Ortus Regni, An In-Depth Review

7.4 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 7/10
Sounds: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10

Aesthetically faithful to the Middle Ages European theme. | Strangely compelling gameplay.

Very slow pace of gameplay. | Very few modes and features right now.

PC, Mac, Linux

Free to play with in-game purchases.

June 1,2014

English

When you think of the Middle Ages, you might think of knights, castles, battles, and warring monarchs. Ortus Regni captures the romanticism we have for the Middle Ages and gives us a unique card game experience. Ortus Regni is based upon the successful tabletop card game of the same name, implemented digitally to reach a new audience.

Ortus Regni is a turn-based strategy card game that gives us several paths to victory with each one being just as viable as the other. What path will you take in order to become the king of all the lands?

Is it a good game, or is it just a bit too medieval? Read on to find out…

Main-title-screen

The main title screen looks very regal. You are an Earl who is being challenged by other Earls who think they alone deserve to rule these lands. Will you let them stand in your way?

GAMEPLAY

Middle Ages tapestry-style artwork and soothing music from the era help bring the atmosphere in Ortus Regni to life, but the game has a slower pace than other games on the market, and this may be a little discouraging for some. However, for those who love a slower, more cerebral style of gameplay, away from the flashiness of today’s video game-style card games, you may just find a new favorite in Ortus Regni.

The game functions on two fronts: gameplay and deckbuilding. The first step is to tackle the tutorial that is broken into several parts for easy digestion. Here you will learn each of the game’s victory conditions which will then help you when deciding what to focus on during building your deck, and because there are several paths to victory, you should be able to find one that suits your play style.

The deckbuilder is so simple it can be talked about here. You simply choose the cards you want and add them in — save the deck, and away you go. There are some pre-built decks for you to try if you’re not too sure what they play like, beyond the tutorial telling you what to play and when!

Table-view

This is the basic view in Ortus Regni. The sad thing is that it all feels a bit too spacious — almost empty. Of course, the extra space is needed in order to facilitate a large number of cards, but this is just way too much wasted space on the screen.

A player is considered an Earl, and you are up against other Earls in order to win the kingdom. At the start of the game, each Earl controls a Fief – a piece of land represented as a Castle. You can extend your lands, build Cathedrals, and erect Marketplaces on your Fief. If you lose your last Fief, you are eliminated from the game. To prevent direct access to your Fief you can build additional Castles that can also be built upon.

In Ortus Regni you have one main action per turn and as many free actions as you wish. A main action can be taken by playing a card from your hand, sending an emissary to the Vikings, attacking an opponent, or recruiting an Army. A free action involves playing a card from your hand face-down as a Tower – which serves as a buffer for your Fief and Castles. Placing a face card of Prince, Monk, or Vassal in a Fief or Castle will give them the title of Lord.

As with any card game, there are conflicts and battles. Ortus Regni resolves the battle in a clever way that is quite unique from anything else I’ve seen. You can commit any of your Lords, your face cards in hand, and also your Army cards to a battle before deciding what to attack. You can attack a Fief directly as well as Castles or Towers. The defending player can then field their own defense using the same methods as the attacker. You then draw the top card of the Battle Deck to reveal a card that can potentially turn the tide of the entire battle. Any damage that is dealt to the defender is decided by the defending player.

Vikings-at-our-command

Use the Vikings to your advantage to decimate the opponent without using any of your own forces.

Vikings serve as a method to speed up the game and add a sense of threat to the game. After 8 turns have passed (or less if you’ve sent an emissary) they come into play and can be swayed by one Earl when the Viking army numbers equal the number of Earls who started the game, plus one. A random colored cube (representing an Earl) is drawn from a bag and the Viking army will fight for that Earl. This can have huge implications for the overall balance of power once the battle has been settled.

I find the limitations of one main move per turn to be fitting with the pace of the game. It means you shall have to balance what is best at that time. Playing a Castle or extending another Fief can both seem like great plays, but not knowing what the opponent has up their sleeve adds to the tense decision making. You can see an opponent’s hand through the use of other cards, but these can be countered!

