Originally published at The Gaming Dumpster (now Boardgame Geek)
(Charles the Great/Charlemagne/Big Karl)
The game consists of 15 province cards, 5 sets of 5 number discs (in 3 shades), 30 castles (10 each in 3 shades), 4 stronghold cards (with castle picture), 200 wooden cubes in 5 colours representing knights of 5 families, 5 cylinders representing control of a family, Big Karl (the yellow figure), 4 colour-dice.
It is best is all the play pieces are laid out as follows: The 7 cubes on the left, then the 10 castles, the the number discs with the unused numbers and then the stronghold card. On the right of this card space is left where later coloured cubes will be lined up.
Each round consists of the preparatory phase and the action phase following it. In the preparatory phase the players decide in which order they will play in the round and how far each player may move the emperor. In the action phase each player executes 3 actions in turn:
One and then the other of the two players selects a number disc from their set and puts in front of them openly on the table. On the first round it is decided by lot who selects their number disc first. Subsequently, that player who chose the lower number in the previous round selects first. The second player may never select the same number as the first. (Exception: If both players have only the same number remaining, the disc of the first player is considered as the lower). If all discs are used up, they are taken up and used again. The number discs are played so the new disc is on top of the others but the numbers already played remain visible (as in fig.1).
The number discs have 2 functions: firstly they indicate the order in which the players will play - the lower number begins. Secondly the number indicates the maximum number of steps a player may advance the emperor.
Example: Andreas selected the 3 disc, Barbara the 2 disc. Therefore Barbara plays first and thereby advances the emperor either 1 or 2 steps. Andreas plays next and can move the emperor 1, 2 or 3 steps.
The player who selected the lower number in the preparatory phase, now performs the following 3 actions (and afterwards the second player likewise):
The player selects 3 of the 7 knights from their reserve and places each of them them either (A) on the right-hand side of the stronghold or (B) directly in one or more provinces (in any combination).
Remember that the cubes in the reserve have no effect until they are played. Cubes played to the stronghold cannot be moved, but remain until the end of the game.
A) If knights are placed at the stronghold they are placed in a line beside the circle with the appropriate colour. The aim is it to attain the control of one or more families by setting up at their stronghold more knights of a colour than the opponent. If the numbers are equal then control remains with the current owner. If a player took over control of a family, they get the family coat of arms (cylinder) with the appropriate colour and place it on the colored circle on the stronghold: thus it is displayed that they have control of all the scattered knights of this colour in all provinces.
B) the other possibility is to set up the knights direct in the provinces. That can be very helpful, because - as we will see -, one of the prerequisites for the transfer of a province is that one has there a majority of knights in the colours which one controls. But it is also risky, because one can easily lose control of a colour again in the course of the play, and then suddenly faithful knights become dangerous opponents. And, naturally, each knight in a province is one fewer at the stronghold. It is advisable not to send knights too early into play in the provinces. During the endgame however it can be crucial to move knights into the provinces.
Once the knights were brought in the play, the emperor is advanced in a clockwise direction, at least 1 step and at the most as many as the number shown on the disc the player chose in the preparatory phase. If after movement Big Karl stands in a province in which the knights controlled by the player are in the majority, then that player sets up a castle there. But, if the majority are under control of the opponent, then the opponent sets up their castle! (see: Castles and provinces.)
For example, at the beginning of the game one cube is already in each province. We assume a player has attained control of red (by playing a red cube at their stronghold and setting up the red cylinder): if this player now moves the emperor into a province in which a red cube is situated, they have the majority there and can set up their castle . In the early rounds one can almost always set up a castle, however later it becomes much more difficult.
Once the player has moved the emperor, he rolls the 3 dice, and takes knights of the corresponding colours from the centre (the crown allows free selection) and puts them his reserve. Then her turn is finished. If the second player has also finished her turn, the next round begins with the preparatory phase. The player with the lower number in the previous round selects his new number first, and so on. If the case should arise that all the knights of a colour are in play, then both players give back the same number of knights of this colour into the centre.
