Have you ever played the White Elephant Gift Exchange Game? Every time, without fail, there is always one or two gifts that everyone is fighting. It's usually because they come in pretty packaging and bows. Hilariousness ensues as people steal that same gift, over and over, making one sigh as they lose their prize yet again. The whole time you know that your horribly wrapped gift, will be the one sought after when the gifts are finally opened. "Lords of Scotland" is a lot like that poorly wrapped gift. While everyone is fighting over the new hotness, this little diamond in the rough is given no attention. When everyone sees its full potential it will be the game to own.
Goal of the Game
Players are trying to be first to acquire forty strength worth of supporters and claim the throne.
"Lords of Scotland" comes with 98 clan cards, 1 Initiative Card, and one Rules Sheet. Each card contains the following information: the cards strength, bloodline, rank, and power.
Rank: Each card represents a clan of Scotland. Its rank is in the upper right corner of the card (lower corner for Clan Makgill). Rank is used to break ties. For example, the Clan MacDonnell card is rank 3, while the Clan Makgill card is rank 2.
Bloodline: Each clan belongs to one of the eight normal bloodlines or to the royal Bruce bloodline. The name of a clan's bloodline, the portrait of its chief, its clan tartan, badge and color are shown on each card.
Armies of two or more clans from the same bloodline fight at double strength.
Strength: A clan's strength is listed on the corner of the card. (Both clan cards above are strength 1.) The highest total strength claims the first supporter at the end of the skirmish. A player can decide if they want to activate the clan's power. A clan's strength value also represents its value when claimed as a supporter.
Power: There are nine different powers in the game corresponding to the eight normal bloodlines and the royal Bruce bloodline. When you play a clan from your hand, and there is no clan already in the skirmish area, with a lower strength, you may activate the clan's special power. For example, Clan McDonnell cards are not discarded and Clan Makgill cards allow the player to muster another clan.
When a clan is played face-up their clan power can be activated. Most effects happen immediately. Some powers only take effect at the end of a skirmish. Once activated, these powers take effect even if another clan with a lower strength is played after. It will only occur if you control the clan at the end of the skirmish and it clan remains in play. If, the clan belongs to another lord's army at the end of the skirmish its effect will occur for that lord instead. Face-down clans do not activate powers.
List of Clan Powers
"Discard another clan: discard one other clan in the skirmish
Swap with a Supporter: switch this clan with one of the clans in the supporter pile
Swap with another Clan: switch this clan with another clan in the skirmish
Draw a Card: allows players to draw from the draw pile
Do not discard this Clan: allows players to not discard the card at the end of the skirmish
Muster another Clan: muster an additional clan immediately after this clan
Copy another Power: copy the power of any face-up clan in this skirmish
Join each Bloodline: This clan counts as the same bloodline as all other clans
Claim Two Supporters: If you control this clan at the end of the skirmish, claim two clans in the supporter pile instead of one. This power is not cumulative"
The oldest player is given the Victor's Initiative card. The cards are shuffled and each player given five. The remaining cards become the draw pile.
Create the recruit pile by placing the first five cards from the draw ple face down to the right. To the left, place cards equal to the number of player (2 for 2 players, 3 for 3 players) face-up, side by side, horizontally. These cards are the "Supporter Pile." If two supporters of the same number are put out, discard both and draw again.
Space is needed for a discard pile next to the draw pile. The lord with the Victor's Initiative goes first.
Players gain support by winning skirmishes. A skirmish lasts five rounds of play. During each skirmish, a player may build up their army by playing cards from their hand or by recruiting clans to fight from the recruit pile. At the end of five rounds, each lord gets to claim a supporter in order of highest strength highest to lowest. All mustered clans are discarded and a new skirmish is begun.
The player with the Victor's Initiative card goes first. They turn over one face-down card from the recruit pile, before they take their action.
Recruit a Clan: If a player has fewer than ten cards in hand, they may recruit a clan member. They can draw any card from the recruit pile. If the card was face-up, replace it with a face-up card, if face-down, replace it with a face-down card.
Muster a Clan: A player may add to their army with a face-up or face-down card. If the card is placed face-up and there is no lower strength card than that card, the player may immediately activate the clan power.
After the player has recruited or mustered a clan and / or activated its power their turn is over and it is the next lords turn.
The End of a Skirmish
At the end of each skirmish, flip over all face-down clans and total up the strength. If it has more than one clan and all are from the same bloodline, double the total. If your army has the highest total strength, you win the skirmish.
The winner collects one of the clans in the supporter pile. This is set card aside in their victory pile. Then in army value each other lord claims a supporter for their victory pile.
If there is ever a tie, the lord who controls the highest ranking clan in the skirmish wins. Once all clans in the supporter pile have been claimed, discard all the cards in the recruit pile and the cards which were mustered. Next, replace the cards in both the supporter and recruit piles with new cards from the draw pile.
These will be arranged as they were at the beginning of the game. The lord who won the skirmish is given the Victor's Initiative card and takes the first turn in the next skirmish.
The End of the Game
Continue taking turns until someone accumulates forty or more strength worth of supporters. The lord with the most strength of support wins. If two are more lords are tied, then the lord who placed higher in the final skirmish wins.
I admit, I'm guilty. This game sat on my shelf for months because I could not get past the artwork. When it finally got to the table I sat there, shaking my head, asking myself why I didn't play it sooner. This is an amazingly fun, light, quick game. There is a lot packed in to it. With better graphics and "Lords of Scotland" would be a lot more must have lists.
Being a card game there is going to be a lot of luck involved. There is also a lot of strategy and tension. Since players can place cards face-up and face-down decisions can become quite a gamble. Do you muster your best clans or put out a lower card so you can use its power or block opponents' powers? Could your opponent have all one clan with those face down cards?
You can watch what clans your opponents recruits and try to guess their strategy but it isn't easy to determine. At the same time you have to balance recruitment to make sure you don't run out of clans and get the clans that would work with your own strategy.
Supporters also play a role in the strategy. Sometimes numbers are close together and sometimes one card is much higher. It seems like our supporters are always one of two numbers off of each other. When supporter numbers are low or close players may not risk using their best cards or they may bluff and try to ensure a victory that skirmish.
"Lords of Scotland" was a surprise game from me. I was not expecting it, but I have found a wonderful little card game that I would highly recommend. Game play is smooth, fast paced and captivating. The rules are well written and easy to learn. The quality is wonderful (love the linen-finish cards) if the artwork isn't. If "Lords of Scotland" came out with another theme or different art I would definitely be per-ordering.
Designer: Richard James
Artist: Gabrielle Levion
Publisher: Evertide Games, Z-Mann Games
Number of Players: 2-5
Game Length: 35 minutes
Photo Credits: Richard James(rcjames14), Judit Szepessy (judoka)(3), Danik Magik (Danik13), John Longstreet (lmjarl), Michael Haddifax (Haddifax)(3)
Thanks for taking such great photographs and sharing them with us!
- Last edited Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:43 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Tue Apr 3, 2012 12:16 am
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
Ditto. This is one of Richard James' truly great little card games, along with Court of the Medici
Nice review. I obtained this game last month and it just hit the table for the first time. My initial impressions mesh with your thoughts; nicely done.
This is a game that I have avoided simply on the basis of the artwork. I disliked the Glory to Rome artwork, but was able to get beyond it when someone finally insisted. When I first saw this game (which has a theme I am really interested in) I almost sent off an offer to Zev to re-illustrate the deck on a spec basis. But I heard somewhere the designer brought the art with him, a friend or something had already illustrated it.
I don't know the truth of that, but I guess I should give this one a chance as well. Thanks for the review.
I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
Great review. Thank you so much for shedding some light on this game. I've looked at it many times but I think you convinced me to pull the trigger on my next order.
You won't regret buying this great little inexpensive game.
I was introduced to the game a couple of months ago and enjoyed it.
Funny thing about artwork opinions - everyone's got one
I found a copy of the first edition because I much preferred its art over the concept art for the 2015 edition.