Thornquist is typing next to me. He was here when I got in. He’s still here now that I’ve finished published. So I guess he has more to say. And pictures!

Written by taogaming

April 9, 2006 at 8:57 am

A Trendsetter? Who, me?

I received my copies of Um Krone und Kragen (which some of you have played in prototype form as Royal Advancement) last week.  Amigo has, on the whole, done a very nice job.  Those cards are certainly thick!

But, it’s not my intention to shill.  I do have a point.  Afterwards, I did a quick search of the web and ran across this comment in Naturelich’s 2005 boardgame retrospective: “Amigo has shown us how to create pre-release awareness by letting us participate in the game creation process of Royal Advancement. Even the final game title was determined by the online community: it will be Um Krone und Kragen.  I think this is a very good example of how online awareness can be created for a boardgame.  In the future, a game that wants to be successful (in the long run) requires a decent online-marketing budget and an excellent reception in the community.”

I knew what we were doing (I contributed a series of articles on the game’s design for use in this marketing effort) was new for Amigo, but I didn’t realize that it was so unusual for the German boardgame industry as a whole!

Written by taogaming

January 31, 2006 at 9:20 pm

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with