Did anyone else run for an office in elementary school? It still stings thinking about the loss for student body President in 6th grade. I mean, my posters were by far the best quality, and I made all sorts of outrageous promises in my speech, but I must have just not connected with my audience well enough. I also didn’t promise free tacos every day like my opponent either, and that may have just tipped the scales in their favor. I also lacked a campaign manager. My mom was great and all when it came to helping with posters, but she just didn’t seem to understand my target audience enough. Maybe the age gap?
In Heart of Crown, a deck builder for 2-4 players by Japanime Games, we get the opportunity to play campaign managers, of sorts. The kingdom has finally been united by Emperor Hellard, ending years of war, but the Emperor gets sick and dies before naming a successor! If a successor isn’t named quickly, the Kingdom is at risk for more war. Can we all just quickly make a vow that if we ever become an Emperor, naming a successor will be one of the first things we do? We can just avoid all this confusion and possible war and stuff.
Emperor Hellard had no sons, but has 7 daughters, who are all viable options for his successor. Our job is to pick a princess to support and quickly raise her popularity until her coronation. If our princess if coronated, we win the game!
Heart of Crown is a simple deck builder with mostly simple deck builder rules. To sum up deck builders quickly, each player will start the game with the same 7 cards. Throughout the game the players use these cards to purchase more cards from a communal pool of cards, giving variance to their growing deck of cards. On each player’s turn they pick the next 5 cards from their deck and use those cards to try and get more cards or get more victory points. The first player to 20 victory points can call for a coronation of their princess and wins the game.
Although Heart of Crown is mostly a simple deck builder, there are certain qualities and steps that make the game unique. Each player doesn’t just start with a certain princess they are deciding to support. Players have to first gain enough cards to have enough coins to purchase an audience with the princess of their choice to become their campaign manager (In the game we are only referred to as dignitaries, but I feel campaign manager gives a good feel to our actual purpose in the game).
Once players back a princess, they are able to start getting victory points toward their goal of 20 total in order to win the game. Backing a princess also starts a fun mechanic by giving the player an opportunity to have a domain. A players domain is the place where they put their victory point cards as well as a place where they can store cards they are unable to use during their turn in order to use them at a later, more advantageous time. I like this mechanic because in other deck builders, if you are not able to use a certain card during your turn, the card goes to your discard pile after your turn and can’t be used until the next time you draw it from your deck. This can be frustrating if a strong card you purchased never comes up at the right time.
Lets look at some of the Highlights and Lowlights of the game
Art: Of course, being a game by Japanime Games, the art in this game is fantastic. With an anime style, the cards are fun to look at, and the princesses look really cool. (If you have ever played Dominion, you will immediately feel the difference that fun art makes when playing this).
Domain Mechanic: The domain mechanic is unique and gives players a feeling of control. It feels nice for a change!
Rules Manual: This might seem like a lame highlight, but it is so important! The rule manual seems really long but reads very easily and is very clear. It makes a huge difference.
Components: The components are very good quality
Turn Length: Turns are very short in this game, like most deck builders, which helps in keeping other players engaged in the game when it is not their turn. This helps the pace of the game.
Upcoming Expansions: There are already 2 expansions ready for pre-order on japanimegames.com. They look to be shipping in September 2017.
Length: Each time I played Heart of Crown, I consistently wanted the winning total (20 victory points) to be less. I personally feel 15 is a more appropriate number for a good length.
Number of players: I always consider it a negative when a game only supports up to 4 players. Adding a 5th player to this game would be easy, and I hope they consider doing this in the future.
The coins: The game comes with physical coins that are used to help players remember how many coins they earned during their turn. I found them to be fairly useless, as we just remembered how many coins we earned and subtracted in our heads as we progressed through our turns. They could be useful if you played along with kids.
I absolutely recommend this game to anyone who likes great art, or anime in particular. Japanime Games still impresses me with their cool mix of games and anime, and the art is on point.
I recommend this game if you and your gaming group like deck builders as I consider this to be a better than average deck builder. Deck builders are not my favorite types of games, I honestly pass them up on a regular basis when looking for new games, but I have played this game many times and found it enjoyable.
If you are on the fence about deck builders, or like games with a little more action, this game is not for you. I can see myself playing this game every once in a while during a quiet evening at home with my wife, but not as a frequent choice for game night with friends.
I do recommend deck builders if you are trying to introduce a friend to gaming. Deck builders have very specific rules for each turn and require players to follow steps as opposed to making lots of difficult choices, and this can be comforting to people who are new to gaming.
Play on boys and girls.