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Subject: Session Report - 4 Player - 90 minutes rss

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Richard Pardoe
United States
San Ramon
California
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Victory & Honor (Basic Game)
4 Player (3 new)
90 minutes w/ rules explanation


With 4 players tonight, the other game on offer that would get us finished by 9 pm was Victory & Honor. This is a 4 player trick-taking card game played in partnerships with a Civil War theme. I have always been curious about this game based on some positive comments, but the usual reviews and rules summary left me feeling that this game wasn't as enjoyable as the comments indicated. Even Dave (during the rules explanation) admitted that the rules are not the best written. But kudos to Dave for his excellent explanation. I hope that my overview is as easy to understand.

The goal of the game is to get the most points. Points are scored by looking at the cards (tricks) captured at the end of each hand. The suit cards (1, 2, or 3 star generals) are worth the total of their stars. The number cards (1 to 7) are worth 1 point each. The total in a suit is the number of stars times the count of the number cards. So one is trying to win a mix of generals and number cards.

There are 4 suits (colours) in the game. In front of each player is a "battleline" mat with a left flank, center, and right flank section. In a round, one colour will be played to each section. As there are four colours in the game, the left over colour will become the trump colour for that round. A round is over when each player has played 1 card to each of the sections - ie after 3 cards per player. But the card play is not in the usual clockwise order. The section played to indicates the next player to play a card. Therefore if a player plays a card to his right flank section, it is the player on his right that will play next. If a player plays a card to his center section, it is the player opposite (his partner) that will play next. Finally, if a player plays a card to his left flank section, it is the player to his left that will play next.

When all the cards have been played, each section is treated as a trick to see who has captured the cards. The highest card in the colour for that section will win, unless a trump card has been played. When it is a player's turn to play a card, he decides which empty space to play (each section can only have 1 card in it). If playing to a section with a specified suit (colour), he must follow suit (colour) if able. If he can not, he plays a card (of any colour, including trump) face-down. As a result, the card play will criss-cross around the table until all players have played 3 cards.

Now, there are some special cards in the deck. A player who plays a 1 card can tell the next player which of the available sections to play to. A 4 card (artillery) played on a flank will remove the opponent's card on that side. (This happened in our first round, Lawrence played a general to his right flank passing the turn to Rich, who played a 4 card on his left flank to "remove" the general into Rich's captured trick pile.) The final special card is a 7 card (cavalry) which if the last card played in that trick will win the trick unless trumped.

As each player starts with 10 cards in hand, there will be 3 rounds played before scoring takes place. Therefore, one needs to judge not only what to play this round, but what cards might be useful in future rounds. This makes for some interesting decisions. Those keeping score at home should be thinking - 3 rounds of 3 cards each is 9 cards - what about that 10th card in hand? It is added to the players captured cards and scored also, so one might have an incentive to hold back on a particular card as it will help the score more than win a trick.

With the rules explanation out of the way, we paired up as Dave/Rich against Lawrence/Sterling and proceeded to play through 4 hands of 3 rounds each as this would let everyone be dealer once. As mentioned above, Lawrence opened the game with a general on his right flank which passed the turn to Rich who responded with artillery (#4 card) on his left flank. This returned the play to Lawrence who played a general on his left flank only to be hit with more artillery from Dave. While Dave/Rich did capture those 2 generals, the scoring for the first hand was fairly tight. Rich scored 28 points for his team while Sterling scored 28 points for his team and we were tied after 1 hand.

Some of the interesting decisions of the game were apparent in the next round. Rich held both the red 7 and the red 3-star general. He decided hoped to position both to capture a trick of red cards but was trumped both times by Sterling. Even after working into a position to play the red 7 last to trump a general, a card in the trump colour killed that strategy. Sterling managed a massive 36 points in red plus 15 in another suit for 51 points. But Rich/Dave managed to pick up enough modest tricks to score 6 from Rich and 30+15+13 from Dave for 54 points and a narrow 3 point advantage (82-79).

The third hand was all Sterling again as he voided of red early and managed to play trump in the first two rounds. He couldn't repeat in the third round, but again walked off with 32 points. Dave/Rich managed only dribs and drabs scoring 6+4+4+2 for 16 points. Sterling/Lawrence now led by 13 points (111-98).

The fourth and final hand didn't appear to start out any different, but as the first round completed, Rich managed to capture 2 tricks while Lawrence captured 1. One of the tricks Rich captured was in yellow and the next round Rich had an opportunity to play his yellow 7 (cavalry) last in the trick to trump Dave's general gaining more points in hand for scoring. In the final round, Rich had only 2 colours in hand (yellow, green) while Dave had (3 black cards). As the turn went to Lawrence, Rich hoped that Lawrence would play a black card (giving Rich trump in yellow) while Dave hoped that Lawrence would play yellow (giving Dave trump in black). As we were partners, we didn't realize it, but we would have lots of trump cards and would gather quite a few cards for scoring. When the cards were tallied, Sterling/Lawrence had 18 points for a total of 129 for the game. Dave and Rich had 66 points (24+20+20+2) for a total of 164 for a rather dramatic and impressive come from behind victory.

Boy, am I glad I could play this game. The available descriptions make this game sound much more complicated than it is. I hope that my description above gives you a flavour of the game, but doesn't put people off. This is a game that if you like trick-taking games you will want to try. I like the fact that one needs to balance one's handplay for 3 separate rounds and trying to see what cards will work well when. Furthermore, the ability to direct play in different directions adds a neat twist...do you play to your opponents to force their hands? Do you play to your partner to signal (somehow) potential plays? A game that I enjoyed very much tonight.

Boy, sounding a bit Vaselish (hey, a V adjective) with the two session reports tonight. But both games were fun romps tonight and I am glad for the opportunity to play both. For such a quiet letter, V was fun.

Next week W and Wings of War amongst others.

Thanks all for a great night of gaming, looking forward to next week if not sooner.
 
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