Crown of Emara

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RRP £37.99

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Good times in the tiny kingdom of Emara: During the reign of King Thedorius the Wise, wars, uprisings, and other inconveniences became a thing of the past. Thedorius always cared more for the well-being of his subjects than for power or riches. Therefore, only the nobleman who is able to care for Emara’s citizens as well as Thedorius himself did shall become Thedorius’ s…
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Category SKU ZBG-55145G Availability 5+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • An easy to pick up, traditional feeling euro game, with some nice features.
  • Programming as a core mechanic, resulting in some tough decisions.
  • Resource and timing management, which can result in some frustrating moments.

Might Not Like

  • Traditional Dennis Lohausen artwork and design.
  • Nothing new about the game.
  • Fairly bland, uninspiring, generic setting.
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Description

Good times in the tiny kingdom of Emara: During the reign of King Thedorius the Wise, wars, uprisings, and other inconveniences became a thing of the past. Thedorius always cared more for the well-being of his subjects than for power or riches. Therefore, only the nobleman who is able to care for Emara's citizens as well as Thedorius himself did shall become Thedorius' successor and wear the Crown of Emara.

To test the skills of all aspirants, Thedorius and his counselors issue a challenge of practical use: Whoever can persuade the majority of the newly arrived citizens in the capital to support their claim shall become the future king of Emara. To achieve this, players have to cater to the citizens' needs and - most importantly - offer proper housing for everyone. This means that promoting the building activities in town will be one of the major tasks of the candidates.

Crown of Emara skillfully combines card actions with worker movement actions, allowing players to plan their turns carefully during their downtime. The two counselors available to every player move in two separate roundabouts, requiring players to optimize every move. Additionally, two scoring tracks lead to a multidimensional playstyle as only the lower score counts towards victory and thus both tracks have to be advanced equally.

 

I have to be honest; when I first saw Crown of Emara, I wasn’t particularly interested. It was recommended by a friend who knows my taste in games, but everything I had seen about the game said “nothing new here,” which left me feeling uninspired.

However, I decided to bite the bullet, and I’m glad I did. There is a lot to like about Crown of Emara - resource management, efficiency planning, with just a tiny bit of getting in the way of other players, and a dual rondel mechanic which makes the action selection/programming just that bit more interesting than it sounds.

One of the reasons I hesitated over Crown of Emara was its presentation. Components are of a good quality, but it doesn’t look striking. I like Dennis Lohausen’s artwork/design, but it does look unfortunately dated. That aside, there are no issues with the iconography in the game, and everything is clear and sufficiently distinct.

Gameplay

Crown of Emara is an action programming game, with two rondels driving the actions. Players each have a deck of nine identical cards, from which they draw three cards at the start of each round. There are six rounds, so each card is used exactly twice.

Cards, which typically provide a resource, or a discount of a resource on a specific action, are played onto the player board. The player board has three spots for cards to be played, corresponding to one, two or three moves on one (player’s choice) of the rondels.

So, on a turn, each player gets to take two actions - the one depicted on the card, and the action of the space that they move to on the rondel. Making sure that the right card accompanies the optimal rondel move each turn - and in fact all three turns of the round - is key to success in Crown of Emara.

The Rondels

Each rondel has a distinct function in the game.

The countryside rondel is a resource collection rondel, where the four base resources - stone, wood, wheat and cloth - can be collected, one from each space. Each of the four spaces of the rondel can be upgraded at a cost, which allows players to either gather additional resources or to convert any wheat they may have into bread. This is the only way to produce bread, although bread has only one function in the game.

The spaces on the town rondel are for either generating advanced resources, or for spending the resources to gather points on the points track. For instance, on the cathedral location, specific resources can be donated in worship, which will provide the player with books and single use bonus tiles. Spending resources (including bread) on the construction site, however, will provide points.

There are a number of floating markers on the city locations, which are rotated when resources are spent. For instance, at the beginning of the game, when a player spends up to three loaves of bread on the construction site, they earn six points for each loaf. Then they rotate the marker, indicating that the next time a player converts bread to points in this way, they only earn five points. In this way, players need to balance the demands of generating several loaves of bread (to maximise the benefit of visiting the construction site) with getting there before anyone else (to get the most points for each loaf).

