One thing that has really surprised me about writing for The Little Metal Dog Show is the opportunities I get to try out new games before many folk do. As time has gone on, I’ve been privileged enough to get the odd promo copy of a game, sometimes even before it’s been released to the wider gaming community. I recently stumbled across something new from an up and coming Danish publisher called Omni Games – they’re collaborating with a group called Independent Games Creators who are looking to bypass the big boys of the gaming industry by working together and releasing their own designs, one of which is a grand little card game that goes by the name of Rising Kings.
The story begins with a tinge of sadness – the King is dead! Unfortunately, he forgot something rather important before shuffling off this plane… there’s no sign of an heir. Between two and five players must fight it out in a bid to become the new ruler of the land. By drawing cards from a central stack, everyone builds up a collection of characters and buildings while trying to destroy the other potential leaders. There are three main types of cards in Rising Kings, each of which will give you certain abilities and (hopefully) advantages – Buildings, Characters and Rebellions.
They’re all very easy to differentiate. Buildings all have green backgrounds, characters are blue and rebellion is a natty shade of purple, and every single card in the game has that aforementioned special ability that is signified by a small icon in the bottom right corner – these are the engine the game runs on. Every turn you take you may play one Character and one Building from your hand, performing the action associated with that card that is helpfully represented by the icon. Most of the cards are one off actions – for example, the thief card allows you to steal from other players hands, for example – but they stay in front of you once played, making those sets that may win you the game. Two cards have ongoing effects which are incredibly important, though: the Fortress and the City Guard.
These are protectors, with the Fortress keeping your buildings safe and the City Guard looking after your characters. If you have either of these on the table, you may well think that you’re safe from attack but… well, you’d be wrong. Rebellion cards may be thrown down to negate their protective abilities for a whole round of play, leaving all of your cards open to destruction. Of course, while your defences are down, the best thing to do is attack everyone else and there are plenty of options for you to do so. Rising Kings is a great example of a “take that!” game where players are actively encouraged to beat up on each other, to crowd upon the perceived leader and take them down – rarely is it that someone builds an unassailable lead, as there are many options to rein them back in. Admittedly this can rely on having rebellion cards in your hand to throw an opponent’s town into disarray – this is a card game after all and card games are intrinsically luck based – but through clever play you can always mitigate what you’ve been dealt and often make the best of a bad lot.
As each card type has a different power, it can take a few tries to get used the game. Yes, the rules are short but there’s a fair bit to remember (even with icons displaying the action a card is able to perform) but thankfully Omni Games provide crib sheets to serve as reminders as to what you can do. Initial games will invariably see a lot of referring back and forth, but after a bit of time with Rising Kings actions soon become second nature. Working out the many interactions of the various cards means this game has much potential for developing your own individual approach – you can be offensive, but there are also ways of winning while causing as little damage to others as possible. Of course, this leads to the possibility of a bit of analysis paralysis if a player has a tendency to overthink their options; I found I had a lot more fun with the game when it was brought out with a group of folks who weren’t too bothered about winning. For them, it was more about the enjoyment of the game and beating up on whoever was leading at the time. Play Rising Kings with that kind of attitude and you’ll see what I mean.
One final pleasant surprise was the high quality of the production. The artwork may not be for everyone but I thought it was wonderful. The devious little characters with mischief in their eyes really drew me in and they also really appeal to children (who can pick this up really easily with a little coaching, I found – it’s an ideal gateway game and those icons and help sheets really help younger players). The cards are printed up on good quality stock and the whole thing comes in a very sturdy, well designed box. Admittedly the rulebook is a little flimsy, but that’s a very picky complaint – this game looks and feels very good indeed. As a quick filler that works well with two (but improves exponentially when more are at the table), Rising Kings is a hidden gem. Omni Games and the Independent Games Creators have done well with this release, and I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for future releases from them.
Rising Kings was designed by Nikolaj Wendt and originally released in 2010 through Omni Games. Between two and five players can take part and its available from the Independent Games Creators store for 17 Euro (around £13 or $16US). It comes with rules in English, German and Danish (as you’d expect from a Danish producer!) and deserves a look if you’re after something fun with a bit of attitude.