Crimson Company

Game Overview: Playing as a nobleman fighting over the possession of two of the three castles to obtain majority in the kingdom, you will be recruiting soldiers to your side with each having a unique ability by spending coins you have earned to entice them to your side.  However, your opponent can step in the way and match a bid to get that character to help them instead.  Many of the soldier cards will interact with each other and even impact your opponent as you attempt to have the most strength to capture a single castle.

Box Contents: This is a review of the first edition of Crimson Company, which is a small box and has just 35 cards, 40 card board coin tokens, and the rules book.

The cards are extremely well made and include 30 unique characters with no art being duplicated across them.  The art is really good and extremley deatiled and while I would not consider it amazing when comparing it to some other games, the style and color combination does an excellent job of selling the lore of the game.

While the box is on the small size, it is still big enough to support additional card expansions.

Clarity of Rules: The game is very easy to learn and the 22 page rules manual doesn’t hinder it in any way.  If anything the manual is longer than it needs to be as it has 9 full pages of examples of a turn which remind me of a Power Point presentation.  And while at times I think this is helpful, with a game as simple as this I don’t think it is necessary.

Game Play:  The game setup is very simple where you place down the three castle cards to the table which you will be competing for.  Along with this, the starting player gets three coins and the other player starts with four.

The deck of cards is shuffled and four cards are played to the table, known as the offer, which the players will be picking from.  In addition, the top card of the deck is turned faced up so that players know what the next available card is that will be added to the offer.

These cards have an ability on them that you either take when you play them to a lane under one of the castle cards or during a certain phase of the game (Income, Recruitment, Destruction, or Score).  Along with this, a power number is on each card which can be anywhere between one and five.  The backside of each card also has a power number of zero as different actions can require you to keep your card in play but you must flip it over.

On a players turn, they take three coins from the supply.  Using the four cards that are available to be recruited, they place down any number of coins they have to recruit the card to their side.

The opponent then has to choose to let them either have that card where they will then discard the coins they bid on and it is placed into one of the of the lanes under one of the remaining castles.  Alternatively, the opponent can match the number of coins that were played to the card.  If they do this, they get the card instead and will play it under a castle lane on their turn and the player who placed the original bid will get those coins along with the coins they originally bid.

Once a card is recruited and it is played to a castle lane on their side of the table, they must use the ability of the card unless it is set to occur during a specific phase of the game.  If it is set to occur during those phases, you must wait until then to take the action.  Some examples of the phase abilities are:

Income Phase-

·         Gain one coin.

·         Flip one of your cards in this lane

Recruitment Phase-

·      You can put coins on the upcoming card (allowing you to choose from five cards instead of the normal four).

·         Your opponent must pay you one coin more.

Destruction-(Removed from the game with either another card being played that destroys it or if a castle has been scored in a lane that this card resides in).

·         Flip the card and move it to another lane.

·         Move the card to another lane.

Score-

·         Double the strongest card’s strength of each side of this lane.

·         Your cards in this lane have 1 strength more.

Players continue taking turns until a single castle lane has four cards on either side.  At that time, scoring is done for all cards using their current power number and taking into consideration any additional adjustments that will be made during the score phase on any of the cards being scored.

Once the winner of the castle is determined, the lane is no longer in use and all cards that were scored are destroyed with players taking any action as needed at that point for any cards that have a destruction ability on it.

The first player to win two of the three castles is declared the winner.

Replay Ability: For games with just 30 cards, most you won’t expect them to have a lot of replay ability.  That is not the case here as it is surprisingly high with it.  With every card being unique and how they can come out differently with each game played and then how they are played to interact with the other cards, no two games will end up being the same.

As you add in any of the expansions, it adds to that even more as you can select your favorite thirty cards to be used or just shuffle everything together, which is our preference.

Appropriate Audience: The game suggests 14+ and while I think someone younger can play the game; at times some very strategic decisions need to be made even looking a few turns down the road and being able to comprehend the overall strategy which would be more appropriate for the recommended age.

What We Liked/Didn't Like: For a very simplistic game that is extremely easy to teach to new players, the depth of strategy that is found within the game was something that was not expected at all and was by far the most enjoyable aspect of the game.

You have to take into consideration what your opponent is doing while also incorporating whatever strategy that you are taking when bidding on cards and how many coins you are willing to sacrifice.  And of course, if you have enough coins you can always prevent your opponent from taking the card by matching the bid and adding it to your own side.  But then you are allowing your opponent to maximize their coins to lock you out of cards that you may need to bid on in future turns.  Just so many choices that can change the output of the game and you need to be ready to adjust your strategy on the fly.

The game design of having the card actions written on the side of the cards so that both players can read them was the perfect decision.  So many games that have cards played sideways force both players to read the card sideways, which just gets annoying and in my opinion actually takes away from the game play.

Even the simplistic use of flipping a card over to drop its power level to zero in the design was well thought out and how that can interact with other cards later on by being able to flip them back to their original side or getting cards that simply increase those zero power cards.

It is especially satisfying when you outplay your opponent and take two castles on the same turn by getting things set up from previous turns and then using a destroyed ability forcing the next castle to score right away.

While I think the selling point of the game is that every card is unique along with the ability of the card.  However, at times the cards that are available for that turn will not impact the game in any way and you are simply trying to get the strongest card onto your side.  This typically happens once you get down to a single castle remaining and cards available are about moving cards to other columns which are no longer available.  It even sometimes happens with the first turns of the game when cards are not yet played onto the table and the cards available only interact with cards already on the table.

The same thing can be said about the strategy of using your coins to get the cards you want.  There is a lot of strategy with how you use your coins.  However, at times one player can get a very powerful card they want by paying a very low number of coins, sometimes even a single coin if the other player had used most or all of their coins on their turn.  It seems like there should have been a minimum purchase cost associated with the cards.

This is a game that seems to favor those that are familiar with the game already and how the cards can interact.  Our experience was that a brand new player struggled to compete with the seasoned player who had previously seen all cards from the deck in previous games.  The game developers do seem to recognize this as they suggest in the rules manual to adjust the starting coins for the players to even things out.

Add-ons/Other Releases:  Two expansions are currently available which add even more variety and actions and including approximately 20 new soldiers in each expansion .  As seen in the base game, they continue to be unique characters with unique abilities.  They even add some additional actions that occur based on the castle you are trying to win either during the game or after it is scored.

You can also go above and beyond the version I reviewed here as deluxe versions are available which included metal coins, castle miniatures, and a game board.

If playing on the table isn’t enough, you can also play the game on your phone or tablet through an available app.  While I haven’t spent a lot of time with it, it is designed very well and mimics the game in every way in my limited experience.

         
  **A review copy was provided to us.