Brett & Board  »  Games  »  First Play  »  Cotton Kingdom

The Cotton Kingdom
Part 1 of the United States History game series. Game data & Opinion

Containing 1.365 components this is not small game, so what you will find on this page will just be a brief description of how the game plays. But hopefully will it be enough for you to judge whether the game will be of Mikinterest to you or not.

 
Dynasty marker Each player is playing a Southern dynasty of plantation owners. Over the course of 20-30 turns must the player become the richest as well as the most respected family in USA.

The American history is relived through 124 Event cards from the first colony to the end of the Civil War. These cards are color-separated into four epochs which are shuffled individually, thus giving the game a steady progress with enough uncertainty to make it interesting.
As an example are there no doubts about the first American President (one of the players) will have been elected before the outbreak of the Civil War, but the annexation of Texas might never take place before the game ends.
 The Alamo War 1845

Game mechanics are very simple: Each player will take his turn, which is divided into 6 phases, before he hands the Turn marker over to the player on his left.
Active Player marker
1) First is the top card of the Event deck revealed and placed adjacent to the card left over from the last player.
The top Plantation card may also be put on display.

2) The player must activate one of the two displayed Event cards. Usually he will have a choice, but the cards may be identical and Special Events must be activated when revealed. The unactivated cards will stay over as one of the two choices for the next player.
 
Some times the choice is easy as one card will hold great benefits for the player, but as some cards holds nasty events for anyone but the active player, it sometimes becomes necessary to use a bad card just to avoid being hit yourself.

Property card 3)The player may now buy one of the 54 Progress cards. These cards are all various types of property - from the small Barn, which can be bought for a measly 200 Guineas - to the capital St. Louis, which can be build once the state of Louisiana has been formed for the tidy sum of 30.000 Guineas. Some cards have no other function than to yield Victory Points, others have no value at the end of the game, but are vital for the increase of production and profit.

4) Income is an important phase, which unfortunately falls just after the phase where you really needed the money. Some Property cards brings a fixed income, others are dependant on the number of tokens placed on the designated spaces. The biggest source of income comes from Plantations which - at least up the time of Industrialization - needs a steady supply of Slaves to be cultivated.
 
Each Plantation will grow a specific crop (Tobacco, Rice, Sugar cane or Cotton) and the income is found by multiplying the strength of the Slaves with the current market price for the crop.
 
Identured Servants may be used as free labor in fruit plantations or Indigo cultivations for a single turn before they are shipped back to Europe.
 Market Place

Immigration chart 5) The player may perform one or two special actions, chosen from list of 22. Some of these are highly specialized and will only be used a single time during the game - like "Bank Business" which let you exchange your Guineas into Dollars in the period after the introduction of the Dollar and the abolisment of the Guinea.
 
Other actions like "Regroup tokens" may be performed during the whole game. This action will allow the player not only to rearrange his Slave-tokens in his Plantations/Slave home, but will also help the player get new Dynasty markers into play. Some of the players tokens will inverably end up in Prison or the Cemetary, and others will simply begin the game in Europe and they must be sailed to America by ship.

6) Finally must the player place put the Plantation card up for auction - if there is one on display. Each player may give a single bid, and the active player has the right to buy the card for the highest bid. The money is paid to the bank - with a 10% payout to the highest bidder, who was cheated from his buy. Each plantation has room for a "crop" marker and 3-6 Slaves. Some Plantations will have a "swamp" area which will be the last to be covered by slaves, and which will attract natural disasters such as Alligators or snakes until cultivated.  Plantation card

That is all there is to it! The system is easy to play, the big problem comes when learning how to perform the 22 actions, the 13 different Event cards, the 13 Special Event cards and the 26 Progress cards. Many of these are only used once during the game, if ever. But a sound strategy can only be formed when you have learned all possibilities:
 
Event cards:
Slavers: These cards will send 6-15 Slaves onto the market where they will be put on auction. The maximum number of Slaves available covers only 85% of the needed supply, and the uneven distribution of cards may decrease this number, so they are one of the most important commodities.
 
Redskins: Played against a player of your choice it will kill Slaves and Dynasty markers unless he is protected by a Fort.
 
Plague: The target player will lose a Dynasty marker plus a number of Slaves - although these can be protected if the player owns a Slave Home. The target player may in turn designate one other (passive) player who will be hit by a lesser version of the Plague.
 
Alligators & Snakes: Will remove one Slave from a Swamp-infested Plantation of the players choice.
 
European / Local Rumors: These two cards represent various conflicts in Europe and America. The player will be given various "weapons" which he may put into effect as he chooses: sinking Ships, changing Market values, sell Goods at double income, have Dynasty markers in Forts killed, etc.
 
Pirates These cards are very strong as they allow the owner to plunder one opponent each turn. Especially the first card is a "killer" as it arise long before Law & Order makes is possible to persecute the offender.
 
Government Rules: Each of these cards will move the §-marker one space down on the Law & Order chart. Each space will introduce a new set of laws - beginning with a Papal blessing of the Slave Trade in 1619, thus enabling lawsuits on property rights for African natives - over the Declaration of Independence in 1776, after which tax is no longer paid - to the Land Grant act in 1862, which doubles the value (VP's) of a series of properties such as Capitals, Cities and Towns.
 
Family Increase: As the name suggest may the card increase the number of Dynasty markers and Slaves.
 
Slave Uprise: The target player must roll a die for each of his Slaves. They might run away or even kill his Foreman or one of his Dynasty markers.
 
Odd-Jobber: A very handy card to have as he can be used as a stooge in all those situations where you might risk a Dynasty marker.
 
Natural Disaster: The player decides whether the table should be afflicted by a Sea storm (sinking Ships), a Tornado (ruining Settlements) or Drought (killing Slaves).
 
Market Influence: The player may rearrange all the markers on the Market table.
 
Independence / Secession: There are two cards or each of these two major Event cards, and they will trigger a series of various events in a very clever 3-step mechanism: The revelation of the first card will trigger the war, the revelation of the second card will intensify the war and first when the second has been selected will the war end. In case of the second Secession card will it also end the game. The various events may make "Heroes" out of some players, others will make a fortune - or suffer great losses!
 
Other special events includes invention of the Cotton Gin, Sugar Crystalizing, Dollar Inflation, The First President, Louisiana Acquisition, the Great Revival (1800-1805), Jackson's Campaign, North & South Efforts on Slave compromise, the Industrialization of the South, the Mississippi Steam Company, Seminola!, The Big Crash, Alamo, Irish Famine, Goldrush (both 1848 and 1858), Butterfield Overland Mail, the first Railroads, Cuba (1854), and Jefferson Davis.
 
Progress cards
Each player begins the game with a Stately Home, a named estate, like Tara or Fontenay. This card has room for a Dynasty marker, Foreman, Cotton Gin, Crystalizing marker plus two Slaves.
 
Cards which may be acquired during the game includes: Barns, which may store crops which then can be kept until the market price has improved. Slave Homes, which improves the overall health and well-being of your Slaves. Ships and Fleets, which may be used to sell crops in Europe for double income and may return with a load full of Slaves. Forts of various types (generic or historical, like Fort Sumter), which protects the player against attacks (war, natives) and will yield VP's at the end of the game. Stations for fur trading, bringing easy income. Bad Guy's, which works like a stooge and may be used to plunder or attack opponents. Missions, which will hold off the Plague and may bring additional income. Indigo Cultivation and other farms and Plantations which may use free labor in form of Indentured Servants.
 
Plus a number of Special cards which can only be bought when certain condintions are in effect: the lowest of which is Settlements, which require a Fort and a Station is in play. Village cannot be bought until Epoch B, and Law & Order is ineffective until the first Village has been built. Other cards include: Town, City, Capital, historical Forts: Ft. Sumter & Duquesne and the capitals: Jamestown, Philadelphia, Charleston, Washington, New Orleans, Savannah, St. Louis and Tallahassee.
 
Special Actions
Duel: A risky business as you might lose a Dynasty marker. On the other hand is a duel an easy way to restore your Lost Honor - which is major handicap for Southern Gentleman (you cannot buy Progress cards!)  There is no luck involved in a Duel: Each combatant will secretly decide a number between 1 and 6 on his die: "1" is a very honorful shot in the air. This is dangerous as it might kill you, but it will re-install the family honor, and that might be worth more in the long run. A "6" is a dishonorable, but succesful, cheating stunt where you are sure to kill your adversary at the cost of your honor. Any number in between is a more or less aimed shot at your adversary.
 
Obtain Credit: You may ask the players for a loan. The game gives no credit, so this might be your only option. The lender decides the terms of repayment, and he has the added benefit of regaining his honor for his "kindness".
 
Reclaiming Loan: A player must spend an action to reclaim his money. If the borrower cannot pay will he not only lose honor, but the debt will increase with 10%.
 
Legal Actions: The most complex action in the entire game. Anything can be brought to court and depending on the type of claim will the verdict be decided by the roll of dice, by a court "duel" (where the Judge may be bribed) or upon precedence from earlier rulings. Until a proper court has been settled (the first Village has been erected) can any claims be dismissed by the accused, but a player might be forced to give up property simply because he owns more than the plaintiff.
 
Private Deals: Any type of card may be traded.
 
Buy Slaves from another player and Buy Slaves from Market: The second option requires a presence on the market, and the player may only buy one Slave or a Slave couple.
 
Hire or Fire a Foreman. A Foreman is valuable since he doubles the income. On the other must he be paid a salary every time you harvest - some require less payment than others, though.
 
Bank Business: Once the Dollar has been introduced may a player exchange Guiness for Dollars or vice versa.
 
Cotton Gin: This machine may be bought once it has been invented. The inventor (player) has the option to change the market price for the machine once per turn.
 
Plant Changing: During the fourth (last) Epoch may players replace old crops with new, more valuable crops (cotton).
 
Moving Prisoners: The prison has 4 cells. Each time this action is performed may all inmates be moved one space to the right - eventually resulting in freedom. A single inmate may also be bailed out against payment of the amount listed above the cell.
 
Assassination: Requires an Odd-Jobber or Bad Guy. The player may kill a Dynasty marker, burn down a Plantation or other devious acts.
 
Buy War Bonds: Can only be performed during times of war. The bonds may later be sold for profit or they can be kept for VP's at the end of the game.
 
Gamling: The player may play Craps against the bank or another player.
 
Load Ship/Fleet: Empty vessel may be filled with crops from the barn, with Indentured Servants from Eurpoe or with Slaves from Africa.
 
Pirateering: The owner of a Pirate ship may plunder ships, Plantations, Settlements etc. and will generally be considered a bad guy until he is put to court or killed during a raid.
 
Regroup Tokens: One of the most ferquently used actions allows the player to re-arrange all his tokens. Usually to move the hardest working slaves to the most profitable Plantations, but the action also allows movement on the Europe chart: "dead" Dynasty markers can be re-bought into the game and moved to Europe from where they must be shipped to America before they can be placed in the player's supply.
 
Traveller/Settler: The player may place a Dynasty marker in a vacant space on a Capital on display. Apart from bringing income and VP's the player also increase his chances of overtaking the Capital after ousting the current holder.
 
Development: Acquisition of Crystalizing and Railroad tokens when available.
 
Overtake Capital: Overtake vacant Capital if you have a Settler on the card.

UP

© Mik Svellov 1997-2004editor@brettboard.dk11. mar 2002