Heart of Crown – The Tale of An Epic Game

Today I am going to recount the game of Heart of Crown that we had last night. You don’t know what Heart of Crown is? It’s a deck building game from Japanime Games. It has more streamlined rules than Tanto Cuore but basically plays the game: play cards from your hand for their effects and to purchase more cards. The difference is that at some point you “Back a Princess” (in other words, choose one princess from among the bunch of them) and then race to get 20 Succession Points so that you can Coronate your Princess and win the game.

The scenario: Crown of Sin

We had just finished a game of Tanto Cuore (where I used the online card randomizer to select the cards) where I smoked the only 3 guys. Having some time before dinner, we decided to get in a game of Heart of Crown. I have both expansions (Far East Territory and Northern Enchantress) so there are literally gazillions of possible card combinations for the Market. Okay, okay….maybe not a gazillion, but at least a billion, but I digress. One of the nice things about the game is that the rulebooks have scenarios (pre-selected card combinations for the market) so all you have to do is agree on a scenario and get started.

So, I handed the rulebooks to Lee and let him pick the scenario. He chose Crown of Sin from the Northern Enchantress Expansion.

— The Crown of Sin Scenario Cards

Why is it a sin? Strife in the Court and Infantry Battalion force opponents to discard cards; Battering Ram forces opponents to discard a territory that they played into their Princess’ domain. Only the Rampart protects against these effects–but there are 15 attack cards and only 5 Ramparts. There are very few cards that help a player trim a deck: only Regional Official and each can only be used once.

The Game: Bigger Decks than Normal

The game started out as normal, we bought up cards that gave us more card draws and servings, then tried to purchase Cities and Large Cities. Quickly we found out that the attack cards forced everyone into sub-optimal turns where each player had only 4 cards (instead of 5) and had not enough coins to buy those 6-cost Large Cities or get a 6-cost Princess.We found our decks growing large, which made getting combinations into our hands harder then normal. Before we knew it, we were running out of market cards without anyone having a Princess yet. We were now trying desperately to create card-drawing combos to get 6 coins played on a single turn.Bob started off the cascade of grabbing Princesses (okay, I didn’t mean that to sound like something out of a Harvey Weinstein news report, sorry #MeToo). He picked up Second Princess Laolily and scooped up those valuable Royal Maids. My turn was pure crap, letting Stew go next, grabbing Princess General Flammaria and avoiding having to put a Farming Village into his domain (thus avoiding the -2 Succession Point hit). Lee grabbed South Sea Princess Klam-Klam. When the round finally got back to me, I gambled on First Princess Lulunasaika and her 6 Succession Point bonus, technically putting me into first place in the race to 20 points.— The 4 chosen Princesses in clockwise order of choice from top left

The End Game

So the race was on to get to 20 points. Quickly Bob got into the lead by finding and playing those 5 Royal Maids for 10 points, but he had a Farming Village in play (-2) so he was only ahead of me by 2 points (his 8 to my 6). Lee used his Famed Horses to churn through his deck and start snatching up Dukes and their serious 6 Succession Points. Stew had more Regional Officials than anybody else and used their power to banish cards from his hand to get Dukes from the Market and trim his deck.

Surprisingly, we ran out all the Royal Maids but nobody had won yet and the game was super duper close. I had 18 points, Bob had 18, and the other two guys were within 3 points.

Then quicker than you can say “What the…” Bob played two, yes two not one but two, Dwarven Jewelers after playing 4 other, non-similarly titles cards.

— the key card that led to the Bob explosion of Succession Points!

Bob flew over 21 points and Coronated his Princess. Now every other player got a last turn to try and get their own Princess coronated: if no one could, Bob wins, but if someone else got to 20+ points, the game would go into Overtime!

My turn was next. I used card-drawing combos to churn through my deck in the hopes of getting my last remaining Duke. But I was not “top decking like a pro” (it’s a Magic the Gathering reference for those who never played that game–trust me it’s better that you didn’t, those who played it spent a fortune on those brightly colored pieces of flimsy cardboard, but I digress again), didn’t find my Duke, and was out of the game as a big loser.

Stew went next, and despite the success he had top-decking like a pro in MtG Pro qualifiers back in the day (I won’t tell you how long ago it was–the only hint is Queen Mary) he couldn’t find any Succession points and he lost too.

Lee had more luck. His card churning engine got him a bundle of points and brought his total up to 24! Overtime was on baby! The first player to 30 would win automatically. Bob got a few more points but Lee got really close (I don’t remember exactly whether he had 27, 28, or 29 points) and it looked like he would win. But Bob once again pulled out a 2x Dwarven Jeweler combo for +4 points and got to 30 first, claiming victory!

