$10.00
Recommend
63 
 Thumb up
 Hide
24 Posts

Crown of Roses» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Smell the Fragrance, Feel the Thorns rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Francis K. Lalumiere
Canada
Brossard
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
For a period of 30 years in the middle of the 15th century, the throne of England was up for grabs as two great families used violence, threats, bribes, and outright military operations to try and secure the right to rule the nation.

Crown of Roses throws two to four players into that medieval mix where York, Lancaster, but also Buckingham and Warwick, will stop at nothing to sit on that much coveted chair. But then, for how long?

We’re talking here about a block game and a card-driven game (CDG). This means that playing pieces are wooden blocks stood on end with a sticker on one side (which provides a compelling fog of war), and that said playing pieces are moved about through the play of multi-purpose cards that are generally the cause of much decisional agony on the part of everyone involved.
But hold that thought.

The game takes place on a thick cardboard map that depicts England back in the halcyon days of the backstabbing nobility. Several tracks frame the land mass itself and make it possible to record a variety of information. At the top of the map sits a large rectangle: it is the Roll of Parliament, where most nobles are listed along with their essential characteristics. That retro organizational chart will play a central role in the way the war unfolds — and sometimes refolds, as it were.

Each player deploys his blocks (the nobles themselves) in various shires throughout the land, and is dealt a hand of cards from a common deck. Those cards are added to the eight house — specific cards that players hold from the outset—cards that only the relevant player may use. And then the war begins!

During the main phase of each turn, players go through a series of impulses playing cards in different ways. Each card can be played to implement the event it describes, or the player may decide to use its OPS value, which is a number from 1 to 3. Essentially, each such OPS point can be utilized to move a group of blocks on the map, or to repair damage sustained by some blocks defiled in battle, or to influence a noble on the Roll of Parliament.
Movement is regulated through limits on the number of other blocks each noble can command, the number of different shires each moving group can cross, and terrain itself — which includes moving across the sea. Getting nobles back in shape is only as effective as the value of the involved shire, while influencing nobles on the Roll of Parliament is only limited by your imagination. Okay, not really: it’s a little more constrained than that. But this is where you place face-down influence chits on this or that noble in the hopes that, at the end of the turn, you’ll be the highest bidder and win that noble over to your cause. Now how do you acquire said influence chits? Read on.

When blocks belonging to more than one player end up in the same shire, a battle erupts. (But isn’t this what we’re here for?) Through a relatively involved system of reserves and reinforcements — and don’t forget that more than two players can slug it out at the same time — players roll dice for each embattled noble. The number and color of dice to be rolled is indicated at the top of the block, including a to-hit number. (For instance, a full-strength York rolls 1 red die, which hits on 4 or more, and two blue dice, which hit on 5 or more.) Rolls are simultaneous, and each hit means that the opponent must rotate his strongest block one quarter of a turn counter-clockwise, thus bringing a lower set of dice values to the top. Combat continues until one side dies or retreats. Vanquished blocks must roll on the elimination table and can expect results ranging from actual deal (taken out of the game) to “it was really just an ugly scratch, man.”

The other turn phases involve players collecting previously mentioned influence tokens according to their current holdings on the board, welcoming to their ranks successfully influenced nobles from the Roll of Parliament, having nobles total their votes to elect a new (or reelect an old and surly) King, checking for victory, and using whatever influence tokens each sorry soul has left to bid on different offices —titles that grant special blocks and unique powers that can very well affect the course of history.

Now, the influence game is worth an extra paragraph.
In Crown of Roses, all the blocks are the same color: facing alone indicates player ownership. This means that players can play chits on the Roll of Parliament to effectively recruit nobles that are either neutral, or that are currently fighting for another player! This is usually happens at the end of a turn, but nobody’s safe from a Treachery card that’ll turn a noble’s coat right before a battle. (The bastard.)

As for victory, there are three paths to it. Either eliminate all opposing heirs (much easier said than done), reign as King for a specific number of turns, or show up with the most victory points at the end of the game.


