Author: Ralf Burkert

Publisher: HANS IM GLÜCK

Awards: none



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game

Germany in the late Middle Ages: The mighty nobility lay claim to the imperial crown. For this purpose they are trying to get influence in the different regions, kingdoms and archbishoprics. In the game each player represents one of the noble families and tries to put his relatives, knights and cities in the right places.

The game comes in a surprisingly (for this kind of game) small and compact box. The board, which is also very compact, is divided into 7 different regions with places for the relatives, knights and cities, a throne for the reigning king, a round and a money counter and places for the victory cards. Next to the board 21 action cards are arranged in 13 staples with the cards faced-up.

The game lasts five rounds with eight phases each. In the first round a specific start setting up, that I don't want to quote in detail, replaces the phases I-III.

Normally in the first phase each player gets his income which consists of six coins plus one coin for every city of the player on the board and one coin for a dominated city (that is a city of another player in a kingdom, where the first player has a relative as elector). There is an additional income of two coins for the elector of the kingdom of Sachsen.

In the next phase each relative on the board grows older. At the beginning the relatives enter the board with a specific age. There are four different ages (15, 25, 35 and 45). By turning the relatives 90 degrees clockwise they become older. A relative with the age of 45 at the beginning of this phase is removed from the game.

Descendants come into play in the third phase. Depending on the amount of blue and pink action cards that a player bought in the last round, the descendant is a son or a daughter. If it is a son a new relative with the player's colour can be placed on a free place in a kingdom or an archbishopric with the age of 15. If however a daughter is born, the player can propose to a relative of another player (which guarantees himself a victory point and the other player a couple) or he sends her to a convent, giving him another coin.

After this the player can buy action cards, which cannot be explained in detail in this review. Only some examples: Some action cards enable the player to place new relatives or knights and can influence the age of any relative on the board. Other action cards can give an additional influence in a specific situation during the round and some give victory points. All cards are given back after the third round of the following round and can then be bought again.

In the fifth phase it is checked if a new majority in a kingdom or an archbishopric of one players relatives, cities and knights (a couple counts for two in this phase) forces a transition of power in this region and replaces the old elector by a relative of the player with the new majority.

The electors vote the new king in the sixth phase. Some action cards can exclude certain regions from the election or give additional votes. If a new king is elected the victorious player replaces the old king by a relative of his own. All players who voted for the winner get another victory point (excluding the player who is the winner).

The new king then can do a special king action. Depending on the round, this gives him one or two victory points and enables him to place a free imperial city. These free cities always count for the actual king in the fifth phase of the game, but do not increase his income in phase one.

The round ends by setting the round counter forward (this is the last phase). The game ends after the fifth round. Naturally the winner is the player with the most victory points. The normal playing duration should be about 90 minutes. One point that I should mention further is that every elector has a different privilege which he can use once in a round. So the electors have a key function in play and in my opinion are more important than the king.


Im Schatten des Kaisers is a very tactical game which guarantees long-lasting fun. The design of the board and the cards is simple but adequate. At the beginning it is not very easy to remember all meanings of the symbols on the action cards, but after the first two games this should no longer be a problem. Although the game is best played with four players, the two and three player variants are really nice to play. The element of growing older in phase III is quite interesting and influences the game enormously as you can imagine (remember that relatives are removed after the age of 45). The game play is well balanced, so for example it is not necessary to become king to win the game. Even if Im Schatten des Kaisers is not exceptionally impressive at first sight, it is truly worth giving it a chance. I am convinced that a lot of you will be filled with enthusiasm after your first round. Only for those of you who prefer games with dices and luck, the game will be disappointing and boring. For my part I am very happy and can recommend Im Schatten des Kaisers to everyone.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany