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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Review of Shakespeare) rss

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Michael Carpenter
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West Virginia
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BOX ART




QUICK FACTS
Style of Game: Strategy
Play Time: 20 to 90 minutes
Theme: Creating plays
Number of Players: 1-4
Main Mechanics: Action allowance, Blind bidding
Components: Good
Weight: Medium

SUMMARY
In Shakespeare 1-4 players are attempting to plan for the greatest play possible in 6 days time. As with any good play the director needs good actors and actresses, beautiful costumes for those men and women, and a stage that is fit for a Queen. Careful though, you must also be able to pay for your extravagant play.

THEME AND MECHANISMS
I think Shakespeare's theme is misunderstood at first glance. It seems as though people see the name Shakespeare and assume the theme will be about writing plays but this game tackles the management aspect of creating a play. Due to this confusion I believe it is easy to feel the game has no theme at all but the fundamental mechanisms do follow the most basic responsibilities of creating a play. Players must not only hire actors and actresses, they must have craftsmen that can improve the look of the costumes and stage in the play. I have never built a stage but I am assuming in Shakespeare's time many stages were relatively symmetric. Is that the way I would have assumed the mechanism would work? No, but it works well. The game definitely abstracts things down to some pretty simple mechanisms but the overall feel of the game does give a bit of thematic feel.




SETUP
*The main board is placed in the middle of the table. The Day token is placed on space 1 of the day tracker.



*All coins, +3 tokens, and Objective cards should be placed near the board.







*Each player receives a player board, the 5 cylinders and 7 discs of their color, 4 Rest tokens and the Recruitment card of their color.







*Players should place one of the discs on the center space of their ambiance track on their player board.



*One player then takes one disc from each player and randomly places them on the order track. The player who is placed first on the Order track places one of their discs on the first space of the Initiative track, second on the second space, and so on. One disc from each player should be places on the "5" space of the scoring track and the three remaining discs for each player should be placed on the first space of each Act tracks (Red, Blue, and Yellow tracks in the center of the board).



*Players should now check the reference cards to see how many Stage Set elements (square pieces with numbers on them) and Costume elements (circle pieces with numbers on them) should be put in the corresponding bags for each type of element.

*In a two player game 6 of each time of element will be placed on the board. Three player game, 9. Four player game, 12. These pieces are drawn randomly out of the bags provided for each type of element.

*Now the character cards are shuffled. Draw two more cards than the number of players in the game and place them under the main board.



*The player placed last on the Order track chooses one of the Character cards that have been drawn and places it next to their player board. Each player does this and then all remaining cards are discarded and once again two more cards than the number of players is drawn to start the game.








GAMEPLAY
Shakespeare plays over the course of 6 rounds (referred to as days). After 4 rounds/days there is a dress rehearsal (scoring phase) and after 6 rounds/days the game ends and one more slightly more detailed scoring phase (dress rehearsal) will occur.

Each round is divided into 6 phases:

1. Wager
2. Recruitment and Activation
3. Ambiance
4. Dress Rehearsals (only played in rounds 4 and 6)
5. Maintenance
6. Rest

WAGER:
To perform the Wager phase players should take their 5 cylinders (shown below) and secretly decide how many of these cylinders they would like to bid. Each cylinder represents one action the play may take during this round. The player who bids the least cylinders will be the first player to act in the round, followed by the other players based on the number of cylinders they have bid, not clockwise or counter-clockwise order.

The player who has bid the fewest cylinders should place their disc on the first place of the Order track (the horizontal track) and immediately scores one point on the scoring track. The player who has bid the next fewest cylinders places their disc on the second space on the order track and so on.

If two or more players have bid the same number of cylinders ties are broken by the current initiative track (the vertical track).

In this example both players have bid five cylinders.



Therefore, players should look at the Initiative track to see who will place their disc on the first space of the Order track.



The blue player is first on the Initiative track (vertical track) so he or she will remain in the first space of the Order track (horizontal track) and will receive one point on the scoring track.




Recruitment and Activation
During this phase players will take as many actions as they have bid, plus one action for recruitment. Players do not have to take these actions in any particular order. A player may recruit as their first action or as any other action.

To recruit a player will take their Recruitment card and replace a face-up character card in the middle of the table. Recruitment may only be done once per round.



To activate a character a player places one available cylinder on the character they would like to use. Players have 4 free characters on their player board and 1 or 2 recruited character cards by the time they make their first activation action.

Each character has a benefit the player receives for activating the character in the top left corner.



