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Jimmy Okolica
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This will be the first time I've tried to write a real "review" of a game. Generally, my reviews are focused on my personal impressions of the game and how well it fits into the style of game I like (I still added this in to the bottom of the review). However, since there are no reviews for Artus, I felt obliged to try to write a more comprehensive type of review, in the style of Ender's Game (though nowhere near as thorough). Hopefully this will stimulate some interest in a game that is quick, clever, offers a lot of player interaction and offers a fair amount of replayability. I have shamelessly borrowed Ender's Game's Pictorial Review format and several pictures previously uploaded (seeing as how I wasn't sure what I was allowed to photograph and upload I just took what was already there).

INTRODUCING.... ARTUS


Thematically, players are lords vying to get their knights sitting closest to the king. Players accomplish this by playing either Knight cards or King cards. Knight cards move their knights in a clockwise (generally) direction while King cards either increase the prestige of one of the three princes (until his prestige is so high that he replaces the king) or moves one of the princes (or the king) also in a clockwise (generally) direction. When a player plays a Knight or King card, they score points based on the seat the knight or prince was occupying before they were moved.

In the advanced game, players also have scoring cards. These cards are played instead of a King or Knight card and give points based on whether or not a player satisfies the scoring condition on the card. This expert variant is what makes the game hard to plan and provides the depth that increases replayability.

COMPONENTS

Component List:
Rulebook
Game Board (2 pieces + connector + the table including the pig)
24 Knights (6 Knights in each color)
4 Princes (2 Princes in Gold/ 2 Princes in Bronze)
10 Rings
12 +50 Scoring Markers
88 cards (22 in each player's color - 8 Knight cards, 8 King cards, 6 Scoring cards)

Rulebook

While I wouldn't classify the rulebook as extraordinary, it is certainly functional. It has the rules on the left of the page and then a quick summary on the right for those who haven't played Artus in a while and just need a memory jog.

There were no confusing points while reading the rules and midway through the first game, I put the rules away and haven't looked at them since. The rulebook first explains the basic game very thoroughly and then adds in the scoring cards (as well as the minor setup changes) for the advanced game.

Each Scoring Card is explained separately and thoroughly so there really isn't any chance for confusion and, frankly, after looking at them for a couple of minutes, there's no need to look at the rules again. However, just so there's no confusion, the rulebook includes on the back page examples for all of the different scoring possibilities.

Game Board and Pieces


The Gameboard is one of the best components. It comes in two pieces so it fits in the small game box but it is locked together by a connector piece which also houses the round table. The table turns nicely and looks like it will be very durable. The board is made up of two parts, the seats that sit around the table and the table itself. The table is always oriented such that the head (or tail) of the pig is always facing the King. Whenever the King changes his seat, the table moves so that the pig still faces him. Thus it is the movement of the king that changes the value of all of the different seats that the knights sit in. This can be one of the greatest sources of chaos in the game since as soon as one player uses one card to move the King, all of the things you set up for your next turn have changed.

The Knights and Princes/King are functional but are a bit flimsy since they are hollow. The rings are also a bit light and have a tendency to slip from your fingertips. All in all, if they had to cut corners to meet a price points, this was probably a good place to cut. The pieces are functional and sturdy enough to hold up to repeated use (though I am a little afraid of losing the rings).

Finally, since points are scored every turn, the +50 markers are used to track when a player has gone all the way around the score board (in the unlikely occurrence that a player goes below zero, he is to place his score marker on its side). They are made of thick cardboard and should stand up well to repeated use.

Cards

The cards are the crux of the game and, after five plays, seem to be doing well. I have never sleeved any of my cards (though I probably should) and these cards look like they will hold up well.



The Knight cards allow you to move one knight in a clockwise direction the range of spaces indicated on the card (e.g., on the top right card, the knight could move clockwise 4,5,6 or 7 spaces). If there is another piece on the space where the knight will end his movement, that piece is "displaced" and is moved counter-clockwise until it finds an empty space (which may very well be the space the moving knight just vacated). The player who moved his knight then scores points for the seat his knight just vacated. If the seat vacated is a Green Seat (positive points), the player receives the positive points. If it is a Red Seat (negative points), he receives the negative points and if it is a Yellow Seat (zero points), he receives no points.

Observe that through clever play, each time a player moves a knight, he has the power to move two pieces, the knight and whatever piece he displaces. This may be very critical when trying to satisfy some of the scoring cards described later.

NB: There is one knight (bottom right corner of the above picture) that can move both clockwise and counter-clockwise; however, regardless of which way it moves, any displaced piece still moves counter-clockwise.



There are two types of King cards, Ring cards and Movement cards. Movement cards work exactly the same way as they do for knights (including the one King movement card that allows counter-clockwise movement). Ring cards allow a player to place a ring on one of the princes (but never the king). Players receive points for ring cards based on the seat the prince occupies. Once a prince has 3 rings, he becomes the King, the King becomes a Prince (and loses two of his rings), and the table then moves so that King faces the pig.

The one tweak with the King cards is that some are silver (and can only be played on the silver princes/king); some are bronze (and can only be played on the bronze princes/king) and some are both silver and bronze and can be played on any of the princes/kings.



The scoring cards form the meat of the advanced game and IMO are what gives this game its depth.

The top left card has the player score all of his knights by summing up the positive and negative (and zero) values and then scoring the net result.

The top middle card has the player score all of his knights by summing up the positive and negative (and zero) values and then scoring the opposite result (e.g., if the sum is +8, the player scores -8).

The bottom middle card has the player score by summing up one positive knight (green), one negative knight (red), and one zero knight (yellow). If he does not have at least one of each type, he scores -15 points.

The bottom left card has the player score by summing up two knights, each of which is sitting on one of the 6 red carpet spaces. If he does not have at least two knights on the red carpet, he scores -25 points.

The bottom right card has the player score by summing up three knights, each of which is sitting on a red (negative) seat. If he does not have at least three knights on red seats, he scores -50 points.

Finally, the top right card allows the player to either score any piece (Knight or Prince), move any piece 1 - 3 spaces (Knight or Prince) or place a ring on any prince.

GAME PLAY
Objective
The game ends when all players have exhausted of their cards. At that point, whoever has amassed the most points, wins. There is no separate end-game scoring; scoring takes place as part of each player's turn.

Set Up

The board is set up as shown, with the princes set up on the four corners and same color princes opposite each other. The prince sitting beside the largest crown is the first king and gets 3 rings; each other prince gets one ring. Players also place one of their knights at the 0 spot of the scoring track.

Each player divides their cards into three stacks: one stack of Knight cards, one stack of King cards, and one stack of Scoring cards. If playing the basic game, players draw two cards from their Knight stack and two cards from their King stack and return the Scoring cards to the box. If playing the advanced game, players draw three cards from their Knight stack and three cards their King stack.

Player now take turns, placing one of their knights in one of the seats starting with the player to start player's right (who will go last) and proceeding counter-clockwise until every player has placed all of their knights.



Game Play
Players take turns. On a player's turn, he plays one of the cards from his hand and does what it says. If it is a Knight card, he moves a knight clockwise (in general) a number of spaces in the range of the card. If it is a King Movement card, he moves a prince (or King) of the appropriate color clockwise (in general) a number of spaces in the range of the card. In both cases, he is awarded a number of points equal to the seat the piece was occupying before it moved. If when the piece finishes its move, it "displaces" another piece, that piece always moves counter-clockwise to the first open seat (often the seat the moving piece just left). The displaced piece is not scored. Lastly, if it is a King Ring card, he places a ring on one of the princes (never the King) and scores points based on the seat the prince is sitting in. After scoring, if the prince has now become the King (i.e., he now has three rings), two rings are removed from the old king and the table is rotated so that the pig is facing the new king. Lastly, if playing the advanced game and the player plays a scoring card, the scoring card is immediately scored as described in the cards section above.

After the player plays his first card and it is scored, he plays a second card and it is also scored. The player now draws one card from any of his two (basic game) or three (advanced game) piles (King, Knight, or Scoring), looks at it and then draws a second card from any of his piles. Play then passes clockwise to the next player and continues until all players have played all of their cards.

Scoring
Scoring is as described in the Cards section above. The gotcha is that many of the scoring cards have a potentially steep negative score if a player can't satisfy the condition; therefore, getting these cards into one's hand early enough to satisfy their conditions and play them is critical to doing well. In addition, since there are more negative spots then positive ones, the "score the opposite of all knights" scoring card has the biggest potential to generate positive points (potentially 65 points) while the "score three negative knights" has the biggest potential for negative points (-50) (technically the score all knights has the greatest negative potential (-65 points) but realistically this should never happen). Therefore, managing these two scoring cards is critical to doing well in the game.

CONCLUSIONS
Overall, I like Artus. The components are good where it counts and the game play is interesting. My one concern is the level of chaos, especially when playing with 3 or 4 players. So far, all of my games have been 2-player and even with 2-player, it has been very risky to set something up on one turn, hoping the board is still "close enough" on the next turn to do what you planned. Overall, this is a game of tactics and screwage and not much of a game of strategy. This is not a game that can be played "nicely", since oftentimes setting up the board so you do well will mess up the other players' plans. Of course, if it happens accidentally, when played 2-palyer, this re-arranging of the board may happen intentionally and quite regularly.

This is the end of the (mostly) comprehensive pictorial review. Below is my 2+ Player Review, written from my perspective as a gamer who plays most games 2-player with my girlfriend and an occasional game with more than 2 on a Friday night gaming night out.

