As the 12th century comes to a close, England is a nation in turmoil. Their monarch, King Richard I, is away at war, allowing unrest to run rampant across the land. He fights for God and county in the third Crusade in the Middle East, leaving his throne empty. It’s the perfect opportunity for unscrupulous nobles to try and take the crown.
Richard’s younger brother, John Lackland, has taken Richard’s place as the King of England. With the help of his ally, the Sheriff of Nottingham, they have quelled any protests to his claim. Only a small band of Merry Men, led by the famous outlaw Robin Hood, stand in Prince John’s way. They will defend Richard’s right to the throne to the last man.
In Richard the Lionheart, players choose one side of the tense tug-of-war for the crown and battle to ascend to the throne. One of the two factions will come out on top, but only a single player will earn enough Prestige to win the game.
“We were excited about this game, and we wanted a more serious approach to a Robin Hood title to contrast with Sheriff of Nottingham, also a CMON game,” said Fel Barros, who led development on Richard the Lionheart. “We had a strong belief from the get go that we wanted this whole teamwork/selfish aspect, to keep the characters more human.”
Players have loyalties to either King Richard or Prince John and work cooperatively throughout the game with the other people in the faction. In games with an odd player count, one player becomes a neutral figure, choosing which side to support each round. The conflict rages on two fronts. While Robin Hood and his men fight Prince John and the Sheriff in England, King Richard faces off against the forces of Saladin in the Holy Land. To win the game, a player must not only earn the most Prestige points, but their faction must be on the winning side of the conflict in the Middle East. This forces players to take actions that support the team as well as selfish ones.
“Andrea Chiarvesio had a pretty ambitious design: A team game where only one player on the team can win. Semi-cooperative games historically run into the problems of runaway leader, one of the players giving up and destroying all the team effort, or the lack of interaction. We had to juggle those three to make sure players were engaged throughout the whole game,” said Renato Sasdelli who worked on the production for Richard the Lionheart.
Richard the Lionheart is played through a series of rounds, broken up into a number of phases. To start each round, an Event card is drawn that may have ongoing effects throughout the following phases, or may be resolved at the end of the round. Players then get a chance to travel around England, taking advantage of the special actions associated with the different locations on the island nation. A Purchase phase allows players to acquire cards, upgrades, and even Prestige points.
Then, it is time to contribute to the Crusade efforts. Each player must contribute Influence cards or lose Prestige points. The Crusade deck is revealed, and the contributions for each faction are assessed. Influence cards may affect the outcome of the Crusade, change the timeline for the return of the King to England, or increase or empty the Royal Treasury.
“The game is designed to have a climax at the end of each round with the Outcome of the Crusade phase. The anticipation and bursts of emotions from this specific moment of the game are pretty tense and fascinating,” said Sasdelli.
Many different factors can lead to the end of the game. If Richard’s or Saladin’s forces have managed to win the war, the King’s Return track has reached 0, the Royal Treasury track has reached 0, or the Game Round track has reached 10, the winning faction is determined and Prestige points are counted up to determine the winner.
Richard the Lionheart is a game about the alliances we make and how far trust can take you. As players work together to accomplish shared goals, they will also have their own selfish interests at heart. Your faction may win the war, but another player on your team may be the ultimate victor if they managed to make moves that benefited their own self-interest.
“This was the driving force behind the game. You feel like you are part of a team with the greater good in mind, but you are often reminded that you also need to be selfish,” said Sasdelli. “Finding the balance between both is the key to winning.”
Richard the Lionheart will be available at your FLGS November 17.
Learn more about Richard the Lionheart here.
This article was originally posted in GTM Magazine. Learn more here.