Game Buzz: Romance of the Nine Empires

And now for the special 15th anniversary edition of a game I had frankly not heard of until now:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Romance of the Nine Empires is a game from Mark Wootton and AEG.  It is a 2-5 player game that takes around 45 minutes.  This is the 15th anniversary reissue of the classic CCG set in the world of Countermay.  Apparently, this version contains five decks that were used at the world championships held at GenCon last year.

Before I proceed any further, I should say that this is a fictional game.  I mean, it’s a real game, but its history is completely made up.  A movie called “The Gamers: Hands of Fate” was Kickstarted last year, and featured this game as a central point.  As one of the stretch goals, AEG agreed to actually publish the game.  It’s an interesting concept, and one that caught my attention.

In the game, you get five different decks of cards, one per faction from last year’s world championships: Holden, Ixhasa, Malchior, Ord, and Displaced.  You also get 125 different tokens and a bunch of extra cards for customizing and token cards for play.  Each player begins the game with one of the decks.  It is recommended that in a first game, you play two-player and only use Ord and Malchior.  You can also build your own deck, but it is recommended that you be familiar with all decks before attempting that.

You begin with your stronghold and castles revealed.  The stronghold identifies your faction, and tells you how many points worth of castles you can have in play at the start of the game.  It also tells how much renown you have, keywords that you need in order to bring cards into play, special abilities, gold you generate, and a fate value.  Castles have a might value (strength before destruction), storage (food tokens it holds at the beginning, and how much is can hold), a point cost, keywords, and special abilities.  Along with your stronghold and castles, you also begin with one Motte and one Bailey card in play.  After shuffling your remaining cards, you draw four cards plus one per castle you have in play, and may take one mulligan (discard and draw again after discarding two food tokens).

Each turn in the game represents one year.  There aren’t player turns, but there are four phases – spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

SPRING: This is basically a refresh phase – all cards that were bowed (turned 90 degrees) get straightened out.  Also, if your cards have any spring effects, do them.  This can all be done simultaneously.

SUMMER: This is he phase where you can play cards.  If you have a hero, quest, or property in your hand, you can play it, provided you can pay the gold and food costs.  Just one though.  A hero must have a keyword that matches your stronghold.  Properties come into play bowed, and if it has a keyword, it must match your stronghold.  To bring a quest into play, you bow any unbowed heroes that have a total glory equal to or greater than that of the quest.  If a card says “unique”, you may only have one in play at the same time.

During summer, you can also choose to attach a card.  You can play a cohort, item, or spell from your hand, and attach it to one of your unbowed heroes.  Spells can only attach to heroes with the keyword “wizard”.  Cohorts have their own strength values, and help in combat.  Items add to hero values, and keywords restrict their use – you can only have one “weapon”, one “hat”, etc.

Your third option (and remember, you can only do one) is to attack.  Declare that you are attacking your opponent’s castles, and assign units to the ones you are attacking.  The defender sends units to protect the castles.  The attacker chooses the order of resolution – players use abilities, engage for damage, retreat, or pass.  Once players have passed consecutively, the battle is over.  If the castle is destroyed, it is discarded.  If not, the defenders stay at the castle.

AUTUMN: Here, you can try to steal food.  You can take an autumn ability, or you can raid another player for their food.

WINTER: This is where you prepare for the next turn.  Move food to your castles, discard quests that were not completed, and check to see if the game is over.  If only one player has food in their castle, they win.  If any player has 50 renown and 3 quests in play, they win.  If no one has one, each player draws four cards and discards down to their hand size – four plus the number of castles they have.

I’m not a CCG player.  In fact, I only just recently played my first game of Magic: The Gathering.  From what I hear, this is more like AEG’s other CCG, Legend of the Five Rings.  Of course, I’m unfamiliar with that game too, so I can’t really make any comparisons.  This one seems to be more like the LCG model – five playable decks, plus custom cards, all in one box.  I would imagine that if this is a success, we’ll see more in the future.  The concept of a fictional card game is kind of intriguing to me – they’ve created a history for the game, and it’s made me want to see the movie, which premieres at GenCon.

As for the game play, it doesn’t look too difficult to understand.  It seems that turns will go quickly, and I would imagine that the joy will be seeing how the cards interact with each other.  It’s one I’ll be interested in checking out sometime.  Thanks for reading!




  1. Unless I am mistaken, this is also AEG’s second chance at the Legend of the Burning Sands game, which this is a reskinning/cleaning up of. Which, if that’s the case, rock on because that was an awesome game. I might buy in if it’s not a CCG/LCG model.

    • It’s definitely not CCG as everything is in the box. I don’t know if there are plans to follow the LCG path – it might just be a one-off, but if it’s popular, anything could happen.

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