Over two thousand years ago the Holy Land was occupied by Seleucid Greeks. They instituted a number of repressive measures against the native Jewish population and even desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem. In response the Jews banded together under the leadership of a man called Judah Maccabee and revolted against their oppressors.
According to Jewish tradition, after liberating Jerusalem and cleansing the Temple the rebels went to light the Menorah with olive oil, a key part of Temple worship, but alas they only had one day’s worth of purified olive and it would take 8 days to prepare new oil. Undeterred, they lit the Menorah with the little oil they had and it miraculously lasted for eight days.
This miracle is still commemorated today by Jews during the holiday of Hanukah, when an eight-branched menorah (technically named a Hanukiah but called a menorah by the game and almost everyone else in the world) is lit for eight nights with one candle being added for each night.
Traditionally, as the candles are burning one is supposed to relax, enjoy the candle light and use the time to play games. This is the origin of the “game” Dreidle. Now Yehuda Berlinger has designed a fun light family game called Candle Quest that will hopefully relieve the tedium of spinning a top around (not that there’s anything wrong with dexterity games). The design is based on Berlinger’s It’s Alive game.
Please note that this review is based on a playtest preproduction copy and on plays with my 9 year-old, my 12 year-old and a 19 year old soldier who stumbles into our house to sleep every other weekend.
The goal of the standard game (more on variants later) is to collect 8 candles, one of each color, to complete a menorah. Each player starts with a screen to keep his cards and money secret and 12 shekels. Each turn a player turns over a candle card which has a picture of a colored candle with a purchase price and a selling price. The player can either purchase the candle at full price, sell it to the bank for the selling price or put it up for auction in hopes of either purchasing it cheaply or driving up the price to above the sell price (without giving your opponents too much of an advantage). There is also an option to loot other players discards at a very high price.
Two types of specialty cards add a bit of chaos to the game – Dancing candles and Unlit candles. The Dancing candles are relatively expensive but can be used as any color candle while Unlit candles force you to either buy them at full price or discard candles you’ve collected. The bad luck of drawing these cards is ameliorated by the fact that you can later use these cards to loot regular candle cards.
Two variants are included in the game – one, for younger players (5-6 year olds) takes away the auction mechanic which they may find frustrating and the second, for advanced players, alters the victory conditions so that the winner is determined by the more valuable collection not the first to complete a menorah (although there is a bonus for that). We did not try these variants as my kids are too old for the former and didn't find the latter very appealing.
The game comes with five player screens, 60 cardstock cards, 50 shekel coins and a rulebook . The screens and coins are of a very nice quality while the cards are cardstock, acceptable but some care will have to be taken when shuffling them. While the quality of the screens is fine they are a bit too small to hide your menorah but that didn’t seem to matter all that much in our plays. The 12 page rulebook that I used (not the final version) was printed in a fun cartoony style with well-illustrated examples. No real questions arose during our plays.
For us, Candle Quest really hit the sweet spot of a fun, easy to understand game which nonetheless rewarded careful planning. The 19 year-old who carefully thought out her moves and kept close track of card values had a significant advantage but the others still had a great time -and by the end the 9 year-old started to mimic his sister – trying to get the best value for his money. This is an excellent example of a gateway game that gamers can use to introduce their families to our wonderful hobby. It certainly is better than playing dreidle although my daughter pointed out that traditionalists could play a dreidle game to determine the start player.
[Edited for typos]
- Last edited Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:06 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:48 am
Jack of Clubs
Why is there no Word Games Forum or Subdomain?
There should be a Word Games Subdomain, or at least a Word Games Forum!
Would you say that this is a "real game" despite being listed as for ages 5 and up? IOW, you don't have to be a little kid to enjoy it. It's a real game with real decisions to make, not a heavy brain-burner, but not a mindless luck-fest that would only amuse kids under 7. Your review seems to imply this, and from what I've independently learned about the game, it's probably true, but I haven't played it yet.
The reason I ask is that I'm thinking of buying it for a Chanukah gift.
I'm the designer. This is the same game (with one rule tweak) as It's Alive, which is a "real game". The only differences are the change from gory horror graphics to kid friendly graphics and the theme.
The main intention of this new game is to provide a "real game" experience for kids, since I believe that nearly all other kid's games (and all religiously themed games) are condescendingly bad roll-and-move / gambling / or trivia games. I like to think of this game as a gateway Eurogame.
I hope you enjoy.