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Subject: On The Road With Henry VIII rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
Lighthouse Beach
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Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
Kings Progress

A Card-game/Boardgame for 3-5 Players
Playing Time – No More Than 90 minutes
Designed by Steve Kingsbury
Published by ‘JKL&M Games’ (2005)

It is amazing what you can learn by playing games. Being an Australian I had never heard of a ‘Kings Progress’ until I came across this game. Apparently for several weeks each year King Henry VIII of England would make a tour of his country and this was called the Kings Progress. Henry would take his entire court on the road and visit many distant areas of his realm, staying at the homes and the rich and famous (not to mention powerful). While on his progress, the King would take many wagonloads of his domestic paraphernalia (such as chairs, tables, candlesticks, bathtubs, and perhaps even the proverbial kitchen-sink). While on tour many local dignitaries (and perhaps even ‘not-so-local’) would call upon the king, seeking to ingratiate themselves – as subjects are want to do. This is the world in which the game, Kings Progress, is set.

The idea of Henry VIII visiting Royal Castles and giving away gifts doesn’t sound terribly exciting but I was happy enough to purchase the game from ‘JKL&M’ games on the strength of a previous purchase of one of their games, 1861: the Railroads of the Russian Empire.

I was very impressed with the physical quality of 1861 and was a little disappointed with the physical quality of Kings Progress (and Kogge, which I purchased at the same time). My initial impression of the game was that it had a home-made feel to it – although the box is fairly sturdy. The cards come printed in several sheets and need to be separated before they can be used. My first thought was that they are very thin – but playing Ticket to Ride immediately following Kings Progress, the cards felt only slightly thinner than the cards in that train game. The game-board, although appearing that it is home-made rather than professionally printed, is quite attractive, giving the impression of an artistic map of the period laid upon a timber table. There are deep colours and it does look quite good and is very functional.

Kings Progress is a cross between a card game and a boardgame. The object is to collect sets of influence cards that will allow you to control various courtiers (which will directly lead to the acquisition of gift cards) and then to collect sets of gift cards that will score you prestige points.

Brief Explanation of the Game

The game runs for three turns. Each turn continues until either 5 of the 8 courtiers have arrived at court or until the King’s pawn reaches the end of the Player Round Track.

There are 8 courtier pawns – each have their own home castle. Players try to collect cards that match each of the courtiers and meld them. At the same time the players try to move the courtiers that they hope to control towards the royal castle that is the current location of the king. As each courtier arrives at the royal castle the person having major control of that courtier will receive gifts from the king. The gifts are either castles, land, money, offices or titles. At the end of each turn the person who has the largest set of matching gifts will receive prestige points.

Each round each player is allowed to perform two actions. The available actions are Advance (move a courtier towards the Royal Castle), Build (play influence cards to take control of a courtier), Collect (take influence cards into your hand) or Discard (remove exposed cards from your own melds). Actions may be repeated but all actions taken must be taken in alphabetical order (A, B, C and then D).

At the end of the game the person with the most prestige points will be declared winner and can announce to all and sundry, “I am the most prestigious person at this gathering!”

For those want a more detailed explanation of the game you could a lot worse than read Steve Kingsbury’s own review of his game (

Everything Is Back-to-front – one of the essential elements of the game is that you are limited to only two actions each round. The actions must be performed in the order Advance, Build, Collect and Discard. The problem is that it would nice to collect a card and then build it (meld it) in front of you OR build a card and then move a courtier. This is a very nice design feature in the game and makes planning the order in which you will conduct your actions from round to round quite important.

I Want To Collect Cards – it is nice to collect cards and give yourself a better chance to become the Major power controlling each courtier. If you spend too much time collecting cards the downside is that you less time to move the courtier towards the Royal Castle.

One of the nice aspects of the game is that you have to get your timing right. If you spend actions moving a courtier you hope to control towards the Royal Castle, you have fewer actions available to collect cards and to lay down melds. If you see someone else moving a courtier you may decide to try to collect matching cards and then hope to take control just before they move into court. Each of the 8 courtiers has 8 cards (two each of 0 value, 1 value, 2 value and 3 value).

