(2015 – Z-Man Games)
Five years after its initial release, Z-Man Games has decided to publish a 2nd edition of designer Richard James’ Lords of Scotland. A part of Z-Man’s small box card line, Lords of Scotland draws heavily on elements of hand management and timing. Thematically set in the years surrounding the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296-1328), players will attempt to recruit followers from the numerous Scottish clans, building armies to use during skirmishes (Rounds) that will ultimately be used to gain supporters (Victory Points). Depending on how and when these followers are placed in front of a player, then can provide special abilities based on their associated Clan. While the ruleset remains unchanged, Z-Man has updated the art significantly from the original edition, as well as included some additional minor components.
The Start Player marker is given to one of the players (the rulebook states it should go to the oldest player), and the 9 Clan tokens are placed near the play area. These tokens will be used when resolving the Scott Clan’s special ability. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:
In Lords of Scotland, players are attempting to build their army by recruiting members from the various clans in hopes to gain enough support to take the empty throne of Scotland. Eight Clans are represented in the basic game, with the 9th Clan of Bruce introduced in the advanced game. Each Round, players will partake in a Skirmish, consisting of five turns. With each turn of the Skirmish, a player will have the choice of either recruiting a new member, or mustering a follower to his army. At the end of the Round, the player with the strongest army will be allowed to choose a Supporter of his choice from the play area. The player with the 2nd strongest army will choose next, and so on. Once a player has amassed a Supporter strength of 40 at the end of a Skirmish, the player with the highest amount of Supporter strength wins.
Let’s take a look at how recruiting and mustering works, and then we’ll take a look at the makeup of a Clan card and the various special abilities for each Clan.
On a player’s turn, he has a choice of either recruiting or mustering. A player can not recruit if he currently holds more than 10 cards in his hand. If he chooses to recruit, he can collect a card from the Recruit area. If the card he receives from the Recruit area was face-down prior to his selection of it, he will have to replace that card with the top card of the draw deck (which is kept face-down as well). If however, he chooses a card from the Recruit area that was already face-up, he will need to replace it with a card from his hand (placing it face-up when placed). The advantage of taking a face-down card is that you won’t have to discard one of you own, though you aren’t quite sure what you’re recruiting. The advantage of taking a face-up card is the knowledge of what you are receiving, though you’ll have to lose a card back to the Recruit area in the process.
At the End of each Skirmish, players will compare their army’s strength with one another. In order to add to their army’s strength, they will muster cards from their hand in front of them. These cards can either be placed face-up or face-down.
Each Clan has a different picture that represents that particular Clan, along with the name of the Clan at the top of the card (in this case, the Makgill Clan seen below). The number in the top-left of the card will represent the Clan member’s strength. This amount will be added to the overall army’s strength when it is present in front of the player at the end of a Skirmish. It is also used when taking a muster action. Remember that if played face-up when mustering, if it contains the lowest strength amongst all other face-up cards amongst all armies, the player can use it’s special ability.
Each Clan has a certain special ability that can be used when placing the card face-up during a muster action. Some of these Clans cards have immediate abilities and some will resolve at the end of a Skirmish. The cards that resolve at the end of a Skirmish are flipped to their side when activated to show that their power will be used at the end of the Round. It is possible for players to lose these cards to another player (via the Fergusson’s ability). If this happens, the card’s ability is still considered active, though it will not resolve for its new owner.
Cockburn Clan – When resolving a card from the Cockburn Clan, the player can immediately switch this card with a current Supporter card. The Supporter card then becomes a new card in the current player’s army, while the Cockburn Clan card becomes a new Supporter.
Fergusson Clan – The Fergusson Clan works similarly to the Cockburn Clan in that the player is allowed to switch cards. In the case of the Fergussons however, the player can switch this card with a card in another player’s army (a Follower). If the Follower taken from the opposing player is face-down, the current player may look at it after switching for it, but it must be kept face-down and secret from all other players.
Forsyth Clan – When resolving a card from the Forsyth Clan, the player will simply draw a new card from the Draw Deck and add it to his hand.
Makgill Clan – This Clan allows you to take another muster action. If another Makgill card is played face-up and meets the lowest strength requirement, the player can choose to use its ability to muster yet another card, and so on.
Scott Clan – The Scotts have the ability to copy another face-up card’s ability. One of the Clan tokens provided in the game is placed on top of this card to represent which Clan it is copying.
Wemyss Clan – These cards have the powerful ability of allowing the player to discard a Follower in any army. It’s important to note that while rare, the player can even discard a Follower from his own army. This may be in order to make sure that he can use another special ability the following turn of the Skirmish. Though it can be a risky move.
Bruce Clan – The Bruce Clan cards are used in the advanced game and unlike all other Clans, instead of having 12 cards in the Clan, there are only 2 Bruce Clan cards. These are essentially wild cards and the player resolving the ability is able to use the Bruce card as any other Clan card. Note that the player can not use the new Clans special ability, only copy it’s Clan type. This will become important when totaling an army’s total strength, which we’ll talk about next.
End of Skirmish:
After the 5th turn of a Round, the Round ends and players will flip over all unrevealed Followers in their army. The strength of all Followers of an army are then added together. This is the army’s total strength value. If an army contains at least two cards and all of those cards are part of the same Clan, the total is doubled. This is where the Bruce’s Clan ability can come into play. Remember, if there is a tie amongst multiple armies in total strength value, the army containing the Clan card with the highest rank will break the tie.
After Supporters are collected, all remaining Supporters, Recruits, and Followers in an army are discarded. A new set of Supporters and Recruits are drawn from the Draw Deck and placed accordingly. The player who won the previous Skirmish will now be the start player for the new Round.
Once a player accumulates a Supporter strength of 40 or more, the game with conclude at the end of that Round. The player with highest Supporter strength total will claim the Scottish throne and wins the game!
In Lords of Scotland, players will seek a balance in adding followers with a higher strength to their army’s strength total versus revealing lower strength followers for their special abilities. There’s also a bit of deduction woven into how Followers can be played face-down, keeping their army’s overall strength hidden. For such a small, simple card game, there’s a good amount of decisions present from turn to turn. A fair chunk of a player’s strategies will most likely be based off of the actions and decision of their opponents. The more face-down Followers a player adds to his army, the more likely those Followers are higher in strength. Therefore in response, an opposing player may choose to play lower strength Followers face-up to force his opponent to discard a Follower, or even switch his low-strength Follower with one of the opponent’s face-down Followers.
There is an intriguing flow involved with each Skirmish, as players counter one another in attempting to build the strongest army to gain the needed Supporters. The improved artwork and linen-finished cards are an enormous upgrade from the original edition, and are worth the 2nd purchase for those that already own and love the game. Lords of Scotland works as a great, little card game filler, accessible to gamers and non-games alike.