#389 – Claim

Box

Base price: $15.
2 players.
Play time: ~25 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas

Pre-order!
Logged plays: 4 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Claim was provided by Deep Water Games.

Alright, time to wander back into the world of trick-taking games, and by wander back into, I mean play like the sixth or eighth trick-taking game I’ve played in as many weeks. I love trick-taking games. They’re usually super clever; it’s not just about winning blindly as much as it is about knowing exactly when and how to draw out certain cards or create strategies. Naturally, I was excited to see Scott Almes’s name on the box, since he’s been doing some cool stuff lately in other genres I like (Lovelace & Babbage is a hell of a game, if you enjoy real-time games, path games, or math games), so, I’m interested; let’s see what Claim’s got.

In Claim, well, the king died. That tends to happen as the core premise of games, so if you’re ever a monarch in a game kingdom and you start as the monarch, be careful. Nothing good will follow, generally speaking. You’re gonna get dethroned at best. Either way, the various factions of the land have decided that they need a new king (rather than an inter-faction council or an anarcho-syndicalist commune, as you would do). Can you prove to them that you deserve to be king?

Contents

Setup

There isn’t any, surprisingly. Shuffle the cards:

Cards

Deal each player 13 of them. Put the remainder near the center; you’re ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

Alright, so, the King is dead and you need to recruit followers to name yourself (I originally typed “yourelf” by mistake but I have no idea if you’re an elf or not, in this canon, so, it works?” If you can get three factions to back you, you win!

Gameplay 2

But first, you have to amass followers. To start a trick, flip a card from the deck face-up. On your turn, you’ll play tricks, like The Fox in the Forest or Skull King. The start player plays a card, and then the next player answers with a card of their own. Here’s the thing: it’s a trick-taking game, so you have to play a card from the same faction. If you can’t, you can play whatever card you want, but it always loses (unless it’s a Doppleganger or a Knight, sometimes).

Gameplay 3

Here’s how the cards work in the first round:

  • Goblins: No special ability.
  • Knights: If played after a Goblin, the Knight wins, no matter what value the Goblin has.
  • Undead: The winner of the trick takes all Undead in a trick and adds them to their Score Area.
  • Dwarves: No special ability (in round 1).
  • Dopplegangers: A Doppleganger played second is considered the same faction as the first card played. If there’s a tie, the first player wins the trick. If a Doppleganger is played first, the second player must play a Doppleganger, if they can.

Gameplay 4

Once a player wins a trick, they take the face-up card and add it to a face-down pile next to them. The loser draws the top card of the deck and adds it to their corresponding pile That’s their followers; they’ll come into play once the deck is depleted. Discard the cards played in the trick unless otherwise stated. As you might guess, continue until the deck is depleted. Now, each player should have 13 followers; take those into your hand.

Now, play 13 more tricks with the same rules as last round. The cards work a bit differently, though:

  • Goblins: No special ability.
  • Knights: If played after a Goblin, the Knight wins, no matter what value the Goblin has.
  • Undead: No special ability (in round 2).
  • Dwarves: The loser of the trick takes all Dwarves in a trick and adds them to their Score Area.
  • Dopplegangers: Again, a Doppleganger played second is considered the same faction as the first card played. If there’s a tie, the first player wins the trick. If a Doppleganger is played first, the second player must play a Doppleganger, if they can.

Gameplay 5

Once the tricks have been played, count up the number of cards of each Faction in each player’s Score Area. If you have more cards of that Faction, that Faction votes for you for King (I guess it’s democratic?). If there’s a tie, the player with the higher card wins their vote.

Gameplay 6

If you get at least three Factions to back you, you win!

Player Count Differences

I’ve been crushing a lot of two-player games recently, so, no player count differences, here.

Strategy

  • Dwarf 0 is an extremely good card… in round 2. It cannot win a trick, which is very exciting, unless you manage to play it first and your opponent has no Dwarves. If that’s the case, don’t play it! Hold on to it!
  • Similarly, Undead 9 is even better! If you can lead with it, especially in round 1, then it’ll end up in your Score Area. Even better if you can use it to scoop up an Undead card from your opponent, so that way you end up with two Undead cards in your Score Area.
  • Watch out for Doppleganger 9. If you try to lead with an Undead 8 and think you’re getting clever, your opponent can lead with the Doppleganger 9, which works as an Undead for the Trick. Sure, they only get the Undead 8, but you don’t get it, which is a bummer.
  • Honestly, watch out for Dopplegangers in general. You can do some planning, but if you don’t know where the high-value Dopplegangers are, you might lose tricks that you can’t afford to lose.
  • It’s not a bad idea to count cards. You’ll see most of the cards that are played (except for the cards that randomly end up in your opponent’s Follow pile), so you might be able to get a pretty good sense of what cards they have going into the final round (and, from there, know which cards to play to make sure you win as many tricks as possible).
  • You can usually afford to lose one Faction. One thing that I try to do when I can is if I know my opponent has the Doppleganger 9, I start leading with high-value Dopplegangers to try and force it out. I lose the Doppleganger faction, sure, but I don’t have to worry about the others, which is more of a relief (especially if I don’t have any 9s, myself).
  • It’s usually a good idea to try and run out of Goblin cards, if you can. This way, if your opponent leads with a Goblin, you can take it with a Knight, if you want. If you keep Goblins until the very end, well, then you run the risk of your opponent keeping their Knights.
  • Keep an eye on when your opponent throws another Faction. That means they’re out of the Faction you just played, so you might be able to use that to your advantage.
  • Other thing to think about: do you actually want the card? There are plenty of cards that aren’t that good (Goblin 0, for instance, or Dwarf 9), so it might be worth throwing the trick and opting for better luck on the draw.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • You can fit both games in one box! I love it when that happens; it’s very helpful for travel reasons.
  • The art is really good. It’s a really nice color set, which I appreciate, and I’m not usually into fantasy art.
  • I love games with basically no setup. You just take it out of the box, shuffle the cards, and you’re ready to go! It’s fantastic.
  • Doesn’t take that long to learn, either. It’s a quick trick-taking game with some Faction-based abilities; not a ton of extra overhead, which is also great for a portable game.
  • It’s modular! It can be mixed and matched with Claim 2, the follow-up game. I may have more to say on that at another juncture.
  • The two-round structure is interesting as well. It gives a nice sense of anticipation without feeling like it’s just tacked on for the sake of extending the game arbitrarily.

Mehs

  • The card quality doesn’t seem to be that great. I’ve played four games and there are already dings along the sides of the cards. I’d say sleeve them, but then there’s no way you can fit both sets in one box. I guess it’s not gratuitously expensive to replace if something happens, but nicer cards would have gone a long way, for me. It happens.

Cons

  • It’s decently possible that you end up with a much better hand by losing tricks. I’d almost prefer it being that you draw two cards each round and the winner gets to choose one, but that seems almost too deterministic? I’ve definitely had some games where I get the Doppleganger 9 just as a random draw, which is mildly frustrating.

Overall: 8 / 10

In Progress

Overall, Claim is pretty darn solid! Scott Almes has a pretty good track record, though, so I’m not surprised. My favorite trick-taking game still remains Skull King, sure, but I think this definitely has some appeal as a two-player game (whereas two-player Skull King is only okay). Major points going for it are that it’s a very pretty game that’s easy to learn and plays pretty quickly, and I also really appreciate that you can mix it in with the sequel and make your own Claim set, sorta like the Lost Legacy games. Either way, I’m a sucker for both trick-taking games and solid two-player games, and this is a great example of both, so, I’m appreciative that I got a chance to try it out. If you like trick-taking games, but you can’t quite get more than one other player, I’d say this or Fox in the Forest are great games to check out!


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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