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.


OddballAeronautsOddball Aeronauts
The Maverick Muse 2014

Oddball Aeronauts is a quick two-player steampunk themed card game. Each player has a deck of 26 cards which consist of the crew of their steampunk airship. The entire deck is held in your hand, so you can play this game just about anywhere. It’s great for waiting to get seated at a restaurant, or really any time you have to wait in line for more than 10 minutes.

Basically, each card has 3 skill boxes with 2 numbers in each box. The three skills are: Sailing, Guns, and Boarding. Your deck is held in front of you, face up, so that you can fan out and see all your cards. But only the top 3 cards will be used in any battle. The main (larger) number in each skill box on your top card is the primary number you use when choosing to battle. The smaller numbers in each box are listed as +#, and are used as support cards to add to your main skill. On your turn, you will decide which skill you wish to use in the upcoming battle. You have to use your top card, but then may use either, or neither, of the next two cards to bolster your numbers. Your opponent will be doing the same thing. The first player (determined initially by rock, paper, scissors) declares which stat they will use first. This can be a disadvantage, as then your opponent will know what you are doing and may change their strategy based on this knowledge. Once both players have declared their skill choice, players will simultaneously hold up a number of fingers equal to the number of cards they mean to play. Then the players play these cards, add up their totals and a winner is declared.  All played cards are discarded face down at the bottom of the deck.  and the effects of the battle are determined. If the winner chose the sailing skill, they are allowed to recover two cards. They take the top two face down cards from the bottom of their deck (the ones closest to the last face up card) and turn them face up, in place, adding to the bottom of the active deck.  If the winning player chose the guns skill, then the loser must discard their next two face up cards to the bottom of their deck. If the winning player chose the boarding skill, then the loser discards one and the winner recovers one card. The object of the game is to be the last player to have active, face up cards.

This game plays very quickly and is fairly simple to learn. There are a few things here I didn’t cover, such as events, tricks, and mercenaries. And rules are provided, along with some extra cards, to customize decks. Expansions are already in the works, so there will be more opportunities to customize as time goes on. This is a good game to have when you have a few minutes to kill and and are looking for something lightweight to pass the time. The artwork is beautiful and gameplay is fairly decent. Being able to use 1-3 cards from your deck gives you quite a few options for strategic play, although in the end, it does just end with highest number wins.

Good game to have in your purse or car for emergencies.