WAR PRODUCTION

The game is shipped in what GMT calls a double-deep box, with 110 cards, 54 wooden blocks, a bag of wooden cylinders, player aids and player boards, and more cardboard counters (in four colors) than you can shake a haldberd at. All the bits look good and feel right.

There’s also a large map, printed on thick cardboard. This isn’t the paper board that many wargamers will be familiar with, but neither is it the mounted board with which GMT has spoiled its customers as of late. But it’s sturdy enough and lies flat on my table without the need to drop a sheet of plexiglas on top.

The cards are good cardstock that I didn’t feel the urge to sleeve at all. Provided you treat them with a minimum of respect, they should provide faithful services for a long time.

GMT block games usually come with a few spare blocks so you can ditch a chipped block that would be too easily recognizable from the back, but my copy of Crown of Roses arrived with exactly 54 blocks. I was lucky enough to have decent blocks all around, but spares are good, guys. Repeat: spares are good.

Another thing “missing” from the game is a way to identify which nobles are still waiting to get picked up, as opposed to those already waging war on the board. The rules suggest lining up available blocks next to the board, but it’s a terrible waste of time to look them up each time. We ended up stealing a bunch of little black cubes from another game to mark available nobles on the Roll of Parliament. (No, the other game hasn’t filed an official complaint yet.)



RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

The basic game clocks in at a whopping 44 pages, which makes for a pretty steep learning curve. Some of the rules are a bit murky (the whole combat sequence, with multiple participants and interceptions galore, springs to mind), but the real flaw here is the lack of an index. Especially since concepts like “Heirs” are scattered all over the rulebook: heir cards, heir blocks, rule exceptions to heirs… A decent glossary combined with a basic table of contents do some of the work for you, but expect some heavy leafing during your first couple of games.

The back of the rulebook turns the scoring track that runs around the board into a system of coordinates that helps players quickly locate any of the 52 shires used in the game. A brilliant idea.

There’s also a playbook whose 28 pages contain optional rules, interesting designer and historical notes, a detailed turn example, and four scenarios—two short games, and two long. And the playbook back sports one of my favorite features: an expanded sequence of play.


FUN FACTOR

On the table, the game looks stunning and invites immediate throat-cutting betwixt seated opponents. Crown of Roses proposes very interesting mechanisms, notably in combat, where a block losing a step will see an effect on the number of dice rolled and/or their hit probabilities. The wheeling and dealing is also enthralling, both in courting (or bribing, or threatening…) nobles out of each other’s grasp, and in voting for a new king at the end of every turn. Alliances snap into reality one moment only to dissolve into nothingness the next, usually to the dismay of at least one of the involved parties. Sometimes both.

But a lot of bookkeeping is required. Counting the amount of influence each player receives is a bit of a chore, and the procedure is error-prone. Bidding for offices is a lengthy process, as players count and recount (and sometimes make change for) the influence chits they want to bid on each of seven titles on display. The Wintering Phase that takes place at the end of each turn is especially bothersome: every single block is removed from the map and then placed anew on one of its home shires.

Now don’t get me wrong: all of this isn’t a problem per se. It’s just that to me, it amounts to a little too much talk and not quite enough action. I’ll admit to frankly disliking the Wintering mechanism used here, though. Partly because it feels like we’re setting up the entire game again after each turn (and that takes a fair amount of time), but mostly because it robs me of any sense of progress: no matter whom you’ve backed into a corner or what sort of line of defense you’ve built up, block positions reset automatically at the end of a turn. (Sort of like watching a sitcom where everything returns to the default setting when the show’s over. Except you get to charge Norm — and I’m not talking about no bar tab.)

It’s also a long game. Barring (difficult to achieve) sudden-death victories, a full nine-turn scenario with four players will eat up an entire evening. At least. It’s a little long for me, although I realize that some players will look up Crown of Roses precisely because it is a long, involved game.
In any case, I don’t see this one coming even close to the advertised three-hour session.


PARTING SHOTS

I’m really conflicted about Crown of Roses. I really like the theme, the look, the bits, and pretty much all of the mechanisms. I mean, it all works, but I don’t relish the bookkeeping involved here, nor the game length. It also works best as a three- or four-player game; then again, that’s what you’d expect from a game steeped so much in political shenanigans. Unfortunately, those fascinating multiplayer aspects turn into a straight tug-of-war when only two players go at it.

So I’d prefer to play Crown of Roses with three or four players, but then it would make the game too long for me. Still, I’d like to get it to the table a couple of times a year — but then I’ll never learn the finer strategic points.
See my conundrum?

It’s a fine game. I just wish I’d fallen in love with it.
58 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian Evans
United States
Richmond
Texas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Very well written. Thanks.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Fielding
msg tools
>The game takes place on a thick cardboard map

No, its a heavy paper map.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francis K. Lalumiere
Canada
Brossard
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Gronak wrote:
>The game takes place on a thick cardboard map

No, its a heavy paper map.

Well, if I can't roll it into a tube without causing damage, I call it cardboard.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Henry Rodriguez
United States
Long Prairie
Minnesota
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Gronak wrote:
>The game takes place on a thick cardboard map

No, its a heavy paper map.


I proposed a compromise, a card-stock map.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Fielding
msg tools
If I have to measure its thickness with calipers its paper :arrrh:
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francis K. Lalumiere
Canada
Brossard
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Gronak wrote:
If I have to measure its thickness with calipers its paper arrrh

I love it!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Fielding
msg tools
weishaupt wrote:
Gronak wrote:
If I have to measure its thickness with calipers its paper :arrrh:

I love it!


And you kids -- get yer' damn peanut butter off of my chocolate !!!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Adam Parker
Australia
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Great game design makes the complex simple, replayability maximum, and abstraction credible.
badge
I play to make my own history.
mbmbmbmbmb
weishaupt wrote:
It’s a fine game. I just wish I’d fallen in love with it.


I appreciate this comment. After a long slog with Bomber Command earlier this year, the bookkeeping aspects of the game left me with the same feeling. A little too much work to bring me back often for the enjoyment factor.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francis K. Lalumiere
Canada
Brossard
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Adam Parker wrote:
weishaupt wrote:
It’s a fine game. I just wish I’d fallen in love with it.


I appreciate this comment. After a long slog with Bomber Command earlier this year, the bookkeeping aspects of the game left me with the same feeling. A little too much work to bring me back often for the enjoyment factor.

Interesting -- I don't feel that at all for Bomber Command.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Björn Engqvist
Sweden
Goteborg
Unspecified
flag msg tools
I think this is a well written and thought out review of the game and I share many of its sentiments. There is help at hand for you, I think.

First of all, there is an FAQ and Errata coming, which will clear up a number of things (less murkiness in the rulebook).

Secondly, there are a few things that can be done to speed up play I think. I will expound on these in an upcoming post in the Variants forum, because some of the things that I suggest are not covered in the official rules.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francis K. Lalumiere
Canada
Brossard
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Delirium_EU wrote:
I think this is a well written and thought out review of the game and I share many of its sentiments. There is help at hand for you, I think.

First of all, there is an FAQ and Errata coming, which will clear up a number of things (less murkiness in the rulebook).

Secondly, there are a few things that can be done to speed up play I think. I will expound on these in an upcoming post in the Variants forum, because some of the things that I suggest are not covered in the official rules.

Interesting -- I'll keep an eye out for those.

Thanks, Björn!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rick Barber
United States
McSherrystown
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmb
Excellent review, and would have put this one on my 'must buy' list were it not already there. It will be quite interesting to play and compare this one with the 'A Game of Thrones' board game, as both are essentially variants on the same theme - GRR Martin makes no bones about his series of books being directly influenced by his love and knowledge of the historical War of the Roses.

