- Designer: Roberto Fraga
- Publisher: Matagot
- Players: 2
- Age: 8+
- Time: 15-20 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Matagot
In the Forbidden City, two princesses (Jing and Fang) are being held captive. Each princess, in combination with Guards loyal to them and with their maids, is trying to escape through the Hall of Screens.
The Hall of Screens is a conveniently square shaped room made up of a 5×5 grid. On each of these spaces is found a tall screen which characters can hide completely behind. The top of each screen has a round portal which you can peek through.
There are two different versions of the game that can be played – I will start by describing the basic game called “The Princessess Run Away”. In this version, each player takes five empty screens. In three of them, the player places their princess, their maid and their magic mirror holder. These five screens are placed in any order of the player’s choice on the board row closest to them. The screens are placed so that the player can see his own units. Each player places one of his guard captains at the center of the board on the opposite side. The goal is to get your princess from your side of the board to the entrance on the opposite side where the loyal guard will assist you in your escape.
On a turn, the player must move a screen – there are two options here. First, you can exchange the positions of any two adjacent screens (orthogonal or diagonal). Be sure not to rotate the screens as to not gain nor give away any hidden information. Also, you are not allowed to take a move which specifically reverses the most recent play by your opponent. Second, you could withdraw your princess or magic mirror holder. To do so, you pick up the screen with your princess or magic mirror and show it to your opponent. Then, your opponent closes his eyes while you exchange that screen with any EMPTY screen (on your side) from the row of spaces closest to you – i.e. your starting line. Then tell your opponent to open his eyes.
After you have moved a screen, you also have the option of pointing at an opponent’s screen. When ou do this, you are trying to reveal the location of your opponent’s princess. If your opponent’s princess is in fact behind the indicated screen, the princess is then withdrawn and replaced back on your opponent’s starting row (using the same process as noted above). Then, you get an immediate extra turn for the correct accusation. However, if you are wrong, your opponent simply tells you that the princess is not there and then your opponent gets to take two turns in a row.
You will hopefully be able to deduce where your opponent’s princess is by carefully watching how and where he moves the screens. You also have the help of your Magic Mirror holder. When the Magic Mirror is directly behind an opponent’s piece, you’ll be able to see the reflection of the piece on the mirror when you look through the hole in the top of the screen.
The game ends when one player is able to get his princess directly in front of the loyal guard at the far end of the Hall of Screens. That princess is able to escape from the Forbidden City!
The Advanced version of the game is called the “Legendary Animals”. In this version, players get 10 screens to start the game. The Princess, Maid, and two magic mirror holders are placed in screens. Additionally, each player chooses two out of three legendary animal tokens to put into play. The Princess and the Maid must start on the closest row; the other screens must start on the other spaces of the first two rows. The three captains of your color are put on three spaces on the far side of the board. You get a card which tells you what combination of two animal tokens goes with each of the guards.
In this version of the game, you must find the two animal tokens which have been put into play by your opponent (using your Magic Mirror holders); then in order to win, you have to get your Princess in front of the guard which is denoted by the two animal tokens chosen by your opponent.
There is also a special sudden-death ending in this game called the Stunning Paralysis. At any point on your opponent’s turn, if your opponent moves his Princess in front of one of your Magic Mirrors, you can immediately declare this fact. If you do, and you are correct, you get five turns in a row to win the game. If you are able to get your princess in front of the right guard in those five moves, you immediately win. If you cannot do so, you automatically lose.
My thoughts on the game
Princess Jing is a beautiful game that pits two gamers against each other in a game that combines some deduction with some “read my mind” elements as well. The basic game is fairly straightforward with playing trying to advance their Princess while trying to disguise her location at the same time. In this version, I have to remind myself to constantly pretend that I am looking at my Magic Mirror at the end of each turn. With only one Mirror in play, it becomes a dead giveaway to look only when you have something in reflection. The screens are surprisingly sturdy, and they are weighted enough that you really can’t tell by weight if there is a cardboard token on the screen or not. I find that the head to head duel in this form to be a bit simple. I’d be happy to play this form, but really wouldn’t ever suggest it.
In the advanced game, there are many more pieces in play, and the game is a bit more interesting. With two mirrors on your side and with four pieces on your opponent’s side to look for, there is a lot more information to be gathered – both when you move your pieces as well as hoping that your opponent moves his pieces in front of your mirror. Trying to figure out what information is known by your opponent is hard to do – but in our games, usually it becomes evident where the Magic Mirrors are as you can often deduce this based on the amount of peering at the board done by your opponent after a move. Like I said, I try to make sure I look after every turn now just to be safe, but it’s hard to remember to do this all the time.
For those that like this sort of 2-player duel game, this is a beautifully produced affair and one that will look great on both the table as well as on the shelf. For me, it’s not one that will get a lot of play, mostly because I rarely play 2-player only games, but I have a number of couples who will love this one, and I’m sure it will get a lot of play in that sort of home.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y (advanced)
- Neutral. Dale Y (basic) James Nathan (advanced)
- Not for me…