It will debut in the next few hours at Play in Modena 2021 The King is Dead, the strategic tactical game created by Peer Sylvester and brought to Italy, in its very new second edition, by Supernova Studio.
A board game fast and incredibly tactical, in which we will have to try to win the favors of the kingdom to become the new King of Britain. A feat easier said than done, which we will try to complete in our own anyway review of The King is Dead.
The King is Dead review
Of Peer Sylvester I don’t think we need introductions. It is in fact the author of the excellent Wir sind das Volk! and of The Lost Expedition which, in 2015, also made the first edition of the game subject of our review.
Now, with some improvements to the rules and a completely revised graphics (and what a masterpiece!) Edited by the very good Benoit Billion, which had already dealt with the previous edition, Sylvester brought the second edition of The King is Dead to our tables; in the original language published by Osprey Games.
As you may have guessed from the title, the King is dead and our task will be to ensure the loyalty of the followers of the three main factions of Britain: Welsh, Scottish and English. Indeed, only they will be able to crown us at the end of the kingdom’s infighting but, if things do not go as planned, we may need help … across the Channel.
A game of majorities and abstract hand management, which we will be able to play in sessions of about half an hour from 2 to 4 people.
Inside the box of our kingdom
Before explaining how The King is Dead works, let’s take a look inside the box as always.
This is definitely oversized compared to its contents but, once you have packed the 54 cards (whose format is 63.5 x 88 you can find TO THIS ADDRESS), we will discover that everything fits perfectly in the appropriate spaces in a practical and orderly way.
And speaking of the cards, these, in addition to the game actions that we will be able to carry out, show splendid graphics that will let us enter the medieval atmosphere of the game.
The game components are completed by 1 board (in rigid cardboard and, also, with relevant and decidedly excellent graphic choices), 54 wooden cubes of various colors, 31 wooden discs, 1 bag (which had been more in medieval style and no synthetic white would have been the icing on the cake) and a game rulebook.
The regulation is well organized and clear as a whole even if, we admit, some more particular situations during our sessions required a small visit on the BGG forums, to help us understand how our specific case was resolved.
How to play (and become King)
The King is Dead rules are very simple and can be found summarized directly below.
On our game board is depicted Britannia (and a part of France) where, from setup, we will place various colored cubes belonging to the three different factions of supporters.
At each turn, the would-be rulers around the table will have the opportunity to play one of the 8 cards in your hand, to perform the related action specially depicted and almost always without text.
After each action, which can, for example, add or move supporters from one region to another (but also much more), the player on duty will be forced to take a cube, anywhere, from the board.
The cards played will not be drawn and, for this reason, there will be only 8 actions available to us throughout the course of the game. 5 of these cards will be the same for all players while the remaining 3, in the advanced regulation version only, will be distributed randomly.
Obtaining supporter cubes will increase the influence we will have with a certain faction but, at the same time, taking them from a region will weaken the same faction that, sooner or later, will be forced into a power struggle.
Yes, because, in addition to playing a card, the players will be able to pass the turn and, when everyone around the table decides to pass, a power struggle will be triggered following the numerical order of the region cards randomly arranged around the beginning of the game around the board.
Resolved a power struggle, with a simple system of majorities of supporter cubes in the region, a power disc of the faction that will be the winner will be placed on the respective zone. In the event of a tie between two or more factions, however, we will place one of the black discs from France (to indicate an invasion from across the Channel).
When all the region cards are resolved by the power struggles, the game will end and the coronation proceeds.
The player with the most influence cubes from the faction with the most regions over the course of the game will be the winner of The King is Dead. In the event of a tie, the second faction with the most controlled territories (and its tied player with the most cubes from the second faction) will instead be looked at. Still a draw? Then the player who runs out of cards in his hand first wins.
But be careful, because in The King is Dead the throne of Britain will not always find a King.
In fact, another end-of-game condition could occur, the one in which they will be the French to invade the kingdom placing the third black disk on the contending regions. In this case, the player with the most sets of supporters, i.e. three different colored cubes, will win the game. In case of a tie, he will be the last player to have played a card that turn.
We devoured The King is Dead and, of course, it will be one of those games that will remain in our collection for a long time.
One of the main advantages of the title of Supernova Studio it is certainly hers scalability and the different experience which offers depending on the number of players around the table. Mind you, I’m not just referring to how the game runs with more people, things like downtime or the like, but to the fact that, tried in 2/3 / 4 people The King is Dead feels like a whole other game.
In 2 players we will find ourselves in front of a fast, reactive title very similar to a game of chess. The addition of a third player, then, slightly slows down the pace of play and introduces a strong disturbing element for our long-term strategy (which, in reality, will always be rather complicated to implement), almost forcing us to bluff on our reals. intentions. Furthermore, we will often have to look to the French to try to make up for lost ground.
And in 4 players? The King is Dead becomes a team game! Here we will have to, in religious silence, without being able to talk to our partner about our intentions, identify the best strategy to reach the same victory condition as those sitting on the opposite side of the table, perhaps dividing the supporters of a couple of factions. All with an eye on the opposing team, always ready to “react” to our actions to mess up our plans.
Sure, the first few turns of the game always seem to be pretty random and the heart of the game all seems to lie in the 3 or 4 power struggles that take place towards the end, but is that really a flaw? Often it will be convenient to go to the last bars of the game, trying to understand which is the closest victory condition by playing all the actions in that direction.
There is also a strong feeling that, having reached a certain experience with the players around the table and in the absence of particular errors of the latter, we will be able to little influence the fate of Britannia if not with the right setup (remember that the cubes are randomly arranged for color on the regions) and the right cards in hand already at the beginning of the game. Not a real obvious result from the start of the game, but certainly destabilizing and not very controllable in some situations.
Yet, thanks to its simplicity, speed (and a great deal of charm), we have always found the moments spent gathering supporters for our coronation amusing; becoming King even undeservedly.
If we add to all this a 10 and praise production and a second edition of The King is Dead that seems to come directly from the dark ages (but cleaner and more refined), perhaps at the expense of a “quantity” / price ratio that is not exceptional, we can only promote the game with flying colors.
The King is Dead, second edition
The King is Dead is a title that will remain in our collection for a long time, proving its goodness and high quality production. Fast, tactical and fun, even a not-so-exciting early game can be forgiven and the feeling of not having always become King of Britain by merit.
Fast, easy to explain and never dull
High quality production, with beautiful graphics
A different game for each player counter
Slightly oversized quantity / price ratio (like the box)
Will we become King for game merits or is there more?