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Medieval is a card game for 3-to-5 players covering, very loosely, the events, situations, and rivalries of the 13th century. Medieval uses the Enigma system, in which the playing map is represented by cards, not all of which are present at start.
The 13th century saw the Papacy at the peak of its power, the Holy Roman Empire struggling to remain cohesive, England under the turmoil of baronial revolts, the emergence of monarchial France, the Teutonic Knights looking to extend their powers, Venice controlling the seas of the Mediterranean, Spain continuing the Reconquista, while Islam started its rejuvenation process under the Mameluks. And then there were the Mongols.
Each Player represents an ever-changing conglomerate of these Powers, using his wiles, and the cards, to further his control over areas of Europe to win the game. There are Spies, Assassins, accusations of Heresy, Jihads, even the use of the various Knights of Christ.
And then there are the Popes. Each player, randomly, can become Pope. As Pope he can arrange alliances, excommunicate players, and call for Crusades.
But, hovering like a very, very black cloud over all of this are The Mongols. No player knows exactly when they start to arrive, although the card play does give them hints, and some time to prepare, if they choose to heed the warnings.
The winner is the player who survives the onslaughts of religion and the Mongols to control the largest part of the 13th century Europe.
- 140 full-color die-cut counters
- 110 color cards:
- 19 Map Cards
- 27 Power Cards
- 64 Action Cards
- Play money
- 1 16-page Rulebook
- 1 Player Aid Card
- 2 6-sided dice
Average Rating: 3 in 2 reviews
Everytime I see that a game has received some kudos from Games Magazine I look at it as a kiss of death. Look at the game of the year choices. (If you can find them) This game is like a Kingmaker with cards. It is well designed and fun. My only question is who the market for this game would be. Serious wargamers will not get into such a game and card players will be lost. The price will drive the casually gamers elseswhere. All I can say is that such a well done product should be given a chance.
I rarely will write a negative review, but I can hardly think of a game more deserving right now. While I love the design and artwork on the cards, the mechanics completely fall flat. This game is an excruciating 2 hours to play with very little excitement. This is a shame since I love the medieval period. I wanted to like this game so bad, but the reality is that it is a flop. There are very little penalties in this game for losing battles or crusades, and when you try to hurt another player, it actually does very little, and it is easily overcome anyway. A very one-dimensional game. I feel guilty giving it even a single star.
This fascinating glimpse into the turmoil of 13th-century Europe is an entertaining game that even novice wargamers can enjoy: There are few counters and no complex map. The terrain is built using several map cards at the start and expanded during play. You initially choose one or two powers (Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, or Pagan countries), and win by controlling the most countries when the deck depletes.
Cards discarded from hand let you assume many roles. You can spy on other people's hands, or assassinate a country's powerful leader, hoping his randomly determined replacement will be weaker. You can become Pope and arrange alliances, excommunicate rivals, and call for Crusades to welcome excommunicated countries back--at a price! Looming large are the Mongol cards, which devour map segments when successfully played.
Negotiations are permitted, and can lead to wildly unpredictable, even zany, outcomes. Berg, already a prolific and impressive designer, has outdone himself.
There is a very funny trio of American actors called The Reduced Shakespeare Company who do all 37 plays in around an hour and a half. The Bible (abridged) takes them not much longer. This game is similarly ambitious: the history of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa in the 13th century. At 2 hours for a hundred years and a continent and a bit, you can't expect an accurate, blow by blow replay; what you get instead is the political map, the religious rivalries, the growing Mongol threat and an invitation to take things from there.
The game is a card game. Even the map is made up of cards. For the rest there are power cards, action cards, control markers and money. At the start of the game 8 of the 19 map cards are laid out and it is always the same 8. These are enough to bring all the main countries into play, at least in part. The remainder are shuffled and placed as a face-down deck. They will be brought into the game later. The idea, I suppose, is that these other cards are places which are quiet backwaters when the century dawns and only get drawn into the action as the story starts to develop.
