Designed by Markus Muller, Andreas Muller and Raphael Stocker, with art by Satoshi Matsuura, Hidden Leaders is an intriguing game where players are drafting cards to manipulate markers that determine the end-game victory condition.
The 2-6 players each start with their own Hidden Leader: a card that shows two of the four possible end-game conditions. You'll want to manipulate the red and green markers so that they end up satisfying one of the two conditions on your card. The red faction wins if the red marker ends the game at least two steps ahead of the green; the green faction wins if the green marker finishes at least two steps ahead of the red; if the red and green markers finish next to each other or on the same space, blue faction wins; and the dark faction wins if both markers finish in the dark territory regardless of their order or relative proximity.
Each turn, you'll be playing a card from your hand that adds a 'hero' to your army. The card will also have an effect - typically moving one or both of the markers. You'll also draw cards, either face down from the draw pile or from the three face-up cards at the 'tavern' and you'll discard a card. It's from the choices players make over the cards they play and discard that you'll try to deduce what victory conditions your opponents are working towards...
The game ends when a set number of hero cards are in one of the player's tableau, so you'll need to plan your actions and time your plays so that one of your two target endgame conditions are met at the right time. However, even in a two-player game it's possible that players' Hidden Leader cards specify the same faction. Where more than one player is aligned with the winning faction, the win goes to the player with the most heroes of that faction in their tableau. And players all start off with one hero card face down in their tableau, so your opponent could be in a position to steal victory from you with that hidden card...
Hidden Leaders is a fast-playing filler-length game: most of our Board's Eye View plays took around 20 minutes. Quite early in the game, you'll probably be able to deduce one of each other player's factions but players are likely to switch their focus to their other faction if their initial focus obviously conflicts with that of a rival (for example, where one player is trying to get red ahead of green and another player is doing the exact opposite). There are opportunities for feints, hoping to bluff an opponent, so this is a game with plenty of scope for gamesmanship and last-minute backstabbing.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of Hidden Leaders ahead of its upcoming Kickstarter campaign. Publishers BFF Games are planning to launch the KS campaign on 20 April and the final version of the game will include some tricksy tweaks to the hero abilities... Click here to check it out.
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