Heart of Crown has become my all time favorite strategic deck building game.
Publisher: Japanime Games
Artist: Haniwa, Yuji Himukai, Medilore, Chosuke O-ide
Artist: Yuki Takahata, Nemigi Toto
Game Type: Variable Player Powers, Deck Building
Initial Year of Release: 2013(2019 USA)
Age Range: 12+
Expected Playtime: 45
Number of Players: 2-4
Theme and What is it?
The king is dead! Who will lead the country next? He had no male heirs and many daughters. Which one is best suited for the task of leading the people in prosperity? You are a political adviser who needs to pick one of the many Princesses to back and help attain the throne. You will do this by building your influence in the land and by attracting powerful allies. Ultimately, you must attract the attention of the court nobility and bring them to your side.
Heart of Crown has become my all time favorite strategic deck building game. I own more than 70 deck building games and like all of them. A few dozen get played all the time. Heart of crown has become one of the most played and requested ones over the last year. Fairy Garden is a stand alone expansion set that does not require the base game to play.
Fairy Garden setup requires players to choose or randomize 10 sets of cards to be in the market deck. 5 copies of each of these cards and two unique extremely powerful but expensive cards are then shuffled to make a market deck.
Cards are the flipped until 8 unique choices are available (with stacks forming when duplicates of the same card are drawn). This keeps the game from having extreme randomness in the market while not being a fully static puzzle straight away.
When playing cards, players must continue to chain cards to the arrow “links” on their previously played cards. Particularly powerful actions have no links so must be the last card played down a link chain. Some rather weak cards have double arrows so another chain can be started below the original chain.
This is a much more elegant system for visually knowing which and how many cards can be played than “counting actions” that is common in other deck building games.
Fairy Garden holds true to the original Heart of Crown system. It just offers a whole box full of new market card options. This can be integrated with the original Heart of Crown or any of the small expansion. The new cards tend to have a higher percentage of text heavy effects than the original game.
For teaching new players, the original game will let me add half of the market with cards that just have a single line of text (gain money, draw X cards, do this thing, etc). But for playing with experienced deck building fans, Fairy Garden delivers a great deal of tactical decision making. Which thing is best for me and which thing do I need to fear my opponents getting even more?
As an experienced fan, I cannot recommend Fairy Garden strongly enough. I can already tell this will surpass the original Heart of Crown plays in no time and be the one we pull out most frequently.
Game Build Quality
The card quality is top notch. It is made with thick cardstock that shuffles well and feels great between the fingers. The insert is absolutely amazing. The dividers are extremely durable and large enough to allow quick flipping/searching for the cards you need. It has plenty of space for expansions or keeping the base set in the same box. I am extremely satisfied with the quality of the game.
What kind of art style should you expect in a Japanime game? Anime! The cards look wonderful and keep fans of the style satisfied. If you are not a fan of the artwork style, don’t let that stop you from playing the game! Fairy Garden is a great game because of how it plays and the artwork is just a bonus to those who are fans of the style. This isn’t a game that is trying to sell “something” just by having art that will draw in a segment of the market. This is so worth it.
When I pitch the merits of different deck builders to pick the game of the day, I always highlight what is special and makes one game more fun than the others. This lets players choose the game that sounds most appealing to them. Fairy Garden is often picked because of how the overall game pace feels.
When you play a classic deckbuilder like Dominion, everyone buys cards to make their deck better and better until they feel confident they have what they need or the other players make them afraid they will miss out and then they start buying victory point cards. This makes the game pace look like a mountain. Things ramp way up until they just start collapsing back down. Other deck builders with a different end condition tend to have an exponential growth model. Decks get better and better and then do massive things and the game ends.
Heart of crown is SO much more interesting because it is a rollercoaster ride. Your deck gets better, then when you back a princess your deck either jumps up in usefulness by losing bad card and gaining good effects OR it drops way back down because you lose some of your best purchasing cards in exchange for end game points and mid game utility.
Then you continue using your new powers to make your deck better and climb another hill until you start buying victory point cards and it goes downhill fast again. Rather than just continuing to drop in usefulness, you have the option on each turn to EITHER buy more cards OR bank any victory point cards you have in your hand that you wish to bank. This allows your deck to have a series of climbs and drops as you bank and buy more succession cards.
Age Range & Weight
12+ is reasonably fair for a rating. The game could be played with a younger audience assuming they have help dealing with the order of operations and small details. This game is not massively complicated in the grand scheme but has a few small details that might be missed on a first play and makes it worth noting.
The two most misunderstood mechanics: domains when backing a princess and keeping cards in the domain. When you have 6 or more buying power in your play area (you do not need to play all your cards) and choose to back a princess, your three highest cost territories (money cards) STAY in play next to your princess. If you did not play three or more territories, only the ones you did play stay.
These cards are now out of your deck (costing you victory points but making your deck better in the case of farming villages). But the ones with higher values are places you can “keep” action cards during your main playing cards phase and can pick them up to add to a hand later. Being able to accept a weak turn (or bank points) to carry cards over into another turn is very powerful.
If you are looking for a basic deck builder to start playing this genre, you might consider something else. I would be happy to help you find a good choice and you can always find me on the meeplegamers discord channel. But if you have played any of them before, you probably have everything you need to appreciate Heart of Crown: Fairy Garden.
Your group can enjoy this game in a number of ways. Make a market deck using the themed suggestions in the book or make it fully randomized so everyone has to deal with possible crazy combos or a huge number of attack cards. Every setup is its own puzzle that is further complicated by having a different solution for each of the different princess abilities and by players taking the cards you need from the market. Every game will be different even with the same setup.
Fairy Garden is hands down my current favorite deck building game. This will be my top pick for every single game day whenever anyone is willing to play it with me. I would even be satisfied if it was the only game we played on each game day.
Top 4 reasons I love this game so much:
1. The strategy of a dynamic market without pure random chaos
2. No awkward counting of remaining action card plays, simply arrange the link arrows in a tableau
3. Every game has a unique shape to how your personal deck gets better/worse and there are many valid paths to the fastest win within the same setup
4. Do you invest in better money only to lose them permanently when you back a princess? Storing cards is a very powerful prize for doing it but you might lose out on the princess power you wanted or get caught waiting too long to gain those bonus abilities.
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