Bonus Actions

There are three bonus actions available in Crown of Emara. Two of these are determined by your position on each of the two rondels. The first is to place a craftsman on the countryside rondel. This then acts as the aforementioned upgrade to the action on the countryside rondel. The second possible bonus action is to hire an adviser. These are cards available on each of the locations on the city rondel. They provide either immediate bonuses (typically points) or ongoing benefits - for instance a discount or a bonus when a specific location is actioned.

The third bonus action is to increase your noble rank. This involves spending rings and gold coins (which are earned from specific city locations). Increasing your rank will provide Citizen Points - although the earlier you achieve each new rank the more points you will earn (so it is beneficial to progress through the nobility ranks before the other players).

Points 

One of the more unusual mechanics in Crown of Emara is the points scoring. There are two types of points available in the game - Building Points and Citizen Points. Most of the points scored in the game will be citizen points, but it is important to keep a balance between the two types, since it is the lowest scoring marker which determines your final score in the game.

The Building Points marker starts much higher on the score track, but it is easy to neglect Building Points, resulting in a mad rush at the end the address the imbalance.

Final Thoughts on Crown of Emara

Crown of Emara doesn’t do anything new. It has a fairly generic pseudo-medieval setting which, frankly, could be anything. There are no game elements which feel like you haven’t seen them already several times before (indeed, there is an acknowledgement at the end of the rules booklet thanking other publishers for allowing them to use the game piece-shapes).

However, it brings together several game elements in a really robust way, resulting in a game which feels more original than its constituent parts.

The rules are easy to read through and understand. I have played a few games of Crown of Emara and have yet to come across anything which was problematic or difficult to interpret. Most of the depth of the game comes as a result of the agonising decisions to be made at the start of each round - it is, after all, a programming game. But it is a good programming game, and one I would happily recommend.

Crown Of Emara How To Play

The monarch in Crown of Emara is not a clichéd puppet king, nor a snivelling coward. He’s an all-round good egg, and has overseen a reign of peace. And he’d like to keep it that way. That’s where you step in: you (and up to three other players) are competing nobles, all vying to take the crown.

But to increase your chances, the king wants to see you take care of his citizens. He wants you to construct houses for the people. And then to fill said houses with keen immigrants who, in turn, will maintain Emara’s status quo. The theme is one of optimism. The mechanisms are ones of optimisation. Crown of Emara features two rondels, which synchronise with clever hand use of  management.

Question: What’s A Rondel?

A rondel is a mechanism you'll often see in Euro-style efficiency games. It’s a circle, split into segments. Each segment of a typical rondel provides a different action. Your turn involves moving your pawn a certain number of spaces around the rondel. Usually, you then execute the action which corresponds to the space you've landed on.

Coexisting alongside the theme, there are two scoring categories in Crown of Emara. You’ll aim to score points for Building, as well as points for Citizens. At the end of six rounds, the lower of these two is your final score. So it’s no good chasing only one – you’ll need to have a finger in every pie! You’ll do this by collecting resources in the Countryside rondel. Then you’ll convert them towards constructing Buildings or welcoming Citizens on the Town rondel.

This mid-weight Euro from Pegasus Spiele flew a little under the radar upon its release in 2018. Did the thought of the double-rondel scare some people away? Regardless, fear not, board game fans! I’m here to help you out. Start polishing that throne room: it’s time to learn how to play Crown of Emara…

Set Up The Countryside/Town Rondels

There are eight triangular Locations. Fit the four green ones together like a jigsaw to form ‘the Countryside’. Connect the four urban ones together to form ‘the Town’. Place the wooden resources – grain, wood, stone, and cloth – on their corresponding quadrants on the Countryside. The bread tokens sit alongside the grain.

In the Town rondel, put the signet rings on the castle (the quadrant with the crown icon). Place red Gift Markers above the four different resource symbols here, so the black ‘1’ sits above it. Do the same in the cathedral (the cross symbol quadrant), with the beige Donation Markers. Make sure markers sit the right way up according to your player count. Also in the cathedral area, shuffle and place the Favour Tokens face-down. Put the book tokens next to them too.