Once a character is activated the player immediately takes the benefit of the character. There are multiple types of benefits given by the characters and they are explained in detail in the rule book.

Each player has two types of characters available to them: Actors and Actresses and Craftsmen. Actors and Actresses are the characters with three blank spaces at the bottom of the character card.



Players will be able to dress these actors in costumes, represented by the circles costume elements placed on the main board.



Once an actor has three costume elements the player receives a benefit based on the total of the three circles. The actor above has 12 points of costume so the player will receive two points on the score track according to the chart on the player board. The fully costumed actor or actress will also provide a benefit during the dress rehearsals phases of rounds 4 and 6.



Any character card can be recruited and turned over to its "extra" side. These extras can also be dressed and they do not cost any money to have in your play.

Some benefits from characters provide an opportunity to take some of the circle costume elements discussed above. Some of the characters provide an opportunity to move their discs along the Act tracks. This is represented by feathers in the benefit area of the character cards. Colored feathers move the corresponding track while white feathers can be used to move any track. Some characters provide an opportunity to take some of the stage set elements from the main board. Whenever a player takes costume or stage set elements the player may only take up to the amount shown by the character. This will be represented by a number inside a circle (meaning costume elements) or square (meaning stage set elements) in the upper left corner.

When a player is placing the stage set elements on their player board they must build symmetrically on each row of the stage but do not have to build all of each row before moving up to a higher row.



To move up to a higher row a player must have two pieces directly below the new piece to form a pyramid formation.



A player may use the free spaces on the left and right sides of the stage as pieces to build on top of, as long as they have the second required piece as well. If a player is able to cover a space with a candle in it he or she will score one point for that space at the end of the game.

The Jeweler (shown below) is a special character in the game that provides an advantage of sorts over players who do have not employed a Jeweler. The Jeweler allows players to take gold/yellow costume and stage set elements from the main board. Each gold piece of either sort that a player has at the end of the game is worth one point.



Players will take turns recruited or activated characters until all players have used all of the cylinders they bid during that round.




Ambiance:
During the Ambiance phase players will look to see where their disc is at the end of recruitment and activation. There are good and bad locations on the ambiance track and the player will either gain money, points or feathers or lose feathers or points based on where they end up.




Dress Rehearsal:
The dress rehearsal phase only occurs in rounds 4 and 6. To perform the dress rehearsal phase players will first look at the Act tracks. Scoring is done in order based on the Initiative track order. Players will give themselves the benefits they receive from all of the actors or actresses they have fully dressed at the time. These benefits often impact the Act tracks by providing different types of feathers. This is why the Initiative track is used to decide who scores first. The Act tracks provide different amounts of points based on how far along players are and in the case of the yellow track, the first player to reach the end of the tracks scores more than the second player.

Once all players have moved their discs according to the benefits they have received they should score the tracks. This means the players will receive the benefits indicated by the tracks based on their positions on the tracks. If a player has not moved a disc past the space on the Act tracks that have a melted candle under it then the player loses one point for each Act track that this applies to.






Maintenance:
The maintenance phase just requires players to setup for the next round. Players will discard the character cards that were not recruited, they will place all costume and stage set element pieces back into their corresponding bags, and they will reset their ambiance track discs to the empty space. The day token is moved forward one space to indicate which round the players are in. Players will then set all of the pieces that were discarded in the same fashion they did to start the game.




Rest
By the end of the activation and recruitment phase players will have activated a number of their characters based on the number of cylinders they used. To perform the rest phase players should use the rest tokens they received at the beginning of the game to indicated which of the activated characters from the current round will rest. To do this players must place one rest token on all but one of the characters that were activated in the current round. Therefore, if a player activated 4 characters in the current round he or she would have to place 3 rest tokens on 3 of the 4 activated characters. None of the characters that have received a rest token may be used in the next round. In later rounds players will have to remove rest tokens from the characters that currently have them and place them on the newly activated characters, applying the same "all but one" rule for the newly activated characters. The one character that is not given a rest token may be used again in the next round and if it does not receive a rest token in that round either that character may continue to be used.

Each round will be played like this for 6 rounds. At the end of the fourth round a scoring phase (dress rehearsal) is performed and at the end of the sixth round a second scoring phase (dress rehearsal) is performed. However, in the second scoring phase players will also check to see if they have completed any objective cards, they check for any yellow/gold costume or stage set element pieces and check to see if any candles have been covered on their stage set. Players should also check to see if they can pay for all of their recruited characters. Any character that is not able to be fully paid loses two points for the player.