For anyone who's interested in exploring these two 'parallel universes' in literary form, I'd suggest reading 'The Sunne in Splendor' by Sharon Penman, as well as both 'The Red Queen' and 'The White Queen' by Philippa Gregory.

As for board/map thickness, if this one is as good a game as I think it will be, I'm most likely to permanently mount the map on either coreboard or even thin plywood, as I've done with other 'keepers.'

Rick Barber sauron
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Fielding
msg tools
elcarto wrote:

As for board/map thickness, if this one is as good a game as I think it will be, I'm most likely to permanently mount the map on either coreboard or even thin plywood, as I've done with other 'keepers.'


That topic was on my mind the other day. Do you mount the whole map and then razer cut the panels so they fit in the box, or cut the map first and mount to slightly large panels, then trim the panels?

Exactly what kind of board works best & where do you get it? Foamcore I think would prove too flimsy; it will get crushed if someone leans on it. But stiffer/firmer stuff is hard to trim.

Maybe thick vinyl floor tiles?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Dobbins
United States
Herndon
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I actually prefer a thinner weight map I can lay my heavy acryllic panels over; recent upgraded maps from GMT are pretty nice as well. I have put a paper map in a relatively inexpensive poster frame as well -- that works for single map games...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Fielding
msg tools
Plexi results in too much glare from the lights above.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew J
United Kingdom
Edinburgh
flag msg tools
Invicta
mbmbmbmbmb
I somehow sense you are a 'glass half empty' person.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Olson
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
Nice review. Sorta makes me want to start shopping even after my latest
game splurge in GMTs Fall Sale. A couple q's tho....

1)How difficult is it to get the Fog of War effect with 4 players sitting around the table?


2)Kingmaker is one of my favorite games of all time.For those who have played both,why would I suggest this to the group over bringing KM out after a many years hiatus?

Thanks,

Tim O.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francis K. Lalumiere
Canada
Brossard
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Gagotoo wrote:
Nice review. Sorta makes me want to start shopping even after my latest
game splurge in GMTs Fall Sale. A couple q's tho....

1)How difficult is it to get the Fog of War effect with 4 players sitting around the table?


2)Kingmaker is one of my favorite games of all time.For those who have played both,why would I suggest this to the group over bringing KM out after a many years hiatus?

Thanks,

Tim O.

The fog of war is not easy to maintain with more than two players. We would "not really look" at other players' blocks, but you could also just put your blocks face down and drop one of your influence markers on top of each stack.

As for Kingmaker, I have never played it so I can't compare the two.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francis K. Lalumiere
Canada
Brossard
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
myrmex wrote:
I somehow sense you are a 'glass half empty' person.

Is this directed at me?

I'm really a "let me see what sort of glass this is" kind of guy.
And yes, sometimes the glass is half empty. Hell, sometimes it's empty all the way!
(Which is certainly not the case here.)
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Carl Paradis
Canada
Ste-Thérèse
Québec
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
weishaupt wrote:
I'm really a "let me see what sort of glass this is" kind of guy.
And yes, sometimes the glass is half empty. Hell, sometimes it's empty all the way!
Which is certainly not the case here.)


I never leave a half full glass of single-malt scotch half empty: I always empty it fully.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
Norwood
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
thumbsupthumbsup
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jonathan Davis
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
After playing a 3 player game, I'm not convinced the fog of war is all that important.

You will generally know precisely who is wintering in each province, so you know the force composition of enemy groups at the start of the turn.

The game doesn't lend itself well to massing enormous groups, so keeping track of who was where didn't seem to be that difficult to me.

Surprises are really only possible if you've got a big stack of blocks, in which case you can clump them together front to front and put one of your IP markers on top and no one can see them.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Roger Fawcett
United Kingdom
Northwich
Cheshire
flag msg tools
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
badge
There's just one kind of favor I'll ask for you - you can see that my grave is kept clean
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the review and all the comments. It's helping me make up my mind. Can't afford it at the moment though.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.