The gold coin tokens sit in the market (the red pouch symbol quadrant). Locate the Bread Marker and the Stone Marker for the construction site (the tools symbol). Rotate these markers so the black (highest) number sits next to their matching arrows. The Bread Marker is a hexagon; the Stone Marker’s an octagon.

Separate the Advisor cards into their A and B piles. Shuffle the A Advisor cards and deal out two, face-up, into each Town quadrant. Discard the excess, but keep the B Advisor cards in a face-up stack nearby. Separate the Nobility cards into their ranks: Baron, Count, Prince, Marquess, and Duke. Stack each rank in descending point value and sit them on the Nobility board.

Crown of emara set up

Players Pick Colours And Set Up

Everyone takes a player board that matches their coloured components, which are:

  • Four small craftsmeeple
  • Two larger Councillors
  • A Citizen token and a Building token
  • Nine Action cards

Connect the two-part score track. Everybody places their citizen on zero points. If it’s your first time playing Crown of Emara, everyone places their building on 35 points. Not your first Emara rodeo? Shuffle the Event deck and draw one card. See the number above ‘THIS ROUND’? Place your building on that number of points, instead.

Pick a female or male side of your player board. Place your craftmeeples on the top-left corner (covering the 1-4 Citizen point icons). Then give the first player the statue First Player token and have them check the Event card. On it will be a symbol for each rondel: the Countryside and the Town. Have them place their Councillors on these matching quadrants. They start with a Countryside resource according to this starting spot. Players then place their Councillors on the next clockwise spots of each rondel. They too take one matching Countryside resource.

Everyone shuffles their nine Action card deck and draws the top three. Phew, we got there. Now you’re ready to play Crown of Emara!

Crown of Emara Items

The Flow Of Emara

A game of Crown of Emara lasts for six rounds. In each round, you’re going to play three Action cards, then draw three more. This means you’re going to run through your own deck twice, playing eighteen cards in total.

First, all players heed the Event card, which is applicable for the round’s duration. The majority of these are positive – free resources, or bonuses given out for this round, only. Then, the first player picks one of their three Action cards to play. You need to consider a few things when doing this, and herein lies the wonderful strategy crunch. Your deck consists of nine unique Action cards. When you play one, you perform that action. But hold that thought…

On your player board, you'll see the numbers 1, 2, and 3. Pick one of these slots to place this card. This number relates to the exact spaces you move one of your Councillors around their rondel. Wherever that Councillor ends their movement, you get to perform the Location action depicted there. Over the course of three turns, then, you’ll play one card into the 1 spot, one in the 2, and one in the 3. As you can already appreciate, clever movement actions set you up for future turns. Smart planning allows you to pull off some awesome combo moves!

You can perform bonus actions at any time during your turn. It’s important to note that there’s no set order you have to perform your (card/movement/bonus) actions, either. Once you’ve finished those actions, the next clockwise player plays a card, and so on. But I’m racing along at break-neck speed. One thing at a time! First, let’s look at Action cards in a bit more detail.

Pick A Card, Any Card

There are nine different Action cards in Crown of Emara. Four of them provide one of the different specific resources: wood, stone, grain, and cloth. Gaining resources is essential for affording actions on the Town rondel – but more about that later.

Talking of the Town, one Action card lets you perform any Town Location action. This is regardless of where your Councillor sits, which grants lots of flexibility! Another Action card bestows an extra +1 movement for your Councillor. Fantastic – it means you get to move your Councillor twice this turn. (One space clockwise and doing the action. Then you’ll move it again, x many spaces, according to whichever 1, 2 or 3 spot you allocated the card. Then you perform the action associated there. Or, you can do this vice versa – remember, there’s no set order you have to trigger these actions.)

Another card lets you convert resources into coins. These help you to afford climbing ranks in nobility. And then there’s a card that gets you a signet ring. Again, rings help with nobility, but I’ll explain that further down too, I promise! The final card offers you a one-resource discount off the price of performing a bonus action.

Crown of emara cards

Countryside Locations: Rake In The Resources

The Countryside is the easier of the two rondels to explain. The primary function here is to gather resources. This triggers when you place your card into either your 1, 2 or 3 slot of your player board. You move your Councillor that many spaces clockwise around the rondel of your choice. (In this example, the Countryside.) You gain one resource depicted on the spot you end on. More than one Councillor can share a space.

