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Moods of the Mad King Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Alan Bahr
Artist: Dani Powers
Publisher: Gallant Knight Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 10-15 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Moods of the Mad King by Gallant Knight Games is a fast, deduction-driven game of set collection in which players must match the play they’re writing to the king’s ever-changing mood. Will you craft a comedy to suit the king’s joyous mood, or perhaps a mix of tragedy and romance because, let’s face it, who knows what the king is feeling? Using hand management, learn what your fellow playwrights are concocting to keep them from creating a masterpiece, while at the same time gaining the favor of the king.

Rules and Setup:

Setup for a 4-player game.

Begin by shuffling the act, muse, mood, and player cards into their corresponding decks/piles. Remove one of the mood cards and, without looking at it, return it to the box. Deal each player a muse. Also deal each player three act cards, one of each act (i.e. each player receives a card for Act I, an Act II card, and—you guessed it—one for Act III). Lay these cards in front of you, the player, in descending order. These act cards will be what generate points at the end of the game, so make sure you know what’s in front of you. That being said, you may only look at the cards in front of you (cheaters will be punished to the full extent of the law). Next, each player draws one card.

Each muse card will grant a player extra points for each type of act (comedy, drama, etc.) that player has at the end of the game. Points are awarded for matching sets of act genre in front of the player at the end of the game. Meaning, if a player has comedy in act I, tragedy in act II, and comedy in act III, that player will receive four points (each act from a player’s matching genre receives points equal to its act number—in this case, one point for act I, and three points for act III). When the game ends, the top mood card is flipped over, and players receive an extra point for each act that matches the king’s mood. (In the aforementioned example with two comedies and a tragedy, if the king’s mood at the end of the game was lamenting, one extra point would be gained because tragedy matches lamenting.)

Play begins at the starting player (determined how you will) and moves clockwise from there. On a player’s turn, they must draw one card from the player deck and must then play one card from their hand. Basically, it’s draw one, play one. Players will always have one card in their hand at the end of their turn (much like Love Letter). Once a card is played, the card’s text will dictate what happens next.

Gameplay goes quickly, as there aren’t many options for a player to choose from. There are, however, choices that will help players match act cards in front of them, turn their act cards face-up (which essentially makes them a permanent fixture in front of that player), swap muses, switch act cards, manipulate the king’s moods, and…well, you get the idea.

The game ends when a player goes to draw a card at the start of their turn and there are no more cards to draw. When this happens, all act cards are flipped face up, and scoring commences (see above for scoring examples). The player with the highest score wins the game. If there is a tie, the player with the most act cards that matches the king’s mood takes the cake (so to speak). If there is still a tie, then the king rages and, according to the rules (I’m not making this up), the king beheads everyone! So, uh, try to win. Or at least, try to avoid a tie (your head will thank you).

These are your final acts at the end of the game. For matching sets of Romance, you receive 4 points (1 for Act I and 3 for Act III). The king's mood is Brooding, which corresponds to Drama. Thus, one extra point is earned for Act II. Because your Muse gives a bonus for Romance, 2 extra points are awarded, for a total of 7 points.

Theme and Mechanics:

The theme is that of playwrights trying to please their mood-swinging king. Really, there could be a plethora of other themes pasted on to this and it would still work, but I’m personally a fan of the theater theme.

The mechanics are set collection and hand management, and while they don’t necessarily feel like they compliment the theme, they don’t hinder it, either. But, for the quick filler game that it is, the mechanics work just fine.

Artwork and Components:

Moods of the Mad King consists entirely of tarot-sized cards, which makes this game easy to port around in its little tuck box. The art is whimsical and certainly fits the theme and, shall we say, mood of the game. When I spoke with the game designer, he mentioned that they are hoping to launch a second edition on Kickstarter somewhere in the future, which, he said, would improve the components. As it stands right now, I didn’t have a problem with the make of the cards, so even if the quality remains the same, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

The Good:
Moods of the Mad King is quick filler game that can (and probably will) see two or three plays in a row. Whether you’re waiting for the rest of your game group to show up or need a quick game before bedtime, Moods of the Mad King fits the bill.

The game is insanely quick and easy to learn, making it a great option for even the most beginner gamer, or people that would rather not take the time to learn a complicated game.

Turns don’t take long, so down time isn’t something to dread.

The player cards are both useful to gaining a set, and handy when you don’t have much going on and you need to mess with the other players. They can turn the tide of the game in an instant, which is a big part of the fun of Moods of the Mad King.

The Bad:
I found that matching the king’s mood was a big guessing game (for the most part). While there are cards that can help determine what the mood will be at the end of the game, they are few and far between, and in a game with more players, the odds aren’t in your favor of getting one. Still, the majority of the points come in matching sets, so even if you don’t match the mood with your act cards, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the running, and if you do match the mood, there’s no guarantee you’ll win, either.

Final Thoughts:
Moods of the Mad King is chaotic fun. Your strategy one turn can be thrown on its head the next, and can come flying back the very next turn. Even if you’re behind (or you think you’re behind) most of the game, the tables can turn quickly, and nobody’s out of the race the entire game, keeping things interesting throughout. It’s decent with two players, but really shines with five players. I’m not sure how well it holds up after a lot of plays, but for a quick filler game, the mechanics are smooth and the laughs are plenty.

Players Who Like:
If you enjoy games like Love Letter, Moods of the Mad King will bring a familiar feel while bringing something new to the table. Fans of quick filler games may also find a place for Moods of the Mad King in their game library.

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About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding game designer. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Moods of the Mad King Review Moods of the Mad King Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on April 06, 2018 Rating: 5

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