MY RATING CATEGORIES
Meaty (1 = luck-fest, 10 = brain hurts when done)
While this isn't a huge brain burner, it definitely makes you think. Trying to balance scoring cards/knight cards/prince cards in your hand while getting yourself a good score each turn and attempting to screw with your opponents is a lot to manage. With that said, the game is short enough that I don't feel exhausted at the end of it. Score: 7

Number of Players/ Scalability
Unfortunately, I've only played this 2 player so I can't comment on 3 or 4 players. I think with a higher player count, it would be more chaotic. As it is, in a 2-player, there's a good chance your opponent will change the board sufficiently that you may have to fix things. Score: 6

Playing Time
2-player is 30 minutes. I suspect additional players would add 15 minutes apiece. For me, it's a great game for 30 minutes and I think would work well at an hour for 4. Score: 7

Re-playability
I've only played this 5 times so I'm not sure about the replayability. My gut is that with the randomness of the card draws and the high amount of player interaction, this game should have pretty good replayability. My guess is in the 20 - 50 game range. b]Score: 7[/b]

Player Interaction
Managing player interaction is a big part of this game (particularly 2-player). I don't know if 3 or 4 player will introduce too much chaos or not. My gut is especially with more than two players, this turns into a tactical game where you try to make the best use of the two card plays you get each turn. Score: 7

Downtime
There is a little bit of downtime; however, moves are relatively quick, especially if you let the active player move the table around to help with visualization. My guess is probably a minute or two per player. Score: 7

Mechanics
I like games with different mechanics and this one certainly fits. It is (mostly) an abstract and so the mechanics are different than anything else in my collection. The only short description I could give it is area control but that really doesn't fit. It's about placing your pieces in a way to maximize your scoring opportunities. Score: 10

Extras
The knights and princes and rings are nothing special. However, the cards are nice and I do like the artwork. In addition, the board design works well with a table that turns easily and looks like it will be durable for a long time to come. In addition, the cards do add a little bit of theme which makes the game a bit more interesting. Score: 7

Summary:
Based on my scores for the different categories, I'd rate this game a 7 and that is probably right. It is interesting; I do enjoy it and I probably wouldn't ever turn it down but it's not something I'm eager to play. The biggest plus for me is the unusual mechanics and scoring and figuring out how to maximize my own scores while denying scoring opportunities to everyone else. My biggest question/ concern at this point is how well it will play with more than 2 players. If it plays well with 3 and 4, I'd probably increase my score. Personal Score: 7 (with potential for upward mobility)

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Joel Eddy
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Thanks for the review! It was very well done. This game is moving up my wishlist fast.
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Matt Tonks
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Good review.

I've played a 4-player game & that was pretty chaotic! But I liked it
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Andy Andersen
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Excellent review. I'm just waiting for this to move from pre-order to in-stock. Thanks
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Jimmy Okolica
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Orangemoose wrote:
Excellent review. I'm just waiting for this to move from pre-order to in-stock. Thanks


There is one ding-dent copy at GameSurplus for $20. Also, if you email them, they're pretty good at ordering it (frmo overseas when necessary) and emailing you when it comes in. So far I've picked up Artus, Lancaster, and Vinhos that way..
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Andy Andersen
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Butterfly0038 wrote:
Orangemoose wrote:
Excellent review. I'm just waiting for this to move from pre-order to in-stock. Thanks


There is one ding-dent copy at GameSurplus for $20. Also, if you email them, they're pretty good at ordering it (frmo overseas when necessary) and emailing you when it comes in. So far I've picked up Artus, Lancaster, and Vinhos that way..


Yep. I've picked up Magnum Sal and Seeland from GameSurplus.
 
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Geoff Burkman
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I will attest that the 3-player game is very entertaining. Since each playear has an identical set of cards, the game ultimately boils down to a battle of timing and informed guesswork. Some may find the constant table movement to be infuriating, but to me that's a central part of the fun of the game, deciding when and how to get the king relocated and thus alter the disposition of the table.

Fine review, btw, Mr. O.
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Jimmy Okolica
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MisterG wrote:
I will attest that the 3-player game is very entertaining. Since each playear has an identical set of cards, the game ultimately boils down to a battle of timing and informed guesswork. Some may find the constant table movement to be infuriating, but to me that's a central part of the fun of the game, deciding when and how to get the king relocated and thus alter the disposition of the table.

Fine review, btw, Mr. O.


Thanks and I completely agree. The 3-Player did not seem to introduce too much more chaos (although there were several turns where I was biting my nails hoping that somebody didn't guess what I was planning and go out of their way to screw me).
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Jeff Binning
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I picked this game up on impulse about a month ago, just because I enjoy many Kramer/Kiesling games. When I first opened it, I was concerned it might not be colorblind friendly, so I set it aside.

Yesterday I sat down and learned the game in about 20 minutes. It was easy to understand, and the components are not a problem regarding colors. I taught the game to my wife in about 5 minutes, and we ended up playing 3 times. We used the advanced rules, and came up with some great scoring combinations as we tried to get rid of our scoring cards without taking too much damage.

We were both impressed with how nicely it played. Definitely tactical, as no long term plans will stand for long. It's great with 2, but it may get chaotic with 3 or 4. I'm looking forward to trying it with more.

I hope this game isn't overlooked. It deserves to get played.
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