Crown of Roses 15th Century England


Designed by Stephen A. Cuyler


Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses were a series of wars that were fought between two rival branches of the royal families which were the House of Plantagenet and the houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England. Although there was related fighting both before and after the time period associated with the Wars of the Roses it has been defined by many that these wars were fought between 1455 and 1485. For those that may wonder where the name of these wars originates, they come from the heraldic symbols of the main antagonists of the royal families which were the “red” and the “white” rose.

The Game

Crown of Roses is a game that lets players decide who will become the next King of England. This game tries to recreate the chaos and uncertainty that marked this bitter struggle. These wars set brother against brother, father against son and saw prisoners executed without trial. The battles of this time were won as much from treachery as they were from force of arms. The conclusion of these wars marked the end of Middle Ages and the beginning of England’s rise to power on the world stage.


Crown of Roses can be played by 2, 3 or 4 players. Each player takes on the role of a Noble House of the period as they attempt to rise to power to become the King. The major powers represented in this game are:

  1. House of Lancaster
  2. House of York
  3. House of Buckingham
  4. House of Warwick

Game Components

The components included in the box for this game are:

  • 3 – Small Black Cylinders
  • 24 – Small Colored Cylinders (6 in each player color)
  • 54 – 20mm (3/4 inch) Wood Blocks
  • 1 – 22”x34” cardboard map
  • 222 – (3/4”) counters
  • 54 – die cut labels for blocks
  • 1 – Rulebook
  • 1 – Playbook
  • 2 – Color Player Aid Cards
  • 110 – Operation and House Cards
  • 15 – Six sided dice
  • 8 – Parliament/Office Cards
  • 4 – Player Mats (8.5” x 5.5”)

The “Time scale” of the game is variable depending on the action being undertaken.

Sequence of Play

The Sequence of Play may appear simple, but there is a lot of activity that takes place in each phase. The Sequence of Play is:

  • Draw Phase
  • Draw Base Hand
  • Draw bonus cards
  • Operations Phase
  • Command Step
  • Action Step
  • Combat Step
  • Stacking Check
  • Influence Phase
  • Shire Values
  • Add Bonus Influence
  • King Phase
  • Accumulate Economic VP’s
  • Remove Rebel Markers and Mercenary Blocks
  • Attend Parliament
  • Calculate Vote
  • Vote for King
  • Adjust Popular Support
  • Adjust Total Votes Marker
  • Victory Check Phase
  • Military Victory
  • Political Victory
  • Economic Victory
  • Office Phase
  • End of Offices
  • New Officers
  • Office Limits
  • Chancellor if still vacant
  • Wintering Phase
  • Non-Office Nobles Placed First
  • Officers Placed
  • Henry VI and Margaret placed
  • Clean Up Phase
  • Adjust Markers and Blocks
  • Decide on Held Cards
  • Popular Support Adjustments
  • Advance Turn

Originally, I was going to show only the abbreviated Sequence of Play, but after looking at the game more in depth, I thought that it would be more beneficial to illustrate the entire sequence. From this sequence you should be able to get a sense of the scope that this game covers, especially its political intrigue.

Cards and Draw Phase

At the heart of this game are the cards. The cards are what drives all the actions in the game. There are three types of cards that are used in this game and they are:

  • House Cards
  • Royal Heir Cards
  • Event Cards

There are four sets of Royal Heir cards, each of which represents one of the Royal Families in the game. These cards are color coded in the upper left corner with the color of a Rose for that family. A Sample for the House of Lancaster and York are shown below:


The Scenario in the Playbook tells players which cards will be used to represent that family at the beginning of the game. However, as the game progresses, the House cards introduce other Royals into the game and each player is limited to 2 heirs at any time. These cards stay with the player throughout the game unless the Royal is killed.

The bulk of the cards in the game are the Operations Cards. Most of these Operations Cards have an OPS number in the upper left hand corner. During the Draw Phase players draw their cards from this Operations deck. At the start of each turn, players start drawing from the Operations Deck for a total of 5 cards. To this, any bonus cards are added to make up the players hand for that turn.

