Complete your court by assembling all five members: a King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, and Rook—but beware of your opponents, who will attempt to interfere with your plans!
At a glance: 5ive: King’s Court is a set-collection game for 2 to 4 players (up to 6 with the expansion), ages 6 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge of $25CAD (about $19 USD) for a copy of the base game. The rules are very easy to learn so the age rating seems fine to me; however, I will note that there is a lot of direct conflict, in case your kids or gaming group don’t handle that well.
Note: Since my review is based on a pre-production prototype, I cannot comment on final component quality, and art/design may still be subject to change.
55 cards: 11 each of King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, and Rook
The components list is pretty short—just a set of cards. The cartoony artwork is a lot of fun, though, because each of the 11 sets of cards has a different theme: zombies, robots, cats, robots, superheroes, and so on. There’s no gameplay difference between the various sets, but I do like the fact that there are a bunch of different versions of each card, just for a little visual variety. My only complaint, I suppose, is that there’s a 4:1 male-to-female ratio because only the queens are female. Now, I suppose you could argue that with some of the factions like Cthulhu or Robots or Cats, it’s hard to tell and they could be females, but based on what I see from the humanoid factions, it doesn’t seem that way. But they are really cute.
The expansion adds three more factions—enough for two more players to join in, or you can also mix and match sets from the base game in case you like Vikings more than Cthulhu. (Not that you would.)
How to Play
The goal of the game is to be first to get 5 different card types into your court.
To set up, shuffle all the cards and then deal 4 to each player. Put the top card of the deck into the discard pile.
On your turn, you draw a card. Then you play a card, declaring its action. Then, each player in clockwise order has a chance to block your card. If not blocked, it takes its effect and then goes into your court.
Here are the five actions:
- King/Draw: Draw a card.
- Queen/Discard: Choose a player; that player discards a card.
- Bishop/Recover: Put any card from the discard pile into your hand.
- Knight/Destroy: Discard any card from another player’s court.
- Rook/Block: Block another player’s action. (See below.)
When you play a Block card on your own turn, it does nothing except go into your court. However, to block another player’s action, you must discard both a Block card and a card that matches their action—the action is canceled, and all three cards go into the discard pile.
When you attempt play the fifth type of card into your court, each player in clockwise order must block you, or be eliminated. Once your action has been blocked, any players after that are safe and aren’t eliminated. If nobody blocks you, you win!
Note that you can have multiple copies of the same type in your court; they don’t contribute to your victory condition, but they do serve as backups in case somebody destroys one of your cards.
5ive is pretty simple to explain, and to play, and the strategy is fairly light. However, there are some strategic decisions to be made during the game, particularly in choosing what order to play your cards and knowing when it’s worth blocking somebody else.
One issue is that you only draw one card per turn. If you block somebody else’s action, you’re discarding two cards out of turn, and you don’t automatically get to draw back up when you do so. Sometimes it’s really important to prevent somebody from taking an action (particularly if, say, they’re planning to destroy one of your cards or force you to discard something) but it does mean you can quickly run low on cards, which then leaves you as a sitting duck for future Destroy or Discard actions. It’s also interesting that the Rook (Block) doesn’t do anything at all when you play it on your turn other than go into your court, but it does require two Rooks for somebody else to prevent that—which then leaves them vulnerable to attack.
The King (Draw) and Bishop (Recover) are both ways to get more cards into your hand, and the Bishop in particular lets you pick whatever you want out of the discard pile, so choose wisely! Do you pick a Rook so that you have an extra block card handy? Or do you try to find the card that will complete your court, assuming you’ll get a chance to play it?
There is a bit of luck of the draw: one player had everything but a Bishop, and he just kept drawing everything but a Bishop on his turn. Of course, the only way to guarantee you get a Bishop is to get one out of the discard pile… using a Bishop. It wasn’t really clear what sort of options he had once most of the Bishops were already in play in various courts around the table—but probably a combination of destroying Bishops and drawing lots of cards so they would eventually get reshuffled into the deck.
The player elimination at the end of the game also seems a little weird, but I suppose it does help keep the game from descending into a neverending cycle of blocking. If you block the 5th card type, you prevent the game from ending and you keep yourself (and any players after you) in the game. But if your turn comes around and you can’t block, you’re out of the game. This does mean that a game can go from 4 players to 2 players really quickly if only the last opponent is able to block you.
Overall, I think 5ive is a cute game with some fun potential, though it’s geared toward those who prefer casual games with light strategy: deeper than, say, Uno, but not one that will tax your brain too much. Because there is a lot of take-that gameplay, use your judgment whether your kids (and friends) will take things too personally when somebody destroys their king or forces them to discard their last card.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the 5ive: King’s Court Kickstarter page!
Disclosure: I received a prototype of this game for review.