Not All Courtiers Are Equal – the person who has major control of each courtier is allowed to use a special ability associated with that courtier.

Chamberlain – allows you to put non-matching cards into melds
Chaplain – allows you to perform three actions in any order (very powerful)
Knight – allows you a free advance for any courtier
Mistress – gives you the chance of gaining an extra influence card in your hand
Privy Seal – can change the order of cards within two of your melds
Secretary – can rearrange gifts
Steward – can draw a discarded card
Treasurer – gives you the chance of scoring extra prestige points

This means that obtaining a Major control of some courtiers is more useful than others.

How Much Control Is Enough? – judging how much control to exert on a courtier is not as simple a question as it may appear. Each courtier’s special ability can only be used once by the person with Major control – the ability is then exhausted. Each time there is a chance of control the ability becomes refreshed. It may be beneficial not to lay all your cards on the table but to keep some in reserve, hoping that someone else will take Major control of a courtier and then allow you to retake control and be able to use the ability a second time.

Highly Interactive – the game involves a high degree of player interaction on several levels. There is interaction as you see which courtiers are being moved by other players and decide if you can use those moves to your advantage. You should be perusing other players’ melds, and watching which influence cards they draw, as you decide which courtiers you think you can gain control over. As the final object of the game is to score points for sets of gift cards, looking at the cards on offer each turn may show that if there is only one set of gifts that is especially beneficial to you – consequently there is a bit of a race to get to the castle first with your courtier and so have first pick of the gifts.

Minor Control – at the end of each turn the player with Minor control of the five courtiers who have arrived at court get to select a single gift. Looking at how to gain Minor control of courtiers is quite important.

Courtiers Left Out in the Cold – each turn only a maximum of five courtiers will arrive at the Royal Court. At the end of each turn these five courtiers are returned to their home castles. The other three courtiers remain where there were at the end of the turn. This means that it is possible to position a courtier favourably so that they have an advantage for the following turn, based on their location.

Be There Any Discontent in the Kingdom? – It would be nice to have better components – but as this is a small company I feel they should be congratulated for a good game design and the courage to publish it in opposition to much larger companies. The rules are quite good - Initially I felt that the rules regarding how and when Minor control of courtiers takes place seemed somewhat vague but that was my error for rushing through the rules - everything seems quite unambiguous and very clear - a player aid card and summary would have made a good set of rules even better.

It is a nice game. It plays quickly and all players feel quite involved, even during other players’ turns. The 90 minute playtime goes very quickly. The game is full of difficult decisions – it has been designed so that you really want to do more than just two actions a turn and really would like to perform actions in the very opposite order to which you are forced to play your actions. It doesn’t seem to me that luck plays a large role in the game. Certainly the order in which the influence and gift cards are revealed will influence your options but the final outcome will be the result of how well you read the intention of other players and how you can meld your plans to take advantage of their plans and how well you count the cards as you try to gain majorities of both types of cards. The game will have excellent replayability due to the order in which Royal Castles are visited changes from game to game (giving courtiers differing levels of accessibility from game to game).

Like many interesting games, the first time you play it may be a little unsettling for some players as you come to grips with the mechanics of the game and the key to scoring. I look forward to the next time that it hits the table.

arrrh “Dead Men Tell No Tales!”

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John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
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Agree with you, this is one of those underrated gems that for some reason has fallen through the cracks as far as the BGG cogniscenti are concerned.
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Steve Kingsbury
United Kingdom
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As the designer thanks for the thoughts and yes it did seem to fall through the cracks for what i thought was a decent game. I think the reason is that until you figure out the dilemmas and choices it just feels like a bad card / suit collecting game.

We didnt notice this in playtesting as the most frequent group really got into the game and maybe became quite expert in it. The struggles of a new player to get a good vibe quickly i think we missed.

And once the early ratings are poor it just starts to slide and get no vibe. The perils of the BGG weighting system!

Thanks Steve

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