The Power Cards are the ``title deeds'' to the countries and there is one for each. At the start of the game you each choose 2 or 3 of them - how many depends on the number of players - and the only restrictions are that the ones you choose must not be adjacent and must have at least one of their provinces on the 8 initial map cards. Having made your choice you now put control markers on those of your provinces that are visible. For example, if you have chosen England as one of your powers, you put markers on the province that is England and the one that shows your territory in north-west France. You do not as yet get Ireland, because even though this is under the English crown, the map card for it has not yet been placed. Written on the power card is the strength of the army, the strength of the navy, the initial size of the treasury, the country's religion (Catholic, Orthodox, Pagan or Muslim) and whether the ruler is good, bad or middling. The Power Cards that weren't chosen are put with the Action Cards and this combined deck is then shuffled and placed face down. The Action Cards include Assassins, Spies, Civil Wars, Natural Disasters, Heresies, Jihads, Teutonic Knights, Changes of Ruler, lots of Popes and the Mongols.
Your turn has four phases:
1. Replenish your hand back up to 4 cards.
2. (Optional) Draw a map card and add it to the map.
3. Play and enact any card that you drew that says ``play immediately''. These are the Natural Disasters, the Changes of Ruler and the Mongols, and in the case of the first two, dice rolls determine where gets hit and what the results are.
4. Collect Income from the provinces you control, play any other cards that you wish to play and (again optional) launch attacks on provinces that are either neutral or belong to other players.
Battle resolution is standard stuff: total the strengths of the two sides, apply modifiers in the form of ruler abilities and money spent on extra militia, and then roll dice.
The special flavour of the game comes from the Popes and the Mongols. Play of a Pope Card enables you to do one of several things, of which the most important are ``Call a Crusade'' and ``Excommunicate a Ruler''. Excommunication requires no cause and can be used to hit any Catholic country. While excommunicated the country becomes liable to civil war and if one of those breaks out, the country is effectively immobilised. When a Crusade is called, each player who controls at least one Catholic power has to declare whether or not they are going. If you go, you commit forces to fight in the Pope's war against the infidel. This involves a contribution to the Papal coffers. If you don't go, you are liable to be excommunicated. The Crusade doesn't have any effect on the map; it is just a matter of rolling dice to get the notional strength of the opposition and then comparing this with the combined forces of the crusaders. If you win there is a pay-off, but it is more likely that you won't. The only person sure to make money is the one who called the crusade.
And that just leaves the Mongols. There are 7 cards for these and the first three drawn have no effect. However, once the third is drawn, the three you have seen so far are put back into the Action Card deck, which is then reshuffled. After that things start to get nasty and each time a Mongol Card appears, there will be an attack on one of the cards on the eastern edge of the map. The player drawing the Mongol Card decides which. It is possible to fight off a Mongol attack, but difficult because they are formidable. If they win, the card is removed from the map with the loss of all the provinces on it. The game ends with the 7th Mongol attack and after that the players tot up the value of their provinces to see who has won.
So much for the outline, but what you really want to know is whether or not this is a game that you would enjoy. If you are a wargamer, probably; if you are not a wargamer, almost certainly not. It is not that the game is complicated, hard to learn or over-burdened with detail, but it is a game where you have to get stuck into the fighting and the excommunications and the civil wars and so on if you are to enjoy it. To wargamers this comes naturally. If they have troops, they will attack. However, if, like me, you are a more peaceable soul whose approach is to accumulate stuff and only to get into fights if provoked, then the game becomes two hours with not much happening. Non-wargamers are also likely to be dissatisfied with the ending. If players have been paying attention to how well everybody is doing and taking steps to stop anyone opening up too big a lead, then it is likely that scores will be close prior to the draw of the last Mongol Card. Who draws it can then be critical, for they will decide where the last attack takes place. Wargamers are unlikely to be bothered too much by this, because for them this is a light, knockabout game and they will have had a blast playing it; but for non wargamers, this ``turn of a single card'' aspect with all its potential for producing ``kingmaker'' situations is likely to provoke mumblings of discontent. So, an interesting game but one that is probably ``just over the border'' as far as most Counter readers will be concerned.