Card Game Review: King Down Beta Version

Long Live the King: King Down Beta Version

After Saar Shai let us review The Agents, we jumped at the chance to take a look at his newest creation, King Down.

I haven’t played chess since I was in grade school, and I only played then because there was a cute boy teaching me about how all of the different pieces moved. But the game mechanics behind the card game King Down have revamped the traditional format of chess and created an entirely new playing experience that is both addictive and inventive.

Perhaps the biggest initial challenge after I had been sent the cards for the beta version of this game was locating and purchasing my own chess set in a small city without any real hobby shops, which is why this is being posted so late after the Kickstarter has begun. After that, it was a matter of setting up the pieces (all of them pop-up paper chess pieces) and pouring through the rule book with my friend that agreed to try out this game with me. The actual game will come with a unique King Down board made for 2-4 players (the beta version was designed for 2) and will come with unique pieces that will look very similar to the designs on the Calling Cards.

King Down

This beta version is a card game that, like I mentioned before, is played on a chess board with traditional chess pieces, which is definitely a more creative and innovative tabletop concept that I have come across in a while. It’s played with 4 Pawns (called Pikes), 2 Knights (Steeds), 1 Bishop (Cross), 1 Rook (Rock), 1 Queen (Thorn) and 1 King (the black king is known as Mud and the white king is known as Cumulus). For somebody who needed a refresher on how each chess piece is supposed to move, only having to control a limited number of pieces was certainly helpful.

I can say from experience that you do not need to be an avid chess player in order to play this game; as long as you have somebody to explain the movement rules of these pieces to you (like perhaps a cute chess player with dreamy eyes), it’s a really fun game for any tabletop fan. Believe it or not, my friend had a comfortable understanding with how chess is played and I had to keep looking up the movements of different pieces on Google, and I beat her in both rounds! If you needed proof that you don’t need to be a chess expert to enjoy this game, there’s some right there.

King Down: Chess Boards

On any given turn, you’re allotted 4 Actions to use, which can be delegated to draw new cards to your hand, move a piece, take an opponent’s piece or to call or summon a piece to your front line. The board is set up so that the bottom and top row are the allotted spaces for each player’s Frontline, and the center 4 squares is called the Capitol. Having one or more of your pieces in the Capitol earns you more victory points, and the first person to reach 8 victory points wins.

King Down: Calling Cards and Spell Cards

This game is played with two types of cards: Calling Cards, displayed on the top row, and Spell Cards, displayed on the bottom. The Calling Cards are used to either summon a particular piece to your Frontline or to be able to move that particular piece using less Actions than it would normally take. The Spell cards allow for special circumstances, such as replicating a spell already in play, allowing you to move 1 piece anywhere on the board, giving you an extra action to use on your next turn, and many more.

These different Spell cards allotted for a lot of fun for both rounds that my friend and I played of King Down to test out this beta version. This is a very strategic game, and both my friend and I enjoyed that aspect greatly. Because the pieces you manage to move into the Capitol can be taken by the opposing player, you need to be very aware of ways in which you can take the pieces of the opposing player in order to earn more permanent Victory Points, and while having your King in the Capitol earns you an extra point, sometimes it’s not worth the risk to have your King in the line of fire. Of course, the Shield spell easily takes care of that! Both my friend and I each had our own moment of glory when we were able to apply the Rage Spell to one of our pieces to perform both a move and a take, in either order, for only 3 Actions.

King Down

Playing the beta version of King Down was an incredibly fun experience, and I can guarantee that the full version will be even more enjoyable. This beta has a few kinks that need to be worked out, mainly with how the rulebook is written so that some of the mechanics and the order of events for each player’s turn are better explained, but aside from that I really don’t have any complaints.

The Kickstarter for King Down has a little over 2 weeks until it is complete, and already this campaign has been labeled a Staff Pick and has received over double of their goal, so I recommend checking out their Kickstarter now along with the available perks that come with supporting the manufacturing of this game.


Kacie is a Canadian geek girl who splits her time between being an English & Writing student, working at a bookstore, vlogging, reading, playing video games, online role playing and all kinds of other fun writing. She hopes to one day be an editor at a publishing house and eventually a novelist. Kacie also hopes that her claim to fame will be more than owning 300+ volumes of manga.