In order to win, one must build all her castles. There are 2 prerequisites for being able to set up a castle: on the one hand the player must have a majority of knights whose colours she controls in the province, and on the other hand the emperor must stop in this province. At the beginning the majorities are easy to spot, later however when players try to take over opposing provinces the totals should be recounted exactly. Everyone counts the knights whom they control, and whoever has most sets up their castle. If there is a draw no a castle may be set up. If the emperor stops in a province where no player controls any knights - which can occur at the beginning - this is ignored. In each province one castle may be established.
The control of a province is not permanent. Each change of the control of a colour or sending new knights into a province can have profound consequences. If the emperor stops in a province in which a castle is already located, the castle counts like one knight. In the determination of the majority the castle is taken in account by the player to whom it belongs. If the player to whom the castle belongs still has the majority, or if it is a draw, then everything remains as it is. (A second castle may never be added to a province). However if the opponent has attained the majority in the meantime, she removes the castle and sets up her own.
One of the most important and most interesting events is joining neighbouring provinces into a region. This occurs if one player sets up castles in neighbouring provinces. Then the provinces are pushed together and form a region. All castles and likewise all knights of the original provinces now belong to the new region. Regions are stronger and more difficult to take over than individual provinces, because they contain several castles which are counted like knights. They are simultaneously more desirable targets, because all castles change ownership if the region is taken over. Once joined, a region can not be divided again. However further neighbouring provinces and regions can be added, if the same player has also a majority there. For moving the emperor a region is one step, exactly like a province.
During the game one must constantly have an eye on the knight reserve of the opponent, because from this her possibilities in the next round can be determined.
Defense is not always the best response. Particularly at the end of a game there are often opportunities for dramatic transfers of power.
The game ends with the victory of the player who first establishes 10 castles in the provinces and regions. But the game can also be ended, if fewer than 4 regions remain on the table. Then the player who established most castles wins.
The 3 player game is the most fastidious version, since the players must track many more individual items. For this reason it is recommended that at least one 2 player game is played first,
The rules for three players are the same as for two, with the following exceptions:
The game for 4 is the most thrilling and dynamic version, with more frequent changes of control. The game is played in teams of 2 players. The partners may not sit opposite. The rules are as for the 2 player game, with the following exceptions:
Fig. 2. shows the simplest and most frequent situation, in which a transfer can take place. The black player controls the two green cubes, the white opponent only controls the red. Black thus has a 3:1 majority, taking the castle into account. If white however can attain the control of the green cubes by adding some green cubes at her stronghold, then she gains the majority in the province with 3:1 (3 for the cubes against 1 for the castle) and can, if the emperor comes there, replace the black castle by her white castle. (a more complex example of a transfer in shown in fig. 6).
Fig. 3. White moves the emperor and takes over province B from black. White also controls the neighbouring provinces A and C, thus she joins all 3 to make a region - in which are then 6 cubes and 3 castles (fig. 4).
Fig. 6. We see as before the situation in the provinces. It is white's turn - and she is in a miserable position. The emperor is in A. Black controls the two strong regions A and C, whereas white has only the two weak provinces B and D. If it were blacks turn, he would have practically won already and the game would be over: he would move the emperor to B, where he has the majority already despite the white castle, exchange the castle and combine A, B and C to a powerful region with 6 castles. However - white has chosen the 3 disc for this round and can therefore move the emperor 1, 2 or 3 steps. 1 step would be suicidal, therefore she plans to move the emperor 3 steps into the province D and get a temporary reprieve. But there is a much better course: black has in C a majority of 9 to 3, but this majority is based on 3 yellow cubes - and white has 3 yellow in her reserve. Therefore she places 2 of them at her stronghold and transfers the control of yellow. The third yellow cube she places in C and gains the majority in C with 7 to 6 (4 yellow, 2 red and 1 pink against 2 green, 1 blue and 3 castles). Then she moves the emperor to C, exchanges the castles with white ones and adds to the region the provinces B and D. In this way white walks the edge of the abyss nevertheless still achieves the control of a powerful 5-castle region.
This site is created and maintained by: Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson