(2015 – IDW Games, Pandasaurus Games)
Acclaimed designer Kevin Wilson is probably most well known for being the guy that created Descent: Journeys in the Dark, and being co-designer of Arkham Horror. Lately however, Wilson has taken to less publicized designs such as Darkness Comes Rattling, I Hate Zombies (BoardGameGeek’s 1st published game in its Micro series) and The X-Files. I did a review on The X-Files last year, and while I admit I expected very little from it, it was one that surprised me with its combination of light-strategy and co-operative asymmetrical gameplay. It’s one that’s stayed in my collection and hits the table more often than I ever would have guessed. So I took interest when I heard about Wilson’s newest design, Awesome Kingdom: The Tower of Hateskull.
Awesome Kingdom is a light card game in which players take the roles of various dungeon-delving Heroes, each with a special ability. Through the course of 3 days (or Rounds), the player’s Hero will journey though a dungeon, which is made of a set of randomly drawn dungeon cards, placed in a circle. Each card represents an area in the dungeon. Players will play action cards from their hands that show how many spaces the Hero can move and in which direction. Landing on a dungeon card will grant the player the Victory Points listed on the card itself as well as any attached abilities and bonuses; some helpful to the player and some harmful. Many of the action cards will also allow players to manipulate Heroes positioning in the dungeon, making for a pretty chaotic and humorous bout for the 20-30 minutes of gameplay a session includes. At the end of the 3rd day, the player with the most Victory Points has conquered the Tower of Hateskull and is loved (but secretly hated) by all.
– Hero markers & stands
– Hero cards
– Tower of Hateskull card
– Dungeon markers
– Dungeon cards
– Action cards
– Time card & token
– Wound tokens
– Coin tokens
– Start Player token & Proof of Awesome token
Before the game can begin, players must set up the Tower of Hateskull dungeon. To do this, the Tower of Hateskull card and Time card are placed in the center of the table. The Time card represents the 3 different days that players will course through the dungeon, making for the 3 Rounds in the game. The Time token is placed on the center of the card, setting it to the 1st day. The Hero cards, Dungeon cards, and Action cards are then shuffled into three separate draw decks depending on their type.
Each player draws a Hero card from the Hero draw deck and receives the corresponding Hero marker, placing both of these in front of himself. Each Hero in the game has a special power that only they can perform, which is listed in the Hero’s card. Let’s take a look at a few of these:
– As Longtrudger (seen left), when you play a action card to move, you’ll be able to increase the number on the card by +1. This means that if an action card tells the player to move to the right 2 spaces, he can move 3 instead.
– As Killsassin (center), each time the player moves over another hero, she will give that hero 2 Wounds.
– Some dungeon cards have negative Victory Point values on them when acquired. For Junkventor (seen right), these cards are worth positive Victory Points instead.
Next, a number of Dungeon markers equal to the number of players in the game plus 7 are placed in a circle around the Tower of Hateskull dungeon card. Players will then, in clockwise order, place their Hero next to one of these Dungeon markers. Only one Hero may be placed next to a single marker. Depending on their special power, some Heroes may wish to start closer to other Heroes, while some will wish to stay furthest away. For instance, it would be to Killsassin’s benefit to pass over as many Heroes as possible on her turns, therefore she may want to start next to another Hero at the beginning of the game, while all other Heroes may want to keep their distance.
Cards are then drawn from the Dungeon deck and one card is placed face-up next to each of the remaining, available Dungeon marker spaces (those without a Hero currently next to it). This will then fill out the Tower of Hateskull. There are four types of Dungeon cards; Magic cards (blue), Monster cards (purple), Trap cards (gray), and Treasure cards (orange). Each card has a Victory Point value listed in the bottom left corner. Let’s take a look at an example of each:
– The Lovely Tiara (magic item) has the ability to heal the equipped Hero 1 wound at the end of a turn.
– The Bloodmangler (monster) will give a Hero ending their turn on his space 5 wounds. But when acquiring the Bloodmangler, he is worth 6 Victory Points.
– Ending a turn next to Guillotine Gauntlet (trap) will earn the Hero 2 wounds. When acquiring it, the card is worth -1 Victory Points.
– Bronze Coins (treasure) will award the player 2 Gold coins when their Hero ends their turn on it. However, it is worth 0 Victory Points.
Each player draws 3 Action cards from the Action deck to form their hand. These are the actions that the player will be able to perform during Day 1. A game of Awesome Kingdom spans a total of 3 days (Rounds), after which the player with the most Victory Points wins the game. Each player will receive a new hand of 3 Action cards each Round.
Finally, the remaining Wound and Coin token are placed near the play area and the game is ready to begin. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:
As mentioned above, a game of Awesome Kingdom last 3 days, or Rounds. On a player’s turn, he will be able to play an action card from his hand, resolving the text listed. Most of these actions will require the player to move a number of spaces in the direction listed on the card. When a player ends his movement, he will collect the Dungeon card he landed on and place it next to his Hero card.
