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Jane Austen's Matchmaker is a period piece card game set in the olden days, back when life was all about eligible pretty bachelorette's and rich charming gentlemen looking for love. With characters used from well known novels of the titled author such as, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Sense & Sensibility, Matchmaker gives you the opportunity to find romance for all your favourites characters with the beloved you always wanted to see them marry.
To begin each player is dealt three cards and starts with a 'heroine' card played face up on the table, into what is known as your 'society' of ladies available for swooning. On your turn you can do one of the following actions: play a lady from your hand into your society, play a gentlemen card to propose a marriage to another players lady on the table (as long as your not related), pick up a new card, play the 'Have a Ball' card, or 'Push' a lady from your society into another player's if they have less ladies in their's.
Being a game about love and matchmaking, most of the action revolves around the proposals of marriage and whether they are accepted or refused. Each character is ranked in four ways: 'Virtue', 'Charm', Rank, and Wealth. Virtue is your end game points which are earned when a successful proposal is made as you trade your gentlemen card for the lady in waiting, with each player scoring their new cards virtue points. Charm determines how easy it is to ask a girl's hand in marriage and also how hard it will be for the lady to refuse the gentlemen's offer. For a proposal to be made or rejected charm scores must be matched, with each player allowed to discard cards to increase their charm and either win a proposal or decline it. Rank is only used when a lady manages to dissuade her gentleman's charm to refuse the proposal, and if he is of a higher rank the lady is able to draw cards to make up the difference in rank. Wealth is very important in love and if your lady marry's for money, the player with the lower wealth can also take cards to make up the difference in wealth between the newlyweds. When a proposal is suggested, all these factors are considered when deciding whether you want to accept or decline the arrangement.
Aside from proposals the only other card that can be played is the 'Have a Ball' card, which allows each player to put a lady from their hand into their society and draw a new card. During the rounds if a player starts any turn with the most available ladies in their society, that player is able to do two actions on that turn. Players continue taking turns until the draw pile runs out and a player tries or needs to draw another card after which the game ends. Points are tallied by adding the virtue of all your married characters and any 'Old Maids' who remain unmarried and left in your society will have their total virtue deducted from your score, with the winner being the player who was able to match make the most virtue (love).
While Jane Austen would have a very small male fan base, there is a huge percent of the female population who adore her books, films and characters. Just having a game that allows you to find love with the characters most fans would know, automatically makes this game appealing to players who aren't even necessarily into board games - and that's where Matchmaker is a hit. I purchased this game for my wife and just knowing she would be able to marry characters like Mr Darcy and Mr Knightley, was enough to excite her about playing the game. A lot of females like Jane Austen, and by using her stories and characters as the theme is an ingenious way to entice new board gamers to our hobby. Somehow when your setting up Elizabeth Bennet to be married, rules are no longer too complicated and when your rejecting Lt. George Wickham, even if your losing your having a great time doing it. You could play the same game matching shapes or colours as your just comparing numbers, but its main appeal is that your match making characters people know and seem to care about. To Austen fans Matchmaker is more about the names than the numbers, although even then fans will love just discussing their favourite characters charm, virtue, rank and wealth ratings.
While Austen fans will get a thrill just having certain characters, to the rest of the world however - the chance to marry Emma and Mr Bingley will mean absolutely nothing. Lucky for us, beneath the cover of love is a mild strategic card game - this isn't just something like 'memory' with a theme pasted on it. There are things like the need to balance your society with the right amount of cards to get the coveted extra turn, while making sure you won't be stuck at the end of the game with negative virtue. Consideration for the proposals is also required (which unsurprisingly has nothing to do with who's names on the cards), when deciding whether to accept or refuse someone's offer. Sometimes you'll refuse a proposal because the offer is a terrible deal and other times it may be a good deal, but if you decline you'll be able to restock your hand with cards. Likewise with accepting a proposal, a bad deal may sometimes be taken to prevent you from ending up with an unmarried 'Old Maid' and occasionally you'll just marry for money (more cards). Hand management is important too as through charm and an opponents lack of cards, you can force bad marriages on other players where they can't actually refuse your offer.
Overall Matchmaker is a bit of a tough game to review. I've been able to successfully play this with people who just like the idea of Jane Austen, and when I do play there's enough involved and going on that I actually enjoy a game or two. Realistically though, Matchmaker isn't a game I'll play often or that I can recommend for a few guys to get together and try. The game elements to Matchmaker are cleverly disguised in a Jane Austen theme that not only fits what your doing really well, but is definitely it's biggest draw. The fact it plays quickly with interaction between players even when its not your turn is nice, and the complexity in the proposal system (that may even take a few turns before everyone fully understands what is a good and a bad offer), make Matchmaker perfectly playable, but it's still really a game for fans of Austen. Take away Jane Austen and your left with an OK card game. Take it out in a group of people who have read the books, seen the movies, know the characters and it's a definite hit. For that reason alone, if you have a significant other or the chance to allure other Austen lovers into trying a game, it's worth a purchase. It's as simple as that. If everyone your playing with likes Jane Austen, except you - you'll still find some enjoyment. If nobody your playing with cares about or likes Jane Austen - then why would you play a game called 'Jane Austen's Matchmaker' in the first place.
P.S. If its between this and watching a Jane Austen film - I'll play Matchmaker every time!
My Verdict: TRY
Great use of Jane Austen theme and perfect for fans
Enough to enjoy in the game even if you aren't a fan