David G. Cox Esq.
Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
A Medieval-style Card-game for 2-4 Earls
Designed by Jon Sudbury
Published by Jon Sudbury Games (2014)
I became aware of Ortus Regni by accident, skimming through the pages of BGG. It looked different…really different. So different that I was reluctant to spend the money necessary to buy it and have it shipped to Australia. I thought long and hard about it for six months, reading reviews, but remaining unconvinced that I really wanted/needed the game.
I accidentally bumped into a second-hand copy for a really good price. I purchased it.
Before I tell you about the game let me say that all my expectations have been greatly exceeded. It looks incredible with some of the best production values I have ever seen. It is incredibly simple to play without being simplistic. It plays quickly and I find it both an extremely exciting and satisfying game to play. I have also found the designer to be very supportive of his game and interesting to communicate with.
Let’s Start With the Product.
The word to describe everything about the game is “lavish”. All components are made solidly and with an incredible high quality finish. The box is solid and glossy. The cards are beautiful and illustrated with contemporary artwork. The wooden card holders are stylish. Jon Sudbury told me he designed the game hoping that it would instil a feel for the period, consequently the cards have no text as many people at the time would have been illiterate.
Let’s Look at the Gameplay
The game has 16 different cards: 6 location cards, 5 people cards and 5 political cards. Apart from the palace (each player starts with their single palace on the table in front of them) there are six each of the other 15 cards. Players start with 91 cards. Players choose a deck of 25 cards – the only stipulation is that they must include their palace.
Each of the 15 cards can be played in one, two or three different ways. There are really nice player aids to help you learn how to play the game and what the cards can do. The object of the game is to construct a deck of 25 cards that will be able to win the game. You can win the game by eliminating all of the opponents’’ fiefs (castles and palaces), by eliminating their prince through treachery or by them running out of cards in their draw deck.
The game is a quick game and a two-player contest should take less than 20 minutes. It is not a game that requires a lot of thinking during the game. The thinking takes place before the game as you select cards for your deck. The play of the game is simply to see how well you constructed your deck…and I find that fascinating.
To play the game is simple. You play a card from your hand or build up your army. If you wish you may construct towers to help protect your fief and/or add armies to mercenary cards, and then you draw a card.
The location cards are castle, market, land, church and cathedral. The castle allows a little more security by being able to lose a fief and remain in the game. Markets increase the value of your land. Land allows you to recruit and field an army. The church and cathedral help obtain favourable battle results and possibly assist in bequeathing your estates to other members of your bloodline, to extend the longevity of your family.
People cards include prince, vassal, monk, mercenary and champion. You can only have one prince in play at a time. Vassals can help in combat and be sent as an emissary to the Vikings. Monks can be sent as an emissary to enlist the aid of the treacherous Vikings. Mercenaries allow you to field a larger army and, due to my inexperience, I find champions have not yet found their way into my deck as I am yet to work out how to employ them effectively.
Political cards include intrigue, treachery, allies, banquet and banner. Intrigue and treachery allow you to do nasty things to opponents off the battlefield. Allies protect you from this sort of disgusting and duplicitous behaviour that would never be enacted by gentlemen. Banquets give you more cards. Banners are important as they give you the chance to become king (not as grand as it may sound) and allow you to bequeath/breed, ensuing the longevity of your bloodline.
I am not going to go into details about the minor mechanics, such as resolving battles. All that needs to be said is that they are resolved quickly and simply. There is always a chance that the underdog will win on the day…nothing is certain.
As the game progresses, the deck of viking cards will come into play. They are a real problem if they are not your friend. The more emissaries you send to them, the greater your chance of having the ability in influence/control who they attack.
Ease of Learning
If anything the game’s mechanics are so simple that they are difficult to learn as I was looking for complexity that wasn’t there. The rulebook is long…probably longer than it needs to be…but it is comprehensive.
Again, I am blown away as my expectations are exceeded. Jon has been most helpful. He answers questions here on the forums. When he found that the sand-time (not essential) was missing from my second-hand copy of the game he insisted on sending me a replacement, despite me saying it was not necessary. There is an Ortus Regni website where you can download, for gratis, software that allows you to play Ortus Regni online or against AI (you know what they say about AI – Artificial Intelligence beats Genuine Stupidity every time). The software has learning/teaching tutuorials and then allows you to learn to play the game against the AI. I have played over 20 games and am thoroughly enjoying them…I don’t normally play computer games.
But Wait…There’s More
On top of all the things I have said so far, there are training decks (a small deck of cards with text so you can learn the game in a basic format). There are high quality player mats. There are variant player mats so that you can vary the game experience.
I am totally blown away by Ortus Regni. It is fast fun. It is exciting. It is a really beautiful game and a truly gorgeous product that has been lovingly constructed by its designer.
It may not be for everyone as its design parameters are so non-mainstream, but, if I was on a desert island, and I could only have five games with me, Ortus Regni would be one of them.
Nice work David....
Looks like an amazing game.
Combat Commander Archivist
Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
Clarification: You do not win by eliminating an opposing prince through treachery.
It may be that a prince is assassinated and discarded, but that player will continue to play until she either can play another prince (if she has one in her deck) and bequeath (thus staying in the game) or until she then loses by "old age," i.e., being unable to draw a card.
As for champions, they are good fighters as lords or from your hand in a pinch. Of course, they are wilds in a joust. I've never played a banner/champion heavy deck but it could be fun.
Good review. There is a lot to be enthused about with this game.
Matthew 10: 29-31
I ordered the game right from the website. The quality of EVERYTHING is off the charts! Seriously...and everything blows my mind especially for the price!