The player with the most points after all scoring adjustments are made is the winner of the game.

*Please note that I tried to touch on most of the rules in this game but I may have missed a some small rules here or there or chose to leave something out. The rule book does a good job of explaining everything in better detail.


FINAL THOUGHTS
PROS:
- The scoring in this game is tight so every point earned is crucial
- The feel you have for what you should be doing grows nicely from round 1 to round 6.
- While everything feels difficult to achieve, nothing is extremely difficult or impossible
- The game is said to be strategical but there are a lot of tactics involved in this game as well
- There is almost NEVER a run away leader in the purest form but since points are hard to come by a small leader can be a big lead in this game
- Each mechanism blends into the overall experience well. There is nothing that stands out as unnecessary in this game.

CONS:
- While I said the growth of your comprehension from round 1 to 6 is nice, the first round or two (especially in your first play) may seem aimless
- The Jeweler makes for competition but if you do not get him and another Jeweler does not come out quickly you are at a definite disadvantage
- The feeling most players say they have is that they had no idea what to be doing until the last couple rounds.
- Some of the mechanisms (i.e. paying for characters, Act tracks) can really overpower a new player's perception of what they should be doing. The Act tracks are obviously important but they do not provide a ton of points and the money salary costs can mislead a player into thinking they should focus on getting money too often and potentially waste actions

This is one of my favorite games so know that as you continue reading.
I find this game to be wildly fractured yet elegantly blended. When you begin your first play you will undoubtedly think, "Where do I go first?". In the mid game you will not know exactly how to blend everything together but you will start to see how things will come together. By the end of the game you will see exactly what needs to be done to finish strong. It is whether or not you can achieve these tasks by the end of the game or not that will obviously determine your success. I am yet to see someone not see these end-game tasks but I have seen players mismanage their efforts and suffer from it.

My entire adoration of this game revolves around the way each aspect of the game demands your attention. This creates a tensions of every area of the game. Assuming you are also paying attention to your opponent's efforts as well. If I just play my game solo, which the games make you think you can do, I will have no chance of doing well. There are aspects of luck like which pieces will be available or which character cards will be available, but you have an opportunity to maximize the potential of those areas if you plan accordingly.

This is not the deepest strategy ever, but it is a very unique feel of strategy. It is as if the game purposely throws distractions at you in the form of salary or points or money on the Act tracks to see if it can lead you astray from your strategy instead of incorporating those things into your strategy tactically. Accomplishing those tasks efficiently is vital. If you waste too many actions trying to pay your characters or move along an Act track too early you are mistaken.

My only serious complaint about this game is that the Jeweler can sway the game too much in some plays. If I get the Jeweler and then just keep getting uncontested gold costumes elements and stage set elements you are in trouble. Again, each player has an opportunity to bid for the opportunity to get the Jeweler and I have seen a few players do well without the Jeweler but he is definitely a big factor in the game.

All in all, I play this game any chance I get. I suggest it to all types of player except young kids. I seldom get a huge excitement from the players but it never falls flat. It is not the kind of game that creates wild fun, it is more of a game that makes you think and stay focused. For that, I truly enjoy this game.

Rating - 9/10


If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple
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Curt Frantz
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MariettaTennis wrote:
CONS:
- While I said the growth of your comprehension from round 1 to 6 is nice, the first round or two (especially in your first play) may seem aimless


I disagree with this. The initial character draft (during setup) and the first couple rounds are paramount in determining what strategy you choose to specialize in. If you're playing aimlessly, you're not playing well.


MariettaTennis wrote:
- The Jeweler makes for competition but if you do not get him and another Jeweler does not come out quickly you are at a definite disadvantage


This is true. But you could have always bid less to get the jeweler yourself. It's not necessarily 'fair', but it's within every player's control.

Secondly, the expansion integrates a new method of gaining gold set pieces and costume elements. I think you'd find this to be less of a 'problem'.


MariettaTennis wrote:
- The feel most players say they have is that they had no idea what to be doing until the last couple rounds.


Players may feel this way their first game, but if this is a recurring feeling, then they're not grasping the strategy. The first couple rounds are just as important as the last. The characters drafted early in the game are the ones who will get used more.


