G@mebox author Marco Klasmeyer writes about the game:
Intrigues at the court of the sun king - take the role of smart and shrewd minions and try your luck at the court of Louis XIV. Manipulate his closest affiliated members. Seduce his numerous mistresses. Bribe the ministers, corrupt the generals. Get all the information, which you need to fulfil your missions!
Louis XIV consists of several cards and markers. There is no real game board except for the 12 character cards of the court's personalities. There are 90 cards (30 influence cards, 12 intrigue cards, 8 income cards, 40 mission cards) which control the flow of the game. There are 64 wooden markers in 4 different colours for representing the current influence state at the court and 60 emblem chips for additional victory points at the end. The 34 mission chips function as resources to fulfil the 40 missions. And of course there is a lot of gold and last but not least the token bearing the picture of King Louis XIV.
At the start of the game the 12 character cards are placed according to a certain spiral order in the middle of the table; this pattern of cards is the game board. The 34 mission chips are placed between several character cards: 2 x 5 crowns, 6 sceptres, 6 helmets, 6 script rolls and 6 rings. In the middle of the 12 personalities each player has to place a part of his influence markers as the common reserve, the rest of his markers that is placed in front of him is his own reserve; this distinction is important in the course of the game. The mission cards are separated into three categories depending on their backside and shuffled independently. The intrigue cards and the influence cards are also shuffled and all card piles are placed at the border of the game board.
Each player gets 5 Loiusdor (gold coins) and two secret mission cards.
Overview of the game:
The game lasts for four rounds. Each round is separated again into four phases. First the players get fresh money and new influence cards (supply phase). Afterwards the players use their influence cards in order to place their influence markers the most efficiently among the different personalities at the court of the king (influence phase). Then all markers that are placed on the personalities are evaluated and valuable resources as mission markers, additional money or cards or influence markers are distributed (evaluation phase). During the last phase the players try to fulfil their secret missions and thus gain victory points (mission phase). Each fulfilled mission provides an extra feature in one of the following phases during the remaining rounds. Completed missions and emblem chips represent victory points at the end of the game. The player with the most victory points has been the best intriguer and hence wins the game.
The details of the phases:
- Supply phase
Initially in this phase the amount of gold (Louisdor) is determined that each player gets as income this round. By revealing the income card the token with Loius XIV has to set to the field indicated on this card. Afterwards all players can use the features of their completed missions, if there are any for this phase. Finally each player gets 5 influence cards.
- Influence phase
Now the players start clockwise with their individual influence phases. Each player has to play one of his influence cards showing either one of the 12 characters or a joker. Then he can decide whether he wants to place up to 3 influence markers from his own reserve to the character card corresponding to the card he has played OR to take up to 3 influence markers from the common reserve. If he has played a joker card the amount of markers is reduced to 2 in both cases. If he has chosen to place up to 3 markers on the related character (or up to 2 on any character for a joker card) he has the option to move some of these markers additionally to diagonally neighbouring cards. By doing so a player has to leave one of the newly placed markers on the source field and then he may set the rest to a neighboured character. For instance, when he is placing 3 markers, it is possible to leave 1 on the character and move 2 to another card. Starting from this new card it is again possible to leave 1 here and set the last marker on a new different character. Hence it is possible to populate three different character cards with influence markers - one for each - in one single action. This clockwise playing of influence cards is repeated until all players have only one card left. This last card is not used and has to be discarded immediately. It may happen in the course of the game, that some players have more influence cards at the beginning of this phase than the others due to special actions. Thus these players are allowed to make an extra move at the end of this phase, because the others have already used their amount of cards. But normally no hand cards of the influence phase can be kept and used in the next round's influence phase.
- Evaluation phase
After all influence markers have been set, an evaluation takes place. For all 12 character cards the current influence status is determined, starting with character no. 1. Each character cards shows a simple diagram for a condition to be met at the right border and the resulting reward to be gained. The three possible conditions are:
- Gold: if a player wants to get the reward, he has to bribe the character with the depicted amount of Louisdor on the card. Only the player with the unique majority receives the reward for free, but has to move his markers to the common reserve. All other players take their markers back to their own reserve. If the majority is not clear, all players can pay and take their marker back to their own reserve.
