I know there is a lot of Gen Con to discuss and Healthy Gamer to update and, and, and…but hey, people also ask me to write about games too, remember? Here’s one I recently got to play around with.
Give It To The King is a light, press-your-luck game currently on Kickstarter. Here’s a little about what it’s about and why you might want to back it.
You and your fellow players are messengers in service to the King. All of you have very important news to deliver, but the King has been taking rulership classes from Robert Baratheon, which means that the last thing he wants to do is actual ruling. He’ll tolerate only one of you getting in the way of his excess, and if you don’t deliver your messages, you don’t get paid. The other messengers are in the same boat, so you’ll have to plot your way to the front of the line or you don’t eat.
Game mechanics are simple. On a player’s turn, they roll the die and move one of the messengers down the hall towards the king. Of course, if it were that simple, this would be worse than Chutes and Ladders. There are a few rules you have to obey when moving the pieces.
First, the move must be legal. A legal move means a pawn jumping over another pawn, but pawns can not share a space. This may force your hand to make moves you didn’t want to make.
Secondly, you cannot move the pawn closest to the king. Obviously, if you could, the first rule would be largely moot and also the game would be terribad.
Thirdly, if you roll a 1, you lose what choice to move and instead move the pawn furthest from the king to one space ahead of the pawn closest to the king.
Provided you satisfy those three conditions, you roll again and repeat, making the pawns leapfrog over each other, keeping a mind on where yours is in relation to the king.
Oh, and one more thing, if you choose to move your own pawn, you know, the one you want to move the most? Your turn ends and the die (with all of its choices) pass to the next player. Whoops. Sorry to burst your bubble there.
At this point, the game is still 90% luck with very little by means of tactics, but there’s one more layer to discuss, the messages being delivered.
Each message has a Gold value and an ability. These abilities include adding to the die roll, ending the current player’s turn, forcing a re-roll of the die, and keeping the die and remaining in control. You can use any of these abilities by discarding the message after the die roll but before the decisions are made. So can all of the other players, and only the first message discarded this way will be used, so you need to be quick. In the games that I played, there was never a fight for message timing, but I suspect this was because people were (rightfully) reluctant to let go of their money.
In this way, you can exercise greater control over your ability to be the solitary guy who delivers his messages…assuming you have any messages left to deliver. This is a neat risk/reward element which is the meatiest part of the game. The more you fight to get there, the less you’ll score for doing so. While you will get new messages every round, only one player will score, so be careful in how you plan these out. Wasting the ability and then not scoring is a kick in the pants you can live without.
There’s one more thing to discuss, the Captain position. The Captain is whomever has the most Gold at any given time, and has two differences between him and the other players. First, in the event of two Messages being discarded simultaneously, the Captain decides which one takes precedence. This will obviously be whichever one benefits him the most or hinders his best opponent the most, so it seems like a pretty important position, but that ability never came up in our games. Humorously enough, the penalty you pay for such power came up several times. If there are no legal moves from the die roll, the Captain is blamed and has to pay 1 Gold to the active player.
The game is played over 5 rounds, and at the end, the player with the most Gold is the winner.
So what did I like about Give It to the King?
I like that it’s a simple game to learn. There are tactics to be grasped that make it more than a roll and move. The fact that only one player scores per round means that other people accumulate messages giving them more options in subsequent rounds and also a bigger payout, which serves as a good catch-up mechanic, there’s no clear-cut winner until the game is over.
The simplicity of the design, ease of tactics and very reasonable length of play (30-45 min) makes this a really ideal game for getting kids into board gaming. Once they’ve gotten a few games of Give It To The King under their belt, you can probably launch them right into Agricola or Twilight Struggle. If you are a terrible parent. Or an awesome one. I can’t really decide which.
It’s a light enough filler game that you can get non-gamers on board, I don’t think it has the gateway punch that heavy hitters like Ticket to Ride or Settlers of Catan, but it’s a good start.
Give It to the King, by the Flux Capacity, is currently funding on Kickstarter. Click here to go check out the project page.