Introducing King's Kilt
There's a lot of jokes about kilts, although unfortunately most of them are offensive, and this family friendly thread isn't the place to start sharing them.
Although I can certainly share a humorous picture of the smart-looking vehicle used to advertise the "Men In Kilts" window cleaning company, which does work exactly as they promise: squeaky clean!
But King's Kilt, by Gordon Hamilton, is no joking matter, although it is a game themed about Scottish clans - presumably wearing kilts - vying for the crown.
One thing's for sure: it's not too often that you find the words "kilt" and "game" in the same sentence, because there definitely aren't many games about kilts. So the question is: how decent a game is this one? Like a kilt joke, is it something we'd rather not hear about, or does it fall into the category of inoffensive and innocuous, or perhaps even rate as excellent? Is this a bad joke, or a good game?
Certainly the mechanics of this game are unique and stand out from the ordinary - just like a kilt. You're advancing clan cards up a pyramid, trying to ensure that clans that match one of your three secret objectives make it to the top. You can also use influence cards to betray clan cards and thus end their attempt to win the crown.
This fascinating title is game number three in the delightful EGG series of portable small box games by Eagle-Gryphon Games, and caters for 2-4 players. Let's show you what you get and how it works!
Like the other titles in the EGG Series, the game box is conveniently portable, and features tartan graphics that reflect the title of the game and the theme.
The back of the box introduces the theme as follows:
"Wield your influence over the clans to win power and prestige for your family in the struggle for the Scottish crown."
Inside the box we find the following:
● 16 Clan Leader cards
● 48 Clan Member cards
● 3 Scoring Reference cards
There are 64 Clan cards in total, featuring 8 different clans: Bruce, Wallace, Hamilton, Buchanan, Douglas, Stewart, MacBeth, and MacLeod.
There are 8 identical copies of each Clan card, although two of these (Clan Leaders) have different artwork on the back, as shown in the image below. The only reason for this is because the Clan Leader cards will be placed on the top of the deck of Clan Members at the start of the game, to ensure an equal distribution of clans with the initial draw and layout.
These three reference cards will be used during the game as a reminder of what happens when cards are advanced to the top three rows of the pyramid tableau that players will build together, and where they will also score points at game end.
The rules are on a small paper that unfolds with 8 panels. You can download it here from the publisher.
Here's how the rulebook describes the basic game-play:
"The game depicts intrigue and treachery among the Scottish clans vying for the crown. Clans ascend the pyramid of cards, rising from the bottom three rows of commoners, through the ranks of noblemen and guardians, until one finally gains the crown and is named King of Scotland. Once a king is crowned, clans can only continue to advance by committing acts of betrayal against their neighbors. Players continue by playing influence cards until everyone has passed, thereby ending the game."
Like a kilt, these mechanics are not something you see very often! There are a few other games that use a pyramid structure of cards, although it's certainly not very common, and what makes the game-play of King's Kilt interesting is the way you advance and betray clans in the process.
Secret Family Clans: At the start of the game, all players are secretly given three different clan cards. -It is your objective to try to get cards matching your three secret clans to the top of the pyramid tableau that players will work on together.
Influence: Each player also starts with a separate hand of five additional clan cards (four in a 4 player game), which they'll use as influence later in the game to betray clan cards.
Pyramid Base: With the 16 Clan Leader cards on top of the deck to ensure an even distribution of clans at the start of the game, you deal out six cards face up to form the base of the common pyramid.
Flow of Play
The basic flow of play involves players doing one of either two things on their turn:
● Advance a Clan card
You can move a clan member card diagonally up to the next level of the pyramid. The power vacuum created by the empty space where this card was previously is then filled by one of the two clan cards below it. This is repeated down the pyramid, with an empty space in the bottom row being filled by the top card of the draw pile. The first time a card is advanced to each of the top three rows will force certain players to reveal their secret objective clan cards, thus revealing information as the game progresses.
● Betray a Clan card
Alternatively, you can discard one of the cards from your hand of five influence cards on a clan member in the pyramid to remove a neighbouring clan member card (in any of six directions), then filling the power vacuum created by this in the same way as just described. The influence card discarded must match the pyramid clan member being influenced if it is in one of the top three rows.
Once a card reaches the top row, a King has been crowned, but the game continues because players can still change the game-state by betraying clans if they wish, to try to get more clan cards matching their secret family clans to the top three point-scoring rows of the pyramid.
When everyone has passed, points are scored for each clan card in the top three rows that matches your three secret family clans given at the start of the game: 3 points for a match in the top row (King), 2 points for each match in the second row (Guardians), and 1 point for each match in the third row (Noblemen).
In the game pictured above, the player on the left scored 8 points, while the player on the right scored 5 points.
What do I think?
Theme: Obviously the theme here is mostly pasted on. But it does help give some cohesive unity to the ideas of the game, and it has the bonus of giving the game some potential for nice artwork. Using family names for clans is a nice touch as well - much better than just plain colours and numbers.
Hidden agenda: I love games that have secret objectives, because of the potential it has for bluffing and the uncertainty of what other players are aiming for. This game has that element in the form of the three secret family clan cards that each player gets at the start of the game. One interesting things about the secret objectives in King's Kilt is how players are forced to reveal some of their objectives as the game progresses, so there is more and more information to work with over time.
Pyramid mechanic: The mechanic in which you're elevating cards up a pyramid feels quite unique. It certainly gives this game an original feel that is very different from the vast majority of card games, and is something most people will really appreciate about this game. There's some really neat things going on there, particularly when this is combined with the fact that players have secret objectives, and also have influence cards that they can use to eliminate clan cards in play via betrayal. These mechanics come together in a neat package that feels genuinely fresh and interesting.
Similar games? Several people have remarked that this game has points of comparison with the game Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue (2014) by Reinier Knizia. I suspect that the theme accounts for part of this, but it should be noted that this recent Knizia title is actually just a reimplementation of his older penguin-themed card game called Pinguin-Party (2008), which in turn is based on his Penguin (2007). I can see some points of similarity, notably the pyramid structure, and how you are trying to get certain cards on top of others, but King's Kilt relies on quite different mechanics, and has much more intrigue and depth. So aside from some superficial similarities, I really can't think of a game that is anything like this one.
Decisions: Certainly this game has some luck, especially in the cards that are added via the bottom of the pyramid, although this is mitigated somewhat by the initial stack at the top of the draw deck. And you can get lucky if your opponent is working hard to advance a clan that is also one of your own secret objectives, without him realizing. But the game is light enough and quick enough that none of this matters too much. The outcome is far from blind luck alone, because you're making decisions about which cards to advance, and which ones to betray. There is some scope for bluffing, because it won't always pay to be too obvious about your intentions. Given the relative short time the game takes to play, the combination of luck and strategy feels just right to me, and keeps the game fun and entertaining.
Interaction: This game has good interaction, because you're trying to elevate your own clans up the pyramid and take out your opponents. Yet it's not completely nasty, because of the hidden information - you can't be entirely sure what your opponent is even going for, and at times it might even be the same clan as yours! But it's a good interactive game while still leaning more towards the fun side of things rather than than the nasty side of things.
Rules: The rules aren't that difficult, although there a few finnicky things about how the game works. The set-up is a bit clunky, due to (a) the initial distribution of secret objective cards to players needs to be from a set of eight distinct cards that you need to find and separate; (b) the arrangement of starting cards on the top of the deck uses different-backed Leader cards. Additionally, the game-play has some less than elegant features, such as (a) the less than ideal fact of having two hands of cards (influence + secret objectives); (b) how the mechanic of betrayal works slightly differently for the top three rows; and (c) the revealing of objective cards which applies to all players but one. Some of the people I taught the game to also found that the way betrayal worked (i.e. you don't influence the card you're betraying, but an adjacent card) somewhat counter-intuitive. Fortunately the rulebook is good and does a good job of explaining everything, with helpful diagrams and examples.
Accessibility: This is a fairly straight forward game to play, and is not hard to learn, so it is very suitable as a filler, and even for new gamers. However the slightly odd rule nuances mentioned above do detract from the game's elegance, and keep it from being elevated above your average filler. It also takes a fair amount of space, and the need to constantly move cards around can at times be a little awkward. Having said that, King's Kilt is still relatively simply, especially since you have just two options on your turn.
Scalability: I've played a number of two player games of King's Kilt, and certainly it works just fine as a two player game - it didn't feel like it was an incomplete or unsatisfying experience. A three player game, however, just felt better, because there is more intrigue, with more competition for the top, and it can be harder to figure out what cards players are going for. With more players, there's also a greater likelihood of secret objectives overlapping, which for me that just adds to the fun.
Components: As with all the games in the EGG series, the quality of the cards is superb. For the most part I'm a fan of the artwork and graphic design, which is pleasing on the eye, but some of the clans do look too much alike, forcing you to rely on the names and not the artwork alone.
What do others think?
Not much has been said about this game so far, positive or negative, with little more than a dozen comments. One critic noted that a visually impaired player had difficulty distinguishing some of the clans; others have expressed a similar concern with the artwork. For the most part the critics didn't dislike the game, considering it a decent filler, but just didn't find it extraordinarily good or outstanding.
There's really not a lot of feedback about the game to go by at this stage, but some of the few positive comments include the following:
"King's Kilt is maybe the best of the The E•G•G Series family." - qzhdad
"Fun quick filler card game. Very much enjoyed it." - Irishman4491
"It is a nice game of chicken and I am looking forward to playing again with more players." - punkin312
"Not to die for, but a fun game." - darbjustic
"I do like the pyramid building nature of trying to push families up the pyramid to crown the king. I also think the influence cards add a good amount of added mechanics to make it more than just pushing cards up the pyramid." - joeincolorado
"Decent filler game." - mafh
"A simple, quick, streamlined take on games like King Me! or Kremlin." - snoozefest
"People were thrilled about replaying, due to simplicity, and the secrecy of trying to “manipulate” moves to either arrange their clan members or strategically place influence." - DPDoherty2000
"It's definitely a keeper for me. It's quick, with a nice balance of luck and strategy, and some backstabby fun that doesn't get too nasty." - SilentCat
"I can see this one having some potential." - Catyrpelius
"Little pyramid game, involving some moving cards, bluffing to reach the top of the tower. More to it than initially meets the eye." - BrianLas
"This is a pretty ideal filler." - AnalyzerOfGames
So is King's Kilt for you? There are a few things about the game play that prevent it from being as elegant as one might like, and not everyone will be a fan of the artwork. But overall this game feels very fresh and original, and is an enjoyable filler that brings something new and fun to the table. The more I've played it, the more I've enjoyed it. It will especially appeal to people who like the idea of secret objectives and the potential for bluffing, and there are definitely a lot of fun moments to be had along the way, as well as healthy interaction, all with in a very manageable time span of no more than 15 minutes.
King's Kilt is a solid effort and original game that is a fun filler, and another fine addition to the EGG series. And you don't even need to wear a kilt to enjoy it!
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Well, it's no Ginkgopolis...
great work Ender!
"Everything I need to know I learned in the brain of my human host."
I think that all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. I’m certainly not, and I’m sick and tired of being told that I am.
One game that has some similarities would be Tiki Topple. Both games have hidden goals: King's Kilt slowly reveals them, while Tiki Topple allows you to possibly deduce your opponents' goals from the moves they make.
Instead of clans, Tiki Topple uses moai in different colors; but both games involve moving objects to more closely match your hidden goal pattern, and varying points are awarded based on how close you came.
One game that has some similarities would be Tiki Topple
Thanks for sharing that, I've not played Tiki Topple so I can't compare them.
At any rate, King's Kilt doesn't travel along paths that have been well trodden by other games, because it's not easy to think of ones that are similar.
I always enjoy a game which feels somewhat fresh and original, and that's certainly something that it has in its favour.