Theme and What is it?
You are a dignitary of a great Empire encompassing various territories where sorcery and sword command respect. The empire was at peace before Emperor Hellard died unexpectedly of an illness. There is no clear line of succession to the throne and all 7 of his daughters could be the next to wear the crown. You must utilize your skills in commerce and other, less subtle, skills to make sure your princess will assume the throne.
Heart of Crown is at its heart a deck building game. The designer, Ginko, seems to have given it a whirl at fixing three complaints about traditional deck builder’s: markets, combo cards, and victory conditions. How does the game stack up against this goal? Nailed it.
First, the market of cards features a brilliant mix between static card piles and a continuously shifting set of options and the card “link” mechanic is an elegant way to handle powerful action cards on the same turn. Players eventually “back” one of the unique princesses and gain access to both her special powers and her territory domains.
Finally, the victory condition in Heart of Crown is a satisfying mash of up victory cards clogging up a player’s deck until a turn is spent putting the ones from hand into the scoring area and freeing up the deck again.
The anime art and cute quality to the theme is designed to bring in the large group of players who love this style. Its theme is far from overused and I was immediately excited to see how the deck building would come together to represent building up my influence to put my chosen princess on the throne.
Game Build Quality
Upon opening the box, I was immediately struck by how nicely the card dividers fit. It is easy with such a thick divider to flip through to the cards I want. Also, the cards feel great and shuffle smoothly while not bending. Some standard punch board tokens for specific cards with special abilities to track round out the components list.
As you might expect from Japanime Games, the art in Heart of Crown can be instantly recognized as following in Japanese Anime styles. The art is cute and well developed. Many gamers will be attracted to the game just for the Anime art. Thankfully, the game will deliver more than just an aesthetic appeal to them.
I am a huge fan of the deck building genre and am almost never disappointed by this type of game. Heart of Crown was even better than I dared to hope. Each princess ability has different strengths and weaknesses and it is very entertaining to build a deck that works best for each one.
Age Range & Weight
12+ is an accurate rating for best experience. Player decisions will encourage enough long term strategy that children younger than 12 are likely to miss out on some of the most fun features. However, skipping a few advanced features, the rules are easy enough to grasp that players could start a few years younger.
I was hoping to find a new option in the genre of deck building to pull out for game days and was pleasantly surprised to find that Heart of Crown is likely to become a regular at the table. The various cards in supply keep gameplay from ever feeling stagnant.
The pacing of the game changes wildly based on choices made which can force other players to adapt. Ginko fixes many complaints about other deck builders. It has neither a static nor a luck dependent dynamic market. It does not take players away from the immersive experience to count how many actions they can play this turn.
Finally, it balances the way victory point cards slow down a deck’s performance without halting the momentum of the game. Give this a try!