Nobles

This is the first game I created. It was submitted to the second edition of Here Be Gamers Extra, but unfortunately that wing of the HBG empire has folded. So to make up for it, I've made it available here for you. If you play it, leave a comment here and tell me about it.

“The king is dead! Long live...” no one. The king has indeed died, but no heir was named to take the throne. Now the land has descended into civil war as Nobles rally their troops in desperate struggle to seize power for long enough to keep the kingdom intact, and begin a new dynasty.

Setup
Take two decks of playing cards. For each player find the King, Queen and Jack of a single suit and lay them face up in front of that player. This is their court. Divide the remaining cards into a Nobles deck (the remaining picture cards) and a Resources deck (the pip cards). Both the Nobles and the Resources decks are left face down. Deal three Resource cards to each player. This is the starting hand.

Spring
Reap the harvest of the fields. For every King in your court, draw two cards from the Resource deck and add to your hand.

In Spring, the allegiances of Nobles are fickle, and may be changed as oft as the wind. Spend ten or more pips of resources to draw a card from the Nobles deck.

Summer
Only during Summer is the weather right to march armies and enjoin in battle. To march an army against your enemy you need at least one card of the same suit as the King. These are his loyal soldiers.

Write on a piece of paper the number of cards you intend to send into battle, and the court you intend to attack. When all battle instructions have been written, all commands are revealed at the same time.

Take the number of cards for your army from your hand and lay them face down in front of you. The total number of pips in this army is your attack strength.

The defending army does not need loyalist soldiers and may be assembled from any combination of suits. Add the pips together to determine the defensive strength.

The winner of the battle is the army with the highest strength. Discard all the cards from the losing army and the top value card from the victorious army. Also, if the defeated army was the defender, the lowest rank noble of that court is taken captive.

If the two armies' strengths are equal then neither army has won the field of battle. Both armies lost their highest card and the rest must retreat.

The Jack is a skilled tactician. If you have sent the army out with a Jack and at least two cards of your king's suit, every card of that suit in your army is considered a unit of elite soldiers and is worth double on the field. The Jack is lost if the army is beaten.

Morale of your soldiers is important. If you have a Joker in your hand, you may send it into battle with the army. The Joker allows your soldiers to rally in the face of overwhelming odds; converting a single card into a card of loyalist soldiers. The Joker is lost if the army is beaten.

Autumn
Under the code of chivalry, nobles who are defeated on the field of battle are not executed, but are captured for ransom. To do otherwise is barbarous. The greater the reputation of the captured noble, the greater the ransom that can be demanded. The value of ransom is determined by suit. If the noble is of the King's suit, ransom is six pips, otherwise it is four pips.

If the ransom cannot be paid in full, the noble stays captive and can generate no wealth for anyone during the Spring. If the next Ransom opportunity arises and the ransom is not paid, the capturing Noble can choose to pay the ransom to the Resources discard pile and bring that Noble into their own court.

Winter
If you have a Joker in your hand, you can play it as a Spy to look at the hand of any single other player. The Joker must be discarded immediately after use.

If you have an Ace in your hand, you hold a deadly assassin! An assassin can infiltrate another court and kill a noble without needing to go to battle. To kill a Jack, the assassin will need cards totalling 11 pips. For a Queen, 12 pips are required. For a King, 13 pips are required. No more and no less. A defender may stop an assassin with the same number of pips. Both sides must assemble their Resources in secret and reveal them at the same time. Whether the assassin is successful or not, all attacking cards – including the Ace – are spent. The defender does not lose any Resource cards, but if the assassination was successful, the target Noble is removed from play with no chance for Ransom.

The Queen, a woman of subtlety and intuition, can improve the chances of preventing an assassination. For each Queen in the defender's court, adjust the assassin's strength by one in either direction. Declare the direction of the shift after the assassin's target is revealed.

It is possible to hide the assassin in a troupe of entertainers. To do this, the attacker must play a Joker card with the Ace. In this case, any defence must be declared before the target is announced.

Discard Surplus Cards
You may have a maximum of five cards in your hand at the end of your turn. Every additional King that you have in your court allows you to hold 2 more cards. Any surplus cards must be returned to the discard pile to signify the end of your turn. Once the discard phase is over, the cycle returns again to the Springtime harvest.

End of the Game
When cards are lost, they are lost permanently. Place them in the discard pile. When the Resources deck is completely depleted, civil war has ruined the land and it can no longer be united under the standard of the triumphant Noble.

Alternatively, if a Noble succeeds in conquering all others, and there are Resource cards remaining in the deck, he has won the right to the throne, to govern over the meagre resources left in his kingdom.