MariettaTennis wrote:
- Some of the mechanisms (i.e. paying for characters, Act tracks) can really overpower a new player's perception of what they should be doing. The Act tracks are obviously important but they do not provide a ton of points and the money salary costs can mislead a player into thinking they should focus on getting money too often and potentially waste actions


In all the games I've played, money has been very tight. As a matter of fact, I find myself having to remind new players that they should be collecting more money throughout the game. Also, in a game where you're only gaining 20-25 points, getting 4 for being first on the yellow act track (twice) is a pretty big deal. I wouldn't discount gaining points this way. Plus, if you choose not to fight for this track, you're handing other players free points. Keep in mind that nothing provides a 'ton' of points in this game.
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Michael Carpenter
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So the first point... Players don't really grasp the game's expectations. Leading to a feeling of not knowing exactly what to do, who to recruit, which characters to use. The game is not complex and your choices in those early rounds do unfold the strategy that you start to see in the mid-game much better. As stated in the review. The approach to successfully playing this game is not intuitive by any means the first time through but does come with more plays.

The second point... I also mentioned the bidding mechanism giving each player a chance to win the jeweler but the tiebreaker can really sway this to the point that you may have to really drop your actions. The jeweler may be worth that at times.

As for the expansion mechanisms, maybe we can try it out together sometime on your copy...

The third point... I definitely mean first timers. If that wasn't conveyed well enough. My fault.

The fourth point... While money is tight. There is no denying that. I find that it is very easy to manage money through this game once you recognize how to pay for actors efficiently throughout the game. The other aspect of this that gets overlooked is not recruiting an actor every round and instead recruiting extras when necessary. Overplaying the money expectations is a mistake. Not being able to pay for your actors is just irresponsible money management. My point is that newer players (not all) can try to pay for all their actors too early and waste valuable actions in the early rounds.

 
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Curt Frantz
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MariettaTennis wrote:
So the first point... Players don't really grasp the game's expectations. Leading to a feeling of not knowing exactly what to do, who to recruit, which characters to use. The game is not complex and your choices in those early rounds do unfold the strategy that you start to see in the mid-game much better. As stated in the review. The approach to successfully playing this game is not intuitive by any means the first time through but does come with more plays.

The second point... I also mentioned the bidding mechanism giving each player a chance to win the jeweler but the tiebreaker can really sway this to the point that you may have to really drop your actions. The jeweler may be worth that at times.

As for the expansion mechanisms, maybe we can try it out together sometime on your copy...

The third point... I definitely mean first timers. If that wasn't conveyed well enough. My fault.

The fourth point... While money is tight. There is no denying that. I find that it is very easy to manage money through this game once you recognize how to pay for actors efficiently throughout the game. The other aspect of this that gets overlooked is not recruiting an actor every round and instead recruiting extras when necessary. Overplaying the money expectations is a mistake. Not being able to pay for your actors is just irresponsible money management. My point is that newer players (not all) can try to pay for all their actors too early and waste valuable actions in the early rounds.



I've experienced the opposite with new players and money.

Another note: you mentioned sacrificing actions to bid lower for something like the jeweler. The expansion also addresses this issue, as your un-bid cylinders are able to take different actions. So bidding lower doesn't penalize you, it simply opens up a different set of actions. Your recruitment card can be used differently you, so if you don't want to recruit 7 characters, you don't lose that action either.
 
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carine zaayman
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I do not understand why you say that the jeweler does not need to be activated? "The Jeweler (shown below) is a special character in the game that does not require activation but instead provides a constant benefit. The Jeweler allows players to take gold/yellow costume and stage set elements from the main board."

The rules state that the jeweler, when activated, allows you to take a gold set piece or costume.
 
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Michael Carpenter
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Indeed you are correct! Review corrected. Thanks.
 
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patrick mullen
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About money: I agree with the second poster. I think because you don't have to pay for the actors until the end, I think it's easy for new players to forget to get enough money until there aren't enough turns to do so. My first game last night, along with about 12 other major strategy mistakes, both me and my opponent had 3+ actors who we could not pay, and our scores were very low. The expensive actors are just too tempting to put in, and extras don't seem that useful at first glance.
 
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Michael Carpenter
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3+ is a lot of unpaid actors... that's basically a complete disregard for the mechanism. lol I do admit I have that feeling when I play. It is definitely tempting not to organize your payroll throughout the game. I think it is reasonable to say that the money is something that is likely group dependent. If I were to make a suggestion... try playing with more emphasis on making sure not to leave actors unpaid and see if my viewpoint in the review is more relatable. Either way though, it is certainly a good game and was a pleasant surprise when I was introduced to it.
 
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