Brigand Kings
Designed by P.D. Magnus
Players 2-4
Length 45 minutes
Extra Material dice, tokens

small wars, big profit

The border counties of Bhargive are unstable and dangerous. In the interests of commerce, neighboring lords send in soldiers to control the bandit problem. The trick is that the bandits are just troops sent from neighboring lords on the other side.

Players are barons with dreams of glory. Each turn, they roll dice in order to muster troops and send them to loot border counties — or to protect border counties. Whichever.

Components

In addition to the Decktet, this game requires some six-sided dice and tokens.

  • Dice: You'll need three standard dice with numbers from 1 to 6; in the rules, I'll call these the number dice. You will also need five dice with the six Decktet suit symbols on them; I'll call these the suit dice.

You could use standard dice and a look-up table in place of the suit dice, but it would be cumbersome.

  • Tokens: Each player will need about fifteen tokens to represent their soldiers. You will also need about thirty tokens to represent political stability.

In the diagrams, soldier tokens are depicted as black and white meeples. Stability tokens are depicted as shaded discs.

You might use little cubes (one colour for each player and an additional colour for stability). You could use poker chips, glass beads, M+Ms, or even pocket change of different denominations.

brigandkings-bits.png

Setup

Shuffle the Aces and Crowns (crown.pngs) together and deal three face-down to each player. Players look at their cards. If a player receives both the Ace and crown.png of the same suit, then they must discard one of them facedown. Otherwise, they pick any one of the three cards and discard it facedown.

The two cards which you keep start your face-down score pile. They indicate suits which will give you bonus points at the end of the game.

Aces and Crowns which are discarded (or which are leftover, if there are fewer than four players) are not used and should be set aside.

Place the Excuse near the middle of the play area.

Shuffle the remaining cards.

By default, the game is played with just the basic deck; so the shuffled pile will just be the number cards. You may decide to use the pawn.pngs, the court.pngs, or both; if you do, shuffle them in now.

Deal five cards in a line next to the excuse.

For example, the cards might look like this:

brigandkings-start.png

The Excuse itself represents the area just outside the border counties, where you can camp your forces.

The spaces next to the Excuse represent five different counties on the border of Bhargive. The cards in those spaces represent wealth that is presently up for grabs there. As cards are claimed during the game, additional cards will be dealt into the counties.

Each player rolls a number die, and the high roller takes the first turn. The player on their left takes the next turn and so on, clockwise around the table.

Game Play

Here is a brief summary of game play. Details follow.

On your turn, do each of the following in order:

  • Roll the dice, and reroll up to twice.
  • (Optional) Flip over cards you captured in an earlier turn, to change the outcome of the dice.
  • Assign dice to send in soldiers.
  • Resolve combat.
  • Add stability tokens to any counties you don't occupy.
  • Resolve and replace any cards that have seven or more tokens on them.

Mobilizing

Rolling Dice: Begin by rolling all of the dice. You may set some aside and reroll the remainder. Finally, set aside any dice and reroll again.

You are not required to set aside any dice; you may reroll all of them if you like. Conversely, you are not required to reroll any dice; you may accept your initial roll.

On the second reroll, you may choose to roll dice which you had set aside during the first reroll. Dice are not 'locked in' until you have rerolled twice.

Flipping cards: After rolling, you may play cards to change the outcome of dice.

Each symbol on a card can be used to change the outcome of one die. A suit symbol may be used to change the result of a suit die; the die result becomes the same as the suit symbol. A number rank symbol 2-6 can be used to change the result of a number die; the number die result becomes the rank of the card.

A number symbol of more than 6 cannot be used to change a number die because a die can't roll more than 6. A non-number symbol like pawn.png or court.png cannot be used to change a die roll.

You do not need to use all of the symbols on the card.

Put any cards used to manipulate dice into your face-down score pile. They will score at the end of the game, but they cannot be used to manipulate dice again.

