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Author: Gerard Mulder

Th!nk Games 1997
TM Spiele 1998




From the Netherlands comes a wonderful handmade wooden strategy game named "Charlemagne". Itīs a game for 2 to 4 players in which the players take up roles as medieval nobles in the small kingdom of Charlemagne. The players have to aid the King of the land to build his castle and to solve the problems of the realm - like Disasters, peasant Unrests and Wars.

At the beginning of the game each player receives a small wooden Manor-house and two huts with workers. In addition, he receives a number of Agenda-cards and 8 resources - available are Barley, Serfs, Knights and Riches. These the players must bring to best use in order to assist the King....

The game is split in turns, and each turn represents a single year. These years again are divided into the four seasons Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, and during the seasons the players may chose to perform different activities.

A year starts with the winter, and at that time of the year the Council of Nobles comes together to decide which problem is the most urgent for the kingdom. This problem will be solved in the Spring-Campaign. There are four possible problems which threaten the kingdom, and these are War, Taxes, Disasters and Unrest. The players will decide which problem they will have to solve by playing agenda cards. Normally the player who won the last agenda will get to play the agenda for the new year, but other players may cancel this agenda by giving up a privilege and playing another agenda instead. After this yearīs agenda has been found, the game continues with spring.

In Spring, the players will have to deal with the agenda which was played that year. Here the players put their available resources into a bidding contest, and depending on what agenda has been played these resources allow the player to score a number of point in the bidding. So, for example, a knigh is worth 4 points in war, but only one point in a disaster. The player who wins the bidding normally gains a privilege-marker, showing that he will have a bonus-skill in a later season and also a Victory Point. If a special agenda-card has been played, the player doesnīt take a privilege but he will be allowed to build a part of the kings castle. Here the number of Victory-points the player gets are decided by multiplying a factor from 1 to 3 (depending on the part of the castle which is to be built) with the number of serfs the player has assigned to building.

In the summer, the players have solved the spring-campaign and now they are free to rule their own lands. Now the players may increase their population by spending Barley, they may assign workers to building duty or they may send their knights to plunder the lands of other players. If sending out knights, the defending player may decide to send knights against the attacker and knights of both sides may be bribed to leave the battlefield by using riches.

Finally comes fall, and in this season the players will get their income. Players will get a number of random resources depending on the number of huts he has with his manor, and they will also get resources for the privileges they have. Other than the resources harvested by the workers, the resources coming from the privileges arenīt random but they depend on the privilege. So if a player has the Toll privilege, he will receive Riches. If he has the Armoury, he will receive a knight etc...

Finally, the King himself will end the turn by looking whether a noble has less than 4 resources available. If this should be the case, the poor player will be allowed to draw up to half of the resources from a player of his choice, and for aiding the noble the benefactor will receive a privilege from the king. Furthermore, the church always keeps a close eye on the nobles and reminds them that itīs best to donate wealth to the Lord. So each player must discard all resources over ten.

The years continue in the same order until finally the kingīs castle has been completed. At that time, the player having scored most victory points will be declared to be the Kingīs successor and the winner of the game.

In "Charlemagne" Gerard Mulder has found a perfect symbiosis between design and rules, and itīs actually quite hard for me to spot any flaws in the game. Beginning with the rules, the game offers quite a variety of possible options for the players, and since the game almost doesnīt depend on luck, the players will have to use clever tactics to win the game. By the simple but fitting division of a turn into different seasons, the rules receive a high degree of structuring, but the players also will get an atmosphere like really "living" through each of these seasons. The game just offers anything which might be desired by the players: So it comes in a beautiful design - with all parts made of wood and a small wooden castle as the "crown" of the gameboard. Furthermore, a set of rules is supplied which allows interesting gaming for many hours, since the players are put into a "contest of brains" which will force the to plan the upcoming years carefully, and there is also much fun by the interaction in the bidding contest or on the battlefield with knights.

The rules of the game say that the game actually was designed in 1997, but I first saw it on the "Spiel"-convention in 1998. To my mind, this game was the absolute highlight of the whole convention. The only problem is that the first edition of the game - 150 wooden copies made by the author himself - is sold out by now, and thus players will have to wait until the game will be available in a new edition. But there seems to be hope, since a leaflet says that "Charlemagne" will be published in Germany in 1999. If this should become true, I can only tell you one thing:



After the convention at Essen where the game was presented, the games producer TM-Spiele actually decided to publish Charlemagne, with slightly shorter rules and under the new title Krieg und Frieden.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany