Full disclosure: A review copy of Claim 2 was provided by Deep Water Games. Also, Deep Water reached out after my review — the version of the game they’re selling has an updated rulebook with gender-neutral pronouns.
Modular games are a lot of fun. One of my favorites is Dale of Merchants, a deckbuilder where you choose which factions you want to have participate in the game. Each provides their own little twist on deckbuilding (or, in more strict terms, each represents a mechanic that can then be utilized during the game). It’s gone on to have a few successful sequels and a spin-off, so I was delighted to see that Claim is taking a similar route but for two-player trick-taking games. I mean, the system works; why not make more of it? Let’s dive right into Claim 2.
In Claim 2, you’re back in that happy busy period of finding new royalty; much like The Captain is Dead, you’re not really an area that has enjoyed much success in keeping your King alive, long-term. That seems like more of a logistical problem, but, hey, you can’t do much about it other than your best. And this is you doing your best, I suppose. Amass followers from the new factions and get them to support your rule as the new king; hey, maybe you’ll last longer than the old one?
Like the base game, it’s relatively nonexistent. Shuffle the cards:
Deal each player 13 of them. Other half of the deck goes above the center, and you’re ready to go!
Well, the King died, again, so, that’s a bummer. You figure you can amass a set of followers and name yourself king, since that’s how kings get elected, and there’s no reason to delve any deeper into that (I suppose they could be providing their support and oh wait now you’ve got me doing it). The player who gets the most factions to back them wins!
But first, you have to amass followers. To do so, you’ll flip a card from the deck face-up to show one follow that can be gained this round. Each round, like the base game, The Fox in the Forest, or Skull King, progresses via a two-player trick. If you’ve never played a trick-taking game, the start player plays a card from their hand, 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.
Here’s how the cards work in the first round:
- Gnomes: No special ability, currently.
- Giants: No special ability, currently.
- Seers: If you win a trick with a Seer in it, you may look at the top card of the deck. You can then choose whether you want to take that card or the face-up card. It’s a useful trick.
- Trolls: No special ability, currently.
- Dragons: If you are the last player to play a Dragon, you go first next trick, even if you don’t win the trick. Who’s going to tell a Dragon otherwise?
Like I mentioned for Seers, when a player wins a trick, they take the face-up card and add it to a face-down pile next to them (or not, in the case of the Seer). The other player takes the top card of the deck and adds it to their own pile (after looking at it). That’s their followers; they’ll come into play once the deck is depleted. Discard the cards played in the trick unless otherwise stated. Unless a player played a Dragon, the winner of the trick leads the next trick. As you might guess, continue until the deck is depleted. Now, each player should have 13 followers; take those into your hand.
Like the original, play 13 more tricks with the same rules as last round. The cards with no ability usually gain an ability during this round:
- Gnomes: Instead of placing them into your Score Area, place them in a row in front of you whenever you win Gnomes in a trick. At the end of the game, any remaining Gnomes score, which should sound ominous.
- Giants: For every Giant you win in a trick, you may squash one Gnome of your opponent’s, removing it from the game. They’re huge; they can’t help it all the time. Purely accidental.
- Seers: No special ability.
- Trolls: You cannot win more than one Troll per trick. If you would (say, both players played a Troll), the lower-value Troll goes above the trick and waits to be won by the winner of the next trick. If more Trolls are played in the next trick, a queue will form. Whenever you win a trick with Trolls, though, you always win the highest-value Troll, even if it’s currently in the queue and not the trick played, so that’s nice.
- Dragons: If you are the last player to play a Dragon, you go first next trick, even if you don’t win the trick. It works the same as the first round.
After the second round ends (as all cards in your hands have been played), count up the number of cards of each Faction in each player’s Score Area. The player with more cards of a faction scores a point. If there’s a tie, the player with the higher card wins their vote.
If you get at least three Factions to back you, you win! More than that, well, you still win, but you win more.
You can also, if you have Claim, mix and match the decks. Just make sure you have Knights and Goblins or Gnomes and Giants, and then you can add any other factions you want! I’ve even heard of a mysterious Ghost faction that only exists in legends and rumors.
Player Count Differences
Like the original game, it’s two-player only, but if you have both you can combine them for a three- or four-player mode. Four-player mode is team-based, so, if that’s your thing, go for it.
