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Update: 12/21/2017 – The developers of the PC version of Heart of Crown reached out to me via email and wanted to provide support for some of the issues I encountered, as well as to let me know about new features that are underway, such as full screen mode (currently in the beta client), and a tournament that will take place next year to celebrate the international release of Heart of Crown. They also wanted to let me know that there are (text based) chat rooms available on the Discord server (and I’ve adjusted the score for community based on that feedback). Overall, it is encouraging to see an active Dev team who seem to really care about improving the game and connecting with the community. 🙂 I hope they continue to work on polishing up the PC version of the game, but as I said already in my original review, yes the game has issues, but at the price point of $19.99 (at time of this review) it’s a great game and still a lot of fun, and a worthy purchase.
Original Review Below:
I recently picked up both the board game and steam versions of Heart of Crown, a kawaii anime deck building card game. I love the artwork and the theme of the game (multiple princesses vying for the throne). It reminded me a lot of one of my favorite anime (RE:Zero) so I was instantly drawn to this board game when I attended the Pittsburgh Steel City Comic Con 2 weeks ago. (although I actually purchased this one from the large game store, Mr. Nice Guy Games, at the mall nearby the convention center). And then a few days after that, the PC game released on steam, so imagine my excitement having only just heard of Heart of Crown days prior and being hyped by my new kawaii gaming find. As you will learn in this review, I am happy with both purchases, but each has it’s own unique pros and cons. Find out which version of Heart of Crown is right for you in the reviews below.
The gameplay is simple, although it can be confusing at first, and both the manual included in the boardgame, as well as the hidden and horribly confusing tutorial in the PC game, make this gameplay seem much more complex than it actually is.
I will try to briefly describe the gameplay, please bear in mind my experience with this title is still limited to just a handful of play sessions.
To understand the gameplay we must first understand the different card types. Largely these consist of one of the following:
Princess Cards – these cards are available for purchase once you reach 16 points. There are 6 different Princesses in the base game (maybe more in various expansions). Each princess has unique abilities, some passive (always in effect) and some that you can activate during your turn. These abilities may give you advantages such as viewing your draw pile, drawing extra cards, forcing opponents to discard a card, or so on.
The objective of the game is to choose a princess whose ability matches your play style and then “back her” by acquiring points to put her on the throne. I’m not in front of either version of the game at the moment, but I believe the amount needed to back a princess is 21. (might be 20 or 25, somewhere in that range).
When this happens, a “coronation ceremony” will occur. At this time, any other players take one final turn, and if able to do so, may also back and crown a princess. If no other players can put a princess on the throne, you win. However, if another player also gets enough points to back and crown a princess the game enters sudden death where the first player to reach 30 points wins.
But how do you get points you ask? That’s where the other cards come in handy.
Territory Cards: these cards grant you coins (think of it as taxing your people for living in your lands). Coins are used to purchase items from the common shared area known as the market place. Note that cards obtained from the market place go to your discard pile. This is rather quirky and different from most other games I’ve played where they would automatically go to your hand or your draw pile. When you reach the end of your draw pile, your discard pile gets shuffled and becomes your new draw pile, allowing you to finally use the cards you have purchased. Coins may also be spent to activate abilities on some cards.
Action cards – these cards have abilities that affect you or other players such as declaring war to lower their points, or forcing them to discard a card, or allowing you to draw more cards, or take a card from the market place.
Character Cards – these cards all feature a different character, such as a duke, maid, etc. who will grant or sometimes subtract from your total points value. After you have backed a princess, you can play these character cards by placing them under your princess card.
There are also 2 special mechanics in this game.
Keeping Cards: 1 is the ability to “keep” up to 3 cards in your hand by placing them over your kingdom cards (territory cards that were used to back your princess) you cannot keep a card greater than the point value of the territory cards holding it. But by keeping a card, it allows you to use that card on a later turn instead of automatically discarding it at the end of your turn when you would normally discard all of your cards.
Chain Cards: The other interesting fact is that you can chain cards together, some cards have a yellow arrow. This means you can play another card. This is most commonly seen on territory cards.
Putting it all Together:
So the basics of gameplay go like this, draw your cards, play territory cards to get coins, then choose cards from the market place that go to your discard pile. As you run out of cards in your draw pile, the discard pile gets shuffled and turned into the new draw pile, and you may get lucky and draw the cards you purchased from market. Once you reach 16 points, choose a princess to back by carefully considering her special abilities. Continue to play territory cards and purchase more cards from the market – you’re likely going to be looking for cards to increase your point total. Be the first person to reach enough points to crown your princess. Other players may challenge you, so be ready to be the first player to reach 30 points and win the game, or win automatically if no one else can crown their princess after one more turn.
Board Game Version
Overall Score: 52/80 65% “D” “Average Game for Girls”
Geeky: 1/5 – the anime theme and cute girls are the only “geeky” thing here. There is little to no strategy involved with this game, no customization, no legacy, no story, no complexity, no hidden things to explore, etc. Just a straightforward, simple, cute family friendly game with great artwork.
Sweetie: 5/5 – And that great artwork is enough to score it a 5/5 on the sweetie meter. Combine that with the theme of the game, a game about princesses, and you have one of the cutest games ever.
Value for What’s Included: 7/10 – You get a lot of cards, with gorgeous high quality art work, a beautiful box to store the game in, and a lengthy detailed full color glossy manual. However, that manual can be confusing and overwhelming to new players. There is no play mat, card sleeves, tokens, figures, or other goodies, but I still think overall, I feel satisfied with what was included at the $40 price point. Note there are expansions you can buy that add new cards and new features as well.
Initial Learning Curve: 5/10 – setting up the first time and learning what to do can be frustrating. But once you jump into your first game, it really isn’t so bad. Therefore, the learning curve difficulty is somewhere in the middle. It may turn off some casual gamers, but is still simple and friendly enough for family game night or to introduce to your non-gamer friends.
Gameplay: 7/10 – it’s simple, short and sweet. Most games take under 20 minutes to complete. There is a nice variety of cards, from abilities, to characters, and plenty of opportunity to interact with other players. However, the game length is quite short and there’s not much complex or exciting / enticing to help enhance replay value. I think this game will be fun once or twice a month, but don’t see it being a “weekly game board night” staple, when other games offer greater replay incentives and more for even the most seasoned and veteran gamers to discover on multiple playthroughs. Still, if you have young kids, or a significant other who is obsessed with “the kawaii life” they will love this cute little anime game. I bought it simply because I love how cute it is, and I’m not disappointed!
Artwork: 10/10 – I love the artwork, for me it really sold me on this game – Picked it up in a board game store I had never visited before, and had not heard of the game, and bought it simply because of the cute anime girls lol.
Interaction With Other Players: 4/10 – I feel like this is solidly in the middle somewhere. There are plenty of action cards and abilities to play against your friends. But it’s not as social as let’s say cards against humanity nor as encouraging of attacks and alliances as say Munchkin,
Fun: 7/10 – It’s short and sweet, it’s cute, it can be confusing, but as soon as you play the first few games it becomes (almost too) simple. I mean let’s take it for what it is, it’s not a legacy game that is meant to be played in multiple sessions like gloomhaven. It’s not a strategy game like catan, it’s just a simple cute card game with anime graphics and a cute concept.
Replay Value: 6/10 – Will I play this again? Absolutely. Does it change, or evolve, offer strategy, customization, different classes, things that can make each replay different, unique and exciting? Nope. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to replay it. The artwork is cute, and the small minimum time investment is a big plus. Easy to squeeze a game in here or there whenever the chance arises.
Overall Score: 52/80 65% “D” “Average Game for Girls”
PC Game Version:
Overall: 75/100 75% C+ “Good Game for Girls”
Geeky: 1/5 – In my two hours thus far with the game I have encountered bugs, bugs, and more bugs. Well not bugs per say, more like “What were they thinking?” Poorly designed User Interface, Hidden Tutorials, lack of Fullscreen mode, and many more “WTF” moments that reek of bad design and development decisions.
Sweetie: 5/5 – It’s still cute though and sure to appeal to all fans of anime or kawaii lifestyle culture!
Story: 6/10 The PC version adds some story segments that you can unlock. They are somewhat misleading in calling this a campaign mode as there is no interactivity, it’s more like comics that you can view. It has absolutely no other effect on gameplay. Story is there, and it’s a nice bonus. But a lot more could have been done here.
Characters: 8/10 – The princesses, as always are very cute, and the campaign story mode helps endear the characters to us more.
Gameplay: 7/10 I can’t for the life of me get multiplayer to work. When I purchase a game, I expect it to “just work” – not to have to sit there messing with my firewall and computer settings. I’m not the only one with this issue as you can see on the support forums. And due to the type of game (kawaii) the target audience (children and young adult females) is not tech savvy enough to have to be expected to deal with this. I get errors about open ports, turning things off/on, trying their recommended settings, changing the settings, nothing works.
So although this is a multiplayer game, I’m only able to play it against NPCs. If I were able to get multiplayer to work, there are ranked matches and ongoing leader boards and other awesome features, and of course the benefit of being able to play Heart of Crown if you don’t have anyone to play with in real life.
Without multiplayer working, the gameplay takes a huge hit in my opinion. However, it did teach me how to play the boardgame. And it wasn’t by way the terrible tutorial that I learned this with. The game hides the tutorial from you, it doesn’t make it obvious. In your first play through that thing should pop up and introduce you to the game, and pop up at each step. But apparently their programmers couldn’t even figure this out – also couldn’t figure out how to program it so multiplayer works out of the box (I have over 600 steam games, and this is the only game I have trouble trying to create or join a room in multiplayer).
Anyways I digress, back to that hidden horrible tutorial, no they couldn’t have it auto guide you through (with an option to exit it of course) – no they expect you to just know to click the “help” icon. And you have to remember then to keep clicking the help icon after you complete each step. It’s terrible for new players. The learning curve and directions are 10,000 times worse in the video game than they are in the actual card game.
Once you figure out WTF you are doing, it’s fine. The game rounds go by speedy and snappy. The artificial intelligence AI is no where NEAR challenging – I’ve read other reviews on steam that they can’t beat the computers, and I’ve just thought to myself, WTF is wrong with you. I beat them every time, as someone who is a complete newb to this game. – FYI my first time playing Heart of Crown was actually with the video game as I had not yet gotten to play the board game I had purchased. So no, it’s not just because I had exposure/experience to the game before. — Of course, granted, maybe these reviewers, don’t know / didn’t see the hidden tutorial, because without that, it really is impossible to know WTF to do. As horrible and terrible as that tutorial was, it was in fact useful. It just needs to be implemented and integrated in a much more obvious, in your face, way to help you your first time.
Anyways, once you figure everything out, gameplay is exactly the same as the physical board game, so bonus points there for maintaining the look and feel of the original card game now in a digital, supposedly online multiplayer, format with rankings and a leader board, and music and some semblence of a story – those are all good / nice things, just the way it’s presented is absolute trash and terrible from a new user experience.
Learning Curve: 1/10 – too hard, see comments above about how the user interface and tutorial need some SERIOUS work in future patch updates hopefully.
Artwork: 7/10 – I want to give this a 10/10 I really do – but once again, it’s so poorly presented. There is no full screen mode – or if there is, like everything else in this damn game it’s hidden somewhere and not obvious how to enter full screen. So they have you select different resolutions, but they all look pretty bad honestly, at least the ones that fit my screen nicely. You can rightclick hold over a card to enlarge it to read it and see it clearly but it still doesn’t look as crisp and clean as the actual boardgame artwork. — It is however still very cute and kawaii so gotta give it some points there.
Music: 10/10 – the music is good. I don’t think it’s 10 out of 10 good, but I’m trying to pad my review a bit to more accurately reflect that I do actually enjoy this game.
Interaction With Other Players: 10/10 – no chat room (built into the game), they do have optional discord servers set up. EDIT: Devs reached out to tell me there are (text based) chat options available in the discord servers, and the Devs are in the server too and offer support as well as interact with the community which is a big plus. I do have Discord on my PC (but typically only play on it with a handful of friends), but hearing that the Devs are active on their own servers makes me want to check it out. The impression I get is that the small Dev team seem to really care about this game and listen to feedback and provide support which has changed my mind significantly about the community within the game. And I’m excited about the tournament features and leader boards and ranking. It really enhances this game and makes it competitive and exciting and enhances replay value too – Especially if we can win rare cards or something from this upcoming tournament. 🙂
I’m shy though and don’t like to use voice chat that much with strangers. Anime fans are typically introverts like myself, so it seems like lack of a chat room is a bit of a draw back, I’ve also seen others complaining about this in the forums. – See Edit Above.
Then again, I can’t even get multiplayer to work at all period, so for me this is like a 0 out of 10 honestly, but I’m giving it the benefit of a doubt. This part still holds true although the Devs seem to want to help me get it working and to be fair I hadn’t tried using the support system before coming on my blog here and complaining lol. Although I did take a look at the support forums and other people having the issue and trying to trouble shoot based on feedback they were given which didn’t seem to work for me, and I saw other people had refunded the game via steam due to multiplayer issues, so to me this still seems like maybe a poorly designed function. Other “room” based games like Terraria and 100% Orange Juice that use seemingly similar multiplayer features just work right out of the box. I would expect the same from Heart of Crown, or any game I purchase.
Fun: 10/10 – I’m still giving this a 10/10 despite the numerous flaws. I paid $19.99 and I feel extremely satisfied with that purchase, even just playing it against the not very smart NPCs that I easily trounce.
Replay Value: 10/10 – I played my first day with this game over 2 hours. Will play again. If I get multiplayer to work, I’d play every day of my life. Just like the card game, this one does not offer much incentive to make you want to replay it, except it does have rankings and leader boards. There is potential here for a smart dev
(they have not shown themselves to be too smart thus far however) to add additional gameplay elements like tournaments, rare cards for rewards for high rank, and so on.
EDIT: Actually the Devs seem really nice and seem to really care about the game, and have told me there will be just such a tournament taking place next year 🙂
It is a new game, just released less than 2 weeks ago, so I’m hoping the devs address some of the massive issues plaguing the PC version of this game right now – but even if they don’t I’ll still play it and enjoy it, bugs and all. The fact it is a PC game, and on a platform like steam, increases my likelihood to play this, because no downtime to set up the play area, and the fact I only have people to play the physical game with on weekends, this means if I want to play more Heart of Crown through the week, the PC version is my go-to. I sincerely hope the devs fix things up and that the community for this game grows. I love Heart of Crown despite my somewhat harsh review. But it has issues that people should be aware of before parting with their money or sitting down to play.