You know, I’ve heard that being a courtesan was tough in medieval times… They often had to work knights!
Haha! Got it? If you liked that joke as much as I do, then you should know that the game that you’re going to read about in this review is full of these.
Medieval Mayhem is a family-friendly addictive card game that will make you laugh and that will enhance your strategic thinking. As the creators describe it, it is “a crazy mash of humor, kings, strategy, caricatures, wizards, bluffing, puns, randomness and other nonsense…” and I couldn’t say it better.
The game is designed by two board games enthusiasts, Hugo Chaves and Andreea Nae, who’ve just started their journey on the road of designing card games. The players fight each other using armies in order to prove who is the greatest Army General of them all, using hand management, betting and bluffing mechanics.
Can you come up with a good strategy to beat you opponents and earn the title of “Sovereign of Mayhem”?
How to play Medieval Mayhem
The box contains a deck of 40 cards that depict the various characters in the game. There are 29 Villagers, 3 Kings, 3 Assassins, 3 Wizards and 2 Courtesans. Each character card comes with a pun related to it.
Each turn of the game has 4 phases:
You shuffle the deck and deal a hand of 10 cards to each player. Each player splits his hand into five face-down piles (called “armies”). These piles can have any number of cards and the other players must be able to see how many cards there are in each pile.
After each player finished setting up their armies, the betting begins. During this phase, each player places a bet on any of the armies in play (be it his or another player’s army). This is the perfect opportunity to bluff and deceive the other players. Place your bet well and you will be rewarded with a bonus Crown Point.
When the battle phase begins, each player selects one of his armies and moves it in front of the others. After all players have made their choices, you reveal the piles and the strongest army(-ies, in case of a tie) wins the battle. You can always check your armies to see their composition, there is no need to memorize them.
An army’s strength is the sum of of the numbers on the shields of its characters. Special characters (that have special shields with no numbers on them) add no strength to their army, but they change the way a battle goes:
Any army with a King is stronger than any regular army. If one or more Assassins join the battle, then all armies with Kings become weaker than a regular army.
Any army with an Assassin is weaker than any regular army. If one or more Kings join the battle, then all armies with Assassins become stronger than a regular army.
When Wizards join armies, the rules are reversed: the weakest army wins the battle (as long as that army has a villager character in it). Kings lose unless Assassins are played and Assassins win unless Kings are played. Keep in mind that Wizards reverse each other: if two Wizards show up, the rules change back to normal and the winning army is still the strongest one.
The Courtesans negate all other special characters. When a red headed lady shows up, the strongest army (highest sum) to wins the battle.
You repeat this process until one of the players has won a decisive number of rounds (meaning that no other player can catch up to him), or until all the 5 battles have ended.
At the end of the battle phase, the scoring takes place. The player who won the most battles scores 2 Crown Points. I personally ordered some crystals especially for this, in order to add a more medieval feel to the game.
At the beginning of a new turn, you shuffle the deck and deal a hand of 10 cards to each player once more. You keep playing until any player reaches 10 Crown Points. The player earns the title of “Sovereign of Mayhem” and can then brag about being the best Army General of the medieval times!
My Thoughts on Medieval Mayhem
Understanding how to play Medieval Mayhem is easy, but getting good at it and eventually mastering it is a great challenge. A good player knows how to bluff and defy his opponents and can read their armies as soon as they are being placed. However, you should never underestimate a new player, as they can be a real danger: a newbie may set up his armies randomly and base the output on luck and may actually have a chance at beating you, because he doesn’t have a real strategy and you may read his armies wrong.
The game feels very different depending on how many players there are. When playing it at 2 players, the game feels easier to play, as there’s only one opponent whose armies you have to take into consideration. Everything goes down to how well you can hide your information in your armies (usually by playing only piles of 2 cards).
However, everything changes as soon as you add an extra player. There are more armies to consider and everything gets down to gathering information by watching the battleground closely. You have to try and exploit other player’s Wizards and Courtesans (if you can read their armies well) as much as you can and win your bets every game, as these can score you guaranteed points every turn if you place them well.
Sometimes it may happen that your hand would be less than optimal for winning enough battles to get the 2 Crown Points. Don’t worry, it is not the end of the game for you, as you can still earn one Crown Point from placing your bet well. Pay attention to the other armies on the battleground and consider placing your bet on a different player’s army if you consider that they have a chance of winning. If you can’t get the two Crown Points for winning the turn, at least try not to end empty handed and bring that bonus Crown Point home.
Also, if you feel confident in your score, consider bluffing your bets sometimes, as this may confuse the other players. After all, you never know what’s hiding in that card pile. Who knows, you may end up scoring a free Crown Point.
If you like doing fun plays and create funny situations, this game is good for you. For example, you could play an army of 6 cards and your other four armies could have only 1 card. You can still win the battle by knowing when to play which army.
The characters are hand drawn by Hugo and then painted by Andreea, adding her own watercolor style to the design. The result is this beautiful artwork that you can’t take your eyes off when playing. The caricatures look very funny and go along perfectly with their associated puns.
Do you like good puns? What about strategy games? Can you read your opponent’s moves before they do them? If your answer to these questions is “Yes!”, then this game should definitely be on your Kickstarter wishlist this year. I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to test this game before release and for helping Hugo & Andreea with ideas. It is a great game for those who love developing strategies while playing, based on what they are given.
The game has not yet been published. It is still in development and will go through a Kickstarter campaign later this year. If you want to hear more about it in the future, you can follow it on Instagram or Facebook.
Designers: Hugo Chaves & Andreea Nae
Publisher: HA! Games
Time: 20-25 min
Times played: 18
Full disclosure: A Print & Play copy of Medieval Mayhem was provided by the game designers.
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