Courts and Castles
Plots and counterplots abound in the Courts. Pawns invade castles. Wield game-changing Trumps. Uno meets Risk meets Battleship.
I am raising funds to manufacture, advertise, and sell my very own board game: Courts and Castles. For two to six people, players compete to conquer each others' castles while defending their own. To do this, they make plots and counterplots, wield game-changing trumps, and strategically place their loyal pawns across the board. Conquering castles yields points; be the first to reach 100 points to win!
Each player takes on the role of one leader: The Warlord, the Queen, the Pharaoh, the Rani, the President, and the King. Each one corresponds to the color of their pawns and castles (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple respectively). All roles are of equal value, with no advantages or disadvantages over another. The roles are simply titles, that can be fleshed out as much as the players like. It's also fun to address as each other by titles, so if I'm the purple player, call me “King Jeremy” (or not, you're my foe)! Note that all the individual players use differing names for their castles, but that's just for aesthetic flavor. You can simply call them all castles if you'd like; they behave the same in gameplay.
The King: A man of noble blood, born to rule a prosperous kingdom of meadows, forests, and snowy fields. This is the purple player, which uses traditional castles.
The President: An elected official that governs a league of peoples across many islands. This is the blue player, which uses city-states.
The Rani: An exotic monarch that leads the fey folk of enchanted forests, jungles, and rain forests. This is the green player, which uses camps.
The Pharaoh: An exalted leader worshipped as a demigod that presides over river valleys and deserts. This is the yellow player, which uses temples.
The Queen: A woman of authority granted by birth, who reigns over beautiful beaches and coastal trading cities. This is the orange player, which uses citadels.
The Warlord: A fierce warrior that has earned leadership by battle prowess, whose horde roams the plains and steppes. This is the red player, which uses fortresses.
The game has several components: the board, six batches of colored pawns, six sets of colored castle tokens, and a specialty card deck.
The board showcases the lands of all the players. The castles are colored, grid structures on the board itself. Each player has an equal amount of castles: one large castle (3x3 tiles), three medium castles (1x3 tiles) and nine small castles (1x1 tile). These are the targets of invasion. The card deck is unique to my game, but is similar to a playing card deck, along with some added Tarot-esque ones.
The bulk of the deck is made up of 120 Court Cards. Like playing cards, they have colored Suits and numerical Ranks.
There are six suits, each named after precious stones: Rubies (red suit), Topazes (orange suit), Gold (yellow suit), Emeralds (green suit), Sapphires (blue suit), and Amethysts (purple suit). Suits can be classified into more general categories called Families. There are two: the Primary Family, and the Secondary Family. The former is made up of the primary colors: blue, red, yellow (Sapphires, Rubies, and Gold respectively). The latter is made of up the secondary colors: green, orange, purple (Emeralds, Topazes, and Amethysts respectively).
There are ten ranks, each named after a position in society: Serf (1), Commoner (2), Merchant (3), Guard (4), Captain (5), Lord/Lady (6), Baron/Baroness (7), Count/Countess (8), Duke/Duchess (9), and Prince/Princess (10). Likewise, ranks can be classified into more general categories called Classes. There are again two: Lower Class, and Higher Class. The former is made up of the lower five numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (the Serf, the Commoner, the Merchant, the Guard, and the Captain). The latter is made up of the higher five numbers: 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 (the Lord/Lady, the Baron/Baroness, the Count/Countess, the Duke/Duchess, and the Prince/Princess).
Together, a suit and a rank form a Court Card's identity. A red one is a Serf of Rubies, while a green five is a Captain of Emeralds. The traits of a Court Card are important factors in gameplay, which we'll delve into in a bit.
So, wait. We have ten ranks and six suits that give us 60 combinations, so why are there 120 Court Cards? Because each card has one exact duplicate.
There are also 22 Trump Cards, inspired by the trumps of the Tarot. They don't have suits, ranks, families, or classes; each is an individual. Each Trump card has a unique ability that benefits the player who draws it.
There are 216 pawn pieces, 36 of each of our six colors corresponding to individual players. These are routinely earned, and then strategically placed on the board for offense and defense.
Lastly, we have 72 castle tokens. One large castle token, three medium castle tokens, and nine small castle tokens for each color. The larger sizes have larger point values, and are granted to the players that seize their matching castles on the map.
(1)Players Draw Their Courts
(2)Individual Player's Turn Begins
(3)If a Player Has an Action Trump, He/She May Use It
(4)Current Player Makes a Plot
(5)All Other Players Respond with a Counterplot
(6)Current Player Engages One Other Player & Drawns Pawns
(7)Current Player Places All Pawns as Desired
(8)If Castles are Conquered, Collect Corresponding Castle Tokens
(9)All Players Draw More Cards to Keep Their Hands at Capacity
(10)Play Moves to Next Player and Repeats
(*) Note: some Trumps can Modify These Rules and Order of Actions
All cards (Court cards and Trump cards both) are shuffled together, and turned face down in one pile. This is the draw pile, and a spot next to it should be reserved for discarded cards. Discarded cards can be shuffled and added to the draw pile when low.
Play begins with the youngest player, and proceeds clockwise. Now, following that order, players need to form their Courts – that is draw their hand of cards. Each player needs to draw until they have four Court cards – that is their Court. They'll have four at the beginning and end of each turn.
Any Trump cards drawn along the way are extras. When drawn, that player keeps the Trump, and draws again; this can happen as many times as chance allows, a player simply must draw until he/she has four Court cards. All drawn cards remain face up and are visible to everyone playing. Try to keep mental note of what cards everyone has.
On a player's turn, her/his first option is to use any single Action Trump he/she has in her/his possession. This is optional (the player may not have an Action Trump or may choose not to use any). This is the only opportunity to do so on this turn. If he/she opts not to, forgets to, or later draws a usable Trump, he/she misses the opportunity.
Now, the current player's mandatory action is to make a Plot. The player picks up her/his Court, and secretly selects one to play (so, it's advised you hold all your cards in a manner making them unseen). One's goal is to play a card that is very likely to match an opponent's chosen card on some level (through families, classes, suits, and ranks – an exact match is ideal). You know which cards they possess, but not the one they'll choose. They know your options, but not the one you're choosing. When you've selected a single Court card to act as your Plot, place it face down and announce your Plot is in play (so that is unknown which card you've chosen, but that your decision is made).
Now, all the other players must respond with a Counterplot. They choose a single Court card from their own hands to use. They must participate, and their selections are not secret – they lay their Counterplots face up for everyone to see, and confirm that their decision is made. The counterplotting players are free to strategize with each other or not; exact timing is not necessary, but they're making their Counterplots relatively simultaneously, not by turns.
Your Plot is made and everyone else's Counterplots are made. You reveal your Plot, and you now evaluate your options. You can choose any one other player to engage. Having cards of that match heavily is most beneficial, but you can engage any player that you match on some level. The degree of matching will determine how many pawns you will earn. And you can only attack the player you are engaging this turn. Knowing what matchup yields the greatest pawns and weighing your options of who best to attack provide differing strategies. (We'll go into card matchups later in this guide). You select your engagement, and drawn the predetermined number of pawns for doing so. Note, you can not engage a player that had a counterplot that lacked any degree of matching, and they earn a single pawn in that case (this happens for even counterplotter in this situation).
You must now place your pawns. One pawn per castle tile on the board. Offensively, you can place them on any open tile on your engaged opponent's castles. When a single castle's total tiles become occupied, the castle is captured. The key here is that the last person to occupy the castle's final tile, captures it. And you must place all your accumulated pawns on your turn (you can not save them for later). Thus, if you can not fully take a castle, you must be careful in your distribution or you make it easy for competitors to finish the job.
You can also place pawns defensively within your castles. Opponents must now expend two pawns to take that tile. One to remove the defending pawn and another to occupy that tile. During your pawn placement, you can play offensively, defensively, or both, distributing as needed. If you have excess pawns, and there are no open tiles in your territory, or you chosen opponent's for this turn, only then can you then distribute them across your other rivals' territories.
If you have earned pawns on someone else's turn, you wait until your turn to place them after all the Plots and Counterplots.
When a castle is captured, you take a castle token from that foe. You take a large token for their large castle, a medium token for a medium castle, and a small token for a small castle. These represent your points. Whoever is first to accrue 100 points is the winner.
If all your castles are captured, you are Exiled. In Exile, your options are limited. On your turns, you can not make Plots. You can still use Trumps or place pawns you earn by other means. You must liberate any one of your castles to return from Exile (which can be achieved by a select few Trumps). In Exile, you're down, but not out.
At the end of each turn, players repopulate their Courts (restock their hand of cards). Do so in turn order beginning with the player who is now ending her/his turn. All used cards (plots, counterplots, trumps that were used) are discarded. Play passes to the next person.
