Weekly PnP: Hierarchy

  • Designer: Hugo Kawamata
  • Artist: Daniel Ido
  • Publisher: Button Shy Games
  • Where to Find It: PnP Arcade

Luke: Twas a time of royalty.

Phil: An era of the regal.

Luke: And with antiquated power structures come lots of murder.

Phil: Well that escalated quickly.

Luke: That’s exactly how Hierarchy feels; an episode of Game of Thrones where suddenly one of the key players finds themselves cornered, succeeding the throne to the rightful ruler.

Phil: An episode of Game of Thrones? Sure. But is this a good episode of Game of Thrones?

Luke: One of the best.

Phil: Consider me… intrigued.

Luke: At the start of the game, all 14 cards in the deck will be dealt evenly. Whoever has the Imposter card goes first, playing a card to the central tableau. Then, their opponent must play a card that is higher than the previous card played. Back and forth players go until 1 player no longer has a legal move to make, declaring their opponent the winner with as much fanfare as possible.

Phil: Seems simple enough.

Luke: It is, but each card as a unique effect that will muck things up in interesting ways. The Queen can only be played if the Baroness precedes her, the Usurper reverses the card placement rule, and the Serf is a mere 3 when played but a 7 after he’s entered play.

Phil: Meaning that each game will feel unique based on the card pools each player has access to.

Luke: Exactly. Not only that, but since all cards are public knowledge, players will constantly be assessing the board state, trying to plan around their opponent’s possible actions, setting traps for them or falling into some themselves.

Phil: It’s very cat-and-mouse-like, with the game shifting in a single action. There’s some serious head games going on here in the best ways.

Luke: This is a phenomenal little title that really makes you think, and every win or loss feels deserved. I knew what my opponent has the whole game, yet I was still out-maneuvered. And the human element of trying weird and interesting combinations just makes this game so darn good. It distills what I love about the Unmatched combat system down to a 10-minute title, and one I’d be happy to get to the table time and again.

Phil: So how does that translate to a solo mode?

Luke: Honestly, not terribly well. Hierarchy: Emissary has you playing cards from 2 separate hands to try and get every card into play, using 3 abilities to make the game easier (or potentially more difficult). Each difficulty level requires that you use a certain number of abilities from your pool of options, though you’ll often need to use at least 1 due to what cards you have access to when.

Phil: Seems like a neat idea, but I imagine other games from the Button Shy line-up does it way better.

Luke: For a solo experience, I’d recommend Sprawlopolis or SpaceShipped over this easily. Hierarchy shines at 2 players. Taking away the dynamic back-and-forth gameplay, to me, removes what makes this game so darn good.

Verdict: Hierarchy is one of Button Shy’s strongest titles to date, presenting a puzzle of tactical plays and head games. There may be some AP for the most prone players, but the game is so quick that you’ll rarely feel pressured to take too long on your turn. A wallet-sized marvel.

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