Operations Phase

The Operations Phase is really the heart of the game. This is the area of the game in which there are multiple impulses. How many impulses you ask? Well, that is the variable part of a turn and is determined by the lowest number of non-House cards that players have in their hands. The lowest number of cards is the number of Action Step impulses that occur for each player this turn. The impulses that each player performs at this time are:

  • Undeclared Heir
  • Land Movement
  • Sea Movement
  • Mustering
  • Political Influence

It is at this time that players play their cards and perform the actions above by using OPS points or perform the Event that is on the card.

Basically there are four different types of Operation cards that players can put down to play and they fall into the following categories:

  • Events
  • Ally
  • Mandatory
  • Surprise

All cards in the game can be played as OPS cards if desired. However, if you play a House card for its OPS points it is now removed from the game which may not be a good thing. Players play the cards out of their hands in any order desired with any ties being decided by the King. It is the wise player who manages his hand from turn to turn that has a good chance to be named King.


King Phase

During the other phases of the game players move, perform combat, conquer shires, and play cards to win nobles all with the intent of becoming King of England. This is the phase where that is determined. Players count up their Influence Points, tally the score and if there is a clear leader that senior heir is made King. This is all done when all of the Royal heirs are call to Parliament. However, don’t think for a minute that it’s all as simple as I make it sound because it’s not. Players have the chance to try to try treachery, political backstabbing, lying, or resort to any method they want to achieve their goal. Oh, and players should be encouraged to do these things, as that’s what makes the game even more interesting.


There is more than one way to achieve Victory in Crown of Roses. There are three different ways players can win the game. The can win by achieving a;

  • Military Victory
  • Political Victory
  • Economic Victory

A Military Victory is obviously the best victory to achieve as it means that you are the last noble in the game and that you have eliminated all your opponents. However, don’t think that this is easy as there are many opponents to overcome and in many games there are just too many opponents and too little time.

The most common way that a game is won is through a Political Victory. This type of victory occurs when your senior heir is elected as king a specific number of times as specified in the scenario set-up.

The final way a player can achieve victory is through an Economic Victory. Here the player with the most Economic Victory points is declared the winner. These Economic Victory points are achieved by who controls the shires. So, as you can see, there are multiple ways in which a player can achieve victory.


clip_image009The rules for Crown of Roses are quite long and will take multiple reading to make sure you get all the nuances. There is so much here that I don’t think most players will be able to absorb everything in one sitting. One of the items you should be aware of is that the first 17 pages of the rules deal with many of the games physical components. You don’t get to the Sequence of Play until page 18 and after this, the rules follow the Sequence of Play which makes reading them intuitive. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but there is a lot to absorb in the games 42 pages. Add to this a Playbook of 26 pages and there is much to remember. However, the Playbook does have a nicely detailed Example of Play which should be read after the rules which should help many players.

Crown of Roses is by no means a simple or short game. The components of the game are beautiful from the map, to the counters, to the cards. The more players that are in a game, the longer it will take to complete. At points, there are so many items that each player needs to keep track of that you feel as though you’re becoming bogged down with bookkeeping, and not playing a game. However, having said that, just as though the Wars of the Roses had its own political intrigue and maneuvering, so does Crown of Roses. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is a fun game that can be even more so with a group of animated players. Stephen A. Cuyler did an absolutely fantastic job in designing a game on a historical situation that is not easy to model because of its multiple nuances. I remember the original Kingmaker, which was designed in 1974, as being a game predominately based around conflict and diplomacy. Crown of Roses, like Kingmaker, is a game played on multiple levels as the game involves strategy, political intrigue, and conflict. While not a simple game, gamers who have an interest in the Middle Ages or the Wars of the Roses will thoroughly enjoy this engrossing title as they vie to see which family will ascend the throne and become King of England.

This game is available from GMT Games