There are also Reaction Trumps. These have specific opportunities relative to the individual Trump in question, so they can't be grouped together when instructing how the flow of a turn goes. For instance, some respond to the Action Trumps while used, while others kick in when a Plot is made. And, of course, Reaction Trumps share some rules with their Action Trump counterparts: discard after use, only one Trump (Action or Reaction) can be used by a single player on a turn, and players can choose not to use a Trump and instead reserve it for later. Also, let players pause the action to consider using Trumps. Don't rush the game, not allowing someone to use their Reaction Trump. The game can take a few moments to allow someone to contemplate the use of one or not; rushing ahead before someone can think is unfair play.
One of the key elements of the game is comparing one's Plot versus your rivals' Counterplots. These are again done with Court cards (never Trump cards).
We discussed earlier that a card has four traits: suit, family, class, and rank. Suit and rank are very specific; family and class are much more general (families encompass three suits each, and classes contain five ranks each). The primary colors make up the primary family, and the secondary colors make up the secondary family. The lower numbers, with the working class positions, make up the lower class; the higher numbers, with the royalty, make up the higher class.
When two cards have the same suit, that's a full match. If they share the same family, but not the same suit, that's a half match. Again, suit is more specific, so it overrides the matching of a family.
When two cards have the same rank, that's a full match. If they share the same class, but the same rank, that's a half match. Remember, that ranks are more specific, so they override the matching of class.
So, let's look at all the possibilities. A full match of suit and a full match of rank, that's a perfect match; it has to be the duplicate card. Two blue 10's = double match, or perfect match.
Matching suit, but not rank (an orange 2 and an orange 8). One full match. Matching rank, but not suit (a yellow 7 and a green 7). One full match.
Matching suit, and matching class (a purple 9 and a purple 8), is one-and-a-half matches. Conversely, matching rank and matching family (a green 4 and an orange 4) is also one-and-a-half matches.
Matching class alone is a half match (a red 1 and purple 5). Matching family alone is a half match (a blue 1 and yellow 9).
Matching family and class (a green 6 and purple 7) would be two half-matches, which equal to a full match.
A perfect (double) match nets the plotter 9 pawns. A near-perfect match (one-and-a-half matches) nets the plotter 6 pawns. A single match nets the plotter 3 pawns. A half match nets the plotter 1 pawn. The plotter only gains pawns from the counterplot they choose to engage.
Lastly, there is a possibility of no matches between two cards (an orange 3 and a yellow 10). If this happens, that counterplotter gains a single pawn of their own, regardless of who the plotter engages (and they can't be engaged that turn). It's possible for this to happen simultaneously with any or all of the counterplotters on a single turn.
ABOUT PERKS AND REWARDS FOR KICKSTARTER
First, I am open to suggestions for ideas about the Courts & Castles, and ideas about perks. Currently, I am offering rewards of crediting backers within the game itself. So, there are four major groups of credits: Court card credits, Trump card credits, Castle credits, and Territory credits.
There are 120 Court cards, and a space for a credit on each. The card will list the name of the suit (with the appropriate color background), number of the rank, card artwork, and a spot for the backer's chosen name. Each of the Court cards has two versions: one male and one female. They play identically, but make sure to grab the gender you want your credit for. I want equal gender representation, so they are fixed. Artwork is still in progress, but expect cards of the same suit to share a common cultural look among them. And ranks will share some level of comparison. Serfs will look dire, and princes & princesses will look grandiose (that's not to say lower rank cards will look like crap, but a commoner will look more plain than royalty).
There are 22 Trump cards. Each is unique and will feature its own character unlike any other. They'll be unalike the Court cards. They will feature the name of the Trump, whether's it is Action or Reaction, a brief description of its use, some artwork, and a spot for your credit. Some have genders, some do not, and these are fixed; these will be noted in their respective perk sections.
There are nine small Castles per six territories (54 total), three medium castles each (9 total), and one large castle each (6 total). Functionally, they play the same, but the names differ per territory. The King's castles are just called castles (it's the default). The President's castles are labeled city-states or cities. The Rani's castles are camps. The Pharaoh's castles are temples. The Queen's castles are citadels. And the Warlord's castles are fortresses or forts. When you back these perks, the name you choose will be written (more likely, typed) on the board next to it. They will use the naming conventions above, styled slightly. Meaning, we could name a King's Castle either Castle Yourchoice or Yourchoice Castle.
