Chancellors
Designed by P.D. Magnus
Players 2-4
Length 30 minutes
Extra Material dice, scorepad

a resource management game for 2 to 4 players

The Lord High Chancellor has retired, but the King has not yet named a successor. As one of the King's Chancellors, you are hoping to move up to the first seat. To do this, you need to impress His Majesty and outdo the other Chancellors. Fail and you'll be a back bencher for the rest of your career. Of course, things could be worse than being a mere Chancellor. If things go too badly, the King might decide to fire all the old advisors.

This is a game about affairs of state, in which players score points by solving problems that face the kingdom. Typically, a player wins by scoring enough points. If a problem escalates out of control, however, the busy players will be blamed - and then the player with the lowest score wins.

Components

In addition to a Decktet, the game uses dice to represent problems: ordinary, cubical dice which generate numbers from one to six. For two players, you need six dice; for three players, eight dice; for four players, ten dice.

Setup

Arrange the dice into pairs. Each pair represents a problem that is facing the kingdom. So there are three problems at a time in a two-player game, four at a time in a three-player game, and five at a time in a four-player game.

At the beginning of the game, roll each pair of dice to determine just how bad things are. Higher numbers are more serious problems. Put the dice as rolled out on the table where everyone can see them.

Remove the Sailor (4 of Waves and Leaves), Soldier (5 Wyrms and Knots), and Diplomat (8 Moons and Suns) from the deck. These represent three royal services: the Navy, Army, and Diplomatic corps respectively. Put them in the center of the table to indicate that they are up for grabs. Once the game is underway, these cards will be in front of the player who has control over them.

Shuffle the remainder of the deck and deal each player three cards.

Game play

Each turn of the game consists of the following steps: (A) Players exert influence to control royal services. (B) Players who control services take turns solving problems. (C) Players who don't control services solve problems. (D) Remaining problems escalate. (E) Players draw cards.

Control royal services: Players each select one card from their hand and place it face down in front of them. Once everyone has made a selection, the cards are revealed.

A card might control a service if it has a suit that matches one of the suits on that service's card. For example, the Crown of Suns may control the diplomatic corps because the Diplomat is a Moons and Suns card.

If only one player selected a card that can control a specific service, then they control it; to indicate this, they take the card representing the service and put it in front of them. If more than one player selected a card that matches the service, then the player who played the highest matching card controls the service.

Example: Selia plays 9leaves.pngknots.png, Shar plays crown.pngknots.png, and Henri plays 7waves.pngwyrms.png. Because she played the highest card matching the Sailor, Selia controls the navy and takes the Sailor card. Shar controls the army and takes the Soldier card. No one played a Moons or Suns card, so the diplomatic corps is uncontrolled and the Diplomat card remains in the center of the table.

In subsequent turns, services may already be under some player's control. If someone takes control of the service, the player holding the card must hand it over. But if no one else takes control of it, the service stays where it is. In the example, if it were later in the game and Henri had the Diplomat, he would keep it.

If two players select cards of the same rank which might control a service, then the player with the lower cumulative score takes it. If both players have the same cumulative score, then the service becomes uncontrolled and the card is put in the middle of the table.

Players must play in this part of the turn, and the cards played are discarded.

Solve problems, with control: Players who control services take turns playing cards to solve problems that face the kingdom.

The player who controls the diplomatic corps goes first, then the player who controls the army, followed by the player who controls the navy; the services play in decreasing order of rank. If a player controls more than one service, then they have the opportunity to solve more than one problem.

When it comes to you, you may choose to solve any problem in play. Each service only gives you the chance to solve one problem, and doing so requires further cards from your hand. You can only play cards that share a suit with a service that you control.

Example: Tarrant controls only the Army. It's represented by the Soldier, the suits of which are wyrms.png and knots.png. Tarrant could play the 7suns.pngknots.png from his hand (because it shares a suit with the Soldier) but not the 7moons.pngleaves.png.

To solve an entire problem, discard a card or cards that add up to at least as much as the sum of the two dice. Aces count for one; number cards count for their rank; Crowns count for the value showing on the higher die in the problem. (Two Crowns will solve any problem, because they can always match or exceed the sum of the two dice.)

When you solve an entire problem, you score points equal to the sum of the two dice. Set the dice aside. The problem may not be solved again this turn. At the end of the turn, both dice will be rerolled.

If you cannot or do not want to solve the whole problem, you may solve part of it. Play a single card with at most the value of the lower die in the problem. If a problem has a die showing 1, then only any Ace can solve part of that problem. A Crown (which counts for the value of the higher die) can solve part of a problem only if the two dice have the same value.

When you solve part of a problem, you score points equal to half the total of both dice (rounded up). Select one of the two dice in the problem and set it aside. The remaining part of the problem cannot be solved by another player this turn. At the end of the turn, the die you set aside will be rerolled.

If you do not wish to solve a problem or if you don't have cards that match the services you control, you may pass. When you pass, you have the option of abdicating control of the service. When abdicating, put the card for the service in the middle of the table.

Solve problems, without help: After players who control services have either solved problems or passed, start on the left of the player who most recently solved a problem and proceed clockwise around the table. Any players who do not control any services may try to solve problems. This includes players who controlled services earlier in the turn but passed and abdicated control instead of solving problems.

If you do not control any services, you may not solve part of a problem - only the whole thing. Moreover, the cards you play must add up to at least twice the sum of two dice. You still only score the sum of the dice.

As some consolation, you may play any cards from your hand regardless of their suits.

Problems escalate:
Problems get worse if no one has solved them.

Reroll single dice from partially solved problems, making them two dice again; this represents the problem unfolding.

Now take the lower of the two dice in each unsolved problem and turn it so as to increase the value by one; if both dice have the same value, increment either one. If a problem is already 6 and 6 (six on both dice) when it escalates, then the game ends immediately - see Endings, below.

Finally, reroll all the dice that were set aside earlier in the turn. Dice from completely solved problems become new problems and do not escalate this turn.

Draw cards: At the end of the turn, every player draws three cards. If you have more than six cards in your hand, you must select and discard cards until you have only six cards.

If the draw pile runs out, reshuffle the discard pile.

Endings, happy and otherwise

If a player reaches a cumulative score of 100 or more points, play continues until the end of the turn. Then the game ends, and the player with the highest score is the winner. The King names them Lord High Chancellor, and all the other players labour on as Chancellors simpliciter.

If a problem escalates when it was already 6 and 6, the kingdom is in serious trouble. The King decides that the players make terrible counselors and sacks all but the least offensive of them. The game ends, and the player with the lowest score wins.

You may agree to increase or decrease the target score, if you prefer a shorter or longer game. Regardless, it is possible for multiple players to have the same winning score. Ties should be settled by fisticuffs.

Example: Evan has the Diplomat, which he uses to solve a problem. This increases his cumulative score to 102. Maire has the Soldier, allowing her to solve a problem later in the turn. This increases her cumulative score to 102. The game is over at the end of that turn. Maire flips over the table and punches Evan, securing victory.

Strategy

When a problem has a 6 as one of its dice, you can try to deliberately arrange a catastrophe: Solve part of the problem and reroll the other die. If you roll a 6 when rerolling the die - the problem becomes 6 and 6, it escalates out of control, and the game ends. Since this won't happen on any other roll, it is a bit of a longshot.

Nevertheless, the chance may be worth taking if you are far enough behind on points that partially solving the problem won't lift you out of last place. If the game ends by escalation, everyone else will be blamed and you'll win. It's a viable tactic.

So, when you are not in last place, you should try to block the player who is in last place from prompting a catastrophe. If you completely solve a problem that includes a 6, then the dice will be rerolled and won't escalate this turn. If you solve part of the problem that includes a 6, then you can choose to reroll the 6 itself. And if you have control of the right service, you'll be able to do this before the saboteur player gets to the problem.

The extended deck

To vary the game, you can add in some or all of the extended deck cards. I think that the game plays well with or without them.

When you draw the Excuse, put it in front of you like a card for one of the royal services. On a turn when you do not control any of the services, you may solve problems just as if you did: You may solve part or all of a problem, and solving all of a problem only requires cards adding up to the total of the two dice. You may still use any cards, regardless of suits. If you use the {Excuse} in this way, pass it to the player on your left.

With Pawns and Courts, the order of ranks becomes 9, pawn.png, court.png, crown.png. For solving problems, Pawns and Courts match more services but otherwise work like Crowns; they are worth the value of the higher of the two dice in the problem. For controlling services, however, they work a bit differently:

Pawns only help you maintain control of services that you already control. For example, if you play the pawn.pngmoons.pngwyrms.pngknots.png when you already control the Diplomat moons.pngsuns.png and the Soldier wyrms.pngknots.png from the previous turn, you will keep them unless someone else plays a Court or Crown to take them away.

Courts act only to control the diplomatic corps, regardless of the suits on the Court card.

Credits

Design: P.D. Magnus

Playtesting: Cristyn Magnus, Karen Traite, Andy Cole, Joe Fritz, Matt Kiehl, Nathan Brown, John Velonis, Kevin Warrender, Tom Kiehl, Dan Purdy

Links

* Chancellors at BoardGameGeek

Comments

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