One Heck of a Game

I have been playing board games for 4+ decades, starting with the old school Avalon Hill and SPI, and now pretty much everything that I can find. I have some strong opinions about which games I like. Heart of Crown is just plain excellent! It is fun, balanced, and quite competitive. This particular session was one of the most enjoyable that I have had in a long time. I recommend anyone who doesn’t know about Heart of Crown to get a copy and give it a try.

New Games that I am Pumped About: Northern Enchantress and Fragged Kingdom

Today was my lucky day! Two new games that I can’t wait to play showed up in either my email inbox or on my front door.

Northern Enchantress — Expansion for Heart of Crown

I really like the new deck building game Heart of Crown from Japanime Games. And just in the time for the holidays the second expansion, Northern Enchantress, has arrived (along with my setup playmat)! Heart of Crown is quicker and simpler to play than Tanto Cuore. The new expansion adds magic and non-humans. I can’t wait to give it a try.

Fragged Kingdom

A while back I picked up the Fragged Empire RPG. The game has some really cool ideas in it, like attribute damage, an innovative combat system, a nice “Spare Time” character development system, and streamlined rules for dealing with items and resources. Fragged Empire is Sci-Fi while Fragged Kingdom is fantasy. It promises to have rules for PCs to have “Holdings” and rule over territory, plus simplified mass combat rules. One gripe I have always had about traditional fantasy RPGs is that they typically deal with holdings and mass combat quite poorly. From my quick perusal of the rules, I have a feeling that Fragged Empire is going to get it right. I gotta get a campaign started right away!

Gen Con day Two: The Costumes Part I

Day Two at Gen Con 2016 was about the costumes!  So I decided to let all my blog followers see some of the many CosPlay, Sci-Fi, and fantasy costumes walking around.

A special thank you to all who let me take their picture.  I hope that each pic does justice to the time and effort that each person put into his/her costume.

Here is the first half of my photos:

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Dr. Doom

 

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CosPlay

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Star Wars–Sith I believe (please correct me if you know who it really is)

 

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Star Wars, including Kylo Ren

 

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Mr. Spock

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Nadja, the German cashier from Japanime Games, dressed as a maid  

 

 

 

Gen Con Day One

My brother and I wandered the Exhibit Hall today and only made our way through just over half of it!  Tomorrow I will post some photos from the Exhibit Hall, but today I want to show you what we purchased so far.

Eminent Domain: Microcosm.  It’s a 2-player game set in the Eminent Domain universe and promises to last only 10 minutes.

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Two expansions for Smash Up: It’s Your Fault (fan requests) and Cease and Desist (Sci Fi/Fantasy that mimic Star Wars, GoT, etc).

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The Big Book of Madness.  A co-operative game for 2-5 players.

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Two copies of a Promo Card for Tanto Cuore.

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And the free annual Gen Con d6 from Crystal Castle.

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We have already played a couple games and I am going to write up some reviews once I get back home.

 

That’s it for now.  More good stuff from Gen Con 2016 tomorrow!

Tanto Cuore — A Better Game Than Expected

The Inverse Rule of Gaming

Okay, we all know the “Inverse Rule of Gaming,” right?  You know, the basic idea that the more female flesh used to sell a game, the worse the game must be.  Don’t believe me?  Have you seen the commercials for Age of Fire?  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Kate Upton…but whenever a game company uses attractive females to sell its product, you just know that the game probably has no other selling point.

Well, the inverse rule also applies to cartoon or illustrated use of females as well.  I am sure we have all seen the game apps that advertise themselves with some drawing of a busty long-haired warrior.  C’mon guys, you know that the app must be crap!  Anyway, since Anime is very popular now not only in Japan but across the Pacific in the United States, Anime drawings are also used to sell games.

And that brings me to Tanto Cuore from Arclight Games (Tanto Cuore).

Tanto Cuore box

A box of Tanto Cuore

As you can see from the box cover, Tanto Cuore is a game about Japanese maids!  When I first saw this game on a shelf, I thought, oh no another poor Japanese game being sold with cute anime drawings.  And drawings of maids no less!  And who wants to play a game about maids?!?  The back of the box describes the game as, “We will work with great heart when you employ us!  Be the ‘greatest master’!”  What the?  It further says, “The players take the roles of ‘masters of the house’, employ a lot of cute maids, and are served by them while slowing filling out their house (card deck).”

I don’t know about you, but I was wondering if maybe this game should’ve been put in the adult section of the store instead! Hahaha!

Okay, I checked out reviews on line and people said nice things about the game.  I really like the Eminent Domain ( Eminent Domain ) deckbuilding game so I thought, why not give Tanto Cuore a try.

