Black Locust Games is a brand new game company out there. Their first venture into the arena is a tactical card game called Kingdom. In the game, angels battle for supremacy of heaven and hell and Earth is caught in the crossfire.
The kind people over at Black Locust sent me a prototype copy of Kingdom to take a look at and give you my thoughts on. I feel rather privileged, as I'm one of the first 8 people to review the game in this state.
Anyway, grab your prayer beads and pentagrams and get ready for another TGN Review as I take a look at Kingdom.
Kingdom is a tactical card game, a game style that doesn't get too many entrants into it, but I've always found enjoyable. For example, I'd really liked Anachronism. Tactical Card Games are a mix of card game, board game and skirmish miniatures game all rolled together. It's a card game because each player has a deck of cards that they draw from in order to play angels (pure or fallen), angelic scripts and pillars. It's a board game because there are set spaces those angels can occupy, several which grant special abilities if you land on them. It's a skirmish game because your angels move around on the board and attack other angels on their way to try and score points against the enemy's kingdom.
As the copy sent to me was a prototype copy, I won't comment much on the quality of the components as they very well could change from the version that'll be sent out to backers if their Kickstarter funds. However, I will mention the artwork. It's very beautiful. There's a certain gravitas to it. It really does make you feel like renditions of spirits and entities that do exist out there and are fighting for control of the kingdoms in the netherworld. As such, I do wish the pictures on the cards were a little bigger as it would show off the artwork a bit more.
There are three types of cards in the game: Angels, Angelic Scripts and Pillars.
Angels are the “fighting force” of your deck. These are the cards that are going to be doing the moving, battling and scoring out on the field. Each turn, a player may play a single angel face-down in their starting area on the board (the closest row to their Kingdom). On the subsequent turn, the player can turn the card face-up, thus activating it. Angels have a Rank, Movement score, orientation compass and possibly a special ability while active. The Rank is used when determining which Angel wins ties in combat as well as the number of Victory Points that are scored if they make it to the other side of the board. The Movement score is the maximum number of spaces the Angel can move during any one turn. The Orientation comes up during battles (more on those in a bit). Finally, the special ability varies depending on the Angel. Some grant bonus cards or power or victory points when scored.
Angelic Scripts are the “Instants” (to use a Magic term there) of Kingdom. These perform various special effects such as increasing a player's power or letting them move extra spaces or even causing an enemy to remove an Angel from the field. To play Scripts, a player must spend Power from their Power Bar. The main way Power is created is by “burning” Angelic Script and Pillar cards during your turn (during a specific phase near the end of your turn), raising your Power based on the value of the cards burned. The maximum Power a player can have at a time is 5, but it will be reset to 0 often during the game (along with being used to pay for Scripts and such).
Pillars are like Equipment (again, to use a Magic term) that are played on Angels. Each is set to one of the three elements (earth, fire and water). Playing a Pillar on an Angel costs 1 Power. From there it works as a layer of ablative armor. When an enemy Angel attacks your Angel and wins, instead of defeating the Angel, it removes the Pillar. Since attacking generally ends an Angel's movement, this means it would take a second enemy Angel to defeat your Angel in a single turn. Otherwise, your opponent must wait and attack again next turn in order to defeat your Angel. An Angel can only equip 1 Pillar on it at a time, but there's no limit to the number of times you can play a Pillar on an Angel. So if you play one and your opponent destroys it, you can place another on subsequent turns.
So in this game, your and your opponent's Angels are battling for control. But how do battles actually work? It's actually rather simple. There are three elements in the game, as mentioned above. They are Earth, Fire and Water. They beat each other in a Rock, Paper, Scissors format of Water beats Fire beats Earth beats Water. (Reminds me of Battle Beasts from when I was a kid. Does anyone else remember those things?) Angels have an Orientation Compass on their card that represents the 8 directions they can attack or be attacked from. The corresponding element in that direction is the one they use in combat. When armed with a pillar, the element on the pillar is considered to be the element in every direction on the compass. Gabriel and Beelzebub, instead of having elements, have an Infinity sign. They are only defeated by one-another (in which case they would be mutually destroyed) or by particular Angelic Script cards.
Victory points are scored when an Angel reaches the Starting Row of the enemy's side of the board, being immediately removed from the board and resetting your Power to 0. If they have a Pillar on them, then they score an extra VP. The game is a race to 35. First one there wins. You can also win by having your opponent have to draw a card when they have no more cards left in their deck. Either way, the forces of good (or evil) have triumphed!
The game is very tactical, though I did sometimes run into troubles when one player got their “ultimate angel” out while the other didn't. They make very effective “goalie” angels, helping block enemy angels out of scoring zones. It was a mad rush, then, for the opponent to find either their ultimate or a Script that got rid of the opponent's.
Kingdom is very tactical. There's a fine juggling act you must perform with the Angels you play, the Pillars you equip them with, having enough Power in your bar to spend on Scripts and gaining movement cubes and wanting to score with your Angels. Movement is key and positioning is everything with the Orientation Compass.
The Kickstarter for the game is running now. Pop on over and see it for yourself.