Game Review: The Rose King

The Rose KingThe Rose King
Thames & Kosmos, 1997

Originally published as Texas by Ub-Spiele, Thames & Kosmo brings this great two-player game to the United States with a War of the Roses theme. The Rose King is an abstract area control game. It is simple to learn, but like most good two-player abstracts, harder to master.

The game consists of a square grid board, a small deck of direction cards, a bunch of two sided wooden discs, with white roses on one side, and red on the other, and 4 “Knight” cards per player. A Crown pawn starts in the middle of the board, and each player is given five direction cards, which are played out face up in front of them, with both players using the same orientation. (Most games the cards face “up” to each player. In The Rose King, the crown on the card will match the orientation of the crown on the board. So if the crown is closest to you on the board, then the crown on the card will be closest to you when played in front of you.) Each card has a sword pointing in a direction, and a number (I, II or III) indicating how many spaces the crown will move and in which direction.

Each player in turn will take one of three actions. 1: Play a card and move the crown, placing their color disc in the empty space that the crown now occupies. 2: Draw a new card. (You may never have more than 5 cards in hand) or 3: Play a card with one of your one-shot “knight” cards to move the crown to a space occupied by the other players piece, and flip it to your color.

That’s it. Three possible actions. Easy to learn and yet, so hard to master. Knowing which cards your opponent has to choose from, as well as knowing that they also know your cards gives a deceptive amount of depth to this simple game.

Scoring is based on the number of adjacent spaces you control, and you count all your pieces. A piece alone (not adjacent to any other of your color) counts one point. Two adjacent counts four. Three adjacent counts nine and so on. Breaking up your opponents “sets” or adding to your own is key to scoring high points.

I have shown this game to many people and every single one has been impressed with the depth of play that The Rose King offers, while being easy to learn. It is engaging, fun, and plays easily in a half-hour to 45 minutes.