What is it?
Kardinal & König das Kartenspiel is a card
game based on the boardgame Kardinal & König
(published in English by Rio Grande Games as Web of
Power), by the same designer. While I like Web of
Power and consider it a good game, I actually find
Kardinal & König das Kartenspiel to be more
to my tastes. In fact, of the new games released at Essen 2001,
it's my favorite of those I've tried.
Kardinal & König das Kartenspiel improves
on Web of Power largely in intuitiveness: I've never
liked the way Advisors are handled in the latter game - the mechanic
seems artificial and non-intuitive. The way advisors are treated
in the card game is much easier to grasp, in my opinion.
At any rate, the card game is set in Medieval Europe, with the
players trying to gain control of the various countries involved
in the game, as well as trading routes by land and sea. It's not
heavily themed, to be honest, but enough so that it's not quite
an abstract game.
The most amazing thing about this game, though, is that it was
extremely cheap at Essen (less than $5), and now that it's sold
out, the author has made it available for free at his website,
where you can print it out and make your own copy.
There are 56 cards representing nine different countries. In
addition there are 8 Rules tiles and 15 "reserving" pieces, three
for each player. These are used to hold certain cards for yourself
before you can actually claim them. They don't always work, but
at least it will cost your opponents something to take them ...
The cards have up to three bits of information on them, though some
have only two of these:
The idea is to collect cards that score you the most points. As
in Web of Power, whoever has the most control of a
country at the end of the game scores the highest points for it,
and others in the country score less points, but always something.
(Unlike Web of Power, there is only one scoring
- The country they're part of and its point value (all have this),
- One or two faction symbols,
- A trading route symbol
As an example, let's say the game is over and it's time
to score. France has eight cards total. If I collect 5 of these,
I clearly have the most, and so score 8 points for France, because
that's how many cards for France there are. (VP value of a country
always equals number of cards for that country.) Likewise if I
have the most cards for Bavaria, I score 6 points, because there
are only six Bavarian cards. If, in the France example, there are
two other players and one has collected 2 France cards and the
other 1 France card, their scoring is a little different. The
second place player scores points equal to the number of cards the
first-place player collected. In this case that's five points
because I collected 5 cards. The third place player then collects
points equal to the number of cards the second-place player collected:
two points in this example.
So although you want control of a country, you don't want to go
overboard getting there. If I collected 7 France cards, for example,
I would get eight points and whoever collected the final France
card would get seven points!
You also score for factions and trade routes. Each country except
Denmark has four factions, each represented by a different symbol.
In France, there are four of one symbol, three each of two other
symbols, and two of the fourth symbol. In a country with only six
cards, there are three of one symbol, two of another, and one each
of the last two symbols - and so on. Whoever has the most symbols
of one type in a given country scores points equal to this
number. So if I collected 3 of two different types in France, and
no one else had more than two, I would get three points (the largest
number of one symbol I collected), and no one else would get any
points for symbols in France.
There are two different trade route symbols: land and sea. There
are 15 of each type of symbol, no more than one per card. Anyone
who collects at least five symbols of a given type will score points
equal to how many he collected. Collecting only four or fewer of
a given type scores you nothing.
So on each turn you collect cards, always keeping all three aspects
of scoring in mind. You can only collect a limited number of cards
per turn, so there's usually some interesting choices you have to
Course of Play
To start the game, the shuffled cards are laid out face up on the
table in four rows of fourteen cards each. The Rule tiles are
placed on eight different cards as shown in the rules, none of them
at the edges of the array. On your turn you may take any of the
exposed end cards, but never a card that is not one of the eight
end cards. Although the rules are unclear, the designer has
clarified that you may take a card in the second place if your
first card taken exposes it to become the new end card.
You can take as many cards as you like with the following limitations:
Most cards have one symbol, some have two. So if you collect one
card with two symbols on it, your turn ends. Or you can take two
with one symbol each on it, provided they're of the same country.
All cards have at least one symbol except those of Denmark, which
have none. So effectively, you could take all four Danish cards
in one turn, but are limited to one or two cards of any other
- A card must be one of the eight exposed end cards (fewer later in the game, as rows are depleted),
- You can only take cards of one color (each country is a different color),
- You cannot take more than two symbols-worth of cards in one turn.
Once you've taken your cards you may place (or move) one of your
reserving pieces on any card in the array, even in the center.
Once you collect a card with one of your reserving pieces on it,
you may place it again in the array. Other players may not take
a card with your reserving piece on it unless they pay for the
privilege: they return your reserving piece to you but must put
one of their own reserving pieces out of the game. Since you only
have three reserving pieces (two in a four- or five-player game),
this can be painful.
Your turn is over, the next player takes his turn, and so on, until
all 56 cards have been claimed. At that point calculate the score
for each player and the game is over.
The Rules Tiles
There are eight Rules tiles, small pieces which are mixed and placed
face down on different cards at the start of the game. If you take
a card containing one of these rules tiles, you collect the tile
and may, if possible, use it. Not all of them are good, alas -
some cost you victory points at the end of the game. I've made my
own rule tiles in English, and will list them here that way. They
The first three types allow you a one-shot way to break a given
rule. One of them allows you take up to three symbols in one turn
- though you're still limited to collecting cards all of the same
color. Two others allow you to mix colors, and two others allow
you to take back a reserving piece you put out of the game to
collect a card someone else had reserved. The final three cost
you 2 victory points each at the end of the game. When you collect
a tile, keep it face down in front of you until used or the game
- Take three symbols (1 tile)
- Different colors allowed (2 tiles)
- Retrieve Reserving Piece (2 tiles)
- -2 Victory Points (3 tiles)
The designer has clarified that you are allowed to use them in the
same turn you collect them, and that you can play more than one rule
tile in the same turn.
Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?
Components. Even if you can get one of the limited production
games sold at Essen 2001, you'll have to cut the cards out yourself.
They're attractive enough, but definitely DTP cardstock. You can
probably make nice ones from the designer's web site if you have
the right printer, materials, know-how, etc. I'd love to see this
game made professionally, but I doubt it'll happen.
Limited number of players: the game is listed as 3-5 players, but
I don't think it plays well with five, to be honest. You have too
little control. Three is best, four is okay.
A tiniest bit dry - it's more abstract than the board game, which
has a lovely map. But I still like it better than the board game
as it's a cleaner design to me. Your mileage may vary.
This is an excellent three-player game, and a good four-player one.
You have lots of decisions to make, the only luck involved is with
the Rules tiles, and you can ignore those if it bothers you. You
have to calculate carefully which countries to collect, and how
many of each, and which particular ones of each, in fact, depending
on their symbols and trade routes. In addition you have to be
careful about which cards you are then exposing for your opponents
to take! The endgame has some particularly nice moves in it as
you try to force an opponent to take a particular card to boost
your score - think of being in second place in France, for example,
and wanting the first-place player to take more France cards. Each
one he takes is another point for you ...
All in all a very nicely done improvement on an already good
board game. Recommended.
Back to SOS' Gameviews
Back to Steffan O'Sullivan's Home Page