Although not specifically discussed in the rulebook, I’ve found it best to place magic items collected from the dungeon beneath the Hero card as an attachment. This helps to remind the player of all of his current ongoing special abilities. All other monsters, traps, and treasures can be placed face-up together in the player’s area.
A new card is then drawn from the Dungeon card draw deck to replace the now empty location from which the Hero moved from. Turns moves clockwise until all players have resolved all three of their Action cards. After this, players will draw 3 new Action cards from the draw deck and begin Day 2, and so on until all 3 days are completed.
Each Action card orders the Hero to move in a certain way. When playing an Action card, it will contain an arrow and a number indicating the direction and number of spaces you’ll need to move your Hero. Some cards contain arrows in both directions, meaning that you’ll choose which direction to move. Hero’s will only move to and from empty dungeon spaces that don’t contain other Heroes.
For instance, the Junkventor player plays the above Trudge Action card which requires her to move 1 space to either the left or right. Since Longtrudger is on the dungeon space directly to her right, if moving in that direction, she will skip over this space and move his Hero to the next available dungeon space that includes the Tin Coins dungeon card.
When ending her turn on it, the Tin Coins card rewards her with 1 Gold coin. She would collect the Gold, then add the dungeon card to her play area.
Some of the Dungeon cards will include special rules that may affect a player’s movement. For instance, the Rumble monster contains “Stop” which requires a Hero to immediately end their movement, no matter how many spaces he still has left to resolve his action card.
Some spaces will activate an ability as a Hero passes over them. In the case of the Well of Ill Wishes, when a Hero passes over it (or lands next to it), they must leave 2 gold on the space if they’re able. However, landing on the Well of Ill Wishes awards all the collected gold. It is worth -2 Victory Points however.
As previously discussed, other spaces will contain abilities when you end your movement on the space itself, and spaces may even activate if you land directly adjacent to them. It’s important to check each space one at a time for any abilities that may activate when moving a Hero. Some abilities may gain a Hero Gold coins (worth 1 Victory Point each) or Wounds (worth 1 negative Victory Point each).
End of Round / End of Game:
After all players have played their actions, the Time token is moved to the next day on the Time card, and each player will draw three new Action cards. The new Round will start with the player to the left of the current Start player. After the 3rd Round is complete, the game is over. Players will total their Victory Points on the cards they’ve earned from the dungeon and coins, minus any wounds they’ve collected. The player with the highest number of Victory Points wins.
The Ragebarian ends the game with 3 Wounds (- 1 Victory Point each) and 7 Gold coins (+1 Victory Point each). He also ends the game with the following cards in hand:
– His four Treasure cards would normally total him 0 points, however since his Investment Djinn gives him +1 for each, it totals 4 Victory Points.
– His three Monster cards total him 9 Victory Points.
– His two Trap cards total -4 Victory Points.
This means that Ragebarian scores a total of 16 Victory Points (7 from gold, 3 from magic items, 4 from treasures, 9 from monsters, -3 from wounds, and -4 from traps).
Awesome Kingdom is a very light, fantasy themed card game that presents itself similar in style to games such as Munchkin and Guillotine. The movement of heroes amongst the various dungeon cards is whimsical and provide for some funny moments with top-notch, cartoony artwork. The game itself is fairly basic, surrounded by elements of take-that and timing.
The game would probably feel a little too basic if not for the varying Hero special abilities. Some Heroes will turn wounds into positive points, while others will allow you to steal items from an opposing Heroes, wound other Heroes as you pass them, or even increase your movement by +1 with every action card. Since there is so much manipulation of Heroes moving and available spacing in the dungeon every turn, it can be a bit difficult for a player to do any sort of preplanning for his next turn, however this can help to add to the overall chaos from turn to turn.
Your enjoyment of this game will probably depend on your approach to it and the group involved. As with games like Munchkin, pandemonium in the dungeon will take precedence over any pre-planned strategy, resulting in a more take-that type of game. With three action cards available each Round, it really becomes important in deciding which card is the most advantageous play at the time, and which ones you may what to hold out on for a later, most point producing turn. As a filler, I feel like the game provides all its trying to accomplish in the 20-30 minute time frame, though I haven’t quite decided how the longevity of the game itself will play out. The inclusion of a Tower of Hateskull card invokes that idea that future expansions are planned for other dungeons, maybe with different rules and special powers. Awesome Kingdom doesn’t pretend to be a dungeon crawler, or anything more than a game that’s both charming to look at, and fun to laugh at the misfortunes of others. And it’s one that’s simple and approachable enough to teach to a group that doesn’t normally play games.