Choson is a card game (with a few tokens) for two to four players from Korean game designer Gary Kim. It is set in the same universe as Kim’s Koryo and Gosu, though you don’t need to have played either. It’s distributed by Asmodee in the U.S.
How It Works:
Players are dealt cards at the beginning of each round of play. The first round they get 10 cards, but can only keep three in front of them. They can play more than that, but they’ll have to discard any left standing. They get nine cards the next round, and can keep four. This continues down to drawing three cards and keeping 10.
Most of the cards represent families in an alternate steampunk Choson dynasty in Korea. They are numbered from one to nine, with nine having the most influence and the least power. Those numbers also represent the number of that family in the deck, so there is only one card with the No. 1, but there are nine with the No. 9.
The person who controls the majority of a family at the end of the game gets that family’s influence points.
Each family has a specific power, which is usually triggered by an event card that can also be played.
Why you might buy Choson:
This is a fascinating, short game where the cards’ powers are carefully balanced.
You can kill or swap other players’ characters, but some of those characters can retaliate. Higher numbers have more influence, but they’re also more plentiful, making it harder to get the majority.
The art is good; the cards are smooth and easy to shuffle.
The game plays quickly in 10 to 20 minutes once you know it.
Having lots of choices at the beginning and fewer at the end is brilliant. The game becomes increasingly tense as the scope narrows.
Why you might not buy Choson:
Choson’s rulebook is downright frustrating.
You don’t learn the object of the game until the last page. You have to flip back and forth in the rulebook to understand how the cards’ powers work. You learn, for example, that the Hulk can retaliate if an opponent kills one of your characters with a sword. You also learn that the Hulk can use a sword. But on the previous page, the rules tell you that the Hulk can only use a sword on a No. 6, 7, or 8.
I realize the company produces the rules in several languages, so they didn’t want to put words on the cards. But words on the cards would make this game easy to understand. At the very least, a reference card could have been included.
It took six full games for my opponent and I to feel like we could play the game without the rulebook. And we play a lot of games.
There are also ambiguities in the rulebook that will require you to make a house rule about how certain cards and events work.
Most of the cards are kid-friendly, but one is a bit on the creepy side. The game is designed for ages 14 and up, and it’s certainly nothing a 14-year-old couldn’t handle.
If you’re looking for a game with a Korean theme, this one might not satisfy you. The theme is there, but it’s fairly light.
If I hadn’t been reviewing this game, I’m not sure I would have taken the time to figure out the rules. That said, I’m really glad I did. It’s fun, it’s different from other games on the market, and the balance of the cards could be a model for other card games.
Should you buy it? That depends entirely on you.
I received a review copy of Choson from Asmodee Editions. I was not required to write a positive review. This is my honest opinion.