Heart Of Crown Is Game Of Thrones For Weebs And I Love It

heart of crown
Heart of Crown key art. (c) Japanime Games

I’m not a card game aficionado. I have tried to learn the rules to Magic the Gathering at least seven times, but there’s something about that game my brain refuses to accept: all instructions go in one ear and out the other. I’m also not a good sport: if I lose in a game, the winner of the game and I lose at least 20 relationship points, Sims-style.

For that reason, I’m surprised by how much I liked and enjoyed Heart of Crown. It reminds me of Race to the Galaxy , one of the only other card games I’ve ever enjoyed (I also liked the Shadowrun game, though running through it with two people was a rough ride). I guess I just like ad hoc deck-building card games (co-op is best, though I’ll take versus in a pinch).

First, Heart of Crown ’s art is pretty cute. It’s done by the same guy who does the art for Etrian Odyssey , Yuji Himukai, so if you want to play Heart of Crown as Pick a Waifu, you’re definitely able to do that. The only card whose art I don’t like is Curse Witch, which pairs a disturbingly naked loli-style witch with disturbing blood-red handprints forming her only covering all over her lower half. Otherwise the art ranges from mediocre (“Bribery” card) to really, really cute (any of the Princess cards).

Second, Heart of Crown is easy to pick up, especially if you have any experience with playing card games before. The first-time setup is no more complicated than sorting cards, after which you just have to select from a list of pre-made market decks. If you’re experienced enough at this game or this type of game to create your own market decks, the game includes randomizer cards for you. After that, the game’s phases are all straightforward and make sense, and you’ll only need to consult the rules for minor quibbles.

One of the things that make Heart of Crown particularly easy to pick up is the “link” system. A card with an arrow pointing to the right means you can play another card. A card with an arrow pointing down and one pointing to the right means you can play two other cards. It’s very simple and intuitive. It also really starts making you feel like you’re pulling out sick combos as you build decks that let you draw and redraw cards at will.

Third, Heart of Crown gives you an entertaining narrative and just enough playtime that you feel like you really did something. First, you’re building up enough resources, like acquiring wealthy territories and swaying influential people, to be able to back a princess. Once you back a princess, you continue to do the above, but your focus changes towards securing those influential people for your princess and earning her those valuable “Succession Points.” At 20 SP, you call a coronation ceremony, and if your opponent can’t match 20 SP, you win the game. If they can, you enter Sudden Princess Death Mode (okay, it’s just called Sudden Death mode) and the first person to 30 SP wins.

Everything makes sense narratively. You can follow the story of your actions as though you’re playing out some kind of role-playing game. The back of the Princess cards have blurbs about their personalities. All the Action cards relate to resources a string-puller like yourself might actually obtain in order to serve their chosen Princess.

I can tell I’ve only just touched on the strategic possibilities, especially with the Princesses’ different special powers in play and the different Action cards that can be mixed into your market deck. It makes me look forward to playing more games, dipping into different strategies, trying out cards I didn’t bother trying my first time and even getting the two expansion packs, Northern Enchantress and Far East Territory.

In my first game of Heart of Crown, I lost by 2 points in Sudden Death mode. But it was a satisfying loss because the game didn’t make me feel like a moron for not understanding codicil 9.077 to obscure rule #17e in Rules Supplement C. Instead, I felt like I’d made good strategic choices but simply been outplayed by a combination of luck and superior smarts. I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time because I didn’t get the rules, or like I got stomped because I didn’t know the right combos.

If you’re interested in anime art, card games, deck-building card games or strategy games, you should definitely enjoy Heart of Crown. Heart of Crown is available from Japanime Games via CoolStuffInc at $35.99, along with its expansions ($14.49 each).

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