Out-bluff or wit your opponent to guide the king to safety or take him down!
Android & iOS
# of Players
King and Assassins is an asymmetrical, two player, grid movement, bluffing game developed by Playsoft Games and published by Asmodee Digital. The game pits one player as the king and his guards attempting to escape the city and return safely to his castle, while the other player controls the angry citizens of the city, including three hidden assassins. Players take turns using their action points to move and manipulate characters on the board, attempting to either get their king to safety or assassinate him. Play continues until the assassins or king have been eliminated, the king escapes, or the game runs out of turns.
King and Assassins is a simple game in which players take turns moving around the grid board trying to work towards their goal. The player controlling the king gets to control a fleet of guards. The guards and king get separate action points each turn, the king only getting one or two while the guards get a handful. Each space moved costs a point and guards can do additional things like push citizens down a spot on the movement grid to better protect the king. The assassin player controls all of the citizens and three initially hidden assassins. The assassin player gets a handful of action points each turn with similar movement costs. Either side can attack once an assassin reveals themselves, revealing themself is an action which costs zero points. Assassins can attack and kill any guard or attack the king. Two attacks on the king results in death and victory for the assassins. Guards may only attack revealed assassins, which kills them, but will get additional shackle actions throughout the game which allows them to handcuff citizens, removing them from the game. If they guess right or are lucky, they will shackle hidden assassins.
The fun of King and Assassins is in the simplicity. The game takes about five minutes to learn and you’re off and running. The king side implements a slow, plodding march towards the castle gate, attempting to keep a wall of guards around the king as much as possible. Guards use their push ability to attempt to keep the the king inaccessible from any potential assassins lurking.
The assassins try to bluff the king into wasting shackles on normal citizens, keeping their assassins hidden and in play until the opportunity presents itself to either take out multiple guards or land a crucial king attack. Once an assassin is revealed, they will typically be able to be killed by a guard on the king’s next turn, so revealing an assassin comes at a huge cost and the player must be certain it is worth paying that price.
There is also a height component to the game which adds a bit more strategy. There are rooftops to be climbed on in this game, which comes at an extra movement cost but also provide the advantage in attacks. Characters located on the ground cannot attack anybody above them. Revealed assassins get to climb up roofs without using an extra action point, unlike guards, and revealed assassins may also climb down for zero action points. This makes roofs a powerful tool in the game.
King and Assassins is a fun concept and it is pulled off well. The game isn’t a brain burner but provides enough fun strategy in a compact game that it ends up working quite well. Most apps we see that play this quickly are usually of the solo variety, so adding a multiplayer game that is definitely on the lighter and quicker side is a nice thing to see.
Barrier to Entry
King and Assassins includes a quick interactive tutorial which walks you through both the king and assassin roles, explaining all of the possible use of action points and even a bit of the strategy. As far as tutorials go, it is tough to imagine they could have done a better job as it is short but manages to cover the entire game. Much of the credit here is due to the lightness of the game itself, but the work on the tutorial should be commended nonetheless. There is no rulebook or any text rules or additional help in the game, but I haven’t found that to be an issue.
Learning the game
Early on in a game
Look and Feel
The first thing people will notice about this game are the graphics. The art style is far more unique than you might expect, and it really makes the app stand out. The 3D modeling of the play board and characters, complete with nice looking animations, really make the game. The visuals carry over into nice looking menu screens as well. The work done to make this game pop from the start really paid off here.
The controls all work well. You select a character who will take an action, then available options are presented on the board, you select either a movement or an action, then confirm it by selecting again. The only thing that feels a bit off is movement. You select a character, then select a grid location to move to, then select the move action, then confirm it. That ends up as essentially three clicks on the same spot to carry out a move, it seems excessive, but it’s not really a big deal. There isn’t an undo button in the game, but with everything being pick-then-confirmed, it isn’t a big omission.
Online games are synchronous and can be played cross-platform. Games are created in a lobby and you wait for an opponent to join or join an open game. When creating a game, you choose whether to be the king or assassins, which map to use, and whether this is to be a ranked or unranked game. It is curious that there isn’t a “random” option for selecting who will be the king or assassin.
The game features an online leaderboard, with a minimum of 20 ranked games required to make the board.
Local pass-and-play is available. To handle the hidden assassin information aspect, by default the game does not show which citizens are assassins on the assassins turn. There is a button under the assassin’s avatar which will turn on the assassin labels. This works well to allow the game to be played a bit in the open, but also giving the assassin the chance to privately remind themselves which citizens are assassins should they forget.
Single player in this game is titled “Solo Practice.” This signals the intent of this game is to be a multiplayer game. There are no AI levels for solo play, you simply pick from one of the two maps and whether you wish to play as the king or the assassins. The maps vary in the number of escape gates, number of rounds in the game, and the board layout. The AI is fairly weak, as there are patterns to the way it plays as both the king and assassins which will make victories fairly easy to come by once you figure them out. I won’t spoil them here, but the takeaway is that you shouldn’t go into the game expecting a robust AI opponent.
Setting up a game
Blood has been spilled!
Not much else to discuss here.
The Wrap Up
King and Assassins is a fun asymmetrical duel game. Manipulating and bluffing your opponent into bad moves is a classic game trope as old as games themselves, and King and Assassins has these actions on every turn. The game works really well if you want a light, quick game to play in one sitting against an online or pass-and-play opponent.
The downside is that the game is clearly intended to be built upon a large online player base. 20 ranked games minimum to even be eligible for the leaderboard? Calling AI matches “Practice?” That’s ambitious. This in itself isn’t a problem, the problem is actually building that online user base. After trying frequently over the first week, I took a break and came back about a week later and tried frequently at that point. The closest I got to an actual online game was seeing two other players in the lobby and then watching them disappear, presumably to play each other. The game is new so the player base should continue to grow, but without it, the game is really tough to recommend which is an instant catch-22 for the app. If you have a friend or two who could provide regular games, King and Assassins is easy to recommend as a lightweight, quick game to try to outwit your opponent. If you are looking for a good AI experience you will want to stay away, and if you want to be able to pick-up-and-play online matches, you might want to wait until those download numbers increase in the app stores.