Henchmania: A new job listing has been posted in your area!
Job title: King’s Bailiff
Description: Do YOU have the motivation and gumption to climb up the management ladder to reach the very top? Willing to backstab compete with your rivals to guarantee your ascent? If so, you may be the right candidate for us!
As a Bailiff for the king, you will be responsible for the general overseeing of the local region in the king’s stead. A sound understanding of local politics is preferred (but not essential) as dealing with the local riff-raff citizens will be key in this position. All applicants will be required to demonstrate good management skills over their respective servant's employees. The position will be closed in four days, this gives you the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your time management skills, show you can delegate jobs and prove you are the right candidate for the job.
The king’s favour is not easily earned. All lords are automatically considered applicants, as is tradition. Any applicants without ‘lord’ status may apply but we withhold the right to dispose of, as necessary.
Applicants must be 16 years or older. We are NOT liable for any injury or death that may occur during the recruitment process. References required upon successful candidacy.
An Exciting Opportunity
A lot of us are often found browsing through the online job listings, aimlessly scrolling page after page of copied and pasted ‘Exciting Opportunities!’. Those of us who do this are all too familiar seeing job listings with requirements such as fictional qualifications (Degree? What?), having half a lifetime of experience, involve working twenty-seven hours a day, or requiring you to, well, um, clean people’s nether regions. Shudders. Finding a job that excites you enough to apply for, sounds like one of those elusive dreams you try oh-so-desperately to cling onto before you wake up. But the king’s Bailiff? One of the most coveted jobs in the entire country? Now THAT is a job worth going for.
Henchmania is all about using your henchmen to secure your place at the top. Discredit your rival lords, duel other henchmen, and of course, make sure the king even acknowledges your existence. One thing is for sure: getting this job will require far more than sprucing up your CV and practising your interview skills in the mirror.
How Does It Play?
Henchmania is in essence, a simple hand-building game coupled with board control. Henchmania is in presence, a maniacally turbulent tussle to achieve the simple goal of 30 points. Each round every player will take turns placing a ‘henchmen’ meeple onto the board until all henchmen are in place around the town. The game board is divided into 5 different areas to represent the different areas of the town: The tavern, castle, main square, church and armoury. Every area is coloured and themed differently from each other and boasts its own dedicated mini-deck. Every henchman you send to each area represents one card you draw from that deck at the end of the placement round. Each section has a henchman capacity which varies between player counts. And after the cards have been drawn, it’s a simple case of taking turns playing cards. That is it, simple, clean, and easy. Right?
As there are only 4 days until the king decides who he wishes to bestow his honours to, you need to do as much as possible to make sure nobody else gets to the prize before you. 4 turns quickly come and go, so your hand-building and tactics need to be on point!
The tavern cards let you discredit your opponent and force them to give you advantages. The castle cards let you gain the king’s attention by putting on a public show. The main square cards let you prepare for duels and allows you to give yourself advantages. The church cards give you little saving graces and boons. The armoury cards give you an edge to fight with during duels. And if you have board dominance in one area of the town, you get an extra card from that deck. Henchmania gives you a healthy amount of options without going totally overboard.
What do you do if you see your opponent gearing up for duels? What do you do if your opponent has a complete set of performers? Is it best to go all-in with one city region or use a bit of them all? Well, I hope you are not expecting me to answer these questions for you. That would be cheating. Not fitting behaviour for a Lord at all if you ask me.
Careful planning goes a long way in this game as strategy can easily win you the game, but so could sheer luck with card drawings. However, if you are like me, throwing your henchmen anywhere and seeing what happens is also a lot of fun. Discovering odd little card combos between the different decks is often rewarding.
How Does it Look?
The thing that appealed to me first about Henchmania was the comical artwork on the box. Its’ simplistic and childish charm really engaged my attention.
The artwork has been expertly delivered in this game. The distinct style really makes it stand out amongst my other games. I am a big fan of adding comedic value in things (If this review has not made you smile at least once then I will need to subject myself to seeking penance.) I know just how challenging it is to incorporate comedy into visual art. So, to that end, I must highly praise the artist behind Henchmania. The style and tone make me smile every time I look at the game. My only disappointment is with the game board itself, as contrasting with the phenomenal card and box designs, the game board looks flat and generic. This does not interfere too much however as the board will mostly be loaded with meeples for the majority of the game, especially with higher player counts.
On the flip side of this, however, I also really love the game board. The fact that it is a modular board allows you to place the sections together in any order that takes your fancy, building a circular playing board. This is unusually satisfying.
The one thing that we all have in common I am sure, is that rule books are an absolute slog to get through. Rule books are for the most part: awful. The rule book here however has had a healthy amount of attention thrown into it. It has been lovingly designed with simplistic drawings and annotations. Written in a way that is easy to follow and most importantly (that puts my OCD devil at ease) it is the exact size of the interior of the game box. Taking the lid off the game and seeing the rule book flush against every side just makes me tingle inside.
Henchmania is a humble game. I cannot see it appealing to seasoned gamers in terms of gameplay or mechanics. However, I do see it appealing greatly to those who do not take gaming too seriously or to those who enjoy lighter games between the bigger ones. It would also be a great game to play with the family. The light-hearted and whimsical approach can bring plenty of smiles all round. The game plays much better with at least 3 people though, as it is far too easy to fall behind quickly in a two-player game.
This is the first game that has been designed by Vincent Jouanneau and Jean-Pierre Nicolas, and they have done a smashing job. I am looking forward to seeing what new games they have up their sleeve. If you are looking for a new light-hearted game or wanting to find a game to introduce new gamers to the hobby, then you cannot go far wrong with Henchmania!