Publisher: Grandpa Beck’s Games
Designer: Jeff Beck
Players: 3-6 (2 with variant)
Duration: 30 mins.
*This is a pre-release copy of Cover Your Kingdom, and components are subject to change. The game is currently on Kickstarter until June 28th, 2019 and you can back it by clicking here*
Come one, come all! The kingdoms are empty, and magical creatures are just waiting in line to enter. But… they all just seem a little off… no dragons, centaurs, unicorns or trolls in sight. Instead… there’s the Peglegaus? Pixie? Klaken? They all seem a little off… but I guess they need somewhere to live, and you’ve got no one, so let’s let them in! But as weird as those creatures are… they do have magic, and magic is a great thing. And you want to have the most magic in your kingdom, don’t you? Better collect them fast before the other kingdoms snap them up… or you know, you can just steal them from the other kingdoms too.
Cover Your Kingdom is a spinoff of the classic Cover your A$$ets, but adds some new mechanics as well as some great art… but with some questionable creatures. They’re weird, but oddly loveable. But they’re not very loyal, and can be easily swayed to other kingdoms so you better bury them deep inside so they can’t make their way out! So is this weird kingdom worth the visit? Let’s find out!
What’s in the box?
Inside the box there are 116 regular creature cards (or, umm… irregular creatures), 15 wild creature cards (they will not be tamed!) and 10 free creature cards (they don’t wanna hang around too long), as well as 6 player mats. There is also a turn order token, which is not in my pre-release copy but is included in the game as well as other potential goodies that will come later as stretch goals.
This is a pre-release game, so the quality is subject to change. The cards and player mats are of good quality, but the art is where this game shines. It’s bright, colourful, and witty, with a great little twist on the “classic” fantasy creatures that adds a really great element. Each character also has a funny little blurb which are great. It adds a great layer to the presentation, and you can feel a lot of thought was put into the design. the iconography is well done and simple to understand.
So how do you play?
To begin, each player receives a game mat, and the deck is shuffled and each player is dealt 6 cards. Place the deck in the middle of the play area, and make sure there is room for 2 discard piles… and then it’s time to begin!
Each player takes one or two actions on their turn (the same action can be repeated twice), and then play passes to the next player. So here’s what you can do:
- 1) Start a new clan: you can pair 2 creatures from hand and place them in their respective terrain on their card (Pigxies and Hentaurs can go in either terrain). You may also pair any creature with a wild type (CerebRussel Terrier or Spydra), but make sure you place the wild under the creature, and you don’t have to reveal that there’s a wild underneath. Alternatively, if you have a matching creature card in your hand that matches the one on the top of the discard pile, you may pick it up and place it immediately with the one in your hand to start a new clan
- 2) If you have a creature in your hand that matches either of the top ones of your clans, you may add it to the clan. You can’t add wild creatures this way
- 3) You may discard a creature from your hand in the discard pile, and then draw a new card.
- 4) You may play a free creature to use it’s special power, and then place it in a secondary discard pile from the regular creatures. Free creatures have no point value but provide special powers
- 5) You may attempt to recruit a clan from another player. This is the meat of the game, where you will play cards out of your hand to try to steal the top clan from an opponent and take their points!
So let’s focus a minute on “recruiting” clans, aka stealing. To recruit a clan, you must first have a clan of your own, and it must not be your opponent’s only clan. If you fail the first time, you cannot attempt to steal with your 2nd action, and you can only target the top clan of a stack… got it? Ok good. So, to begin, the active player will lay down a matching creature or a wild and attempt to steal a clan from another player… and then the defending player can play a matching creature or wild and defend. This will go back and forth until the attacker or defender can’t (or chooses not to) play a matching creature or a wild, and the winner will take the clan and the cards that were played, and place them as a new clan on their matching stack!
