Princes of Amber is a cards-and-figures board game taking place in a universe of Roger Zelazny’s famous fantasy series The Chronicles of Amber.
Amber is the only true reality among an infinite number of worlds you may ever imagine, which are just Shadows cast by Amber. Its king Oberon and all of his numerous offspring posses an ability to travel between these Shadows and visit any place that ever comes to their mind.
But father Oberon mysteriously disappears leaving his nine sons and four daughters without settling a succession to the throne. Everyone, having their own ambitions, immediately starts to plot intricate nets of conspiracies, alliances and double-crosses and fights against each other for the throne.
Choose your prince, travel the Shadows, gather allies, conspire and fight. But remember, there is only one true Amber and it has only one crown. Your allies are your enemies.
Each player represents a prince of Amber and has got a set of eight cards (one of them standing for the Prince), four pawn figures and one hero figure. There are four princes in the game (so far): Corwin, Julian, Brand and Caine. Each Prince card and each hero figure posses different powers so you would play differently for (and against) each prince.
At the beginning of the game the board is dealt randomly from cards (it’s the only random involved at all), each card being a field. Like this (example 2-players game board):
The card in the middle is the city of Amber and the rest of the cards are its various Shadows. Amber cannot be entered by any figure during the game. The cards next to the game board are considered in players’ hands and should be visible to other players. They may be put into the board during the game as figures travel through Shadows.
During their turns players recruit armies and heroes, move them among Shadows, adjust the game board to their strategic needs and fight each other (defeated figures may be recruited again). However the goal is not to wipe out the opponents, but to be the first on the throne.
Princes of Amber are actually two different games within the same rules framework. Let’s spare a couple of words of each.
In 2-players game two princes are run by players and the other two are neutral. Players may ally with them during the game getting more troops, better strategic position and, under some conditions, taking two moves in one turn.
The goal is to be the first who occupies at least five fields next to the Amber card by own and/or allied figures. It would sound funny but players often forget that in the heat of a battle demanding concentration of troops rather than spreading them.
There isn’t much talking during the game other than “Geez, I haven’t seen that coming”. There is a HUGE number of possibilities of how things may turn out. Try to hide your true intentions and surprise your opponent before s/he surprises you. And don’t be afraid. Like the princes in the novels have regenerative powers, so do you. A couple of bad moves doesn’t necessarily make you doomed.
4-players game offers a completely different experience. Forget about long term planning. The situation changes like weather. The already small 24-fields play ground is crowded by four throne-craving princes’ troops. The power lies in diplomacy. And intrigues. It’s persuasion, manipulation, distracting attention which win the game. This is what you may expect:
“Let’s form an alliance, combine our forces and lay siege to Amber. Whichever of us lives through it winds up on top. If we both do, well—hell!—we can always fight a duel!”
—Bleys to Corwin, Nine princes in Amber, 1970 Roger Zelazny
Yes, you need an ally. You can’t fight the others alone. If two (or three) players decide to wipe you out, they just will. But you know what? There will be three players left. And no one wants to be the third one.
In 4-players game each player has a distinct goal dealt randomly at the beginning of the game and kept secret. And you would have hard times to watch all the opponents against all the possible quests to prevent them win.
One last thing
There is no killer strategy you may discover, adopt and always win with. Even the game’s author haven’t found one during the years of its development. In spite of a number of “best practices” (like “unleash your hero as soon as possible”), not always applicable, every game starts differently, runs differently and provides different enjoyment and experience. You get never bored.
Ready to take adventures in Amber’s Shadows? Sign up for a 30% early birds discount and follow this blog or our Facebook page. Exciting news won’t stop coming.