City of Kings

City of Kings

Updated findings: Currently my favorite cooperative game.

My buddy and I played through two “stories” of this today and I’ve got a much better grasp of what’s really going on. Each story has four chapters, plus two options for “heroic” and “legendary” finales once you’ve already won.

The first story teaches you how to work the map and take care of big creatures by taking advantage of the map’s abstraction. It also teaches you to keep your worker tokens engaged and hunting goodies in the map. The story finale is pretty straightforward — kill the end boss — but making that happen took coordination and timing. It felt close, until l acquired a killer piece of gear and then it was too easy. I got scared that the game kind of pivots on equipment draws and… It might, at least in part.

The second story threw us headfirst into the resource management game. Each of the first three chapters required we bring back more and different big loads of resources, which isn’t as easy as it sounds! For one, there’s constant time pressure throughout the story. For another, you roll to see what your workers harvest and sometimes you add “attention” tokens to that map spot. Get four tokens, generate a monster. Yikes!

What was really cool about the second story was that we stumbled into more useful rules! Like how to add more gear to the inventory you can buy from, and build and deploy temporary structures like camps and barricades and traps. Once again the equipment turned out to be pivotal. And we had a character that let us shop the (very large) equipment deck for stuff we needed.

So now we’ve played all six character types. They’re kind of same-y. They have their own skill trees but you only get through five or six of them in a story. What seems to matter more is agreeing to how you’ll build your team. In the second story, I built the super hitter and Robert Chilton maxed out his worker tokens, and that was extremely effective.

There’s a lot more euro-type resource management than I was expecting, that’s for sure. And combat is pretty deterministic except when you’ve invested in luck, which just gives you the best bonus die of what all you’ve rolled. It comes together for an extremely clever puzzle management game, and it demands lots of lateral thinking as the critters get super scary. We’ve only seen the first third of the two player monsters and they will melt anything they can get their hands on without careful planning.

So: I’m currently liking this more than Gloomhaven. There, I said it. It sets up faster, it feels more engaging, you can finish a game in under two hours. There’s not a ton of story to the stories and it’s not a legacy game, but the payoff feels creatively similar and a heck of a lot faster.

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