Publisher: Artana Games
Game Designer: Raymond Chandler, III & Dirk Knemeyer
Artwork: Heiko Günther
Ages: 14 & up
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
Kickstarter Price: $32.00
Master of Puppets
Corrupted Kingdoms is a new Kickstarter from Artana Games where players take on the role of an evil corporate monster in a fantasy realm, working behind the scenes to pull the strings of the political elite, bending them to your will through manipulation and subversion in order to pass bills filled with favors and treasures.
You don’t care about the weak quislings of the kingdom, only in lining your pockets with riches. You’ll send your minion hordes of zombies, devils, goblins and golems to ‘convince’ leaders that it’s in their best interests to look out for your interests. be aware though, you’re not alone as you’ll compete with up to six other evil corporations, all equally dangerous in the unending quest for power!
By Ballot or Battle Axe
In this 30-60 minute game, players head up one of six corporations who are all vying for power and riches. By controlling the kingdom’s leaders, you can control the votes and push through legislation full of special interest favors that you hope can be enough to win the game.
Although abstract and streamlined, Corrupted Kingdoms does a fairly good job at emulating the stratagems of the legislation process in this easy to play, lite game while still getting across how dirty the whole process is with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Each turn players take two actions from any of the following:
- Take a favor
- Influence a leader
- Vote on a bill
Taking a favor token allows you to discard and gain the minions listed which are used to strong arm the politicians into voting your way with the influence a leader action. On the other hand, you can bypass the Tony Soprano method by just placing the token underneath a bill. While this doesn’t influence the bill, it will gain you back those favors when the bill passes but bear in mind that you are likely helping another player score as well. Power doesn’t exist in a vacuum and friends will be needed to get what you want, regardless of how temporary those friends may be.
When you have the majority of leaders under your control, you take ownership of the kingdom’s Monarch but this can be fleeting if you don’t maintain the majority. Doing this adds a little extra insurance to getting your bills passed, which is how you score points and gain extra goodies like guilty pleasures. Guilty pleasure cards are not only huge in scoring but can also help reduce the cost of influencing a leader.
Every guilty pleasure you have that matches a favor token in your score pile gives you one point by way of set collecting; so having 5 land bill tokens and two matching land guilty pleasure cards nabs you a cool 10 extra points. You can also use guilty pleasure cards to reduce the cost of influencing a leader if the guilty pleasure icon matches that of the leader you’re trying to influence. If you have two matching cards, you can keep your minions at home doing chores and use the cards to pay off the pols instead.
The Shareholder card that everyone gets at the beginning of the game also earns you points based on tokens won by other players from passing a bill that ends up in their scoring area. So you’ll want to leave those matching tokens out there for other players to take and hopefully put on a bill rather than use and discard for minions, without them that shareholder card loses its value.
Player’s also get two chaos cards specific to their character and after using them you’ll see that they are aptly named. These cards allow you to mitigate other player’s actions, gain extra minions, swap leaders under your control or change favor tokens out that are in play with others on the market, for some examples of the chaos they bring to the table.
Chaos cards can really muck up other player’s plans and allow you to get in on some action that you may be blocked out of but that is dependent on having the right cards in your hand. On a couple of occasions, I had cards that just didn’t fit a situation that I could exploit, so they were wasted cards for me. I think a house rule of allowing players to redraw cards once per game wouldn’t be a bad idea, but make it a one-time only occurrence or have some other cost associated with it.
Voting is key to the game; this is how you score those valuable points. The good thing is that you don’t necessarily have to control leaders to get points but having that area control will ensure that you can count on at least that many votes when trying to pass a bill. Of course, you’ll still likely need to do some table-side politicking to get another player or two swayed to your side to push you into the win column, as you should expect.
If you’re first to take control of a leader in a kingdom, you can call for a vote as one of your actions and with no one opposing you; you’ll win the vote easily. Granted, you won’t get as many points doing it this way but it’s a quick way to gain a guilty pleasure card and keep the other players on their toes. Maybe forcing them into an escalating race over control of the kingdom while you quietly spread your bets across multiple bills, picking up points and matching sets.
The process of getting a bill passed is the standard majority wins and the amount of possible votes scales with the number of players in the game. The senate votes on every bill under consideration along with the kingdom the bill is in, allowing for a total of 10 votes possible at two players and 15 votes with four players and above as they introduce two senate boards.
When a bill passes, players gain guilty pleasure cards of their choice from an open market based on their location in the queue underneath the bill. So you’ll need to balance placing favors on bills in order to score with gaining influence over a leader. However, as I mentioned before, you can still score well without wasting tokens gaining minions to flex your influence and instead backing multiple bills. Keeping more tokens in play will net you more points, there’s no sense wasting tokens to get minions you may never use. Those are just wasted points!
Play continues this way until either the favor tokens or guilty pleasure cards are all gone, generally the favor tokens tend to get used up first since they are not recycled and are either discarded for minions or won after successful votes. Then all scores are tallied and a winner is declared.
Corruption is King
Corrupted Kingdoms is a pretty fun and cutthroat game, just what you’d expect from a game that models the political process, even one set in a fantasy realm. It is best played at three players and above, at two player’s it becomes just an area control game and loses the negotiation and social engagements that a larger group brings and the bills are limited to just two.
One of the biggest draws to the game are the negotiations, as people wheel and deal to secure votes for their bills and promising, but not always delivering, votes for their ‘friends’. Make sure you play this with a lively bunch rather than those who want to just math it out, that can lead to some analysis paralysis and a much drier experience.
There’s a lot of take that going on as people offer help and then screw over their bestest buds if a play is not in their best interest and it is this action that is the games strongest suit. I also really liked the quirky and slightly dark humor that is rampant throughout the cards, providing a rather satirical look at the political process that everyone can get on board with.
Fans of cutthroat games like Cosmic Encounters and Game of Thrones will feel right at home with this one. It’s much shorter but if you enjoy games with alliances that last only as long as it takes to render a vote, Corrupted Kingdoms is a sure bet for you.
You must have skin in the game to win, but in this game it can’t be thin!
Company Website: http://www.artana.com/
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artanagames/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/artanagames
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.