The Game

Like most deckbuilding games, Tanto Cuore is pretty simple.  You use a common currency (Love in Tanto Cuore) to recruit maids from a common pool of cards which you then add to your discard pile, which eventually cycles back into your hand.

Here are two of the three Love cards:

Tanto Cuore love

1 Love and 2 Love cards

 

The heart in the upper left corner is the amount of Love needed to recruit the card (yes, you have to use Love to recruit move Love, kind of sounds like a Beatles’ song or something). Each turn a player empties their hand of their Love, counting how much is played and using that amount to recruit more cards.  The player also tries to play as many Maid cards from his/her hand as possible.

Here is an example of a Maid card:

Tanto Cuore maid

Genevieve Daubigny: one of many maids

Like many games, icons are used to convey information.  Here there are three highlighted icons and one faded icon on the bottom of the card (and remember that the heart in the upper left is the # of Love needed to recruit this card).  The stack of cards is “draw” , the heart is more “Love”, the hand is “serve” and the faded icon refers to “employ.”  In short, on your turn you can only serve (in other words, play) one maid from your hand and employ (in other words, select a new card from the common pool of cards) one new card per turn.  Put as you play maids, they can give you more servings, cards, love, employment, etc.  At the end of your turn you discard any cards that you could not play and draw back to your hand size.

Thus, there are only these four icons to memorize!  Very simple and quite easy to understand.  Literally, when I introduced this game to the other TTGC members, they quite quickly were able to get the hang of the game.  It is just this simple: lay down your Love, play a maid (and try to get more servings so that you can play more maids), try to build up as big a pile of Love as possible, and then employ 1 or more maids.  As your stack of cards gets bigger every turn, eventually you can lay down more Love and draw more expensive maids.

Of course, some maids have special abilities and/or victory points.  Here is an example of a maid that everyone begins the game with:

Tanto Cuore vp maid

Collette Framboise: note the two different spellings of her first name on this card.  Sometimes when games get translated into English mistakes like this happen.

 

As you can see above, Collette is worth 1 victory point (shown 3 times on the card with a symbol in 3 of the 4 corners).  She also has a special ability: Chambermaid.  Basically if you spend the indicated number of servings (2 in this case), you can remove Collette from your hand and place her on the table.  Doing so thins your hand and optimizes it for future draws.  Collette has no other special ability or helpful icon, so every time you draw her and don’t get her Chambermaided (is that a verb?), she is useless and gets recycled back into your hand through the draw pile.

Each game there are two victory point maids (Collette above is one of them) and 10 regular maids.  The box contains 16 different regular maids and players select 10 of them randomly or by any other method before the game starts, so no two games should be exactly alike.  Moreover, different maids combo with other maids so the overall strategies in each game are going to be different based on the 10 maids used.  There are also Private Maids, which are special maids that you do not put in your hand but rather put them into play on the table in front of you.  Here is an example:

Tanto Cuore private maid

Rosa Topaz: A Private Maid that gives you more Love each turn

 

Anyway, the game is won by having the most Victory Points after 2 piles of maids are exhausted.  The game plays very fast.  Typically after one or two go arounds, play is quick, typically with the active player playing his/her hand and one of two others shuffling their discard piles back into their draw decks.

Why you should play this game

It is very, very fun!  It is also very, very easy!  Moreover, this game is not just multiplayer solitaire.  There is player interaction.  There are cards (not mentioned here in my review) that mess with your opponents’ private maids and cost them victory points.  Moreover, as you employ cards from the common pool, you deny them to your opponents. Thus, while Tanto Cuore is not directly combative (this isn’t Advanced Squad Leader after all) there is tension between the players and you might have to modify your strategy if others start snapping up the same maids that you want.

Once you get past the whole cute maid thing, Tanto Cuore is actually a very solid game. I haven’t played Dominion, which kind of was one of the first popular deckbuilding games, but from what I have read and heard, Tanto Cuore is a slightly more sophisticated (is that the right word given all the pictures of maids?) and enjoyable game.  To be completely honest, when the TTCG plays Tanto Cuore, we almost always refer to the cards by their first names and after a while you don’t notice the illustrations at all.  Typically after a game I could tell you exactly what icons were on a card but I can’t recall the picture.  So even if Anime illustrations of maids might be a bit too much for you, trust me, you will like the game so much that you really won’t be bothered at all by them.

Of course, if cute maids are not enough for you, try Barbarossa from Kamikaze Games (Barbarossa).  It is Anime girls fighting as the Germans as they invade the Soviet Union in the Second World War.  No joke!


I hoped you liked this shorter format review.  Feel free to follow or leave comments.

Until next time: Make Mine Marvel