Kraków 1325 AD: 3-Player Expansion
English / Dutch Edition
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Krakow 1325 AD, which debuted at Spiel 08 from new designer/publisher Peter Struijf, is a four-player only game which is played in partnerships with secret identities. You work together with the player opposite you to claim presence on the board and score for your team, but at the same time you're aiming to complete Intrigues that will boost your secret identity ahead of everyone else when the masks come off at game's end -- which means that sometimes you'll slip the knife into your partner, apologizing all the while, to give your group a boost.
So why introduce three-player rules to a four-player only partnership game? Because Krakow 1325AD isn't Bridge and doesn't have decades of existence to draw on in terms of finding four players ready to go at it. Aside from that, says Struijf, "some players wanted the opportunity to play 'for themselves,' without dependency on the support of a partner. The partnership in the four-player game can be frustrating, especially if you have different views on the risks worth taking (e.g., by playing strong Intrigue cards which can be blocked) or your partner plays heavily against your secret identity. So there was a cry to 'free me from my partner!'"
After an initial effort to incorporate a dummy partner, Struijf decided to let each player go her own way and duke it out against the others. This doesn't, however, mean that you're fighting one-against-two in the card play, a situation that you would likely never be able to win since you'd have two negative numbers piling on against your single positive one. Instead, after you play an Intrigue card and decide which of the four positive numbers (each supporting a different group) you want to play, your leftmost opponent can either play against you or pass. In both cases he plays a card, but in the latter case, he merely discards face-down, thereby forcing player #3 to throw down a card against you.
Winning these battles over Intrigue cards gives you a presence on the board in one of the seven areas of the city. Hold more posts in that city at year's end than either opponent, and you'll score the points for that city area. Thanks to the lack of partnerships, you now have more competition in these areas since two opponents are fighting for space against you. Says Struijf, "In the four-player game, there is always an incentive to oppose the other team's Intrigue, as the white and black team compete everywhere. Now, you will find yourself competing with one or both of your opponents in some areas, but you may have no interest in another area (where your opponents are competing). Playing your cards for the right area is now crucial and you will often decide to pass (even if you could oppose), leaving the third player to deal with the Intrigue."
At the same time that you're battling for area majorities, you're still aiming to boost the group that you secretly support. Each player receives one of the four secret identities, with the fourth being put aside face-down – although it's revealed at the end of the first year to give players a better chance to deduce who's fighting for whom.
As might be expected for a promised three-player expansion of a previously four-player-only partnership game, this expansion includes playing pieces for the third person, with those pieces being purple. Unlike the English/Dutch version of this expansion, which will come in a bag containing only the pieces and new rules, the German version will be a standalone boxed set that contains both the materials for the expansion as well as a set of Intrigue cards in German so that Germans no longer have to suffer with the English cards. Struijf mentions that Andreas Brandhorst, translator of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series in to German, is handling the German translation of the game's Intrigue cards.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com