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König der Elfen
 
 
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König der Elfen

original German edition of King of the Elves


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Ages Play Time Players
10+ 45 minutes 2-6

Designer(s): Alan R Moon

Publisher(s): Amigo

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Product Description

The elven king is dead. By tradition, a new king is chosen from the elven princes. In their quest for the crown, the princes leave their castles to tour the villages of Elfenland using the unique modes of transportation available in Elfenland. They first visit the villages in their own realms and then travel to the villages in other realms. In each village, the princes receive a few gold coins as tokens of their visit. To thwart their opponents in the quest for the crown, the princes can place thieves and obstacles along the routes. The prince who collects the most gold in his journeys, will be crowned the new king.

Product Information

Contents:

  • 120 cards
  • 75 gold coins
  • 24 heraldic tiles
  • 1 dragon with stand

Product Reviews

Stuart Dagger
January 31, 2000

First there was Elfenroads: a critical success, but also a limited edition and very much a gamers' game. Not a combination that makes anyone a lot of money. Then came Elfenland, a shortened and simplified version of Elfenroads aimed at the broader and much bigger family market. Get that one right and you do make money, and, as you all know, Elfenland did get it right. This new one is a third trip to the well, taking the same idea and redoing it as a card game. There is a long list of Hollywood films that can be cited as evidence for the proposition that follow-ups are artistic failures more often than not, but among all the rip-offs you do get the occasional Godfather II. This game isn't in that sort of league, but it is also a long way from being a piece of pure exploitation. The marketing strategy has been to attach it to Elfenland's coat tails and graphically the two games are very similar, but the mechanics are new. You still have elves going on journeys but this is most definitely a different game.

The cards come in three types: travel cards, village cards and action cards, with the first being the element that has been carried across from the earlier games. So you have elf cycles, troll wagons, pigs, dragons, unicorns, clouds and rafts, and each is good on certain types of terrain and either inefficient or useless on others. In the boardgames the terrain lay between the villages. That is obviously not possible when there is no board and so this time the terrain is attached to the villages themselves. If you wish to visit a mountain village, unicorns or dragons or clouds are good news; you can get by with elf cycles or troll wagons; but pigs and rafts are no help at all. If on the other hand the village lies on a lake or a sea, it is a case of rafts or nothing.

The game consists of a series of rounds in each of which card play will result in a circuit of villages, with one or two lying in front of each player. Once this part of the round is complete, each player will undertake a journey starting from the part of the circuit immediately in front of them and collecting gold as they go. The player with most gold at the end of the game will be the winner. Various of the villages will also have been embellished with action cards, some good some bad. The good ones will make the journey more profitable for the player who placed them and the bad ones will make life more difficult for everybody else. Typical cards include thieves (who rob travellers passing through the village of some of their gold), logs and sea monsters (which increase travel costs), gold (which increases the income from the village) and soldiers (who get you past any bits of nastiness that the opposition has put there). Once everybody has made their journey, new cards are dealt out, all the ones that were played in the previous round are removed to the discard pile and the whole business starts again.

This process of circuit building provides the game with a solid and interesting core giving everyone plenty to think about. Your aim is to create a circuit which suits your travel cards but which won't suit those of your opponents, and the game gives you a good range of tactical options. You can play village cards not just in front of yourself but in front of others. Likewise with action cards. Restrictions on the number of cards played in each area make timing important here and that is usually a good feature of a game. At a cost of gold you can buy up to three extra cards and can remove villages and their associated action cards from the section in front of you. This also brings in considerations of timing. You can also, at a cost of reducing your hand size, trade unwanted cards for new ones from the deck.

An interesting core then and since the core is almost equal to the whole, this ought to make for an interesting game and to a large extent it does. But there are weaknesses. The first is easily fixed: just don't believe everything it says on the box. ``2-6 players, playing time 45 minutes''. Pah! I haven't tried the game with two but think it would lose a lot (though See Larry below). I have tried it with six. Never again! My group are not slow players but with this number it still took us over two hours and for a game of this weight that is way too long. This is something that the designer and developers should have been aware of, for much the same is true of Elfenroads. With four players it is an excellent game; with six it drags interminably. Some of my players refuse to play it under any circumstances and the reason is that their one experience of it was the time we tried it with six. If you buy this one, the first thing you should do after removing the shrink wrap is take a felt tip pen and change that ``2-6'' to ``3-5''. That way you won't forget. I'd also suggest that even when playing it with five you reduce the number of rounds to four.

The other is more subtle but can probably also be fixed. It concerns card hoarding. There are a couple of aspects to the game that tend to make this a good idea. One is a bonus element in the scoring; the other an interaction between two of the action cards. (I shan't be more specific than that, because if you don't spot it the problem won't arise and you'll probably enjoy the game more.). Provided this is not carried to excess, it is simply a strategic option and for many groups that is how it will stay. However, if it is carried to excess -- and there is nothing in the rules to stop it -- the whole game structure starts to come apart, with the draw deck becoming unacceptably small and key cards not circulating. This happened in our not to be repeated 6-hander. If you do run into the problem, try introducing a maximum hand size. I would suggest 8 as the maximum number of cards that you can carry over from one round to the next. This is high enough to give players the option of holding back on the length of their journey this round in order to score better next but is enough to stop excessively large hands and to inhibit people who might be temted to sit on key cards in order to deny others their use.

In summary, I think that this was one of the better games from Essen, but against that positive statement must be set the fact that I thought Essen '99 was short on good new games and so the competition wasn't that tough. A less equivocal recommendation can be built round the flexibility the game has when you are considering its likely appeal to various groups. Gamers who thought the SdJ game too light are likely to find this one much more to their liking, but at the same time it has the potential to be enjoyed by family groups who would shy away from Elfenroads. This is one of those games that can be played either hard or fairly friendly. Normally that would mean ``buy this'', but here it is not that simple for you also need to decide just how many games you want about elves riding round on pigs. They have now spent so much time in each other's company that people are starting to talk. If the answer is that you only want one, and if you already have Elfenland, then you might find that the goal of having a game that will appeal to both keen gamers and fringe gamers could be better achieved by buying the Elfengold expansion. That is the majority opinion among the views I have read, but it is by no means unanimous and so it is going to come down to a case of reading both descriptions and then making your own call.

John McCallion
December 31, 2000

This improvement over Alan Moon's award-winning Elfenland (see December 1998 GAMES, now translated by Rio Grande) retains the enchantment of the original but adds more player interaction. Players build villages, featuring six types of terrain, in their own realms. They then finish the round by traveling the land, stopping at each village to earn the gold available there. The player with the most gold wins. You must plan to have the right cards to visit each village: Seven types of transportation are available, but none serves all terrains. The Magic Cloud, for instance, will only carry you to three kinds. A wide variety of Action Cards allows you to steal earnings from others, double your rewards at a city, or lay obstacles that opponents can only surmount by drawing heavily upon their travel resources. Cards played replace Elfenland's inflexible board routes and, with the Actions, make for an even more delightful game of strategy and gratifying meanness.

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