Inventive hide-and-seek chase turns heads, but struggles to hold their gaze
After reinventing Battleship as the brilliantly tense team party game Captain Sonar, Roberto Fraga’s latest puts a similarly innovative spin on another classic: military bluffing showdown Stratego.
Fraga’s inventive touch this time is introducing real mirrors to a maze-like grid of screens, which hide a princess attempting to cross the board to reunite with her lover and a maid easily mistaken for the princess with too brief a glance.
The extreme brevity of rules means the strategy is pure, keeping players’ minds focused on tracking their opponents’ past moves and analysing where the princess could be – a correct guess sends her back to the edge of the board. There’s a good amount of opportunity to confuse and mislead by swapping empty screens, carefully positioning mirror holders and guiding rival characters away from your princess’ route.
But the game also has a looseness that undermines its pleasing back-to-basics scheming. The mirrors can easily be exploited – accidentally or otherwise – to keep tabs on several spaces at once, and the height of the characters hidden behind can lead to game-ruining glimpses or fingertip brushes. Even when care is taken, the game’s simplicity and occasional slack means its brain-burning never heats up as much as you’d like.
Two different ways of playing are detailed in the rules, although one essentially serves as a tutorial of the basic gameplay and is a little barebones alone – the second ‘expert’ variant, in which each player must track down two animals in the maze to identify which of three lovers they need to meet, has far more staying power and interesting decisions to mull over.
With three-dimensional screens, real mirrors and sumptuous colours, Princess Jing will turn heads, but won’t necessarily send sparks coursing through the grey matter inside. It’s a game that’s easy to admire, harder to fall in love with.
Designer: Roberto Fraga
Time: 25 minutes
This review originally appeared in the August 2018 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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