Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Wolfgang Kramer &
Michael Kiesling

ALEA 2011

No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

ALEA - the RAVENSBURGER label for challenging games - and the best-selling authoring-duo Kiesling and Kramer have finally met again. On first sight, the outcome of this cooperation is an untypical game for the German publisher. After a first study of the rules, it seems to be too simple, and I was not sure whether this game comes up to the high expectations of an ALEA game. However, my opinion changed completely after my first testing. The rules remain quite simple from the complexity level, but the game is cleverly thought out and very tricky to win.

The authors have chosen the myth of King Arthur as theme of the game. This popular theme is quite nice to have but does not play a major role in the game, and in essence the game could have lives with other themes as well. The players lead a group of knights at the court of Arthur and try to obtain as much prestige as possible. From time to time, a new king is crowned, but what has this to do especially with King Arthur's court?

All themes aside, let us have a closer look to the rules: The game board shows us the circular table at the court. We take seat with our group of 5 (4 player game) or 6 (2-3 player game) knights around this table. Four princes, one of them crowned as the actual king with the help of three rings on his game piece, are set onto the four seats marked with crowns. The table itself is a rotating board with numbers from plus 10 to minus 15 next to every seat. Finally each player gets his own set of cards consisting of three different kinds of cards. Each pile is shuffled, and then the players take three cards from the pile of knights and three cards from the pile of kings. The rest of the cards, as well as the pile of the scoring cards are set aside as drawing piles.


On a player´s turn, he always plays two of his hand cards and carries out what the cards say. With the help of the knight cards, the player is able to move his knights. The knight card shows the available steps the active player may move one of his knights clockwise around the table. So for an example with a 2-5 step card, the player may move one of his knights 2, 3, 4 or 5 seats further around the table. There is only one knight card that allows the players to move their knights anti-clockwise, but this can be very useful in certain situations. But what happens if the seat is already occupied? Quite simple: The game piece on this seat, no matter if it is only a knight, a prince or even the king, is displaced to the next empty space anti-clockwise. This can be positive for the displaced player, but in most cases it has a negative result, because the seat numbers rise clockwise from -15 to 10. So, the displaced player usually finds himself on a seat with a smaller number than before.

Whenever a player moves one of his knights, he receives prestige points as indicated by the number next to the seat the knight has just left. Of course, starting with a knight on a seat with a negative number results in a loss of prestige points, too. So it is your task to position your knights always on seats with high, positive numbers.

This task could be easy (quite apart from the limited spaces with positive numbers), if there would not be the rotating table. But how does it start rotating? For this, we have the king cards. Four of the cards are for moving the princes around the table. This is done similar to the movement of the knights. Prestige points are also received (or lost), only now it is the seat of the prince that determines the number of prestige points. Now, if the king himself (a prince with three rings) is moved by a player, the table is rotated afterwards, so that the crown symbol on the table finds itself next to the king again. The result is a total change of the numbers next to all other game pieces! Of course, this also takes place after a displacement of the king and the crowning of the new king.


The other four king cards are to crown a new king. If a player plays one of these cards, he takes a ring from the supply and puts it on top of one of the princes. As soon as a prince has received his third ring, he becomes the new king. Then the old king looses all but one of his rings and the table is rotated towards the new king.

As you can see, a lot of rotating results in a permanent change of the players' plans. It is really tricky to constantly arrange your knights on seats with positive numbers to earn positive prestige points and it is even more difficult if you try to occupy the very high numbers to win the game. As there are more negative numbers than positives on the table, it is rather likely that you are forced to move a knight from a seat with a negative or small positive number more than once in a game. If all players are familiar with the game, it is quite easy for your opponents to position your knights at very uncomfortable seats, just by electing a new king and rotating the table towards him.

As if all this wasn't enough, the six scoring cards exercise the mind of the players even more. All cards must be played in a game, but when is the right moment for it? Very often you are confronted with a situation that not all of your knights are in the optimal position to play a scoring card. Nevertheless it is often better to accept this and to play the scoring card, instead of risking a worse situation in a later phase of the game. I lost the one or other game because I gambled away my chances. Three of the scoring cards are mean to a special degree. If you cannot meet the conditions on these cards, this results in a massive lost of prestige points. So for an example one card lets you score three of your knights on negative spaces. If however you do not have three knights on these spaces and you must play the card, you receive minus 50 prestige points for it instead. The game ends, when all cards are played, after 11 rounds.

With Artus the two famous authors once again prove their pursuit of perfection combined with short rules and simple mechanics. The game appears to be very easy, but after the first two rounds you find yourself confronted with a lot of tough calls. The game is perfectly balanced with any number of players. I personally prefer the two-player game, because then you can proceed at the highest tactical level. With four players you often find yourself confronted with a totally new situation in every upcoming round. So, luck plays a bigger role than in the two player game. If you are not mislead by the title and the theme and do not expect a medieval trading or combat game, you obtain a very good tactical game with a high degree of replayability.

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany