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Review: For the Crown: The World is Round

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Magellan paved the way from 1519-1522 – in ships – although he died and his lieutenant, Elcano, had to finish the trip. Sir George Simpson embarked on a “mixed transportation” voyage in 1841-1842. Eight men of the United States Army Air Service accomplished the feat by plane in 1924. The LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin achieved its own Weltrundfahrt in 1929. And Yuri Gagarin did so while in orbit. What do all these men and events have in common? They were the pioneers in particular forms of circumnavigation. While you may never undertake such a global passage yourself, thanks to the latest Victory Point Games expansion, you can now do so around a Chess board, at least

How it Plays

This second expansion to For the Crown, 2nd edition, is not a stand alone game.  The World is Round adds 12 new cards and 10 more units. Unlike the first expansion, this one includes a significant mechanical addition – cylindrical movement. That is, all of the new units can move from one side of the board to the other, as if wrapping around. You can read our review of the original game here and our review of the first expansion here.

As a quick recap, For the Crown is the offspring of Chess and Dominion.  You begin the game with one King on the board, plus a small, weak 10-card deck.  As in Dominion, you will use this deck to take actions and to buy more cards from a central pool with which to strengthen that starting deck.  Unlike Dominion, you can also use your cards to acquire Chess-type units (both traditional and new) and deploy them to the board.  Then, just as in Chess, you can move and attack with your pieces in an overall campaign to capture your opponent’s King (or multiple Sovereign-class units, as the case may be) to win the game.

The expansion comes with 10 new, different, and interesting units - that's right. Even more to keep track of!
The expansion comes with 10 new, different, and interesting units.  That’s right…even more to keep track of!

New Horizon or Does it Fall Flat?

Board game expansions typically do one of three things: fix a problem with the base game, add more of the same to the original, or change things up with a new wrinkle, mechanic, or other bit. The first expansion to For the Crown, 2nd Edition, pretty much just added more of the same. The World is Round throws in some bigger and better, also, but its cylindrical movement is an entirely new element that really changes up game play.

In some respects, board-wrapping sounds like some homebrew house rule – a fanboy fantasy that no serious Chess player would consider. Pieces move off one side of the board to the other? In Chess?! What is this? Medieval Pac-Man?? Indeed, I was dubious at first, and I’m not even a hardcore Chess player. After running it, however, it does bring a lot to the traditional, stodgy old chessboard. Though it can potentially create other issues you may want to know about to determine if it’s a good fit for you.

It’s extremely creative. First off, I really appreciate that of the 10 new units which all move cylindrically, only 2 of them are copies of previous pieces. Rather than have units lamely mimic classic pieces – or a bunch from the first expansion, for that matter – only the Visionary (Bishop) and Bandit (Nightrider) fall into that category. The other 8 units move and/or attack differently with various twists on, and combinations of, previous characteristics.

More cards, more interesting powers, more variety.
More cards, more interesting powers, more variety.

Now, you may not want to play with all of these new, edge-warping units in one game (and likely won’t – see below). In that case, the new card, Compass, allows you to apply a cylindrical movement order to any non-Sovereign unit; but only when marching, not attacking. This gives all of your pieces on the board the opportunity to wrap around, per their normal maneuver values. That card really opens up the field, but at the same time, since you cannot employ it to capture opposing units, it limits the potential chaos. Imagine a scenario in which you have to protect your pieces from a hoard of possible cylindrical attacks in the event your opponent might have a Compass card to apply to any of his/her units on the board. While Compass is still a fun and influential card, at least it cannot be used to spring an unexpected attack, which should please traditionalists.

The World is Round adds some fun cards, as well. With Wilderness, you can swap one of your units with an adjacent unit – either friend or foe. That action is tempered by the rule you cannot then capture an exchanged enemy piece until your next turn. Still, it’s a way to mess with your opponent or put him/her in a precarious situation. Wanderlust allows you to force your adversary to move one unit. He/she gets to decide how and where, albeit following that piece’s normal marching values, which may be limited to one avenue. Again, the ability to manipulate your opponent’s forces is a new wrinkle in Chess, creating new strategies and ways to both protect your position and jeopardize the other’s.

And then there are the new units. A few aren’t terribly exciting, but there are a few with some interesting abilities that are both tricky and sneaky. The Khan is another sovereign unit – therefore must be captured to win – but more restrictive in that it only moves one space sideways, one square diagonally backwards, or leaps forward like a Knight, but specifically once forward and twice sideways. The Nomad moves like a Queen, but only up to 3 spaces. The intriguing aspect to that piece is that it has no class, which means it likely will not be affected by most card actions. The Raider zig-zags across the board, however, it can only move to its owner’s left when marching, and may only attack when moving to the right.

That may sound a touch confusing. Well, unfortunately, a lot of the unique characteristics and maneuvers are convoluted and seem unnecessarily so. For example, the Explorer can march or attack 1 space diagonally, and can march – but not attack – 1 square straight sideways, but not forward or backward. The Strider is even more complex in that it leaps 2 or 3 spots forward or backward, or 3 spaces sideways (but not 2), or 3 spaces sideways and then 1 vertically (but not 3 vertically, then 1 sideways). Other units have similarly long-winded explanations. In some respects, it sounds like the makers of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch came up with the new units and wrote the rulebook. While not surprising for a design of this depth with a steep learning curve, it will still be an early obstacle to accessibility.

One of the Bandit's moves is to leap like a Knight, cut cylindrically. That means it can cut over to the right side of the board from the left and hit any square with a bolt.
One of the Bandit’s moves is to leap like a Knight, but cylindrically. That means it can cut over to the right side of the board from the left and hit any square with a bolt.

In the end, you’re probably wondering if this expansion is one worth adding to your collection. If For the Crown hits your table frequently, then I would recommend it. If you like hardcore strategy and brain-burning goodness, then again, yes. More than that, if the Chess-side really appeals to you, then the new units, actions, and mechanics will be right in your wheelhouse. It certainly cranks up the depth. It’s fun and innovative. And there is a lot to explore.

If you just enjoy the base game for its uniqueness, have difficulty finding worthy adversaries, or if its deck-building element is the main appeal to you, then The World is Round may throw more at you than you’d like. It can certainly be chaotic. Circumnavigation adds a great deal to account for, in both offense and defense. Tracking all of the possible moves and attacks can be a frustrating endeavor. And the cylindrical movement is not always easy to grok. This adds to analysis paralysis and presents even a greater learning curve than what was already present in the base game.

Then again, the great thing about deck-builders is the ability to customize individual sessions. While cylindrical movement can be confusing and crazy, you can limit the number of pieces with that characteristic. Introduce them gradually, in order to learn the mechanic, explore its possibilities, and acclimate yourself to the concept. You get to decide how wildly or traditionally to make your own game. In that case, the variety offered here will be engaging and rewarding. Just be prepared for a tougher slog with those not accustomed to the design.

Bivouac’s action allows you to move any non-Sovereign unit to an empty square on the same row. Nice!

For the Crown’s mixture of Chess and deck-building was already an innovative design by itself. Cylindrical movement is an even more inventive and ground-breaking element. Chess purists may have more trouble adapting to the concept of wrapping around the board than they did with adding cards and customized units in the first place. It’s often brain-burning, surprisingly chaotic, and will catch you off-guard more than one. But if you can grasp the idea and run with it, The World is Round opens a new sphere of play. It creates greater depth, provides for strange new strategies, and allows for some interesting experimentation that will leave not just the board spinning, but your head, as well.

 

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of For the Crown: The World is Round.

Summary

  • Rating 7
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Summary

Pros

  • Innovative
  • Creates additional strategic depth
  • Great potential for customization

Cons:

  • Cylindrical movement not always intuitive
  • Can be a bit chaotic
  • More analysis paralysis
7.0 Good

I have lots of kids. Board games help me connect with them, while still retaining my sanity...relatively speaking.

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