In the captivating game, The Rose King, which is loosely themed after the real-life War of the Roses, players take on the role of either house Lancaster or house York and vie for dominance to see who can control the most territory.
The Rose King is another fantastic two-player game from Kosmos. If you are a fan of two-player only games, check out Kahuna, also by Kosmos, which we thoroughly enjoy. Similar to Kahuna, The Rose King is an abstract territory control game. Both games are highly strategic but easy to learn, which I think lends to their appeal. Gameplay-wise, the two games are completely different though, which means they both deserve a spot in your collection.
The goal of The Rose King is to control the most territory before the game ends. If you are familiar with classic area control games like Go, then you’ll have a leg up while playing The Rose King. In some ways, The Rose King is a simplified version of these classic area control games, but in a good way. As in Reversi (Othello), the discs, called Power Tokens in The Rose King, are double sided. What separates The Rose King from other abstract strategy games is the use of cards and a Crown token. The cards in The Rose King make the game a lot more accessible than its older counterparts. This is because the cards limit the number of available choices, which in turn helps to guide players’ actions.
There are two types of cards in The Rose King. The main type of card is player power cards. Power cards are used to move the Crown token, which when moved is where a new Power token is placed. Power cards indicate a direction, such as up, down, or left, as well as contain a numeral (1 – 3) indicating the number of spaces to move the Crown token (two spaces right for example). Each player starts with five random power cards.
The second type of card is a hero card, which is limited (each player gets four) and quite powerful. Do not underestimate the hero card. There is a lot of strategy in knowing when to properly play a hero card. A hero card allows you to flip an opponent’s token so that it becomes yours. Using hero cards is a great way to break up your opponents’ huge territories. It is also a great way to connect two of your own territories that an opponent split.
On your turn, there are three available actions. You may play a power card, draw a power card, or play a hero card along with a power card. There is some strategy involved in knowing when to draw cards, but sometimes you’ll be forced to draw a card when you can’t play (or don’t have) any power cards. Play alternates back and forth until both players cannot make a move or one player runs out of power tokens. When the game ends, players calculate their score by counting the number of spaces in each of their territories. Points are based on the number of controlled spaced, squared. For example, if you control 8 spaces you’d have 64 points.
And that is The Rose King in a nutshell. If you are a fan of two player strategy games, then The Rose King definitely deserves your attention. The game offers plenty of strategic choice and it is super easy to setup and put away. As with all Kosmos games, there is a customer plastic insert that stores everything quite nicely.
While I have nothing but good things to say about The Rose King, I do want to mention one thing that I find a little funny. The game is based on a historical English feud from the late 1400s, however, on the box cover is a sword that looks an awful lot like Sting, from the Lord of the Rings. The sword even has elvish script on the pommel. I find it hard to imagine a sword like this existed in historical England and there are plenty of great looking historically accurate swords that could have been featured on the cover. Not a gripe or a ding to the game in any way, I merely find it amusing that Sting is everywhere.