- You’re still gonna want to count cards, a bit. It helps to know what’s available and it’s possible to have roughly perfect information (if you know what’s in the discard pile from each trick, you know what’s in your opponent’s hand). I generally don’t love memory games, but I don’t try to remember perfectly; I just focus on getting a general sense of whether or not things are available for the second round so I can plan.
- Don’t just play like you play Claim. There are new factions and they can really mess up your game if you’re not paying attention.
- If you can run the table with Seers in Round 1, do it. Just watch out for Dragons; if your opponent starts throwing those out they can easily take control of your trick and wreck your plans.
- Saving all your Dragons until the end of Round 2 can be huge. So, if you have enough, play everything else. Then start throwing out Dragons to take the lead. If your opponent doesn’t have any more Dragons, they lose the round and you lead every trick, which is excellent. You just have to be careful and make sure that they don’t also have enough Dragons.
- If you have a lot of Gnomes, throw out Giants early in Round 2. You don’t want to have to struggle with Giants towards the end of the game when they can smoosh your precious Gnomes, so get rid of them early. Or draw out your opponent’s high-value Gnomes and then start smashing them; that’s crueler, but will help you win more efficiently, I suppose.
- Don’t forget about Trolls. If you end up winning (or losing) a Troll trick, you want to make sure you get the next one (so you can get the other Troll). Don’t just throw off that trick so you can shift control to your opponent; you’ll be giving up a potentially valuable card, as well.
- Losing a trick isn’t always that bad, unless you’re losing it to a Seer. If you lose a trick to a Seer you’re guaranteed to get the worse card of the two available, which is a bummer. Otherwise, you might get the better card, you might get the worse card; it’s impossible to know. Just do a good job eyeing the tricks that you want to win and making sure you’re set up to win those. You want to build up a fairly robust collection of followers (with some high-valued followers), or build up a bunch of Dragons, I suppose.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- You can fit both games in one box! And I do; I tend to use the Claim box, not really sure why. I don’t have a strong preference for it over the Claim 2 box; I think it’s just the one I opened first.
- The art is still really good. The 9 Dragon looks really cool, to be honest; I’m a big fan of it.
- Still no setup. Pick it up, shuffle it, deal out 13 to each player, ready to go! It’s a perfect Quiver game.
- Pretty simple to learn. Same as the base game, which is nice; just new strategies that emerge from the cards available.
- It’s modular! I really like that aspect, and I imagine it makes it a bit easier to develop, so maybe we’ll get a Claim 3 in the future? The two-player trick-taking space is well-represented (again, Fox in the Forest is great), but we could always use more games in that area.
- Significantly different than Claim 1. I almost lost my first game because I was playing Claim strategies for Claim 2, and that doesn’t necessarily translate. That was refreshing.
- The Seer makes card control a bit easier. It’s still a question of what do you draw, when, but if you can control enough Seers you can really stomp your opponent. Just make sure they’re not holding out some Dragons, on you.
- I mean it’s rude to dunk on the same game twice for card quality, but, yeah, these cards aren’t particularly good. I think they were just made during the same process, so it’s hardly a novel critique, but they’re kind of flimsy, as mentioned. Maybe a reprint will make the cards a bit more sturdy? Literally impossible for me to say.
- It’s not really hard to avoid using he / him in rulebooks. I’m trying to look out for this more where I can, but, just … use gender-neutral pronouns. It’s more inclusive. Slip-ups happen, but, yeah, let’s try to stop that where we can, friends; it’s a better look. NOTE: This is no longer the case in the new Deep Water version of the game.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, yeah, Claim 2 is also a rock-solid trick-taking game! Naturally, it has a lot in common with Claim, but usually I have a preference for one over the other; that’s not the case, here. I like them both about the same, which amuses me. I think that it might be because I like the system a fair bit and the factions are all different sub-modules of a larger game system that I enjoy. It also makes me enthused about trying more mix-and-match systems; I think I’ll always keep the Dragons around because they’re a lot of fun, but the Dwarves from Claim would be interesting; playing a Dragon lets you lead the trick, but your opponent can throw off Dwarves in response to your trick to claim them. It opens up interesting strategic possibilities, is all I’m saying. Either way, if you like trick-taking and are looking for more trick-taking games to broaden your horizons (especially for two players) or you’re a fan of two-player games (like I am), Claim 2 is a worthy follow-up to Claim, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out! I’ll just be sitting here hoping for Claim 3.