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King’s Court (1986) Board Game Review and Rules

As one of the most popular abstract games of all time, it is not that surprising that there are quite a few Checkers variant games. In the past we have looked at Checkers4 and King ‘O Kings. As a whole I wouldn’t say that I have a strong opinion on Checkers. The game is fun and I will play an occasional game but there are a lot of board games that I prefer over Checkers. I was intrigued by King’s Court though since it has some interesting tweaks to Checkers. While King’s Court doesn’t revolutionize Checkers, it is probably the best Checkers variant that I have ever played.

How to Play | My Thoughts | Should You Buy? | Comments

How to Play King’s Court

Setup

Place the gameboard in the center of the table. The pieces will be placed on the beige squares on the outside of the board (not in the middle square). When placed on the board, the pieces will alternate colors. Whichever player is using the orange pieces will get to make the first move.

Setup for King's Court

Playing the Game

For their first move the orange player will move one of their pieces onto an adjacent space in the middle section of the board. The green player will move one of their pieces from the other side of the board into the middle section of the board. After this point in the game a player must always have at least one of their pieces in the center section of the board.

First Move in King's Court
Both players have made their first move moving one of their pieces into the center section on opposite sides of the board.

After each player’s first move, players can move any piece they want. Players can move one of their pieces to any unoccupied adjacent beige square above, below, to the left or to the right. Players can move pieces out of the center section as long as they have another piece in the middle of the board.

After the first two moves of the game, players can also choose to jump over pieces. A player can jump any adjacent piece as long as the beige space on the other side of the piece is unoccupied. A player may jump over their own piece or an opponent’s. If a player jumps over an opponent’s piece they remove that piece from the board.

Jumping Pieces in King's Court
An orange piece has jumped over a green piece in order to make it into the center of the board. The green piece that was jumped over is removed from the board.

A player can jump as many pieces as possible on a turn as long as there is an unoccupied space between each piece. While jumping multiple pieces a player can change directions as many times as they want.

Multiple Jumps in King's Court
For the orange player’s turn they will use their piece in the bottom left corner. First they will jump up over their own piece. They will then make two jumps right over the two green pieces. They will then jump down over their own piece. Finally they will jump left over the green piece in the bottom right corner.

End of Game

The game ends when one of the players has no pieces remaining in the center section. The other player wins the game.

Winning King's Court
The green player no longer has pieces in the center square of the board. The orange player has won the game.

My Thoughts on King’s Court

When I look at King’s Court I basically see Checkers with a couple tweaks. The basic premise and mechanics of King’s Court are exactly the same as Checkers. Movement is exactly the same as Checkers except that all of the pieces start as Kings and can move in any direction. The goal of the game is to use your pieces to jump over your opponent’s pieces removing them from the board. As the two games are so similar, your opinion of Checkers will likely apply to King’s Court as well. As I am assuming everyone has played Checkers at some point in their lives, I am not going to really address the basic gameplay mechanics of the game. Instead lets look at how King’s Court plays differently than Checkers.

The biggest difference between King’s Court and Checkers is the pace of the game. In Checkers the pace can be pretty slow. Unless players are aggressive, it will usually take several turns before any pieces are jumped. That can’t be said for King’s Court though. As soon as players are able to jump each other, the carnage begins. I attribute this to the board being set up where it is really easy to jump each other at the beginning of the game. For five or six turns, players will be constantly jumping over each other. At the end of those five or six turns both players will likely have lost over half of their pieces.

This might be what I enjoyed most about King’s Court. Unlike Checkers players don’t sit back waiting for the other player to make a move. King’s Court is a much more aggressive game. If you play passive you are going to lose the game. In Checkers you are lucky to get a double or triple jump. In King’s Court it is not impossible to jump five or more pieces in one turn. With so many jumping opportunities King’s Court is more exciting than Checkers.

After all of the carnage at the beginning of the game, the pace of King’s Court changes pretty drastically. As there are less pieces on the board, it is harder to set up opportunities to jump the other player’s pieces. This is the point where Checkers really starts to drag for me. The problem with Checkers is that when there aren’t a lot of pieces on the board it is pretty easy for players to avoid one another if they want to.

This is why I really like the one truly unique mechanic in King’s Court. The idea of the center section of the gameboard does a really good job of preventing players from being too passive. Having to keep at least one piece in the middle of the board forces players to be somewhat aggressive as you can’t lose control of the middle of the board to the other player. Instead of players trying to avoid each other on the outside of the board, the center section tends to force players to move their pieces towards the middle of the board.

While I think King’s Court has a little more strategy than Checkers, I think it can also lead to more analysis paralysis problems. I think three things add to the potential analysis paralysis problems in the game. With a larger board and more pieces to start the game, there are more potential moves every turn. I think the ability to jump over your own pieces has the biggest impact on analysis paralysis though. Being able to jump over your own pieces gives you a lot of movement options in the game. Having two pieces next to each other can be used as a defensive strategy but it can also be used offensively.

The main reason that analysis paralysis can become a problem is that one mistake can lose the game for a player. There are a lot of potential moves that can be made on a given turn. If you make the right move you can really help yourself. If you make the wrong move though you can lose a lot of pieces which will make it hard to ever catch up. This can lead to analysis paralysis since really competitive players will have to analyze every move to avoid making a move that will lead them to losing a lot of pieces. If the players aren’t that competitive this isn’t that big of problem. For competitive players though you might need to consider adding a time limit to each turn..

As far as the components I would say they are solid but unspectacular. The board is pretty generic but the playing pieces are pretty solid. The game isn’t much to look at but it serves its’ purpose. The biggest problem I have with the components is that King’s Court is a game where it would be quite easy to make your own copy. Basically you just need an 8X8 board that you can tilt sideways. You also need some way to mark off a 4X4 grid in the middle. Find 24 markers of two colors and you have everything you need to play the game. King’s Court will look nicer than a makeshift board but with King’s Court being more valuable than you would think, you might be better off making your own board.

Should You Buy King’s Court?

I really don’t have strong feelings about Checkers. I have no problem playing the game but there are quite a few better board games out there. With that said I think King’s Court improves on Checkers in almost every way. I think King’s Court is more strategic but also quicker because it forces players to be more aggressive. I really like forcing players to keep at least one piece in the middle of the board since it prevents players from avoiding each other. The only area where I think King’s Court is worse than Checkers is that it kind of suffers from analysis paralysis at times. While King’s Court is better than Checkers, I still think it is a pretty average game. You can have fun with King’s Court but there are better games out there.

While I think King’s Court improves Checkers in basically every way, I don’t think it would change someone’s opinion that doesn’t like Checkers. If you really like Checkers though I would recommend picking up King’s Court. If you don’t have strong feelings either way about Checkers, I would probably recommend picking up King’s Court if you can get a good deal on the game.

If you would like to purchase King’s Court you can find it online: Amazon, ebay

One thought on “King’s Court (1986) Board Game Review and Rules

  • January 19, 2019 at 6:30 pm
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    Made by Golden from 1987-89 then purchased by Hasbro who did not continue production. 250,000 we’re sold. Only available on eBay,, Amazon etc. when available from $30-100. Excellent game of strategy.

    Reply

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