Lastly, there are Territories on the board. The board features a map of the lands at war. The castles of each player are grouped in specific subsections, even though they lack hard, definitive borders. You can name one territory – this will be featured on the board, and will sprawl across the relevant region, fitting somewhere that doesn't write over the castles themselves. There is more leeway with the naming structure here. But my base ideas are as following:
The Warlord: The Fields / Plains / Steppes of Yourchoice, or The Yourchoice Fields / Plains / Steppes
The Queen: The Queendom of Yourchoice, or The Yourchoice Queendom
The Pharaoh: The Riverlands / Desert of Yourchoice, or The Yourchoice Riverlands / Desert
The Rani: The Forests / Jungles of Yourchoice, or The Yourchoice Forests / Jungles
The President: The Seas / Islands of Yourchoice, or The Yourchoice Seas / Islands
The King: The Kingdom of Yourchoice, or The Yourchoice Kingdom
Finally, some rules. You'll see these in the perks section as well. Nothing offensive (I have a pretty sick sense of humor, but this game is family-friendly), nothing religious or sacreligious, nothing copyrighted, nothing dirty or sexual, and no prominent real world places or people (I don't mind if you use your name or town, as long as it's not super well known). If anything just message me, and we'll figure something out.
People on the cards have fixed genders, so choose the one you prefer if it's still available. I don't mind putting a male name on a female card or vice-versa if you really want that one. It's more of a thank you credit than naming the person on the card. You can do pet names or family names (preferably, no organizations). Even if your name is real, I won't do anything is coincidentally silly or perverse (no Butts or Hookers, sorry). I'll do my best to get the exact spelling you want, just let me know (very long names will likely need to be abbreviated). You can use your real names or not, as long as it complies with the rules.
Character artwork will be from fictional societies, although influenced by historical and fantastical ones, and I will distance myself from anything particulary gory (a Guard might be depicted with a weapon, but not bloody or killing anyone), anything religious (no modern religious symbols), or anything improper (no swastikas or the like). Also, each suit have characters of a fictional culture, and will be ethnically diverse, so if you're prejudiced keep in mind, the card may end up with a person of a skin color or look you may not like; in that case, keep your money.
Sorry if this rule section seems long-winded and unnecessary. It's for the 1% of people that want to write “Prince Poopbucket” or “Camp Nazi”, not for the rest of you. No, “Castle Winterfell” or “Frodo Baggins” - I am not getting sued over any of that.
Also, I will credit everyone who backs me in a special thank you section in the booklet. Tell me the name you want me to use (rules still apply)!
I did leave some details out. I specifically avoided talking points and the various Trumps. These are decided already, but I want to keep some surprises (and protect some of my work). I've already shared a great deal, and my Trumps I feel really bring something interesting to the table. They bend the rules in great ways without being overpowering or being useless, and they're the ace in my pocket.
So, funding will go towards manufacturing the game, hiring artists to produce content (mainly card artwork), advertising, and purchasing testing materials (I have some, but they are sloppy – and I'm upgrading some as we speak). The board photo is practically done (it's waiting for those backer credits, that's it)!
Risks and challenges
I am confident in Courts and Castles, but any game can have issues. These generally become more apparent on wider play. I think I have nipped any logical errors in the bud, but the question remains "is it fun?" Myself and my sample games with friends have thought so, but this can always change. However, I think I can flexibly alter the rules to fix specific problems people have.
I think my game strikes a great balance of simplicity and complexity. Too simple, and you get Tic Tac Toe, which can always be properly stalemated. Too complex, and nothing makes sense. I believe that as you play the game, things occur naturally. At the most, you may have to count in every respect of how a plotted card matches a counterplotted card. But really, all you have to ask is "does the number match? is the number in the same class? does the color match? is the color in the same family?" (I withheld the details of class and family, but they're very similar and use intuitive concepts).
As for perks, my funding is equal to the value of all the perks of outlined. If I get exact funding, every dollar will be matched by a specific perk. These are not material goods.
All of my perks are allowing backers to provide names for people and places in the games. Names for the castles on the maps. And name for the individual cards in addition to their suit and rank. Small cosmetic details that don't impact the game. I will state it here that despite a backer donation, I will NOT use any of the following: slurs against ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion; any real world place names; any copyrighted names; any particularly dirty, inappropriate names (I myself love this humor, but this is a family-friendly project); or any linguistic gobbledeguk of symbols & numbers. I hold the right to deny any name even if you bought the perk. I will cite a reasoning, and I will contact you to suggest something else. Feel free to send me multiple suggestions and rank them. I will confer with you to choose the best. Just don't be sly. Don't suggest Helm's Deep as a castle name, or reference 9/11 or label a card Jesus Christ or Barrack Obama. Something like Castle Redbridge or Jon D. for a card are perfectly acceptable (but you can be more creative than that)!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter