Hayato Kisaragi


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G@mebox Star



In recent years a small group of Japanese game designers has united under the common distribution brand JAPON BRAND, and together this group of gaming enthusiasts has published small editions of small boxed manga-art games. These games deal with a variety of topics, and so some typical fantasy plots may be found amongst them. An interesting title from this background has been the game Grimoire which was released in 2010, assigning the players the roles of wizards who had to use their very-own spellbooks in the magical combat for gold and henchmen. Going back a step further, author Hayato Kisaragi and producer ONE DRAW also has produced the game Greedy Kingdoms, yet another fantasy-based game where the players are the rulers of small kingdoms who compete for building the most prestigious palace.


Three palace parts exist in the game, and the winner will be the first player to complete a second part of his palace. To build a palace part, a total of five resource chips is needed – four resources of Honor and one resource of Land. However, as might be guessed, the players do not start the game with any Honor chips in their hands, but instead the players begin with a meagre amount of the other resources – Land, Food and Gold. In the playing area the three palace cards are openly placed, and furthermore an open display of four upgrade cards is revealed from a deck of randomly shuffled kingdom upgrades. These upgrades depict both citizens and buildings, and they may be acquired by the players who then will use the abilities of the buildings and citizens to gain an income in resources. A player may purchase such at card at the beginning and/or the end of his turn, provided he can pay an amount of resources as depicted on the card. Any purchased cards are placed openly in the player’s own kingdom, and a building now will grant a direct, one-time income of resources whereas a citizen will produce an income in resources at the beginning of every following turn.

So far these rules will sound quite familiar, since many resource management games operate on a comparable mechanism where upgrades are purchased and an income is collected. However, as most of the buildings and citizens do only provide Land, Food and Gold, the players have to resort to other ways in order to gain the Honor required to build the parts of their palace. This is the moment where the character decks of both players come into play, and it will be these decks which move Greedy Kingdoms from the straight orientation of a build-and-development game to a highly speculative bluffing-game in which the player’s try to outwit each other.


Both players start the game with an identical set of eight character cards. The set is composed of high ranking characters like the King, the Knight or the Adventurer as well as some more down-to-earth chartacters like the Cook, the Thief or the Witch. Each of these characters will give its owner a certain income upon his/her activation, and it is especially the high ranking characters who will produce the highly wanted Honor chips which may be used for palace building. However, the activation of a character has its price, and so a player only can activate a character if he can pay the resources demanded by the character for his services. And to make the whole thing interesting, the characters are not simply used and their effects applied, but instead the active player secretly chooses three characters which he wishes to activate in the middle of his turn. At the same time his opposite player also chooses three of the characters from his own hand for a blocking action, and then both players will reveal their choice of characters simultaneously. An income only can be harvested from those characters of the active player who have not been blocked by identical characters, but before any income is collected all due payments must be made to characters who have been blocked! This may result in the fact that a player has not enough resources left to pay the characters which were not blocked, and so an unlucky player may loose the possibility to use a character because he has run out of resources.

This phase of the player’s characters opposing each other is called “battle”, and despite the rather easy mechanism of each player choosing three out of eight available cards the battle situation is far from simple. The players try to outsmart each other, trying to guess the thoughts of their opponents to find a choice of characters which will harvest as much resources as possible. In addition, the players are free to use any characters which were not blocked in an order of their choice, and so they will also try to think about nice combinations of weaker and stronger characters in order to use the income generated by the weaker character to pay the costs for the activation of the stronger character. Thus, both players eagerly wait for the revealing of their three characters, and every turn shouts of joy from one side will be accompanied with grumpy murmur from the other.


Instead of purchasing an upgrade card, the active player also may use the two purchase phases of his turn to buy randomly drawn special character cards. One special character card exists for each of the eight characters available in the game, and a player who spends two resources of his choice may draw the top card from the special character deck, add it to his own hand of characters and discard the corresponding “normal” character. In this fashion the King may be replaced by the Emperor, the Knight by the Paladin or the Witch by the Sage, and all of the special characters have in common that they produce a better income at less costs. However, the opposing player knows which special character are available to the player, and so the bluffing and outsmarting reaches an even higher dimension where the players try to speculate on the possible use of special characters.

[IMAGE]As indicated, the kingdom upgrades – citizens and buildings – mostly are concerned with the production of the three basic resources Land, Food and Gold which are needed to pay for the activation of characters and the purchase of special character cards, but a quite interesting new range of new cards may be added by the tiny 18-cards Greedy Kingsdoms Treasure expansion set. The new kingdom upgrades available in this expansion possess special abilities which may be helpful for the players, and so the players get the possibilities to reveal new upgrade cards before the purchase phase, get an upgrade card for free etc. Of great importance also are the new Treasure cards, a third type of cards which now can be found in the deck of upgrade cards. The players must spend some of their hard earned Honor if they want to purchase a Treasure - provided they do not possess the Treasure Chamber upgrade card which allows for the substitution of Honor with another resource. But such a purchase may be worthwhile, since the Treasures offer quite strong special abilities like an additional action (Warhorse), a Honor chip if all character are blocked (Steel Shield) or even three additional Honor if all of a players characters are not blocked (Legendary Sword). While it is true that the Treasures make the game a bit more unpredictable, they offer an even higher spectrum of possible actions and speculation, and so they perfectly match the spirit of the basic game.

Overall, Greedy Kingdoms presents itself as a light-footed but challenging two player game which has a great potential to become an all-time-classic. The rules seem familiar and unspectacular right from the beginning, but this first impression says nothing about the high degree of playing fun which can be enjoyed in this game. As said, the players quickly catch the fever of speculating and counter-speculating, and this high addictive factor makes the game one of the best two-player games released in recent years!

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany