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Take the Throne

Designed by Jon Lannon and published by Deathtrap Games, Take the Throne is a card game where 3-5 players are competing to hold or seize the throne. It's essentially a microgame where the player who is designated as the monarch is playing with a 'crown deck' of six cards, all in hand, and each of the other players have identical 'house decks' of just five cards, again all in hand.

Cards are played simultaneously face down but are revealed clockwise, starting with the monarch. Some cards have immediate effect; for example, if the monarch plays their Raid card, they choose another player and force them to discard the card they played - and it's discarded unrevealed. The monarch scores 2 victory points (VP) if they still hold the throne at the end of the round. Other cards that the monarch can choose to play are Defend, which forces other players to discard any Attack cards they've played; Command, which lets the monarch look at another player's unrevealed card and then require any player to swap the card they've played for another in their hand; and Authority, which takes a VP from another player that has more VPs than the monarch. If the monarch reckons they are likely to lose the throne this round, they can play their Abdicate card, which means they give up the throne but gain a VP. On the other hand, if the monarch is supremely confident of retaining the throne, they might play their Consolidate card which gives them an additional VP if they are still the monarch at the end of the round (so they'd get 3VP rather than 2VP).

If another player becomes the monarch, they'll gain a VP and, of course, whether or not the monarch retains the throne or it's seized by another player depends on the cards played by those other players and, more specifically, the way in which those cards interact with each other. You can contest the throne by playing an Attack card, but if more than one player plays an Attack card, it is down to the monarch to choose their successor. If at least one player plays an Attack card, a player who plays their Infiltrate card will take the throne. If just one player plays their Charge card, it beats any Attack or Infiltrate card and that player will take over as monarch at the end of the round. However, if two or more players play their Charge cards they cancel each other out and are discarded without effect. In addition to these cards, Sabotage forces another player to swap their played card and gives them a VP if the monarch retains the throne; and Feint allows a player to spend a VP to play an additional card from either their hand or discard pile. It also gives them an extra VP if they become the monarch. The game is won by the first player to end a turn as monarch with 8 or more VP; which means it's possible to win the game even tho' another player has more victory points.

You can see then that Take the Throne is a game built around bluff, bluster, double-bluff and best guessing what cards others are playing. When the throne changes hands, everyone picks up their discard pile and replenishes their hand, but on rounds where the monarch retains the throne players will not ordinarily have access to the cards they've previously played - so there's a memory element too in keeping track of what options are still open to your opponents.

Take the Throne really shines at the full player count of five as that offers much more scope for 'prisoners dilemma' interaction than when you try playing with just three players. Ideally you should play this game Diplomacy-style, with a discussion, at least between the rival houses, over what cards they'll be playing this round. Here there's ample scope for treachery, with players 'agreeing' to play a certain card but actually playing another... but double-cross your rivals this round and they'll be much less likely to trust you the next...

Deathtrap Games are planning to bring Take the Throne to Gamefound later this year. Click here to follow the campaign.

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