Originally published in 1997 (with a theme of farmers and ranchers), then reprinted in 1999 as part of KOSMOS’s 2-player series, Rosenkönig was never really an easy game to find in the US. Last year Thames & KOSMOS brought a new reprint to the states, titled The Rose King. The game brings almost a nostalgic feeling back when playing, and really fits well into the KOSMOS 2-player frame of mind.
The Rose King, like many in the KOSMOS 2-player series of games, has a simple ruleset. One player sits on the side of the board with the crown on it (the Red player) and other across from them (the White player). The Crown Token is placed in the center of the board, the Power Tokens off to the side and the Power Cards are shuffled. Five power cards are then placed face up in front of each player, the crown facing the same direction as the crown printed on the board. Each player also receives four Hero Cards.
Each turn a player will take one of three actions:
- Play a Power Card
- Draw a Power Card
- Play a Power Card with a Hero Card
If a player cannot take one of these three actions, their turn is skipped.
When playing a Power Card the player moves the Crown Token as many spaces as the card dictates (1 - 3) and in the direction the sword is pointing. The crown cannot land on any space that is already occupied, or move off the board. Once moved, the current player places a Power Token on the space with their color facing up.
A player may also play a Hero Card with their Power Card. This allows them to land on a space containing one of the other player’s Power Tokens and flip it to their own color. You need to use these wisely as you only have four for the entire game.
The game ends if neither player can make a move or the last Power Token is played.
The goal of the game is to create territories of your own color. Different sized linked areas are scored a different amount of points. There’s a handy chart in the rulebook to help you figure this out. The player with the most points at the end of the games is the victor.
The components, while minimal, are well made. The cardboard tokens are easy to pick up and the cards, while a bit on the small side, are easy to handle since they’re on the table and not held in your hands. The board is illustrated beautifully, with the wooden Crown Token really the only piece that really stands out during play.
Beautiful to look at. Easy to learn.
Like I stated above, the game really brings the nostalgia of earlier 2-player KOSMOS games back in a big way. That’s probably because of it is an older KOSMOS game. Gameplay hasn’t been touched in this latest edition.
The theme here is really pasted on but provides a nice visual aspect. The Rose King is an abstract at heart, and I don’t fault it for this in the least. I’ve played it with my oldest son (the abstract fan in our household) and we both really enjoyed it.
There’s something satisfying about moving the single Crown Token over the spaces and trying to fill up the board with your own color. Flipping a key piece that ruins your opponent’s largest territory is a great rush, and the 20-30 minute play time feels just right. The game rewards careful planning, and games feel pretty tight until the last few moves if you play your Hero Cards right.
There’s certainly a place in our collection for The Rose King, but I’m not certain how much play it’ll really get even though we’ve had a good time playing it. While it holds up great for its age, there’s nothing about it that really stood out in my mind as going above and beyond for a great gaming experience.
I’m a bit torn on this one. It’s a solid game, by no means bad. It just didn’t make enough of an impression on me. I don’t feel the need, and in the end it may be one that just slips from memory in time.
A copy of The Rose King was provided free for review by Thames & KOSMOS.