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Cutthroat Kingdoms

Updated: May 4, 2021

Designed by Bryan Merlonghi and published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), Cutthroat Kingdoms is about as close as you can get to producing a Game of Thrones type game without taking out a licensing agreement and without actually infringing any copyright. It's not Game of Thrones and it's not set in the Game of Thrones universe but it definitely captures the Game of Thrones feel.

In Cutthroat Kingdoms, each player represents a noble household. Each has an asymmetric special ability and each has a heir. Territories give players income in either coin or jewels. The latter can be especially valuable at the end of the game if they are traded in as sets. Players may try to take over more territory using their soldiers and mercenaries, and they will be recruiting hirelings who can be used in a variety of ways. Each player has a bastard seeded in the hireling deck. If an opponent gets hold of your bastard, they can use them to demand blackmail payments from you.

Event cards can result in players receiving extra tribute for their territories but they are more likely to inflict plague. Each turn, players will also collect cards that will be allocated in the royal feast at the end of the game. These will offer sustenance, which will score in the feast, but may also represent poison which can kill an opponent's heir...

There is much manouvering and jockeying for position in Cutthroat Kingdoms but this game is really all about negotiation and deal-making. Even turn order can be negotiated. If a player announces they are launching an attack on you, you can bribe them or offer them some other deal to get them to change their mind. Pretty much anything and everything is negotiable, which means bribery and blackmail can be at least as viable a route to victory as military endeavour. Once a deal is shaken upon, it becomes binding... except that certain event cards can allow an agreement to be violated.

As in Philippe Mouchebeuf's Fief: France 1429 (Asyncron/Academy Games), players can form alliances through the marriage. The opportunity for this is triggered halfway through the game and ties those players together for scoring for the remainder of the game. As in Fief, however, the death of a spouse will obviously end the marriage. For game end scoring, a player whose heir is single and alive scores double for all their coins...

If you enjoy games involving intrigue and back-stabbing, then Cutthroat Kingdoms is definitely a game for you. The game takes 3–6 players and is best played with at least four. It's essentially a card game but it also includes multi-coloured 'gems' and a very nice cloth playing mat.

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