Ring Side Report-Board Game Review Ortus Regni

 

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Product– Ortus Regni

Producer– Jon Sudbury Games

Price– $45 here http://jon-sudbury-games.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/ortus-regni-core-box

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30-60 minutes (2-6 players)

Type-American

Depth-Medium

TL; DR– This is the coffee table game you need! 95%

 

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Basics-Forge your kingdom!  Ortus Regni, “Origin of the Kingdom,” is a two to six player card game of dueling earls fighting to create their own kingdom.  The only way to do that is to be the last man or woman standing.  Each turn, a player can take one action and then has to draw one card.  That’s honestly the whole game, but don’t let that simplicity fool you.  The actions range from declaring battle, starting a joust, using a monk to look at another players hand, sending emissaries to the Vikings, and just playing any card from your hand face down to act as a defense of a location.  Every player starts with one location:  their palace.  From there, cards will give you new locations, such as castles which can start a new location, lands to get more soldiers, churches to get favor in battle, and even markets to get more soldiers from lands.  Other cards can be played from your hand, like vassals and champions, whom you can make lords of your various locations, or intrigue cards that can kill other players’ lords or steal soldiers.  Battles are also very simple, as the attacker sends a number of cards at the defender.  Some of the cards may come from the soldier draw deck and some may be lords of fiefs.  The defender can play cards just like the attacker. Then a card is drawn from the battle deck which randomizes the results of the battle, with results ranging from determine damage as normal to a side may not be damaged in this battle.  The other aspect of the game is the Vikings.  The Vikings represent the wild cards of the game.  Each round, if no player attacks, a black token is placed next to the Viking deck. After eight black tokens are placed near the deck, the Vikings arrive.  Control of the Vikings is determined semi-randomly; influence cubes corresponding to each player are placed in a bag and drawn blindly.    Every player starts with a cube in the Viking bag, but some cards allow you to put extra cubes in the bag.  Whoever’s cube is drawn from the back gets to use the Vikings like a club against other players in battles described like above.  The last area I want to talk about is the joust.  Jousts allow earls to steal land from other players.  A player can use a banner card to cause another player to ante up a piece of property as well as ante up a wagered property of his or her own.  Players then draw two cards from the joust deck and see who makes the better hand with the lord they send to the joust with the winner taking the anted lands.  This isn’t all that complicated a game, but the most interesting part of all this is the fact that the game isn’t played with any rules on the cards!  That’s right; every card is just a gorgeous medieval painting.  If that doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will.

 

Mechanics– Let’s start with the bad before I start heaping praise on this game.  Ortus Regni doesn’t add anything completely new to the card game genre.  It’s got deck building, attacking card bases, different paths to victory, as well as non-player characters that attack other players.  However, what this game does really well is incorporate all those things together.  When I say it doesn’t add anything new, that kind of like saying eggs, flour, butter, and sugar are not really new.  Separate, they are all great things that are done well by others, but together they make an amazing cake.  This is a cake game. Good pieces mixed well together.  It’s not the most revolutionary card game out there, and for some, it won’t kill their Magic addiction.  However, if you want a card game with a single buy in with multiple strategies to exploit, then this is well worth your time and money. 4.5/5

 

Theme-If you’re willing to invest in theme so much you’ll exclude words on your cards to keep players that engaged, you get a five.  It’s just that simple.  However, past the artistic choices in the game, the game does feel like a battle between lords.  It changes on a dime, shifting constantly as intrigue, Vikings, and straight out battles all cause the world to shift as any political landscape would.  While there are points where the writing is on the wall for an individual game, even then a few events like defenders don’t get damaged, or a random draw of the Vikings can change a game’s outcome.  It feels like I’m making good choices as well as walking the luck line.  I don’t feel like I’m cheated when I lose by luck or win by luck.  It’s got that balance down phenomenally. 5/5

 

Instructions– The rules are good, but a few things could help them be great.  First the good.  The rules are well done with lots of spacing, examples, and pictures to help new players learn how to play the game.  This is even complemented by the quick start rules that get players into the action really fast.  However, the rules tend to be a bit long, and the absence of an index really hurts quick look up when you need it most mid-game.  The game is simple enough that after that first, semi painful game where you have to constantly look up the rules over and over again you won’t need anything more complicated than the quick rules.  Adding an index would make that first game a little smoother, and make future trips to the rules move even faster.  However, overall the rules do a good job, but need a few tweaks to be excellent. 4.5/5

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Execution-Hands down a 5!  I can completely understand the apprehension players may have with a card with no instruction on the cards.  But, anyone who sees this game absolutely is astounded by the art and the packaging.  Here is my video of the unboxing of this game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GnAYl-tCwc  Just look at those parts!  Everything in this game is a painting.  The box is nice thick cardboard that won’t fall apart.  The instructions are well done, with a few small problems, but they are printed on nice thick paper.  Heck, even the paper is the nice textured paper that feels more like an ancient manuscript than a simple rule book.  It’s got quick start rules to help you get right into the game, and the training decks teach you the rules without having to spend a ton of time even learning the rules from the book itself.  This is the kind of game you buy and put on a coffee table as an art piece.  5/5

 

Summary– I’ll admit I was a little hesitant to dig into this one.  It looks beautiful, but the loudest question you will have going in is “How do you play a card game with no printed rules?”  But, honestly, you don’t need them.  The fact the game comes with such top notch components like a cloth card indicator really helps you as a quick reference.  And the lack of words makes the game that much more immersive.  The only way I could have gotten more into this card game was some mead and a turkey leg roasted on a spit.  You do feel like an earl in your hall trying to dominate the others at the table.  The instructions are good, but a few tweaks would make them great.  However, the execution of this game steals the show.  The card game isn’t the most unique game that I’ve ever played, but when you see the parts work together and how they look on the table, it’s honestly the most beautiful game out there.  Heck, the game even comes with wood deck holders!  This is a game you set out for other to see, and play when you get a chance.  Deck building isn’t that long, and it will well be worth your efforts to do so.  For the price, fun, and sheer look of the thing, this is a must add game for your collection.  95%

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