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Subject: First impressions: Claim rss

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This is a mix between a session report and a review, it was copied from my blog post to reach a broader audience so people can gather more information about this game.

As you may or may not have noticed I’ve talked about all White Goblin Games Essen releases except this one. That’s about to change since I played my first few games of Claim on Monday. Claim is a beautiful trick-taking game for two. The box art is only the tip of the iceberg as you will notice when you open the tiny box. Nearly every card has its own artwork which makes it a stunning looking card game. The linen finish on the cards is a great plus too, so as far as component quality goes, this one meets the standards of the high expectations most people in the boardgaming hobby have nowadays.

Lilly sure knows how this claiming thing works

But what about the gameplay?
Claim is set in a kingdom where 5 factions live, they lost their king and now you and your opponent will fight for the throne. Well not really fight, you’ll try to get the most followers for each faction to make the kingdom your own. This happens in 2 phases, first there is a recruitment phase which is followed by a gathering phase after which the winner is determined.

The five factions are represented by numbered cards, each faction is represented by 10 cards valued 0 to 9 except for the goblins which have 4 extra 0 value cards and the knights don’t have 0 and 1 value cards. All these cards are shuffled after which 13 are dealt to each player. Every player will use these 13 cards to play the recruitment phase.
During the recruitment phase 1 card is drawn from the pile of cards that hasn’t been dealt. This card is placed face-up on the table and it is this card you are able to recruit during this trick. The Leader (the start player or the winner of the last trick) plays a faction card from his hand. The other player has to follow by playing the same faction card. Whoever played the highest card wins the trick. If you are unable to follow and you play another faction, you lose the trick. The winner takes the face up card and puts it face-down in his recruitment pile. The loser recruits the next card from the deck by drawing it. So every recruitment turn the winner gets the face up card while the loser will take a face down card from the stack. This results in situations where you will want to lose because the face up card may not be what you want. All cards played for this trick are put in a general discard pile and won’t be used anymore during this game.
There is more to the game than this, the factions have special powers. During recruitment phase the following powers apply:
-When playing a knight after a goblin the knight wins regardless of the value (must still follow if possible)
-When playing undead they don’t go to the discard pile, they go to the scoring pile of who-ever won the trick
-Doppelgangers are wild cards, you can use them instead of following. They don’t get special powers from the faction you follow though. If a doppelganger is played as the opening card you must still follow if possible.

Once all 13 cards are played everyone has recruited 13 faction members that are willing to fight for them during the gathering followers phase of the game. The winner of the last trick in phase one has to start and the rules are not a whole lot different from phase one. Instead of battling for a recruit you are now battling for followers to add to your score pile. You play the trick, whoever has the highest card wins and gets the both played cards in his score pile.
Again a few powers apply:
-Doppelgangers and knights: same powers as in the recruitment phase
-Dwarves are collected by the player losing the trick during phase 2, they like to root for the underdog. Any non-dwarf cards played still go to the winner of the trick.
If all 13 cards are played the phase is over and the new king can be revealed. Every player counts the number of followers they have per faction and the one with the majority gets a vote. If there is a tie the one with the highest valued follower gets the vote. Whoever gathers at least 3 votes wins the game and can be king of this wonderful land.

When we played it for the first time it felt rather odd, I had never played a trick taking game for two and the phases this game consists of took a few plays to get used to, at least for me. You don’t always want to win a trick in phase 1 which adds a certain amount of depth a trick taking game for two should require. If you just had to win all the battles it wouldn’t be as interesting as it is now. You want the best recruitment pool in phase 2 and that doesn’t always mean getting the higher cards, you could ignore goblins and try to only get knights so you can have both the goblin and the knights vote if it works out. You could try and go for a lot of undead in the first phase if your hand allows it and not have to worry about it any further in phase 2 and so on. The 2 phases add a dimension to the game that was necessary to make it as interesting as a 4-player trick taking game, as do the faction abilities. I can see this game being a standard traveling game for us. Trick taking games remind me of holidays with the family where we played cards, in a time where I didn’t know of modern board gaming yet. So I’m happy to have found a trick taking game that works for two, one that I will take on holidays with my partner and one that will be played for probably years to come. Do keep it mind, it’s still ‘just’ a trick taking game, this does not stand a chance when I have to ever decide to play this or a heavy eurogame for the rest of my life. But when talking solemnly about the small card game categories, this is one to look at.

Katrien won the first game, she had 4 votes while I only had one. She’s usually faster in grasping how games work, I’m a little on the slow side, even with simpler games like this one. The second time I was ready for battle and I won with 3 votes, just barely as we tied in number of knights but I had the highest valued one which resulted in me getting the vote. Looking forward to playing this again soon.
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