After a player takes their actions, they draw back up to 6 cards and if anyone else played cards this turn, they also draw up to 6 and the next player takes their action(s). When the deck runs out, everyone continues taking actions until they are out of cards: if you can’t take an action, you must discard a card without drawing. After everyone has no cards left, count up your magic points and the player with the most is the winner! You can also play the game in multiple rounds, and just tally the scores together and the player with the most points is the winner!
There is also a 2 player variant with some rule alterations: each player has 7 cards instead of 6, and remove 2 sets of 5-point creatures (one valley and one mountain). You will also have 3 stacks instead of 2: one valley, one mountain and one just for Pigxies and Hentaurs. Otherwise the same rules apply as the regular game. The 2 player variant is not yet official, but it works really well and I’ve had a lot of fun with it!
Is it any good?
Grandpa Beck’s Games already makes one of my favourite card games of all time, Skull King and I’ve had a lot of fun with that one. So when they were creating a new game that took it up a level of strategy, I was very intrigued. I love highly strategic games, but I also love simple card games that can be taught to any non-gamers, so I was really wondering where Cover Your Kingdom would fit in… would it continue their tradition of simple card games or add too much to a successful model?
I am very reviled to say that Cover Your Kingdom follows the same tried and true formula that keeps Grandpa Beck’s Games family favourites, but at the same time just adds enough to make it more accessible to a more gamer-oriented crowd. The rules are simple and concise, yet the options and strategies become more varied. It’s a card game, and of course you are at the mercy of your draw, but there is a balance and the amount of actions you can do really gives you something to do and you never feel like you can’t do anything.
One of the best parts of the game is how it feels like it gets more intense as the stacks (or stakes) get higher, and you try to cover them but as soon as you get attacked more, the stacks become exposed and you feel vulnerable, but I’ve had my clans stolen before and passed around, only for me to steal them back later and now they’re even more powerful, and then I managed to bury them enough to feel safe… but that’s what I love about it.. nothing ever feels fully safe in this game, and there’s always some pressure on you and even though I’ve felt that I was out of the game for a few rounds, I was able to bounce back right in. That’s something that I also loved about Skull King, and it totally carries here too.
The game scales really well, with the really fun 2 player variant (that is going to be a part of the regular game), to the chaotic higher player count. There’s always stealing and shenanigans, but the game definitely feels a lot more controlled at 2-4 players than at 5-6, with 6 being especially chaotic. I like my games a little more controlled, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it at higher player counts, because I do. There can be a long downturn for 6 players, but you always feel involved so it never feels too bad.
The one thing I really enjoy about Cover Your Kingdom that can also be a downfall for some is that it can get REALLY mean… and that’s something I really enjoy, but it’s not something others might. Sometimes players can feel like they’re being ganged up on and that can be no fun, and this is something that definitely becomes more evident at higher player counts. I’ve bounced back a lot when I felt like I was out of it, but people who can’t take that kind of gameplay just won’t have fun with it, so just be prepared for it. I think it’s one of the best parts of the game, but some people won’t see that. It’s not some 2-3 hour game, so it’s not that big a problem but just be prepared that it could happen.
Cover Your Kingdom is another great little card game from Grandpa Beck’s that is accessible by all, but at the same time it is their most strategic game and really adds another layer to the kind of games they are known for producing, It’s fun, the artwork is great (and yes, the puns are cheesy but so good!) and overall, the package is great, and seems to only be getting better. I’m really enjoying it, and highly recommend Cover Your Kingdom for not only families, but as a great filler for more strategic minded gamers as well.
- Whimsical and fun art, with really great puns
- Easy to learn, but offers a lot more strategy than it appears to
- Addictive to play, and scales well between player counts
- Really great how the gameplay intensifies as the game goes on
- Highly interactive gameplay, and it’s got a really fun mean-ness to it…
- …but it can get really mean and if you’re not mean back, you’re gonna fall behind
- Gets rather chaotic at that 6 player count
*Thanks to Granda Beck’s Games for sending me a copy of Cover Your Kingdom for this review. You can find out more about them and their games by clicking here*