I took a print out of about a dozen sets of Piecepack game rules with me on holiday, Cardinals Guards was the first set I tried. So there I was day one of the holiday, the first to rise and no one to play with.
This game is a solitaire game and comes in the puzzle solving line of solo games as opposed to the adventure style.
The theme is pasted on as it is with all of the Piecepack games. In this case it based on the well known group known as "The Four Musketeers" formerly known as "The Three Musketeers".
In the game you control the musketeers ( the pawns ) moving around the rooms of the castle ( the tiles ) eliminating the guards ( coins ) and trying to visit the tiles of each pawns suit in sequence.
The tiles are laid face up in a 5x5 grid with the centre tile missing. Coins are laid around the outside of the tiles, 5 per side. Pawns start on the null tile of their suit. The four space coins go into the players hand. the dice will be used to keep a note of the tiles visited in each suit.
During a move (turn seems too big a word) you get to move one of the pawns orthogonally until it reaches a space next to a Guard coin. Once it reaches that it ends it move. At that point the coin is defeated and removed from play.
When a guard gets removed from the edge of the board this creates a hole pawns can move through. When a pawn moves through such a gap, it is off the board and removed from play.
The exception to this removing of the guard is that if the pawn matches the coins suit and the player does not have that suit in his hand of coins, the coin gets placed in the hand.
The hand of coins can be used to place blocking positions on the board. When you wish to, take a coin from your hand and place on the board. Then your able to get your pawns to move up to the
guard and thereby stop on a particular tile. These coins get removed as normal. If your playing clever then you will use coins of the same suit to block pawns movement as this allows you to take
the coin back into your hand for reuse.
The central hole in the board can be used to make special moves. When a pawn moves into the space it can be moved to any corner tile. This can be very useful to cross the board, but often
requires you to use a coin in order to stop the pawn as it passes a central axis, so the payout on such an action must be calculated by looking moves ahead.
The end game comes around once all pawns exit the board, then you calulate your score. You gets points for suit tiles visited in order and guards/coins removed. The rules state you also get two
points for each pawn that gets off the board, but as that is always possible it's not really worth the effort.
So what do I think about it? I'm not overly enthused. If solitaire puzzle games are your thing then I would expect to really like this. It's no where near as simple as many and has enough variation and complexity to keep your mind occupied. For me I'm not a fan of the theme so that lets it down for me. A fantasy or sci fi theme might have upped it in my reckoning.
In short, it works fine, occupies the mind, but sadly, isn't my thing. Oh, and in case your wondering, my best score was 39.
I really enjoyed this one a while back... it feels a lot like a puzzle (more than a game) but it was challenging at least...
I felt the need to comment on this:
The theme is pasted on as it is with all of the Piecepack games.
Although the components are always abstract, that doesn't mean the theme has to be pasted on... There are examples of games that (to me) manage to convey their theme without the need for custom art/components. For example: Piecepack Letterbox, Piecepacking Pirates (which you reviewed), Sailboat Regatta and ClimbingMan (my own solo game, where I made a conscious effort to simulate the theme).
I know players have to make an effort to imagine what's going on, but ultimately to me, theme is more about how the mechanics match the "reality" of the theme than the what the artwork, flavor text or custom components manage to convey...
BTW, (as I said in another thread) keep up the piecepack reviews, the system does need them
This was a nice review, however, I would like to correct a couple of game rule inaccuracies.
The reviewer mentions using coins to place blocking positions on the board (these blocking coins are "castle guards"). These guards are NOT removed as normal NOR do they get returned to the players hand. Castle guards are not removed in the same way as perimeter guards. Castle guards may only be defeated (removed) when one of the musteteers (pawns) travels through the secret castle tunnel. Quoting from the rules: "Because the guards have no knowledge of the secret tunnels, whenever a musketeer travels through a tunnel, he may remove any one castle guard (not a perimeter guard) currently on the board. These guards are not returned to the player’s supply, but are considered defeated, and are placed off to the side with the other defeated guards". When guards are defeated by stopping a musteteer's movement, this applies only to perimeter guards, not castle guards.
Also, when discussing scoring, the reviewer states "The rules state you also get two points for each pawn that gets off the board, but as that is always possible it's not really worth the effort". This is not accurate. Pawns (musteteers) are only awarded 2 points when they are moved off the board (escape) after visiting all five of their assigned tiles (chambers) in numerical order. This is not usually easy or even possible for all 4 pawns, so these points are well earned.