No matter what way you look at Ortus Regni – it doesn’t do much to excite. The aesthetics, although faithful, are drab and dreary. The board seems way too large for the size of the cards and leaves a lot of negative spaces on the table. Despite these negative aspects, Ortus Regni has something compelling about it and you will find yourself having ‘just one more game’ a few times over before you do finally switch it off.

AI-opponents

The single-player mode will be your most played mode. It is a great way to test your decks and expand your skills. Tweak the difficulty to match your skill level.

MODES AND FEATURES

There are only a few modes to play at the moment, but the developers do want to add more modes and features as Ortus Regni progresses. The single player game is played against the A.I. and you can control the number of A.I. opponents and their difficulty. This is the default option that most people will go for, as the additional multiplayer modes need to be purchased before they can be played.

Multiplayer can be played against a random opponent or a friend. You’ll probably want to invite someone to play with you as finding a random opponent can result in a very long wait right now. That’s not to say that the game will not find a larger player-base in the future, as I am sure it will.

Deck-building

This is the deckbuilder and all of the games cards are available. You are able to build the deck you desire that compliments your play style.

STRATEGY

If you want to go for a more offensive strategy in Ortus Regni then you will need to build Lands upon your Fief and focus on having Princes in your Castles and Champions on the field. Recruiting extra units via having a Land Card and Marketplace attached to your Fief will net you two Army cards a turn if chosen. Fielding a force of strong units will mitigate having to rely on the Vikings for additional aggression.

Political games will focus on taking your opponent’s lands from them and assassinating their Lords. Eliminating a Lord on the only Fief will take that player out of the game completely. This is one of the best strategies for early victories against ill-prepared opponents. This tactic is easily countered by the Allies cards, but if you expose the opponent’s hand beforehand you can usually go in with no worry.

You’ll want to avoid decking out, as if you draw from an empty deck you will die of old age and be eliminated from the game immediately. To prevent this you’ll want to keep the Banner and Prince Cards spare. Playing the Banner on a Prince will Bequeath your title to the Prince and will then shuffle your discards in to your deck – forming a new deck. This can be a great tactic for a stalling game plan where your ultimate goal is to use the Vikings to your advantage by using Monks and Vassals to gain their favor and add more of your colored cubes to the bag.

Keep-this-hand

Redrawing the starting hand is really handy when you don’t get a good mix of cards. Two Cathedrals in an opening hand is useless when we can only have one in play at a time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Ortus Regni is a popular tabletop game that sees a lot of play and has a whole range of purchasable accessories too. The digital version is faithful to the tabletop version and plays in the same way. The problem I had with the game was that for me, personally, it didn’t seem to grab me even though I really wanted to be excited by the new theme and concepts at play here.

There are elements to the game that add pressure and a sense of urgency to the game, but the fact remains that the pace is almost achingly slow. The 8 turns for the Vikings feel like an age and when they do come out the emphasis soon switches to an offensive push by all players – throwing all other strategies out the window.

I love the look and feel of the game, but cannot see myself playing it for more than a casual game every now and again. It failed to inspire me to become a fan, and there is much room for improvement. The developers could focus on giving the game more flair to make it more appealing to a digital audience, but for those who are willing to play it like a physical board game in a digital space, it provides the basics and is faithful to the physical product.

Some things I really do like about the game are the unique theme, visual look, and the attempt at doing something truly different and unique within the crowded market for two-player, combat-orientated strategy card games. Likely this game will find favor with a certain kind of audience, perhaps more geared towards the board game market than the TCG / CCG crowds, but there might be enough cross-over appeal here with the custom decks and head-to-head strategy to grab a few curious hardcore gamers.

Pick it up and give it a go if you’re interested in really trying something legitimately different from everything else in the genre. It’s worth a try for that alone, definitely!

For more screenshots, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by

Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.

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