In the 12th century, England was ruled by King Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart. This was a time of crusaders, and Richard believed it was his duty to lead troops to the Holy Land against the Sultan Saladin. Wars are never that neatly compartmentalized, and while Richard was away his younger brother John Lackland (Prince John), not only sat on the throne in Richard's place, but also tried to seize it from him. Recently, CMON published a game called Richard the Lionheart, which transports players back to the 12th century and asks them to ally with Richard or John, rally support for their chosen leader, and see who is on the throne when the dust settles. Richard the Lionheart is a game for 2 to 6 players, ages 14+. It takes about one hour to play and retails for $70. Game Play Richard the Lionheart is a game of alliances, but ultimately it will only have one winner. If you play with an even number of people, you will divide up into forces for Richard (Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marion) or forces against him (Prince John, Sheriff of Nottingham, Bishop of Ely, and Isabella). When there are an odd number of players, a neutral party is introduced (Leopold of Austria at three players or Marie of France at five players). (Note: With 4+ players, there will also be some additional NPC merchants and mercenaries to help you.) The game is played on a map of England, where you and the other players will be traveling through different locations. Each of these locations is color-coded to match support for Richard or John. Therefore, locations that match your affiliation can only be activated by you and will only provide you advantages. While you are traversing England, there will be events to deal with, which give special scoring opportunities or actions that occur. There are also edicts that give you bonus points. Most important are the influence cards. This is the meat of the game, because it is these cards that will determine each round how the Crusade is faring. Is Richard winning the battle or is Saladin? Is the King close to returning or still far away? And lastly, is Richard's treasury full or are the coffers almost bare? You may want Richard to win the battle and come back early since you feel you are in the lead, but another Richard supporter might want to slow his return down so that they can be his favored servant and seize the victory! Positives 1. Theme - It's nice to see Robin Hood and the Sheriff in a game, where they are not the sole focus of it, but merely pawns in the grand scheme of things. A lot of people might not like the fact that the Crusades are used as a backdrop, and feel that it sanitizes them by not addressing the atrocities of them, but I think this game mixed history with legends to create a compelling setting. 2. Art and Miniatures - The art in this game is very reminiscent of the Middle Ages and some of the boards feel like you are looking at a tapestry of sorts. There are also highly detailed miniatures in this game, which is what you come to expect from CMON. 3. Player Boards and Player Count - Each character in the game provides you a different starting amount of coins and a special ability that other characters don't have. I love asymmetrical player powers, because it makes you alter your strategy each time you play. As for the player count, the game can accommodate between two and six people, and as mentioned above, each count gives you a different setup. This too adds replay value and gives you a unique experience each time you play. Neutrals 1. Components - With the inclusion of miniatures in this game, it makes the game feel deluxe. Unfortunately, the coins and prestige tokens are made of cardboard and it makes you wish that they had been wood or plastic at least. (We'd all love metal, but metal is expensive.) 2. Semi-cooperative nature - I am the type of person who either likes a full cooperative experience or a semi-cooperative experience with a hidden traitor. In this game, you're playing with a team to win, but if you don't have the most points on your team, you won't win. Negative 1. Price - The most unfortunate part of this game is the price point. At $70 MSRP, this game prices itself out of a lot of people's budgets, especially families. Final Thoughts Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable game with a theme that I could really sink my teeth into. The game does a nice job of abstracting the Crusades into a manageable format and the game play is fun at all player counts. As stated above, I don't like the semi-cooperative nature of this game, because I'd rather win/lose as a team or have a traitor on my team. It's not very fun with newer games explaining to them that their team won, but they didn't and leaves some people scratching their heads. Therefore, I would say if you are a fan of this period in time, consider picking up the game. If you are not, the game might still be for you, just at a lower price point than MSRP, so wait for a sale.

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