Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty
According to my bond; no more nor less.
-Cordelia, Act I, Scene I (King Lear)
Captain’s Gambit features a wide range of interesting and unique captains. Some of those captains have changed a lot as the game has developed (I’m looking at you, Iago). But a few captains have remained basically the same since the very beginning. Today I wanted to highlight two of the oldest captains in Captain’s Gambit: Cordelia and Brutus!
Long Live the King!
Fun fact about Cordelia: she wasn’t always named Cordelia! The captain was originally named after her father, King Lear. Despite the different name, King Lear functioned basically identically to how Cordelia works today. In fact, here’s the original captain text:
During Setup, place a blue token in front of another player. If that player wins, you also win – regardless of personal health.
The way I conceptualized King Lear was that, like in the play, his goal is to find an heir to his throne. So at the beginning of the game he chooses someone to be his successor, and will then do anything in his power to ensure their victory. I really liked King Lear because he was fundamentally a passive captain. Unlike more aggressive captains like Hamlet or Lady Macbeth, Lear was content to primarily protect their target rather than add to the bloodshed.
But something didn’t feel quite right about Lear. While he was fun to play, the player they marked ended up having a very high win rate. When a player was marked by Lear, they always played really recklessly because they knew that someone had their back. This meant they could fully focus on their win objective while ignoring their own safety. At the same time, we also wanted to add one more captain to the game to bring the total up to 8. This is when Alvin found a way to kill two kings with one dagger…
The King is Dead!
Our solution came in the form of Brutus. Like in the play, Brutus acts as a loyal servant until ultimately they betray and kill their ruler. Here was his original text:
During Setup, place a blue token in front of another player. You must deal the killing blow to that player. Once you do, reveal this card to immediately win.
The key here is that the tokens used by King Lear and Brutus look identical. This means that if you received a blue token either King Lear is helping you or Brutus is trying to kill you and you don’t know which. This uncertainty immediately stopped the reckless behaviour and evened out the win rates.
It also helped that Brutus ended up being fun to play. One of our favourite strategies to see is when Brutus players pretend to be King Lear by helping their target until their target starts to trust them. Then, once they’ve dropped their guard, they go in for the kill! We love this strategy not just because it takes some skill to pull off, but because it fits the lore so well.
Long May They Reign!
The only significant change that happened to these captains was renaming King Lear to Cordelia. While this was partially done to help gender balance the game a bit, we also felt that Cordelia fit the captain design a bit better. Now instead of choosing an heir, Cordelia is pledging her loyalty and devotion to her king. And this devotion is so great she is even willing to lay down her own life for them.
Like all the other captains, both Cordelia and Brutus have had some significant improvements to their character art. Here’s how they have both changed since their origins in MS Paint:
That’s about it for these two captains. Personally, out of all twelve captains these two are my personal favourites. I love how well their designs complement one another and how much fun they are to both play with and against. So the next time you’re playing Captain’s Gambit and someone gives you a loyalty token, just remember to watch your back.
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P.S. It’s a lot of fun to play a game where both Cordelia and Brutus mark the same captain. It’s probably not the best choice if you’re trying to win, but it makes for a very memorable game!