Trolls like to tell their stories. They record their history in etchings on the walls of their caverns and honour their Champions and Elders with monuments to the past. In Fall of the Mountain King, you’ll tell your heroic story by building and activating your Ancestry. This patchwork tableau of cards serves as your engine for executing actions during the great battle for the Mountain.
You begin the game with a starting Ancestry card with symbols depicting the actions you can take. Hammers allow you to Advance, Shields allow you to Bolster your units on the board, Influence allows you to persuade Champions to rally behind you as the Trolls’ leader, and the Gnome symbol allows you to manipulate the invading Gnome Army and affect conditions on the front lines of the war.
Rounds begin with the Ancestry Building phase. Everyone takes four cards, drafts one and adds it to their Ancestry, then passes the remaining cards on. You’ll add three cards in this way each round.
As you select cards, you have to think about the symbols you’ll be adding to your Ancestry. In addition to the four action symbols described above, you’ll encounter rarer symbols that may play into your strategy. Supplies are represented by barrels. Each round, you start with a set number of Supplies, which determines how many turns you’ll get this round; adding Supplies symbols to your Ancestry means you’ll get more turns to execute your game plan. You’ll also see Wild symbols which, of course, can be very helpful in a jam. Finally, you will see glowing runes representing Elders. These memorialize revered heroes of the past, and they occupy a sacred place in your Ancestry. Elders have no function during the game and they may never be covered by other Ancestry cards (no troll would dream of showing such disrespect). At the end of the game, you can receive a huge scoring boost if your Ancestry has many Elders in it. Will honouring the past be worth it?
When adding a new card to your growing tableau, you’re not only concerned with which cards you’re adding, but with where you can place them in your Ancestry. Each new card added must cover at least one existing quadrant of a card. You have to weigh what you’re gaining versus what you’ll be covering up. Your grid is also limited to six spaces in any direction. This constraint can make for some tough decisions, especially late in the game. You’re going to want to choose your Ancestry cards wisely and with a purpose.
Once the Ancestries have been built for the round, you and your fellow Trolls will take turns using them to power your turns. You spend a Supply, then perform either a Strong action or two Weak actions by covering symbols in your Ancestry; they remain covered for the rest of the round. To perform a Strong action, you could cover a double symbol, or—even better—cover a group of adjacent symbols of one type. These are called clusters.
For example, you can connect three Hammers to do an Advance action with a power of three. The intriguing thing about clusters is that previously-covered symbols in your Ancestry create adjacency between distant symbols… so timing your moves in ways that bridge the gaps between matching symbols will be a big part of your success.
In this example, the earlier-covered symbols create adjacency between symbols that were separated when the round began. You could now Influence a Champion for a strength of four (or even five if you connected the Wild symbol to the cluster as well).
You can start to see how important the placement of the cards in your Ancestry becomes.
To perform a Weak action, you cover one single symbol, producing a moderate effect. There are some benefits to taking Weak actions on your turn. Firstly, you get to perform two single strength actions, which can be tactically effective. Secondly, you can set up your Ancestry for future moves, making connections and creating big clusters just waiting to be activated. Choosing when to make Weak moves to set yourself up and when to cash in a huge cluster is important.
In Fall of the Mountain King your Ancestry is your lifeblood, informing the actions you can take in the desperate defence of your mountain home. Stay tuned for more gameplay articles, and look for Fall of the Mountain King on Kickstarter June 1.