WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-5
Published by: Lucky Duck Games
Courts aren’t the nicest of places to be in and having looked into the real court of miracles that seemed like no exception. This game from Lucky Duck however IS the exception and is probably the most fun court you will ever find yourself in.
The court of rules.
Give everyone a plot card, some money, their three starting Rogue tokens, a guild and their 6 renown tokens. When giving out the guilds always hand me the Narquois guild (the one with the dog tokens). It's not in the rule book but I have sent a letter to lucky duck to get that added.
On your turn you add one of your rogue tokens into one of the three spaces on one of the neighbourhoods on the board. There's only three different actions and they repeat in all the neighbourhoods but sometimes in different quantities. Their actions are either, collect coins, take cards or move the penniless king. This is a token that moves round the board and may trigger standoffs.
When you place your rogue token you take the action of that space. You may then take the action of the neighbourhood that space is in. These actions are either collect coins, collect cards, swap one of your rogue tokens with a blind draw from the bag, or move one of your rogue tokens to a different spot on the board. The last one is to pay the toll and put one of your renown tokens in the Renown square. Renown tokens placed here are there permanently.
The game will end in one of two ways. When a player places their last renown token on the board or when the penniless king makes it to the final space, in which case the person with the most renown tokens on the board wins.
Aside from the renown square you can put renown tokens on the board from standoffs. A standoff will start when either all three spaces of a neighbourhood are full or if the penniless king token gets to certain spaces on the board. When they resolve each player with a rogue token there reveals the strength number on the underside and the player with the most strength wins and takes control of the neighbourhood with one of their tokens.
The court of time management
I was going over my top ten games not long ago and realised there were five games in it that used area control, so it seems to be a popular mechanism for me. But they’re not always that easy to get to the table. For the most part they’re not exactly quick games and so they often need to be the main event of the night. That was the case until I played A War of Whispers which is an area control game that plays in about an hour and can easily be played before or after the big game of the night.
Well it turns out the folks over at Lucky Duck had heard about this, rolled up their feathers and said you think that’s a quackers (sorry) playtime? Well we have one that plays in 40 minutes, so obviously, I had to check it out.
Just because this plays in such a quick time though it doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in any decision space. If anything the decisions are even more tense and tight because of how quick it plays out. In a longer area control game, having control of an area taken from you is annoying but you usually have the luxury of time to regroup and plot your devious revenge. In the court of miracles you need to have plans to retake control in place by your next turn. It’s not necessary of course, you could easily turn your attention to somewhere else, but since you only need six tokens down to win, It makes every renown token that you lose all the more important. The flip side of this is that your opponent could now be one clever turn away from winning the game. All you can do at that point is to hope that you can get another turn to hopefully knock them from the board, or, as much as you don’t want it to happen, have an opponent do it for you.
You soon come to realise that a seemingly simple action as putting down a rogue token and where you put it isn’t necessarily about you getting your own renown token down. It's just as likely you're putting it in a certain spot just to get a certain player kicked out of it just because they’re close to the win. To some that may sound a bit counterproductive but honestly this is where some of the fun puzzles and interaction kicks in.
There’s been a few turns during my plays where I’ve kicked off a standoff in a neighbourhood just so another player could take control and stop the current owner from winning the game.
The court of miracles is essentially a tug of war game. This is true of all area control games of course but you can definitely feel the push and pull of this one more due to the playtime and how quickly control can be won or lost.
Things get even tighter as the game goes on. As players start to place down permanent renown tokens in the square, the amount of neighbourhoods someone needs to control to win gets smaller and smaller, so the game becomes just as much about keeping your opponents under control than it is about you going straight for the win.
As the game goes on the tug of war gets even more tight and even more tense. You may be on the cusp of winning, but then so may your opponents and you’re just sitting there hoping that no one sees your path to victory and that you can just get one more turn to take the game.
The court of swift justice.
Something else that I find this game does because it’s so quick, is soften the blow of that sometimes disliked take that mechanic. You see, on one player's turn you could lose control of a neighbourhood. But a cleverly planned turn and you can have control of it, or a different one by the end of yours. Renown markers and turns are flying about so quickly that you don’t seem to have time to feel bad that you’ve just been put back a step.
Throw into the mix the new rogue tokens you can get, some with their own special abilities and the plot cards and you can create some fun clever combos on your turn. Being able to go from having a token taken off the board, to making a brilliantly clever turn where it’s possible to put down more than one renown token is such a great feeling and definitely makes up for the bad feeling you might get from the take that element in the game.
The court of components.
I love the components in this game. The slightly hollowed out rogue tokens to put your guild tokens in are awesome and really tactile. You'll be guaranteed to hear everyone clacking them together during the game, much like the poker chips in Splendor.
It’s the board that is going to be the main draw here though. I’m a bit of a sucker for a differently shaped board and this one is no exception. I don’t know if it’s just me though but I do get some Millennium Falcon vibes from it, apologies if you can’t unsee that now.
Because of the way the board is though with the sticky outy bits, it can be prone to a few knocks and dents, especially if the box gets thrown about in the car or if you store it vertically. It doesn’t bother me so much personally and I will say that this will never affect the game play, but I know that this is something that could bother some people.
I hope that this doesn’t put many people off because this game is really worth your time.
The Court of Summaries
I really think that The Court of Miracles is one of those hidden gems of a game and certainly needs more love. It gives players a brilliantly thematic and thinky area control game in a relatively short time frame and it’s so quick and simple to grasp at that.