Brutal Kingdom review

03 October 2017
brutal-kingdom-MAIN-copy-28420.jpg Brutal Kingdom
The animal kingdom is a dangerous place to be in this zoological game of assassinations

Brutal Kingdom is a mess of ideas that fail to come together into a cohesive, enjoyable experience.

In essence, creator Michael Rieneck is attempting to evolve the compact design of Love Letter; there are only 20 anthropomorphised character cards, each with a rank and special ability that takes effect when it’s placed in front of a player, from swapping places with another card to assassinating a rival.

This social deception gameplay is crossed with the need to collect tokens, which dictate the overall winner after four rounds and can gain or lose value based on how many remain unclaimed by the end of the game.

The combination results in an unfocused feeling, where neither the social elements or the points-scoring mechanics properly meet in the middle – it all feels very disconnected, struggling to engage during either the moment-to-moment deduction and betrayal or the long-term acquisition and shifting economy of points.

There is an interesting idea that involves passing cards – and therefore sharing knowledge – with your neighbours at the start of a round, which plays into the changing turn order of players each round, yet it rarely feels crucial to obtaining victory.

The gameplay’s weaknesses are exacerbated by a poorly-written rulebook and an unattractive art style, plus the extremely limited range of group sizes supported: you can only play with three or four players.

Taking around 30 minutes to play, Brutal Kingdom lacks the pith and purity of Love Letter, but also can’t quite reach the engaging complexity of more involved social deduction titles. There are admirable ideas present, but they can’t prop up what is ultimately a boring and thoroughly uninvolving game.


Buy your copy here.

Publisher: Kosmos

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Price: £13

Genre: Social deception

Players: 3-4

Time: 30 minutes

Age: 12+



This review originally appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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