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Designer Diary: Greedy Kingdoms

From gallery of faidutti
My blog at is not as visited as it was these last years. I have only an average of three hundred daily visitors in 2018, half of what I had three years ago. I'm not sure if it's because everything is moving on Facebook, Twitter and, when it's about board games, BGG, or just because I'm getting older and less relevant. It's probably a bit of both.

Anyway, I've decided from now on to post at least my designer diaries also on BoardGameGeek, which has always been a very friendly place for my games. I'll start in the coming days with my most recent games:
Greedy Kingdoms, Fist of Dragonstones, Dragons, and the Persian language edition of Citadels. This doesn't mean I'm abandoning my blog, which will still be the place to read about my games before I post here, and the only place where I'll post reflections that are not designer diaries. I even have some hope that this will bring me some more visitors.

This designer diary first appeared on my blog on July 25, 2018.

I still consider Citadels to be at its best with four or five players, and I've never been really fond of the two-player rules. Many players like them, so they must not be really bad, but they're not for me.

In 2016, after having finished work on the new edition of Citadels, I discovered Greedy Kingdoms, a small two-player card game designed by Hayato Kisaragi and first published in 2009. I owned the game for quite a long time, but hadn't looked at it before. Mechanically, Greedy Kingdoms has little in common with Citadels, but both games are based on character cards, are about building buildings (can you say this?), and rely on the same psychological dilemmas. As a result, they feel somewhat similar.

With a Japanese friend, I played Greedy Kingdoms a lot, and in the end I took it over to make my own version. I didn't change much with the hero abilities, but I largely redesigned the other cards: buildings, citizens, and magical items. There is a specific and relatively lazy pleasure in designing, one after another, cards to fit an already existing system. I had the same fun working on Greedy Kingdoms that I had on Warehouse 51 and on revisiting older designs such as Castle or Fist of Dragonstones. This is so much easier and rewarding than creating a brand new system.

From gallery of faidutti
Greedy Kingdoms first edition

We've never actually met, but it's not the first time I worked with Hayato Kisaragi since he designed the Japanese Mythos cards for my Battle of Gods / Mythos game that was published in a Japanese game magazine and in the French comics magazine Lanfeust. (There's no English version yet, but there has been some talk about it.) I haven't played Hayato's best know games, Grimoire and Lost Legacy, but I've read the rules. In many ways, they seem to be a bit like my best designs, with lots of bluff, fun card effects, and more tactics than strategy.

From gallery of faidutti
From gallery of faidutti
Two Japanese cards from my Mythos game

At Gen Con 2017, I talked a bit here and there about Greedy Kingdoms, which I decidedly enjoyed, and I finally decided to contact the first edition's designer and publisher to see what could be made from my tweakings and ideas. They answered me that a new edition was already in the works, to be published by AEG, but that my developments were welcome. I wrote down all my ideas and sent the files to Hayato. He discussed a few things, but in the end agreed on almost all of my many minor changes. The idea was to keep the basic systems but to make the game clearer, more dynamic, and to tweak the balance to make it less unforgiving. I hope all those who enjoyed the first version of the game, of which there was only a hard-to-find bilingual Japanese/English edition, will appreciate the changes. With a big publisher and nice components, I also hope this will be an opportunity for this so-far hidden gem to find new players.

From gallery of faidutti
From gallery of faidutti

Greedy Kingdom's players are rival kings. Every round, one of them is the attacker and the other one the defender. The attacker plays face down three of their nine hero cards — King, Knight, Traveler, Painter, Baron, Cook, Witch, Bandit, Thief — sending them to battle in order to win the resources — gold, food, honor and land — required to develop the kingdom. Of course, the rival king, the defender, tries to prevent this and also plays face down cards to block and neutralize these possible attackers. Only unblocked heroes can use their abilities. Hard earned resources are used to promote heroes and give them extra abilities, to hire citizens, to build buildings (once more, this sounds strange) and even to buy useful but fragile magic items.

Greedy Kingdoms is a development, tactical and bluffing game, and in the end something relatively involved and sophisticated for a light two-player game. If you like Citadels, but like me don't really enjoy it with two players, you will like Greedy Kindoms. And if you're among the few people who like two-player Citadels, you might find it even better.

From gallery of faidutti
From gallery of faidutti

My great fear was that the U.S. publisher would want to move the game's action into their homemade pseudo-Renaissance universe, Tempest, which I find bland and unconvincing. I was ready to fight a bit on this, but luckily it wasn't necessary.

Working with AEG was fast, efficient and enjoyable, and I'm happy they decided to keep the original Japanese graphics, and to order the graphics for the new cards from the same graphic team. As a result, Greedy Kingdoms feels like an ironic mirror image of what I have described a few years ago in my essay about orientalism in boardgames. Greedy Kingdoms is indeed "occidentalist", the setting being western Middle Ages as imagined and drawn in Japan. Seen from Europe, the result is cute and fun, with a mix of buildings and costumes from very different periods (and hairstyles from none at all), and even a courtesan who looks like a cheerleader. Dangerous fantasies of authenticity are on the rise again, and that's why this kind of humorous mix is more necessary than ever. I'm all for cultural appropriation as long as it is done lightly, by everyone and in all directions, and the result is fun and colorful.

Bruno Faidutti

From gallery of faidutti
At the Osaka Game Market in April 2018
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