Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Rosenkonig - a little abstract that doesn’t quit

Rosenkonig or The Rose King or War of the Roses. This game has more names without changing anything and it also started out life as Texas so you know that the theme and the mechanics have so little to do with each other than they communicate with semaphore. Every time I look at this game, I think eh, it’s not that much. But, you know, I keep going back to it. And it’s survived a lot of purges of my game collection.

So there’s something there.

Rosenkonig, as I think of it, is fundamentally an abstract. The theme really is just there for the art. Abstract doesn’t have to mean two-player but it usually does and Rosenkonig is no exception. 

The players take turns using cards to move a single pawn across the grid that is the board. You get to place a token in your color’s side  on the space where you land the pawn. The game ends when either you run out of tokens or no one can make a move.

You see, you normally can’t land in space that already has a token. Each player can land on an opponent’s token and flip it five times per game but those five times will go by fast.

You score each group (orthogonal counts but not diagonal)  of tokens by counting them up and squaring the number. 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, etc. As you can see, it escalates quickly. Being able to flip a token to either break an opponents group or increase one of yours is a big deal.

While there is a variant to play with hidden cards, the regular rules of Rosenkonig have you play with open cards. So you know all of your opponent’s possible moves. Limiting what they can do is a huge part of the game. You have to keep looking at least two moves ahead.

I bought it at the first GenCon where I was actually looking for board games. Man, that was a magical GenCon, where the purchase that really rocked my world ended up being Bohnanza. But Rosenkonig was also something I picked up and it’s stayed with me.

If memory serves me correctly, I actually bought it from the Mayfair booth. One of the folks at the booth went through the scoring and convinced me to buy it. I got the German edition with a print out of the rules in English :D (I have no idea who distributed the English edition but I’m assuming there must be one)

So memory lane is part of why I’m fond of Rosenkonig but that’s not the only reason. While it has elements or other games (Flipping over tokens does bring Othello to mind), it is still pretty unique. I can’t think of another game really like it. And while it’s easy to teach, it’s full of lots of ‘aha’ moments. It rewards exploring the game and it plays quickly enough that replaying it isn’t hard.

Rosenkonig isn’t a game that really jumps out at you and, lets face it, you have to at least kind of like abstracts. But it’s got staying power.

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