Cows on the Plain: Review of Khan of Khans
Cows on the Plain: A Review of Khan of Khans
- # of Players: 2-5
- Ages: 9+
- Playtime: 20 Mins
- Designer: Reiner Knizia
- Publisher: Chaosium
- Price Point: $24.95
Khan of Khans is a Press Your Luck style game where players raid the fertile fields of Dragon Pass to build their herds of cattle. While doing so they must try to avoid Stampedes, fighting amongst their own Tribal Champions, Enemy Magic, and of course, having their cattle stolen by other Players. All in an effort to amass the largest herd and claim the title of Khan of Khans.
- Family Friendly
- The rules are simple and easy to learn
- Fast gameplay
- Short play time
- One or two thematic elements that may cause issues for some players
Playing the Game
Khan of Khans is a very simple game to set up. Simply have each player select a tribe, place the map tile in the center of the play area, place the location decks in their proper locations, and hand out the correct number of corrals to each player. As long as you keep the location decks sorted, the entire setup takes less than 5 minutes.
During their turn, players may select a location deck and draw one card, play Waha’s Blessing on another player to steal one of their raid cards, or use one of their limited corrals to protect the cows they have raided so far. The game ends when all the location cards have been drawn, and the player with the most cattle claims the title of Khan of Khans.
Press Your Luck
Khan of Khans comes down to one basic question: Do I raid Dragon Pass one more time, and hopefully gain more cattle, OR do I put the cows I have already in a corral, protecting them from the uncertainty that each draw brings. If you raid once again, you run the risk of losing all your unprotected cows. On the other hand, you only have a limited number of corrals in which to store your precious herd.
In Khan of Khans, it pays to keep track of what has already been drawn in each location. Remembering what has been played is important because all the Location Decks are basically the same, with one unique card per location. If you know what has been played, it is a lot easier to decide if it is worth drawing from this location, or that one.
Threats to your impending rule
The greatest threat to your unprotected herd is the Enemy Magic card. When you draw it, if you don’t have a Tribal Champion protecting you’re your raided livestock, you lose every uncorralled cow you have. If you do happen to have a Tribal Champion card, then the Tribal Champion sacrifices himself for the good of the tribe.
And speaking of those Tribal Champions… They just happen to be the second biggest threat to your herd. One Tribal Champion is good… However, if you ever have two Tribal Champion Cards at the same time they will either fight each other to the death and cause your herd to stampede or decide that your herd is their herd and run off with it. Either way, you’re herdless.
Corrals are probably the most important mechanic in Khan of Khans. As stated earlier, the entire game hinges on knowing when to corral, and when to press your luck. Once a herd of cattle has been corralled they are yours to keep. They can’t be stampeded, stolen, or slain by the dreaded hands of your enemies. But you cant add to a corral once it has been used, and you only have so many corrals, so, it is vital that you not waste them.
Tribal Special Abilities
Each Tribe has a special ability that modifies the game in a way that is beneficial to their player. For instance, the Bolo Lizard Folk Tribe starts the game with one less Corral than the other tribes. However, they get the cows every time an opponent has a stampede.
Another example is the High Llama People Tribe. They can “sneak” one additional raid card into a used corral. As you can see, the Tribal Abilities are very powerful, depending on your playstyle.
Waha’s blessing is the only way that players have to directly steal from another player’s herd. However, Waha’s blessing is so much more valuable than just a means to take from your neighbors. At the end of the game, Waha’s Blessing is worth twenty additional cows per blessing… Twenty unstealable, unstampedable, and unlosable cows. How can this be? Simple: Waha’s Blessing is not a raid card. So every time your herd is attacked by enemy magic, a stampede, or even the infighting of your tribal champions, Waha’s Blessing is left untouched. And at the end of the game, what is more valuable? Twenty cows you can’t lose, or one hundred cows you did?
Khan of Khans is a very enjoyable family game. The press your luck element of the game creates tension and uncertainty every time you have to choose between trying for one more raid card and corralling your herd. Gameplay is fast, and playtime is short, around 20 minutes per game. Additionally, the game is easy to learn, and the rules are not overly complicated. Making this an excellent game to play with younger players.
My one concern with Khan of Khans regards a thematic element in the tribal backstory of the Morokanth. They are described as inhuman creatures that herd humans instead of beasts. This can be taken in two different ways. On the one hand, the game art appears to portray the humans as pets to the Morokanth. However, the use of the phrase “herd humans instead of beasts” hints at a possibly darker relationship between the two species. This could be an issue for more sensitive players.
That aside, I thoroughly enjoy Khan of Khans. The game is fun and engaging, and I have no issues recommending it for your next Family Game Night.
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