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Subject: Session Report rss

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Back in 1999 Alan R. Moon and Aaron Weissblum collaborated for the first time creating Knights of the Rainbow. The release was much anticipated (at least by me) since it was Moon’s first release following his award winning Elfenland. Regrettably it sucked. Bad. If I had known that In the Shadow of the Sun King was a remake of Knights I never would have bothered to buy it. But now that I’ve played it once I can see where they’ve definitely made some improvements. At least it doesn’t suck.

In the Shadow of the Sun King is still a 5-suited card game in which the cards are displayed in front of each player and having majority or control of a suit at the beginning of your turn gives you the special benefits of that suit. After making use of any special abilities you then decide whether to draw 1, 2 or 3 cards of which you get to keep one and add it to your display. Finally you may spend gold if you have it for further limited actions.

If Knights worked at all it was with 3 players. More than that and it was easy not to have any special abilities when it got to your turn. That problem has been addressed 2 ways: by allowing ties to be considered a majority with 4 or more players in the game and by adding special ability cards that are put up for auction when they appear, which offer some of the same powers as does the control of a suit or afford some protection against those powers.

Knights was incredibly chaotic, especially with more players. If you drew any of the special action cards, these counted against your 1, 2 or 3 draws. This would cut down on your options, leading more often to non-productive rounds. It also meant there was a great disincentive to drawing less than 3. The designers took the recommendations of some of the reviewers and fixed that by simply not counting any special cards against the player’s draw limit.

After one play I will say with reservations that I like this game. There was constant tension with generally more options than actions available each turn, i.e., decisions to be made each turn! And not always obvious ones! I liked the theme this time, in which players are nobility in the court of King Louis XIV, vying for influence, wealth and power, all of which are necessary if you are going to survive to the end of this tense and deadly game. It seemed to capture at least my literary sense of court intrigue, it’s viciousness reminiscent of an earlier collaboration of these two designers, Wongar, except here you can, as with Knights, be eliminated from the game, especially if the other players see you becoming too powerful and begin to fear you. We walked into this game fairly innocent, not realizing how dangerous game play really was. We were surprised as the game developed for the first time, all of a sudden realizing we had made poor decisions earlier and were now very vulnerable to elimination. How much control one can bring to bear to alleviate or at least attenuate that progression to elimination remains to be seen. Reactions were favorable with ratings all at 7 and everyone willing to play it again. Rob, who became powerful early on in green (duels), was first to go, his reward for showing mercy to Robert. I was second to fall having also failed to maintain a supply of power chips. Both Matthew and Robert survived to the end, Matthew winning by 2 over Robert.

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