- Designer: Ken Shannon, Karen Boginski, Jody Barbessi
- Publisher: Wizkids
- Players: 3-6
- Ages: 14 and Up
- Time: 45 Minutes
- Times Played: 4 (On Review Copy Provided by Publisher)
Tournament at Camelot is a new King Arthur-themed trick taking game in which players participate in a tournament to see who has the most health at the end of the game.
The game, released by a trio of designers and WizKids, was one of the bigger trick taking releases at Gen Con last month. I’ve enjoyed my plays so far. This has a couple of twists, including special powers for each player, plus some novel mechanics for who takes each trick.
Each player takes a protagonist and a companion at the start of the game. The protagonist shows the player’s special power that is always available for use. The companion shows a special power that activates only when a player goes below a certain health threshold.
Each player also takes a set of “health cards” and denotes that they have 400 health. The tournament will end when one player has no health left. At that point, the player with the highest health wins.
The “weapons deck” — the deck used to play out the trick taking — consists of 80 cards. 60 of these are standard cards numbered 1-15 in four suits (swords, arrows, sorcery, and deception). 15 cards are “alchemy cards” — which stand in for any suit — and five are Merlin and Sorcerer’s Apprentice cards, which inflict extra damage (and allow the player to specify suit and number value).
The weapons deck is shuffled and each player receives 12 cards. Then the trick taking begins.
A player leads, and then players must follow suit if they can. Merlin and Sorcerer’s Apprentice cards can be played, but must be of the suit led. If a player doesn’t have the suit led, they can play an alchemy card. If they don’t have that, they put their card straight into the discard pile and lose 5 health points.
In determining who wins the trick, cards of equal value are turned over, and then the player with the lowest card wins, and will lead the next trick. At the end of the hand, injury points are added up. Most cards cause a player to lose 5 health points, but poisoned cards (there are a few in each suit) cause 10 points damage, and Merlin cards cause 25 points.
The player(s) taking the most injury points will get a “godsend” card, which is a special power that may help. Players can also get godsend cards for being far below the leader. These act as a sort of catch-up mechanic, either giving the player health points, allowing them to inflict extra damage, or other bonuses. (Of course, if they fall below their threshold, the companion card also acts as a catch up. It’s easy to draw a bad hand, but the catch up does help.)
The game ends when one player’s health reaches zero. At that point, the player with the most health wins.
My thoughts on the game…
Tournament at Camelot is a clever trick-taking game with several novel mechanics. From each player having special powers, to the godsend cards, there’s a lot going on here. All of the different design elements come together to form a solid trick-taking card game. Of the trick taking games released so far this year, this is certainly one of the more innovative titles.
The first thing I noticed about Tournament at Camelot was the production value. The cards are larger than normal, and the artwork — which evokes the Arthurian legend — is stunning.
The next thing I noticed was the high replayability. Each player has a special power — or really, two, if you count the companion card — and they’re each clever in their own way. For example, Arthur let’s you add points when the sword suit is played, giving you an advantage in one of the four suits. The Holy Knights let you draw three extra cards and then discard three, cleaning up your hand.
The trick taking is also clever. I’ve played many trick avoidance games, but very few where the lowest card takes. (Even in trick avoidance games likes Hearts the highest card takes.) That’s not a big change, but it is a big change that tied cards are flipped over and don’t count. I thought that was a cool twist. The trick taking genre is a crowded one, and twists are needed for games to stand above the crowd.
My biggest criticism of Tournament at Camelot is that it can feel chaotic. This is, in part, because of the various special powers and godsend cards in play, but it is also because only part of the weapons deck is used. The feeling of chaos isn’t so bad at lower player counts, but at five or more, it is quite noticeable. (That said, most trick taking games are chaotic at five.)
Overall, if you like trick taking, Tournament at Camelot is exceptionally well produced. It’s a clever addition to the trick avoidance genre, and for those that like trick taking with a little extra, there’s plenty of bells and whistles in Tournament at Camelot.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Chris Wray
- Not for me…