There are many paths leading to the heart of a ruler, or so Catherine: The Cities of the Tsarina believes. The new board game from publisher Capstone Games plays out over three distinct decades as players vie for a powerful role next to the Tsarina of Russia through military might, political finesse or the grandeur of their gifts.
Designed by Johannes Schmidauer-König (Vienna, Cornwall, Portal of Heroes), Catherine: The Cities of the Tsarina puts two to four players in the shoes of royal counsellors, circa 1762, doing everything in their favour to worm close to a new tsarina. Winning this competitive board game will come down to scoring the most victory points at the end of four rounds, but the methods an individual player uses to get there will likely vary.
Each round, played simultaneously, sees competitors playing two cards from their hand to one of two rows on their side of the board - the action row and the activation row. The first denotes that kind of actions that player use and gives access to certain avenues of earning victory points. The second row is only used to activate the cards above it by playing a matching colour. Thus, turns break down into expanding the available actions and choosing which will be activated.
The effects of these actions can vary from amassing cannons to pressure neighbouring cities under your thumb or establishing a trading empire through the control of valuable goods. Others might reward books that can be traded in to establish a residence in Russia’s many major cities, thereby expanding your influence and securing reliable sources of materials. Coinciding with all this wheeling and dealing is Tsarina Catherine’s personal estimation of each player, which will fluctuate according to the actions they take - a temporary hit in popularity might be necessary to set up a windfall in the next decade.
Speaking of decades, minor scoring periods will take place between each of the first three decades, limiting the number of actions players can take before the game comes to a close. How close each player is with the queen will add a modifier to various aspects of the final scoring phase. Scheme all you want, but don’t forget the ultimate goal is a position of power by her side.
Games of Catherine: The Cities of the Tsarina are designed to be relatively quick, taking roughly an hour to play through to the end. The small pool of actions will likely add weight to every decision, and playing simultaneously offers plenty of opportunities for politicking and table-talk. Pre-orders are now open on Capstone Game’s website, and shipping outside of Europe is expected to begin in late May.