Radio Review #76 – Lords of Scotland

 

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(2015 – Z-Man Games)

 

“As he carries me home to the Mull of Kintyre….”

 

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.

 

 

 

Components:

– Cockburn Clan cards

 

– Cochrane Clan cards

 

– Fergusson Clan cards

 

– Forsyth Clan cards

 

– Macdonnell Clan cards

 

– Makgill Clan cards

 

– Scott Clan cards

 

– Wemyss Clan cards

 

– Bruce Clan cards

 

– Clan tokens

 

– Start Player marker

 

 

 

Setup:

At the beginning of the game, all of the Clan cards are shuffled together to create one large draw deck and placed in the central play area. This deck will contain a mixture of all 9 Clans. Each player is then dealt 5 cards from this draw deck to create their starting hand. These cards are kept secret from all other players.
After all players have received their starting hand of cards, 5 more cards are drawn from the deck and placed face-down, side by side in the central play area. This will create the initial row of Recruits. Players will have the opportunity to add (recruit) these cards to their hand during the game.
After Recruits are placed, a number of cards equal to the number of players in the game are then drawn and placed face-up in a row alongside the draw deck. These cards are considered Supporters. At the end of each Round, players will be able to collect a Supporter depending on the current strength of his army. Supporters are used as a reference to a player’s total number of Victory Points. When a player’s Supporter strength reaches 40, that player has won the game.

 

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:

 

 

 

Gameplay:

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.

At the beginning of each turn of the Skirmish, the start player will flip over one of the face-down Recruit cards. This allows player’s some knowledge of what Recruits are available, but also serves as a turn designator. The number of face-up Recruit cards will always equal the current turn of the Skirmish. So if there are currently two face-up Recruits, then all players have a reminder that it is currently the 2nd turn of the Skirmish. Remember that there are five turns per Skirmish. Therefore, during the last turn, all five Recruits will be face-up.

 

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.

 

 

I. Recruiting:

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.

Player A decides that he will Recruit on his turn. There is currently one face up recruit (from the Forsyth clan) and the rest are face down. Since he does not particularly want this Forsyth card at this time, he decides to take one of the face-down Recruits and places it in his hand, then replaces it with the top card of the Draw Deck. If however he had decided to take the Forsyth card, he would have had to replace it with a card from his own hand (placing it face-up in the Recruit area).

 

 

II. Mustering:

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.

Playing the card face-down is an obvious advantage in that it keeps that cards strength secret from all other players. However, if a card is played face-up and it contains the lowest strength when compared to all other face-up cards in the Skirmish, then that player will be allowed to use the Clan card’s listed special ability. In a 4-5 player game, the player can resolve the card’s ability as long as it contains the lowest strength of any other face-up card from the same Clan. Let’s take a look at the configuration of a card, then the special abilities for each Clan.

 

 

 

Clan Cards

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.

At times, there may be a tie when comparing the strength of armies. In this case, players will compare the number in the top-right corner of the card. This is considered the Clan member’s rank. If armies strength totals are tied, the army with the highest ranking member breaks the tie. Finally, the text along the lower left side of each card shows its special ability. This is used when mustering the card into your army face-up, while it contains the lowest strength total compared to all other face-up mustered cards.

 

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.

Cochrane Clan – At the end of a Skirmish (round), when it is this player’s turn to collect a Supporter, he can take two Supporters instead of one, if there are multiple still available.

 

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.

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MacDonnell Clan – The MacDonnell Clansmen are blessed with long life and stability. Normally, at the end of a Skirmish, after all armies have been resolved and players have collected their Supporters, the current Followers in an army are discarded. The MacDonnells however have an ability that when resolved allow the player to keep it in their army for the next Skirmish as well, though it can not be used again after that.

 

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.

 

 

Let’s take a look at an example. Player A currently has a face-up Forsyth Clan card with a strength of 4 that he previously resolved in order to draw a new card. His other two Followers are face-down.

 

Player B has two cards in his current army. One is face-down and the other is a face-up Cochrane Clan card with a strength of 3. When played, Player B activated it (it had the lowest strength at the time) and turned it to its side to show that it will resolve at the end of the Round, thus allowing him to collect 2 Supporters instead of the usual 1.

 

On his next turn, Player A decides to take another muster action, placing a Fergusson Clan card with a strength of 1 face-up into his army. Because it has the lowest current strength of all other face-up Clan cards, Player A can choose to swap this card with one in another army.

 

Therefore, he chooses to switch it with Player B’s Cochrane Clan card. Since this card is still active and doesn’t resolve to the end of the Round, it now gives Player the opportunity to collect 2 Supporters instead of 1.

 

 

 

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.

The player with the strongest army will then select a Supporter from the ones available and place it in his Victory pool. A player can only claim a Supporter if he has a Follower in his army. Because of this (and also because of the Cochrane Clan’s ability) it is possible that a player will not be able to take any Supporters at the end of a Round.

 

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.

After revealing their Armies, we can see that Player A’s (left) army has a total strength of 14. Player B’s army (middle) has a total of 24. Normally his total would have been 12, but since both of his Clan cards are from the same clan, that value is doubled. Player C’s (right) army totals a strength of 14.

 

Player B has won the Skirmish with to highest strength of 24. He will get to choose the 1st Supporter. Players A & C have the same strength of 14. Because of this, they will look at the “rank” number on the top right corner of the Clan cards in their army. Amongst these, Player A has a Clan card with a rank of 62, which is higher than either of Player C’s. If you remember from the previous example, Player A’s army also contains a Cochrane Clan card. Therefore, Player A will get to choose the final two Supporters from the play area. Player C will be left with no Supporters to claim.

 

 

 

End-Game Conditions:

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!

 

 

 

Thoughts:

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.

 

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One thought on “Radio Review #76 – Lords of Scotland

  1. By far this is the best clarification of rules for Lords of Scotland. I would really appreciate if you could upload a gameplay video of this game. Excellent tutorial.
    Thank you!!!

    Like

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