Behind the Throne from Ares Games
From the Publisher:
Intrigue, blackmail and threats are commonplace for those struggling for power in the shadow of the royal throne. The more servants, nobles, and dignitaries they control, the closer to the goal they are. The real “power behind the throne” will be known soon!
Behind The Throne is a simple and fast card game where players collect sets of cards, get special abilities, and acquire victory points. Various abilities make it easier to collect cards. Collected cards determine victory points. Victory points determine the winner.
Behind The Throne is designed by Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko, the same authors of “Mysterium”, and illustrated by Denys Martynets.
Behind the Throne is a card game from Ares Games for 2-4 players. It’s for players ages 8 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. The game consists of 82 cards, 9 of each of 9 different characters and an End of Game card.
Game Play Description:
Let me set the stage for you here. At the start of the game all you need to do is remove the end of game card and place it to start the discard pile. All of the other cards are shuffled and placed into one big draw stack and you are set to begin. In the 2 or 3 player version, you have to take out some of the cards before you shuffle, and then you are all set.
Each card depicts a different character with values numbered from 1 to 9, and you’ll add up the values your cards at the end of the game to determine the winner. The Cards are:
1 – General
2 – Prophet
3 – Jester
4 – Assassin
5 – Judge
6 – Minstrel
7 – Alchemist
8 – Queen
9 – King
Each card has its own special ability, but more on that later.
A player’s turn begins by flipping up a card in the center of the table. They must decide whether or not to flip another card. If you flip another card, it must be of equal or lesser value than the previous one. If it isn’t, then your turn is over and you lose all of the cards you have flipped. You can stop flipping at any time, but you have to stop at a maximum of 5 cards flipped over. At this point you can either keep all of the cards you flipped, or give the whole stack to another player and take one of their cards of your choice.
The cards you keep are formed into rows in front of you, separated by value. So, you will have a row of ones, and twos, and threes, etc. You can’t have more than five rows in front of you. If you have more than five you have to decide which row(s) of cards to discard.
Additionally, you can’t have more than five cards of each value. If you end up with 6 threes for example, then you will need to discard one of those threes. Each player continues to take turns until the draw pile is empty. Then you shuffle the discard pile, making sure to include the end of game card, and play continues. It ends immediately when the end of game card is drawn.
Seems simple yes? And boring yes? Well, there are some additional rules that add to the complexity and to the enjoyment of the game.
As I mentioned, each card has a special ability. The General (1) allows you to subtract 3 from the value of the card you just flipped. The Prophet (2) allows you to peek at the top card before you draw, the Minstrel (6) forces other players to choose that card if they give you their stack of flipped cards on their turn, and so on.
There are icons on the cards to remind you of their abilities, but you’ll be referring to the rules a lot for the first few games until you get them memorized.
Another twist, if you flip a card and it is the same value as the last card you flipped, then you can destroy one card anywhere on the table. You can also use the special abilities on your cards to help make those values match if you wish. Each special ability can only be used once per turn and there are also rules for who gets to use each ability based upon the number of that type of card they have. Basically, if you have the most or are tied for that value card, then you can use the special ability.
If you are the victim of a card destruction, an Alchemist can protect you. Other players must destroy your Alchemists before they can destroy any of your other cards.
Likewise, a Minstrel works the same way if someone tries to swap their flipped cards for one of yours.
There are rules for Kings and Queens that are quite often forgotten if you aren’t paying attention which provide additional criteria for destroying or swapping cards.
The game ends when the End of Game card pops up. Players add up all of the points from the cards that have at least two in their stack. If you have only one queen, sorry you don’t get those points.
It’s the card game that grows on you. For the first game, I spent most of the time trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. By game three, I had the rules down and was attempting a bit of strategy.
There is a surprising amount of strategy to consider. Do you flip a single card and then swap it for a better one from another player? Do you keep the prophet, who only has a value of 2, so that you can peek at the top card? Believe me, it helps many times to know if that next card is going to force you to discard your entire turn or not. What about the General? His value is only 1, so not a big addition to your victory points, but his -3 value ability can mean the difference between getting that queen or discarding your turn.
What about the other player’s cards? Do you destroy all of their Alchemists so that you can get at their Kings and Queens? Should you even collect Kings and Queens because of their limiting abilities. What do you discard? What do you keep? Plus you don’t know exactly when the game is going to end. After the End Of Game card enters the deck, every turn could be your last. A brilliant mechanic that. I like it a lot.
On the negative side. It’s not as simple of a game as it seems. It does take a couple of games to get the hang of it, and it seems that the strategies involved are a bit beyond the abilities of an 8-12 year old or a non-gamer dinner party.
Secondly, the cards numbered 1 through 5 have what are labelled manipulative abilities. Only the player with the greatest number of these cards can use this ability. So to use the General’s ability, you have to have more General cards (or be tied) than everyone else. So after every turn everyone has to check and see who can use which abilities. You turn the card sideways if you cant use it, or if it has already been used. This wears on you after a while, or you forget to check. Just like the King and Queen, I always forget their restrictions, and end up having to backtrack my turn.
The only thing I would add would be a card for each player describing the different card abilities. It’s also probably one of the easiest games to set up. You don’t even have to deal out any cards to other players. I had just as much fun with 3 players as 4, but with 2 you lose a bit of the strategic fun in my opinion.
Aside from these issues, it’s lot of fun if you like the strategy, and I do. This is a fun game.