- First place: only the player with the most influence markers receives the reward for free, all other players receive nothing. The leading player must put his markers to the common reserve, all others put the markers to their own reserve. If the majority is unclear, no one receives the reward.
- Influence markers: all players who have at least the depicted amount of influence markers on this card gain the reward. All players take their markers back to their own reserve regardless of their rank.
After a reward has been gained and the majority has been clearly determined, the character card is flipped over, thus changing the condition to be met for the next round (the reward remains the same). For each character card an intrigue card exists, which can be played when the character is evaluated. This allows the player to extend his influence slightly by placing either one marker from the common or two from his own reserve on the corresponding character. Afterwards this card is placed under the intrigue cards' supply stack.
The reward each character provides is mainly one kind of mission markers functioning as resource to fulfil the missions in the next phase. But some characters provide special feature or additional resources like gold or the valuable emblem chips (=one victory point). Special features are for instance an additional influence card in the next round or getting one of the intrigue cards or placing influence markers onto cards which are still to be evaluated in this same phase, hence may be winning the majority in the following evaluation of that character card.
- Mission phase
Once all character cards have been evaluated and all players have got their mission chips, extra gold and other resources, the phase of completing the individual missions can start. Each player has at least two mission cards in his hand, both showing two symbols which are required to complete the mission. Most symbols show a mission chip such as a sceptre, a helmet, a script roll or a ring, or a question mark representing an arbitrary mission chip. The crown functions as a joker and can replace any required mission chip. A player can fulfil a mission and pay the two required mission chips. A fulfilled mission is placed openly in front of the player. The player immediately draws a new mission from one of the three categories. Every completed mission adds special features to the player such as extra resources in the supply phase, additional actions in the influence phase or exchange/purchase of mission markers in the mission phase. The three mission categories have more or less powerful features and are therefore more or less difficult to fulfil. Easy missions require one defined and an arbitrary mission chip and have less powerful features. Difficult missions require two mission chips of the same type. This is difficult to obtain in the course of the game however, these provide more powerful features. Each player has to fulfil a mission from his hand before he can draw a new one. It is not allowed to simply discard a mission. Regardless of the individual feature value a mission counts 5 victory points at the end of the game. The round ends with the mission phase and a new round will start with the supply phase again.
After the fourth and last round has been finished, the final evaluation takes place. All players get one additional victory point for each unused resources like placed influence markers, unused intrigues and influence cards and remaining mission chips. All players sort their emblem chips according to colours. The player with the most emblems of one colour gets an additional victory point. Completed missions count 5 victory points. All players add up their points and the player with the most points wins the game.
Louis XIV is a quite nice tactical card game with a historical background. Thinking of the mission chips and the mission phase there are also collecting and building elements. The game has a very detailed design with lots of pieces, cards and tokens. Nevertheless it can be played just for fun and it can be played with a more strategic focus. Turns can be carefully planned and the opponents' plans and moves can be frustrated. There are lots of possibilities to turn the tide to your advantage, especially by using the features provided by completed mission cards. On the other side Louis XIV gives me the impression of being a bit too well balanced, every player gets enough mission chips to complete the one or the other mission, so all players will end up quite close to each other with the number of completed missions. If a player wants it easy, he just uses the simplest mission category. Since the missions count 5 victory points they are valuable items for the final victory anyway.
But there are few other possibilities to get more victory points, the emblem chips for instance. And again it is not too difficult to have an equal amount of emblem chip for all participating players at the end. So at the end all players' victory points will be close together, which is quite fair but not very satisfying for strategist. Nevertheless this game means quite fun to play because it offers a wide variance of actions and possibilities to finally win the game, although it is hard to have big differences in the final resulting score.