You may use as many cards as you want in this way, up to the limit of the face-up cards you have in front of you. You are never required to use cards to change the outcome of dice.

Example: 3moons.pngwaves.png can be used to change the result of a number die to a 3, the result of a suit die to moons.png, and the result of another suit die to waves.png. You may instead opt just to change a number die, just a number die and a suit die, or just two suit dice.
Example: 7moons.pngwyrms.png can be used to change the result of a suit die to moons.png and the result of another suit die to wyrms.png, or just to change one suit die.

Assigning Dice: You must select one of the number dice to be your transport die. This reflects your logistical ability to move soldiers into the border counties. The value of the transport die is the maximum number of soldier tokens you may place this turn; you may never place more soldier tokens than the number on the transport die, although depending on other factors you may be forced to place fewer.

The other two number dice are destinations, the counties to which you will be able to move soldiers. A roll of 1 corresponds to the Excuse, a roll of 2 corresponds to the county adjacent to the Excuse, and so on.

The suit dice represent your ability to muster troops. A suit die allows you to place one soldier token into a county if the die matches one of the suits on the card that represents that county. So the five suit dice altogether might allow you to place five soldier tokens from your supply onto cards — but only if the suits all match one of your destinations and your transport die is at least 5.

Troops which you muster but which you are unable to place are returned to your supply.

Example: [below] General White takes the first turn. The cards are as shown.
After rolling and rerolling, her dice are these —
2 4 4 suns.png suns.png leaves.png leaves.png knots.png
She assigns the 2 and one of the 4s as her destination dice, which means that she can send soldiers only to the 2nd and 4th cards (9leaves.pngknots.png and 2suns.pngwyrms.png). The remaining 4 is her transport die, which means that she can place no more than 4 soldier tokens overall.
She uses the leaves.pngleaves.pngknots.png suit dice to muster three soldier tokens to send to 9leaves.pngknots.png. She uses one of the suns.png dice to muster one solider token to send to 2suns.pngwyrms.png.
brigandkings-entry.png

The Excuse represents regions adjacent to the border, where you can gather troops for future use.

If one of your desination dice is 1, you may place soldier tokens on the Excuse. Since the Excuse does not have a suit, you may pick any single suit and use dice that rolled that suit to muster troop for the Excuse.

Soldier tokens on the Excuse from previous turns may be placed just as if they had been mustered. If your suit die rolls do not allow you to muster troops equal to your transport roll, you may add extra soldier tokens from the Excuse.

Example: General White's dice are these —
1 3 3 wyrms.png wyrms.png wyrms.png wyrms.png knots.png
She uses one of the 3s as her transport die. Since 1 is one of her destination dice, she may place soldier tokens on the Excuse. She selects the suit of wyrms.pngs which, because she rolled four of them, allows her to muster four tokens for the Excuse. Since her transport die is 3, however, she may only place 3. So she places three soldier tokens from her supply on the Excuse.
Example: [below] In a later turn, General White's dice are these —
3 5 6 suns.png leaves.png leaves.png knots.png knots.png
She uses the 5 as her transport die. This makes 3 and 6 her destination dice, allowing her access to the 3rd and 6th cards (8waves.pngleaves.png and 2suns.pngwyrms.png). The suns.png she rolled allows her to muster one token to put on 2suns.pngwyrms.png. The two leaves.pngs allows her to muster two tokens to put on the 8waves.pngleaves.png; she adds to those an additional two tokens which she placed on the Excuse earlier. Because she has placed 5 tokens, as many as her transport die, she cannot move over the remaining soldier from the Excuse.
brigandkings-excuse.png

Combat

If you place soldier tokens in a county when an opponent already has soldier tokens there, fighting breaks out. Combat does not involve any die rolling.

To resolve combat: Remove one of your soldier tokens and two of the tokens that were already on the card. If there are no stability tokens on the card, you'll be discarding two opposing soldier tokens and only one of yours. If there are stability tokens, however, you must discard one of the opposing soldier tokens and one of the stability tokens. This represents the fact that a stable situation is easier to defend, and that attacking destabilizes it.

If there are still opposing soldier tokens, remove another one of your soldier tokens and another two of the others. Again, one of the tokens you remove must be a stability token if there are any stability tokens on the card. Repeat until either you or your opponent has no soldier tokens left on the card. There may be stability tokens left.

If there is only one opposing soldier token and no stability tokens, you must still discard one of your soldier tokens to defeat it.

Because the Excuse does not represent a specific county, different players with soldier tokens on the Excuse do not enter into combat.

Example: [left, below] Black is trying to place three tokens on 8leaves.pngknots.png, which previously had three white soldier tokens and one stability token. One black token is removed, along with one white token and the stability token. Another black token is removed, along with the two remaining white tokens. The final black token occupies the county.
brigandkings-combat.png
Example: [right, above] White is trying to place three tokens on 2suns.pngwyrms.png, which previously had one black soldier token and three stability tokens. One white token is removed, along with the black token and one stability token. The remaining white tokens occupy the county.

Finishing your turn

After you have placed soldier tokens and resolved any combat, add one stability token to every county where you do not have soldiers; that is, add one stability token to every county which either has no soldiers in it or which has another player's soldiers.

If any county has seven or more tokens in it (soldiers plus stability tokens) then it is resolved. Return all tokens on the card to the supply. If a player had at least one soldier in the county when it resolved, then that player captures the card and puts it face up in front of them. If there were no soldiers on the card when it resolved, then the card is simply discarded.

For each county that resolved this turn, deal a card from the deck to replace the one that was removed. Continue dealing until there are five county cards.

Game Over: If there are not enough cards left to replace a resolved card at the end of the turn, the game ends immediately.

For each card remaining which has one or more soldier on it, the player who controls that soldier rolls one number die. If the result is less than or equal to the number of soldiers on the card, then the player takes the card. If not, the card is soldiers are removed and the card is set aside.

Scoring

At the end of the game, you score for each card face up in front of you or in your score pile.

Each number card is worth a number of points equal to its rank.

In addition, your two bonus cards (Ace or crown.png) are each worth 1 point for every other card in your score pile with that suit. A card that matches both is effectively worth two extra points.
Example: At the end of the game, General White has these cards—
9moons.pngsuns.png, 9waves.pngwyrms.png, 7suns.pngknots.png, 6suns.pngwyrms.png, 4moons.pngsuns.png, crown.pngsuns.png, Aknots.png
The number cards are worth 9+9+7+6+4=35 points, plus 4 for cards that match crown.pngsuns.png, plus 1 for the card that matches Aknots.png; a total of 40.
If you are playing with them, Pawns pawn.png and Courts court.png are worth three points each. Since they have three suits, they are also likely to add to the value of your crown.pngs or Aces.

Strategy

There are only five suit dice, so you can muster as many as five soldier tokens with a good roll. To fully use a transport die roll of 6, you need to have stored some tokens on the Excuse in a previous turn.

Since seven tokens are required to resolve the card, and since stability isn't added on your turn to a county you occupy, it is impossible to completely conquer and resolve an empty card in one turn. At least one other player will get the opportunity to attack your position.

If a card has stability tokens but no soldiers on it, however, it is possible to occupy and resolve the card on your turn. Less desirable cards (or cards which just haven't fit players' die rolls) may come to have five or six stability tokens on them without any soldiers. Then just one or two soldiers are enough to make the seven tokens necessary for resolving them.

Credits

Brigand Kings is dedicated to the memory of Wolfgang Zeller, who made the first sets of Decktet dice.

Design: P.D. Magnus

Playtesting: Cristyn Magnus, Chris DeLeo, Jason Mutford, Tom Kiehl, Maya Kiehl, Dean Howard, John Velonis, Doug Hoover, Andy VanZandt TauCeti Deichman, Matthew Papa, Brian Moffett

The game was inspired by Felbrigg Herriott's Dune Express.

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