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Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Rheinlander overview

I've had a chance to play Rheinlander a half dozen times or more. It has become my favorite game that clocks in at around an hour even though I haven't yet managed to win.

Rheinlander is an area control game by Knizia. Each player has a hand of 5 cards. Cards are numbered 1-54 and 1 Joker. Each number corresponds to a region on the board. Each turn a player must play a card. By playing a card a player can either place a "knight" in the corresponding region, or adjacent to a knight of his own color which is called "reinforcing". When two knights are placed adjacent to each other, a duchy is formed. Controlling duchies by having the most knights is how players score points. When the Joker card is drawn, all the discarded cards are added to the draw pile and the two shuffled to form a new draw pile. This mechanism gets certain region cards into the game several times.

Each region of the board comprises 3 sections, right and left bank of the river, and the river between the banks. Knights can be placed in the river to join duchies on opposite banks. To place a knight on the river both banks must contain a knight and the player must play a card with that number on it. You may not place a knight in the river by reinforcement rules.

Cities, castles and cathedrals are placed on the board next to various predesignated regions prior to playing. Each castle and cathedral is worth one point when part of a duchy. Cities are worth either; 2, 3, or 4 depending on the number printed on the chit. The duke is also worth one point. The person who controls the most cathedrals controls the archbishop, control of the archbishop gives the player the ability to exchange an opponent's knight with his own by playing a card from the corresponding region. The player who controls a duchy with a castle gets to place an extra knight in the castle which counts for control of the duchy. If the duchy changes hands the new owner gets to replace castle knights with his own.

The player who has the most knights in a duchy controls the duchy. If a player loses control of a duchy, he scores the points for it. If two duchies are united, the player who controls the smaller duchy takes his duke off the board and scores points for his smaller duchy.

Although it sounds like you want to lose your duchy so that you can score points, you don't, usually. If you think you can lose control of a duchy and then regain control of it you might want to take the gamble, otherwise duchies are worth more points if you control them at the end of the game. Dukes in a duchy are worth 5 points at the end of the game, whereas they are worth 1 point during the game.

Good, quick, area-control game. There doesn't seem to be any trademark "Knizia Twist", but is a solid game nevertheless.

Too bad it was originally published by Hasbro. Maybe gamers will discover and appreciate this new Face 2 Face Games reprint and the game will climb to its rightful spot in the BGG ratings, which is somewhere near Knizia's Samurai in my estimation.

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