‘Regicide’, according to almost any dictionary you care to look up, is a word that simply means ‘the killing of a king’ and its earliest usage dates back to the 16th-century – I can only imagine it was happening frequently enough for them to come up with a specific name for it.
But, these days, if you look up Regicide on Boardgamegeek.com, you’ll most likely discover a card game of the same name. And true to its name, Regicide is all about the killing of kings, queens, and princes. And a mighty fine game it is, let me assure you.
However, before we proceed, there’s a slight hiccup: at this time of writing, Regicide the official card game is completely out of stock worldwide and the reprint is being eagerly awaited by gamers everywhere – the developers have estimated that stocks should be back in circulation by December 2021. That’s the bad news (although not too bad really, as December is almost already upon us).
The good news, however, is that you don’t really need to wait until December at all: you could physically play Regicide today if you wanted to (after finishing this review, of course). In fact, you could already own a copy of Regicide in your house Right Now. And that’s because all it takes to play Regicide is a regular 54-card deck of standard playing cards, the same you would use for any game of Gin Rummy, Poker, or Blackjack.
A quick overview is in order: Regicide is a cooperative card game for 1 to 4 players whereby you are working together to slay a slew of royals – twelve in total – comprising the 4 Jacks, followed by the 4 Queens, and finally the 4 Kings. Twelve bosses in a row, one immediately after the other. The Jacks provide moderate resistance, the Queens provide a sterner test, and the Kings are outright brutal. Unless your team work together well to overcome them, you will fail. And, sometimes, even if you work together well you will still fail – there are no ties or draws when you set out on this journey.
To quote Cersei Lannister: When you play the game of Regicide, you win or you die.
Each royal comes with a certain Health and Attack value, increasing sharply upward from Jacks to Kings naturally. Your team has to deplete the enemy Health to zero while withstanding their Attacks on your Health – because when one of you die, all of you die.
How do you attack and defeat these relentless royals? By using the other 40 non-picture cards in the deck. Each different suit provides a different power: Spades allow the team to blunt the Attack power of each royal (play a 5 Spade to lower their Attack value by 5), Clubs double the your attack power power (play a 5 Clubs to reduce their Health by 10), Hearts help to replenish your draw deck, and Diamonds allow you to draw from said draw deck.
Do this 12 times consecutively, defeating each Jack, Queen and King along the way and you’ve won.
Even better, each Royal that you overcome goes either into the discard pile or directly into the draw deck (depending on how you dispatch them) to now come and fight on your behalf, lending your team their not inconsiderable attacking clout. Truth is, without the Jacks and Queens fighting on your side, you’d never stand a chance when going toe-to-toe with the Kings – they’re that formidable.
Did I also mention that you’re not supposed to be talking to one another as you go about your kingslaying task? Yup, according to the official rules, each player should keep their hand secret from each other and your lips together but if it’s your first few games, the developers give you a bit more leeway to freely communicate as you learn to work together and even play with open hands.
Personally, after a couple of dozen plays, our group has mostly dispensed with the need for any chatter – once you’ve gained enough experience, all it takes is a quick glance around the table to mostly know what’s needed to keep the group alive and keep slogging through the royal gauntlet. Maybe a wink or a nod here and there, and occasionally some furious twitching of the eyes.
There are a few more rules regarding card combos and the use of Jokers to give you an added leg up against the enemy but I’ll leave you to discover those on your own. Here’s the YouTube link to the proper How To Play video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XoRlKzLobk&ab_channel=BadgersFromMars
There’s also an online mobile / tablet app to help with scoring and music. Regicide can be played just as easily with or without it but it adds a nice touch.
Victory will not come easy. But, with repeated plays, it will eventually come more frequently. As a formerly avid video gamer, the two closest titles that Regicide most brings to mind is Dark Souls and Shadows of the Colossus, two highly punishing yet hauntingly beautiful games
Speaking of hauntingly beautiful, I’ve found that it’s far more enjoyable to play Regicide using specially themed playing card decks over regular ones. While I look forward to picking up an official Regicide deck once it becomes available again, I don’t particularly find the artwork in the official deck to be all that compelling or desirable – I much prefer the ones I’m showing you here: the Ninja transformative card deck from Bicycle is real standout and my absolute favorite of the lot. My other also-favorite is the Walhalla Odin deck featuring such well-known Norse gods as Odin, Thor, Freyja, Hel, and Heimdall as the opposing royals. I find both decks to be very thematic as well as gorgeous to behold and to use in play. The Cybershock motif deck comes in a more distant third for me.
In any case, whichever kind of deck you choose to use, do give Regicide a spin. It’s a well-balanced and enjoyable team-based card game. And if you lean more towards solitary gaming, the solo mode works just as well, provides just as much of a challenge, and plays just as fun.