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Subject: Council of Verona - a 2 player review rss

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Kim Williams
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St Just
Cornwall
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mbmbCouncil of Verona – a 2 player review.mbmb


Here's my Council of Verona fantasy. I open a bottle of chilled Prosecco, put on a recording of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (particularly the stirring 'Montagues and Capulets'), and then with my tummy still pleasantly full from my favourite Italian meal, I bring out Council of Verona...

Alternatively, as is suggested by it being the first of Crash Games' 'Pub series', this is a game you can stick in your pocket and pull out when an opportunity arises, be it at a pub, in a restaurant while you wait for your meal to arrive, or just wherever you've got a few minutes and a small, relatively flat, surface to play on.

So what is Council of Verona?

Physically, its a 2-5 player micro card game – Just 13 cards and a handful of influence tokens are used with 2-4 players, while with 5 players a further 4 cards are added into the mix.

I've been quite intrigued by the concept of micro games – can a game with so few components really make for a worthwhile gaming experience? As I play a lot of 2 player games, I was hesitant to get Love Letter, (which seems to be generally regarded as better with more players) but having seen Richard Ham's (My 'go-to' for recommendations of 2 player games) run through video of this it seemed like this could be the 2 player micro game I was looking for.

Thematically, it's a game set in the realm of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, encompassing the rivalry between the Montagues and Capulets.

The theme comes through both from the lovely artwork, and in the appropriate ambitions and actions of these familiar characters: Romeo and Juliet just want to be together, Lord Capulet wants more Capulets on the council than Montagues (while Lord Montague wants the exact opposite). Bitter Mercutio, on the other hand, wants more characters to be exiled than on the council.

I'm quite sure there was no intention for this game to have an educational benefit, but as a mother when I played this with my son I was pleased to think that it might actually add to his literary knowledge. While we did see Romeo and Juliet a few years ago ( so he does have a feel for the underlying themes), I can imagine that playing this might actually make names and allegiances stick in his mind– actually, for that matter it might even make them stick in mine!

While the theme is present enough for those (including myself) for whom playing a Shakespeare-based game is a draw, the game play is such that you could enjoy it even if the bard is not your thing. It could have been re-themed in many different ways, but personally I'm really glad they they went in this direction.

So how do you play?

Get your hand of cards



Each game is played with a subset of the total deck so you never know exactly which cards are going to come out – however you do play with the vast majority of cards (10 out of 13 for 2 players), so you can anticipate cards making an appearance even if you didn't see them during the drafting phase.

All cards depict different characters from Romeo and Juliet. They come in two types: action cards which allow you to take an action when you play them, and agenda cards which have a goal that earns you influence if the goal is achieved.

These are handed out (5 cards each for 2 players, 4 for 3 and 3 for 4.) and then a drafting phase results in your hand for the game. We skipped the drafting phase for our for first few games, and when playing with my nine year old daughter I give her a special dispensation of allowing her to look at her hand and then get to decide whether to keep it as is, or opt for a draft.

Each player also receives an identical set of influence tokens, each of which has a different value on it (the full set of 0, 3, 4, and 5 is used for 2 players, while for 3 and 4 players the 4 is omitted)

On a player's turn they:

mbMust place one of their cards in either exile or council

Every turn you choose a card from your hand, and decide whether to place it in the Council or in Exile (these being simply two distinct areas on your table).

mbMay take an action

If the card has an action written on it, you can choose whether you wish to perform it. Actions stir things up: things like move a character from Exile onto the Council (or vice versa), swap two of the influence tokens, etc.

mbMay place an influence token

You may then place one of your influence tokens on any one of the agenda cards which are already on the table. They have 3 spots to place tokens, each of which has a modifier (+1, 0, -1 etc. The particular modifiers also very between the different characters) Tokens are placed face down so you have no idea what value token an opponent has placed and therefore whether your opponent is really trying for a given goal, or whether they're bluffing using their zero token.



Then it's the next player's turn.

Once all cards have been played this triggers a final round when each players may place a final influence token if they still have one remaining.

Scoring

For each agenda card that has been successfully completed, the influence tokens are turned over, and the modifier applied to work out each player's score. So for instance if Lord Montague's goal of having more Montagues than Capulets in the Council has been achieved, you would then look at the different tokens to see what influence each player earned - so if a player had placed their 3 token on a +1 spot they'd earn 4, if they'd placed a 3 on a -1 spot they'd earn 2 etc. Add up all these scores and you've got your result.

How does a game feel?

With so few cards to be played, games take very little time, yet in that short space of time there's the opportunity for a pleasing amount of strategy. From which cards you draft, where you place your influence tokens (and of which value), to which actions to take, the game gives you a lot of meaningful decisions to take in a very short space of time. I particularly relish deciding in which order to play cards – when to reveal my agenda cards, how long to hold back on the action cards in case they're needed. Sometimes you fight tooth and nail to achieve a chosen objective, other times you just decide a particular objective is a lost cause, and instead add tokens to the exact opposite objective. The fact that you are able to place influence tokens on any character, not just your own, makes things particularly interesting.

Throughout it all there's the possibility for good chunk of bluffing: I place Lord Montague in the council and add a token – is it because I'm hoping to score heavily on that agenda , or am I actually placing a zero token, in the hope that my opponent will think I really am pursuing this goal, try and spoil my plan and add Capulets to the council, only for me to place Lord Capulet in the council on my final turn at which point I add the juicy 5 token I've been saving? (cue maniacal laughter) Lots of mind games potential.

I've played ten games so far, all 2 player. As well as games with my husband I've also played individually with both my children (aged 9 and 11) and they've all enjoyed our games, and been keen to play further games immediately. It looks as if it will scale well, and I'll be intrigued to play it with more players– I imagine that will bring out some quite different dynamics.

In conclusion, for me there are three aspects I particularly value about this game : 1) the theme 2) the bluffing 3) it's micro game nature. As a game play junkie, the third of these is very important as it means I can squeeze in a play of a 'real' game (real both in the sense of being a physical game rather than on a tablet, but also in the sense of requiring real decision making) at a moment when otherwise I'd have to do without. These three aspects combine to make a cracking little game that I'm delighted to add to my collection – and I can't wait to get to my hands on the final version.




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Chuck Reed
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Excellent review! This is a "MUST" have to add to your gaming collection!
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Matthew Vanek
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Here is the kickstarter link for those interested. Only a couple days left!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crashgames/council-of-ve...
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SQ
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BLAMMO!
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Thanks for checking it out! (and for making the SWEET micro badges!)
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Chuck Reed
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Seal of Approval!




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Bob
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I'm the weirdo who purchased overtext solely for the purpose of stating that Kaffedrake's overtext makes me feel melancholy.
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Hi, Kim. I became interested in this game because of your microbadge lineup. mbmb

I find the premise of this microgame with lauded strategy and multiple win scenarios to be very intriguing.

Question: if I'm not generally fond of bluffing would I still like the game? Please consider that one carefully before answering. (I say to consider it carefully because once a co-worker of mine was considering purchasing some dried pineapple for a snack and she asked me if I thought it would be too sweet. The phrase "too sweet" and the related concept weren't in my vocabulary, so I said no, although warning bells should have gone off in my head when she asked the question. She did purchase the dried pineapple and didn't like it.) Anyway, you list bluffing as one of your three highly valued aspects of the game. How well does it stand on the other two aspects along with the rest of mechanics?

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Kim Williams
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An interesting question.

It's not super bluffing focussed - it's not like games such as resistance for instance. The bluffing is more like in a games like Suburbia, where you're not wanting to be too obvious what your private goals are - but with more opportunities to disguise your intentions.

There's definitely more going on than the bluffing element - that aspect was personally note worthy as we don't actually play many games which have that element.

However I think if you generally dislike bluffing this game might not be an ideal match. Maybe it's one you need to try before you buy.
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