Take the Kingdom from Walnut Games combines the weight of epic medieval fantasy with a speed rarely seen in the genre. The ethereal art by Luke Horsman harkens back to days of Arthur with the majesty of knights and battle, yet this is no romanticized view of the Middle Ages. Players are pitted against one another in battle for honor, treasure, and victory.
Take the Kingdom begins with each player receiving a central Fort and Land cards to build upon, as well as the powerful Mercy card. On each turn, players draw and play cards, whether Defend, Attack, or Action. Over the first two rounds, players only play Defend cards, building up their realms for a heroic battle. This limitation on defense ensures that players will have a solid ground to fight upon, although a hand full of Attack cards will become very useful as soon as the hordes are released upon one’s opponent.
Rather than random play, cards in Take the Kingdom are guided by a soft economic feature of value. Forts, Land, defensive improvements like Archers or Battlements, and heroic Knights generate positive value, which enables players to play Attack cards like Soldiers, Siege Towers, and Cannons. Players battle it out, damaging one another’s holdings while also playing Action cards to nudge the scales of fate, such as an Earthquake striking the enemy. Further Action cards can block attacks or intensify them, meaning players will have to strategize what they hold in their six-card hand limit. Burning through cards is dangerous as well, since several Penalty cards might unleash Famine or Disease upon the drawing player
The Mercy card given in the game set up serves as a unique mechanic in Take the Kingdom. It is a powerful wild, duplicating several Action cards, such as Fortune granting another turn, Deny blocking an opponent’s action, or even as a new Land card, and players only receive one. A player can practically change the course of the game with a properly laid Mercy card, or it could be frittered away by a poor choice, illustrating the rich balance of luck and strategy within Take the Kingdom.
Play continues until only one player is left standing or until the draw deck runs out and players have nothing left usable in their hands. Much like historical medieval war, many of the fights leave both sides standing, though one is the winner. When more than one player still holds his or her Fort when the cards run out, often the end to the game, the winner is determined by who has the highest value.
Take the Kingdom is a card game for two to four players aged fourteen and up. It is a fairly quick game, usually lasting a little under a half hour, although that time may be stretched out a bit for players who like to take their time in analyzing their many options or compressed for players who game with wild abandon. Take the Kingdom is a blast for both kinds using luck to deliver options that will require strategy to maximize.