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Game review: Brutal kingdom, the struggle in the king's court
A look at the components for Brutal Kingdom. The artwork is amazing and learning the game is easy. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
The card game Brutal Kingdom by Kosmos is about influence and intrigue. Artwork on the box depicts the commanding presence of a bird man draped in a red cloak drawing a dagger. The game features 20 illustrated animals that possess unique powers.

The goal of this three- to four-player game is to gain the most influence by playing character cards. Each character card shows a special power that can be used when played as well as how many influence tokens can be earned if this character survives the round.

The setting of the game is the kings court. The different characters in the court are plotting to gain the most influence and eliminate their rivals. There are three spheres of influence in the game: royal, clerical and mystical. This influence is represented by colorful cardboard tokens.

The chapel card (keeps track of the time in the game) along with tokens representing the three spheres of influence are placed within easy reach at the center of the table. Character cards are divided into light and dark-sided piles and each player gets two light-sided cards and two dark-sided cards.

When character cards are dealt a unique part of the game triggers. Players must pass one of their character cards to the players next to them. They also receive one in return. So don't get too attached.

Over a series of four different chapters, players play a character card from their hands to the table. Often another player might have a character that has the power to eliminate another character when played, but if not, a character may survive and earn influence tokens from one of the three spheres of influence. The sphere is determined by the character card.

On future chapters, turn order changes based on the highest rank of a particular card. Sometimes this is very strategic and going first can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Gameplay is chaotic but strategic as players try to play the right characters at the right time in order to survive or eliminate the competition. When the chapter is over, characters who survived score points. The cards are then mixed back together and dealt out for the next round. The player with the most points after four rounds, wins.

It's interesting to note that the tokens from the three spheres of influence are worth different points depending on how many are left at the end of the game. This creates some interesting circumstances in which some tokens are not worth any points.

Brutal Kingdom is an enjoyable card game with beautiful artwork. There are only 16 cards in the game but it feels deep and satisfying because of how the cards interact in various combinations. Individuals and families will enjoy this game but it does have some fight to it. Find out more at Kosmos Thames website.
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