My holiday airport browsing has resulted in me picking up a fair few of Mr Follett's novels over the years. But somehow the epic KINGSBRIDGE series of ambition, anarchy and absolute power set in twelfth-century England has eluded me. So, seeing as there is another novel in the series (which started with Pillars of the Earth in case you’re tempted to dive in!) coming later this year, it seemed a super time to get familiar with some of the background events via the most fun medium possible; a game!
KINGSBRIDGE the game is a card game designed by Wolfgang Kramer for 1-5 players based on the mechanics of Patience.
But, whilst that age-old game is a solitary pastime, KINGSBRIDGE turns Patience into a multiplayer game which can be played competitively or co-operatively, as well as a solo mode and an advanced variant.
The cards themselves depict important events that have happened during the series as well as ten well-known Characters from the individual stories.
To play KINGSBRIDGE you each have a proportion of the 104 card deck and Characters and you are trying to be the first player to lose all your cards. You can place as many cards from your hand of 6 onto any of the six starting "columns" so long as you're laying them on to cards ascending from 1 - 13.
During your turn, you can lift and shift cards onto other columns so long as you do not re-order them and they continue to run from 1-13. When a column contains 1-13 in order, the set is complete and removed from the game, opening up a free column for a new set to start. If you can't lay anything at all on your turn, you can discard your hand and draw new cards (but not if you’re playing solo!). You can also use asymmetric one-time Character powers if you’re using the advanced variant which includes them. These powers are used to manipulate the melds and/or tweak the general 1-13 column card rules.
At first we thought KINGSBRIDGE was going to be super simple – we both know Patience, we can both be pretty handy with counting, and with two minds being better than one, we thought the co-operative mode would definitely be over in a flash! But the subtle and enjoyable challenge became apparent as soon as the cards in our respective decks started to run low. With a reducing number of cards, where you can place those still in your hand becomes narrower. And it’s still a race to be first to empty our personal deck.
We found character powers definitely helped to open up column placement possibilities when we had access to the right ones at the right time. Having said that, the randomness of the draw isn’t always shining luck upon you. Plus their benefit has to be balanced against the fact that any you use are then given to an opponent for them to use on a later turn!
The cad art Is really nice – each number has its own event depicted on it, and the character powers are easy to work out from the iconography. If you get stuck, however, there is a longer description of each in the rule book!
KINGSBRIDGE is a really versatile game. If we are feeling super chill, my husband and I can relax and chat whilst trying to work out together where best to drop our cards. Or we can compete to be first in a relaxed race to the finish. I also really enjoy it as a solo because there’s no time pressure and there’s added crunch in the form of not being able to discard my hand of cards as well as scoring more at end game if I can avoid using character cards.
If you like calm, set collecting card games that have co-operative, competitive, and solo options, then KINGSBRIDGE should be on your game shelf!