The King of Siam (Konig von Siam)July 6, 2008
After many months, finally got a chance to play King of Siam with my friend Naamen.
The premise is that three factions (the Royal Thais, the Malays, and the Laos) struggle for political control of Siam in the face of the threat of British colonization. (Look! A political/power/resource game that a) pulls from real world history, b) doesn’t directly involve violence, and c) identifies with the native populace!) You play a vested party who is alternately helping/hindering the three factions hoping to have the most influence by the end of the game.
The game is mostly about figuring out the numbers of each province, and then trying to figure out how to outbluff or outmanuever your opponent(s) by endgame. Don’t think of it as trying to get one faction to win control over the country – think of it as investing in multiple factions hoping to have the winning horse by the end – and trick your opponent into investing wrong. Because these two things have to match up, if you do it wrong, you actually end up helping your opponent.
Midgame is where this shines. You have some idea of which factions have what power, and you also have the strongest chance to shape endgame in your favor. Strategy seems to be primed on trying to keep two factions viable and be well invested in both. If you get your opponent to invest poorly, or over extend themselves by playing too many cards too soon, then you can switch to the party that is most likely to win you the game.
Endgame is somewhat anticlimactic- usually players have too few cards to do any dramatic upsets, and it’s pretty clear who is going to take the nation and what parties you want to invest in. At least Endgame is quick when you get to it.
I like that you have to make some seriously crunchy choices during play and that, at least, after the game is pretty clear which way it’s going to swing, it does it fast and without pain. I don’t like how much the game is centered and midgame, and I don’t imagine that alliances or betrayals will crop up, even in 3 or 4 player games. I’m going to have to try with more players before I pass final judgement. So far, it’s been an alright 2 player game, but nothing spectacular.