The Town is, as you’d expect, the more ‘business’ end of the game. Each Location provides ways to spend your hard-earned resources. This is where you convert them into Building or Citizen points. Again, you activate them by playing a card into a 1, 2, or 3 spot in your player mat, then moving your Town Councillor.

Town Locations: The Fruits Of Your Labour

End up on the cathedral spot and you can donate resources. The quantity required is the number on the beige Donation Marker. Then rotate this marker so the next donation requirement increases. This earns you a book token and three Favour tokens. Pick one of the three Favours you want and discard the other two. You can cash in Favour tokens if, later on, you land on a specific Town Location (declared on the Favour). You’ll earn the stated reward: Citizen or Building points, a book, a signet ring or a coin. This gives you a future incentive to relocate your Councillor there!

The castle works in a similar manner. Treat the king with required resources shown on the corresponding beige Gift Marker. Then rotate it to heighten future gift requirements for that resource. This earns you a signet ring. Also, if you want, you may cash in a book to earn five Building Points.

Over at the construction site, you have three actions available. Pay one stone to earn five Building points, plus Citizen points equal to the Stone Marker’s number. Again, rotate this one notch (this time decreasing the number) after every ‘delivery’. You may also pay 1-3 bread to earn Citizen points, multiplied by the number on the Bread Marker. (This can score you bucket-loads early on!) Rotate it afterwards, like the others. Plus, you may pay one wood to earn five Building points, or three wood to earn ten Building points.

Last of all, at the market, you can trade a resource to earn a coin. Then, you may cash in 1-5 books for ever-escalating Citizen Points. If you’re still keeping up with me, congratulations! I appreciate that you might be wondering: “That’s all well and good, but what am I supposed to do with the coins and rings?” Fear not and read on.

Kingdom of Emara

Climbing The Noble Ladder, And Other Bonus Goodies

You may also partake in three different bonus actions on your turn. If you pay the stated cost (rings, coins or both), you can rise in Nobility. Take the lowest-rank Noble card and upon payment, earn the Citizen points shown. These sit stacked in a manner where the earlier you acquire them, the more points they’re worth. So don’t dawdle!

Another bonus action is to hire a craftsman. (You start with four, remember?) Is there a hut vacant in your Councillor’s current Countryside quadrant? (Try saying that five times as fast as you can…) Pay the cost shown to hire a permanent craftsman here. Now, on future turns when your Councillor lands here, you can take one extra resource as a bonus. Or, you can convert one grain into tasty bread. Every craftsman you hire nets you Citizen points. They trigger once you remove them off your player board.

Last of all: during set-up, you placed two Advisor cards out in each Town Location. You can recruit one in the Location where your Town Councillor’s situated. (Replenish it with one from the deck afterwards.) Advisors have cost resources, and they come in different forms. Some yield a one-off reward. Others have traits or bonuses that kick in once per turn. Others again provide permanent benefits.

Feeling Brave? Introducing The ‘Full Selection’ Variant

So, to reiterate: in Crown of Emara, you play one card per turn. You perform the card action, a movement action, and (if you want) bonus actions. Then it’s the next player’s turn to play one card. You’ll continue like this until everyone’s played their three cards. This ends the round. Everybody discards their three cards, and draws another hand of three. Pass the First Player statue token clockwise, and reveal a new Event card for the new round. In round four, you shuffle your discard deck (of nine cards) and draw yourself three, again. After six rounds, the game ends and the king’s successor gets announced!

Now you know all the plates you need to spin to play Crown of Emara! Keen for more flexibility? Try the ‘Full Selection’ variant. This allows players to pick which three cards (from their starting nine) they want to play for the round. (This is rather than the random three-card draw.) This offers optimum strategy, but a word of warning. Too much choice could overwhelm newer (or even experienced) players. ‘Analysis Paralysis’ can kick in with this variant…

Crown of emara components

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • An easy to pick up, traditional feeling euro game, with some nice features.
  • Programming as a core mechanic, resulting in some tough decisions.
  • Resource and timing management, which can result in some frustrating moments.

Might not like

  • Traditional Dennis Lohausen artwork and design.
  • Nothing new about the game.
  • Fairly bland, uninspiring, generic setting.