I had heard so much about the card game Regicide (2020, Badgers from Mars), but it was impossible to get when it was first released. Then I learned that all you needed was a standard deck of cards, so you could just download the rules online.
Not me. I wanted to get a copy of the game because I just thought the game’s artwork was super slick. I’ve got a bunch of standard-issue decks here at the house, but none of those decks feature artwork that is really evocative. We reached out to the publisher and they were kind enough to send a review copy, and now that I’ve played it a number of times (at all player counts), I have to give credit where credit is due: Regicide is ridiculously hard, but it’s just easy enough to make you think you can win.
I’ve never won a game of Regicide. But I know if I just play one…more…time, I can beat it. (Maybe.)
Storm the Castle
The intent behind Regicide is simple. The “face” cards of the deck are standing in line at a castle, and you plus up to three other players are trying to recruit heroes to storm the castle and take down the Jacks, Queens and Kings in your way.
You and your teammates each have your own hand of cards, and need to use those cards to damage the current face card while also discarding cards as you take damage. Each turn plays out the same way. The active player plays a single card from their hand, or a single card plus an ace, to deal damage equal to the sum of the played cards. (Play an eight of clubs, and you’ll do eight points of damage.)
Then, you trigger an ability based on the suit. Hearts let you add cards from the discard pile to the draw deck. Diamonds let you draw cards from the draw deck, which are distributed across all players. Clubs double the damage of the card you played on this hand. And spades provide defense for this and future turns against the active face card.
Those face cards range in both attack power and health points. Jacks have an attack power of 10, and a health count of 20. Queens: 15 attack, 30 health. Kings: 20 attack, and 40 health. Late in a game of Regicide, things really feel stacked against the players unless they have defeated then recruited face cards in earlier turns. (If players ever defeat a face card by reducing its health to exactly zero, that face card is placed on the top of the draw deck, ensuring it will end up in the hands of the players to use against the impending doom of the castle deck.)
Games of Regicide can end two ways: players defeat all 12 face cards, or any player runs out of cards. In my experience, games only end one way: with me losing, usually at the hands of the second or third King in the castle deck.
“I Would Be Very Surprised If You Can Win”
This quote, on my wife’s second turn of her first game of Regicide, has stuck with me during all of my subsequent plays. That’s because while I know it’s possible to win at Regicide, it feels like it will take a miracle for the card draw gods to line up all of the luck you’ll need.
I love the concept here; why wouldn’t I want to fight my way through a deck of cards to try and beat the bad guys? Games only take 10-15 minutes, in part because you are going to lose this game way more often than you will win. Once you have the rules down, it’s easy to move between turns and it’s fun to work with team members in a format where you are not allowed to share specifics of your individual hands.
The best part: you will often lose a game of Regicide near the very, very end. I always thought that the best video games get progressively tougher, then get really hard near the end. You feel like you want to beat the game, but you just can’t get over the hump. What do you need to tweak to change your fortunes?
Regicide has that X factor, and something tells me that if I ever win, I’m going to nerd out and post something on Instagram like “I finally did it! I beat Regicide on my last card of the game! Suck it, King of Diamonds!!!” to followers who will mostly continue scrolling past my claims of glory. No matter. I will take solace in the fact that I proved all of the haters wrong (of course, there are no real haters) by beating such a tough game.
And you know what I’ll do next? I’ll play Regicide again, one more time, just to see if it wasn’t a fluke. Maybe I can start a winning streak!