May 22, 2008

King of Siam

by Susan Rozmiarek

I twisted my brain into knot this past week learning King of Siam. The rules are quite simple. Trying to foresee the ramifications of your moves is not. I sat down to play this expecting another dull, dry exercise of pushing cubes around to achieve area majorities and instead was fully engaged and intrigued for about an hour. Given my propensities for dice-laden games full of plastic these days, it is quite a feat for a game of this type to captivate me like this. Is it ever D-R-Y.

What I like:

- Nobody owns the various factions vying for control for regions on the board. Instead, you are trying to manipulate them in your favor. I know there are other games like this (Imperial, which I haven't played yet) but this is a fresh and fascinating mechanism for me.

- Everyone has the exact same set of eight different actions to do in the game and there are eight rounds. You can do as many as you want in a given round but that's all you have for the entire game. So if you get sucked into a particular battle early on and spend too many actions, you'll find yourself short of things to do later. Figuring out when it's worth it makes for tough decisions. I found myself in a powerful position during the last few rounds because I had the most actions left.

- I said there are eight rounds but that is not exactly true. There is a sudden death condition that, if it occurs, ends the game immediately with a game winning condition that is contrary to the winning condition if it ends the normal way. It wasn't a threat in this one game but if it is in others, it'll be very interesting. I wonder if driving for this end is a viable strategy? If you were planning for it and it didn't happen, you might be hosed.

- The heart of the game is a clever, clever paradox. At the end of the game, you want to have the most influence of the faction that has won the most regions on the board. But in collecting this influence during the course of the game, you are weakening that faction's position on the board. This can be a tough balancing act.

I was pretty flummoxed with how the game progressed. Some of my actions became pretty useless and I didn't see it coming at all. It'll be interesting to play it again and see if I can get a handle on it. It sure packs a punch in under an hour and players who like games with no luck should love it. We played with three, but the four-player game is with partners. That might be pretty interesting as well.

Dang. Apologies to Mark Gim. The spam filter snared your comment on the previous post and I only just noticed. Sorry! Thanks for your comment.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at May 22, 2008 5:16 PM


I've only played King of Siam once, Susan, but it was a really good game that went down to the last action. I was very impressed. The threat of a British victory definitely played a role in the game and affected the players thinking. I really want to play this again to see if the game always plays out this well.

Posted by: Larry Levy on May 22, 2008 8:17 PM

I want to like King of Siam ... I really do. There is no denying that the game is very tense throughout, and the outcome is in doubt until the very last round. That's all good.

The bad news for me is that I really doubt just how much control one has. It seems that it is VERY easy for opponents to undue a previous move and change the board radically. Things just change WAY too quickly.

I've played three times now, and feel that the semblance of control is illusory.

I will say that the accusations hurled against many Eurogames, claiming that the games are just about pushing wooden cubes around a board, apply in spades to this game!

Posted by: Greg Schloesser on May 27, 2008 3:18 PM


I will be very disappointed if I end up coming to the same conclusion as you. I was hoping that I just wasn't yet seeing the clever strategies in the game. I guess I'll find out after I've played it a few more times.

It is definitely an exercise in "cube pushing"!

Posted by: Susan Rozmiarek on May 27, 2008 4:51 PM
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