I’m not one of those Euro-hating Ameri-Trash lovers, and you all know this. I’m equally enthralled by Alien Frontiers, Agricola, and Eldritch Horror; they all do something different and intriguing. I can even tolerate my favorite slave-trade game, Puerto Rico, although I wish they could’ve made it about alien colonization or something because honestly, the theme is so pasted on anyhow that they didn’t need to recreate the slaughter of the Taíno. I know, I digress too often, sorry. So, instead, let’s talk about In The Shadow of the Emperor, from Rio Grande Games, which is hands-down, without a doubt, the most dry, boring, horrible excuse for a Euro game that I have ever had the misfortune to play. It’s very coincidental, almost ironic, that it’s a game about Middle Ages Christianity in Germany and all three times I played it, I prayed that it would be over quickly.
Basically, the game is a dry, boring, intolerable attempt at simulating the serial ascension to the throne of several competing factions of nobles. This is done by placing workers, which is one of my favorite mechanics, but here it just seems to fall flat. First, the rules are horrible. Horrible. They are truly some of the single most poorly written rules in the history of ever. Without this video there would be a 0.000% chance that I ever would’ve truly understood how to play. That alone made it almost no fun to play. I’m sure that someone will like this game, it’s merely that I only can think of a handful of people that would. As an aside, I am debating taking it outside and hitting it with the 20 gauge, with birdshot no less, because it’s such a chicken-shit game.
Now, if that wasn’t enough to crucify this horrible pariah of a game, let’s talk about the components. This game easily surpasses every other game I’ve played in the last 10 years as the single most bland, ugly, and wholly unappealing-looking. The board is boring. The cards are boring. Everything about this game screams Ambien In A Box. I just can’t believe that people like this game, if for no other reason than it’s just so hard to even look at for more than a few seconds at a time.
Honestly, though, the game is simply too damned dry for its own good. Everything feels repetitive, rote, and the decisions, while meaningful in game play terms, are boring. Sorry, uninteresting. It’s a rarity that the entire Circus wholeheartedly condemns a game, especially one that is both religious in theme (we’re a religious lot) and that has such a high rating at Board Game Geek. That said, we all fucking abhorred it to the point that it took me a month and a half to get the three games in, and the only reason they agreed to the last one is because they knew I’d tell everyone how awful it is. And I mean awful for an old-school Euro, which is an entirely new level of awful.
Now, there are some really cool mechanics in the game, well, actually, there’s really only two that are worth noting because they’re unique; your little nobles age and die, and based on which actions you take, you gain a son or daughter. Now, that’s not all that unique, since in Agricola or Stone Age you can have offspring, but in this game, the gender is controlled by the cards you play, and the gender actually matters quite a bit. In typical misogynistic German style, a son is preferential primarily due to the fact that no ladies are allowed on the Emperor’s chair, although having a daughter has its merits because you can SELL HER OFF AS A NUN OR A BRIDE. I know they were going for authenticity, but I can totally imagine a squad of four nerds sitting in the basement playing this and laughing about the treatment of women as cattle to be sold off for glory or cold, hard cash.
Now there’s irony: It’s a game that’s tangentially about Christianity and I’m going off on some crusading tangent. Seriously, though, try it out if you want, if you love really old-school designs and like the whole Medieval European theme and whatnot, but as a human, as a Catholic, and as a hard-core nerd gamer, fuck this game with a steel belted condom lined with razor wire. In the asshole, no lube, no less. I ~hate~ this game. We all did.
Why This Game Can Ascend To The Throne:
– The aging and progeny mechanics are actually pretty slick
– This is one of the ugliest games I’ve ever played, even worse than the Technicolor Puke Game
– I’m certain that for the $10.00 US you can buy it for, the box and the wood tokens might be reusable
Why Ascending To The Throne Is A Metaphor For A Poop Chunk Floating Back Up From The Drain:
– It screams “fuck women, they’re cattle”, which is totally thematic and also totally disgusting
– This game is the poster child for Analysis Paralysis; It’s like an AP training course
– It’s uglier than a muddy fence on a rainy day
– I’ve been to recycling seminars that were far less boring
– I’m having several orders of magnitude more fun mocking it than I ever did playing it
– The only reason I’m not shipping it to anyone is that I might be sued by these guys for patent infringement
If we had put this game into the cells at the Guantanimo Bay detention facility, Bin Laden would’ve been caught years earlier, and furthermore, Ol’ Maverick would’ve brought the whole CIA down on totally indisputable torture charges. Seriously, fuck this game.
Learn more about this here, but be sure to wear a haz-mat suit: