Negotiation. It's one of those things that people either love or hate.
So, what happens when you combine the two? According to our play testers, magic.
In Kings' Struggle, 3 to 6 players will all have the same deck of 10 cards numbered 1 through 10, each with a different ability. These numbers are called “power ratings.” Every player will play just one card during each round, for a total of seven rounds. Yes, that's right, you'll play just seven cards during a whole game. Each round, the player who has the highest power rating wins the trick and takes all played cards. Cards earned in tricks score points for you at the end of the game, but more importantly, the points you score scale based on matching sets of cards and runs. So, 3 threes are worth more than 2 tens, and a 1,2,3,4,5 is worth a lot more than a 2,4,6,8,10. What you win in tricks really matters. In addition, the game includes currency in the form of gold, which can be earned and negotiated. Each gold equals 1 point at the end of the game. The player with the most total points (cards and gold) wins the game.
The player who won the previous trick (the “lead” player) plays one card face-up, and all other players play one face down. Once all players have played a card, all cards are revealed and each player, starting with the player that led and moving clockwise, may choose whether to execute their card's ability, potentially negotiating with other players in order to make this decision.
This moment, where players’ decisions are for sale and their diplomacy skills are tested, is what differentiates King’s Struggle from other trick-taking games.
As cards are played face down, players must attempt to choose a card that they think will not be played by another player and will put them into the best possible position at the end of the round. You don't have to win tricks to earn a lot of points in gold, and you don't have to keep gold to earn a lot of points in tricks. This decision is always interesting, and changes based on what the lead card is and what can be deduced based on previously played cards.
After all cards are revealed, you may negotiate with any other player on your turn to use your ability or not. Some card abilities are more powerful if they are activated early in the turn order, while some are more powerful later, so turn order becomes incredibly important. You may use your ability the way another player wishes (at a negotiated price), you may accept gold for not using your ability at all, or you may choose to use your ability to benefit only yourself. It really depends on how much bargaining power you have, how good you are at identifying negotiating strength on the table, and, of course, how skilled you are in the art of diplomacy.
The game has two possible variants, and players must agree on which one to play before the game begins. In the “Day” variant, players may play with all 10 cards in their decks; however, in the “Night” variant, players must discard two cards at random from their decks prior to the first round, playing only with the 8 remaining cards. Below is a list of each card in the game, along with its power rating and ability:
As you can see, cards in play and turn order will impact negotiating positions. Deals that can be executed immediately are binding. Deals that rely on future promises, however, have no such constraints. So, while trick-taking and set collection are definite elements in the game that must be considered, negotiation is king, and that is the struggle.