Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Knut Happel &
Christian Fiore





Big theme - big game! That was my first association upon seeing pictures of the new strategy game Akkon by GOLDSIEBER. Thus, I was rather astonished to see that the game actually is not produced in the typical big-sized Goldsieber-box, but instead comes in one of their smaller boxes in which games like Kontor or Kupferkessel & Co had been released some years earlier. However, as this review will show, Akkon is a fine strategy game which stands true with GOLDSIEBER's traditional line of challenging, tactical games.

The players are taken back through the ages to come to the Holy Land in the 12th century, a time when the Crusaders of the Templar Knights were laying siege to the harbour city of Akkon. However, the Grandmaster of the Order has fallen, and now the players compete to gain enough Gold, Power, Prestige and Piety to be chosen as the new Grandmaster.

To prepare for playing, a gameboard with scales for these four attributes is set up between the players, and each player positions a marker of his colour on the second space of each of the four scales. Each scale shows values from "1" to "13", and during the game the players will try to get their markers into higher positions while at the same time lowering the markers of their opponents. Distributed around the outer border of the gameboard there also can be found the names of six cities in the Holy Land, and for each of these cities a deck of 10 cards is shuffled and placed face up next to the city name on the gameboard. Finally, each player openly receives two cards from a special deck of twelve starting cards, and furthermore each player receives a total of 7 Knights of his colour.


The game is played in turns, and each turn is subdivided into a bidding phase and an action phase. In the bidding phase, the players may bid for new action cards, and to do so a player may place one or more of his Knights face down on a city name on the gameboard. The bidding phase proceeds with each player in turn either placing a Knight or passing, and once a player has passed he may not change his mind and place another of his Knights later in the bidding phase after the other players possibly have placed more Knights. Thus, the players may use several of their Knights in the Auction phase to bid for cards available at one or more of the cities, but once all players have passed the bidding comes to its end and the values of all Knights will be revealed.

Basically, a card goes to the player who has bet the Knights with the highest value on the corresponding city, and the highest bidder can easily be found if the players only have used one of their four Templar Knights (values "5" to "8") on a city. However, the evaluation gets more complicated if a player had decided to bid with one of his three "Special Knights", since these Knights have a value which needs to be calculated:

  • The Turkopolen are Arabian mercenaries which were employed by the Crusaders. They have a basic bidding value of "2", but their value is increased by two for each Templar Knight which had been placed at the same city - regardless of the owner of these Knights
  • The Grey Coats were non-aristocratic members of the Order of the Templars, and although the Grey Coats have no value of their own they serve to double the value of all of the player's Templar Knights at the same city. However, there exists the restriction that the Grey Coats may not be placed at the same city with the Turkopolen of the same player.
  • Finally, the Chaplain has no bidding value as well, but he has some function in the following action phase.

As an addition, the current start player receives an additional Knight - the Seneschal. This senior officer was in charge of the Order during the time when there was no Grandmaster, and although the Seneschal only has a low bidding value of "4" he is quite useful because the city on which the Seneschal is placed must receive not hidden but open bids. This way, the current start player may use the Seneschal quite strategic to find out about the current bids for a highly wanted card.

When the bidding phase is over and the cards have been distributed, playing is continued with the action phase, and once again starting with the current start player the players now are allowed to use one or more of their hand-cards. However, a player cannot play his cards as he desires, but he now must pay a royalty of one to three Knights for each card he wants to play. The cost to play a card is depicted on each card among with the name of the city to which the card belonged, and the indicated number of Knights to be paid now must be placed at the bidding space of the city listed on the card. However, here the Knights which were already used in the auction phase do not count, and furthermore the royalty means the number of Knights which needs to be paid and not their actual values. The only element by which a player can reduce the royalty of a card is if he has placed his Chaplain at any of the cities during the bidding phase, since he then has to pay one Knight less if he plays a card of that city during the action phase.

Most of the playing cards available in the game have a direct influence on one or more of the attribute scales on the gameboard, so that the player is allowed to adjust his own scales or the scales of another player according to the instructions listed on the card. However, there also exist some more specific cards, entitling a player to use one or two Knights of other players during the next action phase or giving a privilege by allowing a player to take one of the cards currently displayed on top of a city stack.

Once all players had a chance to play action cards, the round ends with the players taking back their Knights and the awarding of four special assistance cards. These cards will be won by the players who have taken the leading positions on each of the four scales, and each of these cards grants its owner the beneficial assistance of a medieval personality during the coming round. So, the mighty King Lionhart allows his owner to take back one Knight after the bidding phase and use it again in the action phase, pious Pope Clemens gives a player a chance to gain an increase of one of his scales if the player succeeds in playing two cards of the same city during the action phase etc.

However, if during the auction phase one of the card decks associated with the cities has been depleted, the game will end after the action phase and now each player adds up the scores of his highest and lowest scales on the gameboard. The game will be won by the player who has reached the highest score with these two scales.

Perhaps my final comments on the game should begin with a word on the playing components of the game, since the playing pieces of the Knights are a bit standing apart from the harmonious design of the playing cards and board. The release of the game had been delayed because GOLDSIEBER had to find a new supplier for the wooden cubes used for the Knights, but the new playing pieces which are now included with the game are a bit dark if compared to the playing pieces of the prototype which are displayed on the back of the gamebox. Especially if a fourth and fifth player use the blue and black playing pieces, a good level of illumination becomes necessary to depict the numbers shown on the adhesive foil mounted on the cubes with a good degree of comfort. It seems somewhat un-Goldsieberish to find these slightly sub-standard playing pieces within a GOLDSIEBER game.

But let us now turn to the game itself, since Knut Happel and Christian Fiore definately succeeded in creating an interesting set of rules which by no means should be downgraded for the quality of the used playing components: Although the game contains an element of luck and bluffing during the auction phase, Akkon has a very strong strategic stamping which makes the game rather stand apart from other GOLDSIEBER-titles like Die Säulen von Venedig or Mississippi Queen which are easier to access especially for occasional gamers. Especially with only two or three participating players, the key to winning Akkon becomes constant vigilance and an awareness for the possibilities offered by the current supply of cards. The players first must learn to keep a good balance between using Knights in auctions and using them for playing cards, and the process of understanding the game's mechanics certainly needs a game or two before the full strategic potential can be enjoyed. Thus, the game may seem to be a bit dry during the first rounds, but when this phase has been overcome a rather enjoyable strategic contest can be experienced by the players.

The strategic potential is lessened slightly with four or five participating players, since now it becomes more difficult to foresee how a player's positioning on the scales will be influenced by the cards played by three or four other players. In effect, this may lead to a player's strategy becoming more reactive and less anticipatory, since it is more difficult to keep track of the cards acquired by the other players and to predict the actions which may take place during the following action phase. However, it is especially the cards which allow a player to use an other player's Knight(s) during the upcoming action phase which prevent the game from becoming a strategic heavyweight, since these cards often will be used on leading players and thus a clear lead may be counterbalanced by concerted actions of the other players.

Akkon can best be compared to Löwenherz which was a GOLDSIEBER title back in the 1990's and which offered a likewise high strategic orientation. To my mind, this moves the game a bit away from the quarter of typical family games, but at the same time it should become more attractive for hobbyist gamers which enjoy a good, challenging game. The players must be willing to invest a bit of time during the auction phase so that everybody may develop some plans how to act, but it takes not later than the end of the auction phase when fun and emotion returns upon the combined disclosure of the secretly placed bids.

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Copyright © 2007 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany