The king is dead, but honestly, that’s not important. Now’s your chance to lay Claim to the throne. While you might be tempted to bust out in song, as you just can’t wait to be king, it’s going to take a bit more effort than that.
Interested in a video review of Claim? You can find it on my YouTube Channel.
The kingly concept might imply a monarchy but winning the throne is a much more democratic process. You need a majority vote from three of the five factions to win, and sorry, gerrymandering ain’t an option.
The theme itself is fairly abstract, but the general idea is that you’re attempting to win over faction members (“tricks”) so that you have a majority vote at the end.
Winning members over is a simple numbers game with higher ones beating out lower ones. But it’s a bit more complex than that as every faction also has a quirk of their own that might toss some red tape in your campaign to rule the kingdom.
|Gideons Bias||Claim Information|
|Review Copy Used: Yes||Publisher: Deep Water Games|
|Number of Plays: 10+||Designers: Scott Almes, Mikajilo Dimitrievski|
|Player Counts Played: 2||Number of Players: 2|
|Fan of Genre: No||Genre: Trick Taking|
|Fan of Weight: No||Weight: Gateway|
|Gaming Groups Thoughts: Meh||Price: $19.99|
Claim is a simple pack of 52 cards, and they are well made. They have held up to frequent shuffling without the use of sleeves, and none of them have started to fray or develop visible nicks or tears.
The cards themselves are simple with just a number on them dictating the mechanics. The artwork for each of the five factions is quite nice however and has a style that’s distinct to the game. You know a card belongs to Claim when you see it. Aside from a set of five 0 numbered goblins, every card has unique artwork, and the depicted art reflects the number shown.
Higher numbers tend to be better in Claim. So, a number 2 knight might be depicted as thin and scrawny while a number 9 knight looks strong and bulky. It’s a neat, and thoughtful artistic decision that pays off quite nicely.
Claim, is not an expensive game. A pack of 52 cards with custom art is a reasonable value as far as components are concerned.
Claim is a very simple game that most people could learn within minutes, making it an ideal gateway or casual game. The game is played in two rounds, with each player being dealt a hand of thirteen cards. The top card of the deck is revealed as the current trick and the lead player then plays a card from their hand while the next player responds with a card of their own.
In most cases, the higher numbered cards win the trick. The winning player adds it to their pile, while the loser takes the top of the deck and adds it to their pile. Once all tricks have been claimed another round is played using the piles you formed in the first round. But this time, every trick you win is added to your score pile, the player with the majority of three or more factions at the end wins. That’s the basic rundown.
The trick is, the second player must always follow the same faction that the leader played IF they have any of those factions cards in their hand. If I play a Knight, you must also play a Knight. That is, unless you don’t have one, in which case you can play anything you want, but I win the trick by default.
The factions bring Claim to life by making exceptions to the simple rules. Knights always beat Goblins, for example, regardless of the numbers. Doppelgangers can be played on any faction as if they were that faction. In the first round, Undead go straight to the winners scoring area, while the Dwarves go to the losers scoring pile during the second round. The faction quirks are an interesting spin on a game of simple numbers.
Claim’s design leaves room for some interesting choices to make. At first glance, it might seem like you want to win all of the tricks with the highest number during the 1st round in order to stack your hand for the second round, and sure it helps.
But you also have to think about how much of each faction you’re bringing to the table during round 2. All 52 cards are used at some point during the game, and you actually don’t want or need to win every trick.
You can intentionally lose a trick by playing low numbers, which can force a crappy card into your opponent’s pile. Beyond that, you might intentionally swing a specific faction to your opponent that you don’t need to win.
The faction quirks spin this thread even further, and it’s tricky to decide exactly how you want to play out each turn. You could score undead early in the first round, or sweep dwarves in the second. If you force the other player to take more goblins than you, you’re open to having your knights bully them into submission.
The fact that what you do in the first round dictates your entire hand for the second round is very interesting and adds some wiggle room for an incredibly simple card game.
The Candy Land Problem
There are undoubtedly viable decisions to be made and some degree of strategy in Claim. But the more I played it, the more I couldn’t shake the feeling that luck plays a massive factor. To the point, I felt that many games were decided the moment I shuffled the deck.
There were times that one opening hand was powerless against the other, and one player would rule the entire game. I think this is largely due to the restrictive nature of what you’re allowed to play against the leading player.
Certain hand compositions are just straight-up flops if you aren’t leading the trick. The second player must always match the faction that the leader played, if possible. That means many turns you don’t have a decision to make at all, and that simply doesn’t feel good.
On the flip side. I’ve also won the second round when almost my entire pile consisted of random cards from the deck because I lost tricks. The combination of the faction restriction and utter randomness of the cards you receive at the start of the game and when losing a trick doesn’t seem to mesh cohesively.
Claim is an interesting trick-taking game that is very accessible to learn or teach. The small box can fit in your pockets, purse, or any relatively small space which makes it an ideal game to take when on the go.
The simple numbers game is elevated by the elegant way that the factions ever so slightly tweak the rules, and I dig the artwork. But the overall experience feels far more random than it should, and I’m not at all a fan of that.
Claim isn’t an expensive game though, its portable nature and easy-to-learn mechanics definitely give the game merit. A lot of people won’t mind a heavy degree of randomness, especially given how fast the game is to set up and reset. You just shuffle a deck of cards. It couldn’t Claim my vote, but it ran a pretty cool campaign.
My Perspective on Claim
It’s entirely possible that my bias is bleeding through on this one. Claim is completely antithetical to my tastes. I favor heavy and complex games, and Claim is the polar opposite. So, I’ll leave room for the possibility that my eyes are perceiving the randomness to be worse than it actually is. After all, plenty of people love Claim. On top of that, my experience with Trick Taking games is limited so I have little to compare it to.
One thing I want is to note, there are a lot of expansions for Claim. The way they work is by bringing new factions to the mix. You don’t just add them, you swap them around, which can result in a ton of different combinations for varied gameplay and replay value. It’s entirely possible that could turn my opinion around on it. Different faction setups may be impacted differently by the randomness.
None of that’s relevant to my review of this specific boxed set though. Regardless I don’t think it’s a bad game, especially for such an inexpensive price. But unless I pick up a few expansions, I won’t have any desire to play it again.
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- Great Artwork
- Fast Setup and Portable Box Size
- Easy to Learn
- The Faction Mechanics Work Great
- Low Price
- The game sometimes feels decided the moment the deck is shuffled.
- The follow the leader restriction can leave you with dead turns.
- The unpredictability of random cards when losing a trick doesn’t feel cohesive or fun.
Who Would Like Claim?
- You want a nifty game to teach casual or non-gamers
- If you want a pocket-sized game with easy clean up to travel with
- You enjoy randomness with a bit of decision space
Who Wouldn’t Like Claim?
- If you want variety, playing with the same five factions does get repetitive quickly.
- If you like victory to be dictated through skill, luck plays a huge role in Claim.
- To some degree, card counting plays a role. If you don’t like that, Claim might not be for you.