St Ives, Sydney
I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The blind bidding mechanism is probably the least loved of all mechanisms if you took a poll of gamers - and this game hinges on it. Its saving grace is that the play is fast and the results are entertaining - there was good groan factor. Spice it up with
some spells and artifact usage, good components, good artwork - and it comes out smelling ok.
You have 8 tokens - 1, 2, 3-9. With 4 players, there are 13 spaces to contend for and you place your tokens in each, face down, each played in turn, 1 at a time. Each space then gets revealed in turn. First up, there are 5 dragon caves (highest in tokens will collect most treasure from here, there'll be 2nd and 3rd prizes in some caves). Then there are 4 city spaces (highest tokens will respectively get 2 spell cards, or play 2 artifacts, or collect 2 small treasure or move the start player). Then you need to bribe
the guard to the palace (ie play enough tokens here to match a random 1-10 value that you don't know beforehand, but you can make up the difference in treasures). If you get into the palace, there are 4 rooms with an artifact
in each. Highest in tokens in each room pays that 'tokens bid' amount in treasure to win the artifact. Most artifacts wins.
Revealing one space at a time brings on some interesting decisions, especially once you get to the palace rooms. You get the chance to (generally) play one artifact during the whole round so do you spend your Doubler artifact now to ensure you win those 2 spell cards? Or will you need
to play your Key Artifact to get past a high guard to be able to buy more artifacts? Or should you play no artifact in case so you need to play a Counterspell artifact to protect you from another player's evil. If you're
competing in two or more rooms in the palace, should you pay for the artifact you can win now without competition ... or risk saving your treasures to pay for the next room, but where you might lose if you didn't
bid high enough, but it would stop the other player getting it if you did.
In fact in one of the highlights of the game, Kevin was facing just this decision. I casually mentioned, looking him straight in the eye, that there was no way he was going to win in the next room, which swayed him to buy
now. But which unfortunately meant he didn't have enough treasures to pay for the next room, which left my single itty-bitty 2 token to take the artifact (dirty deeds, done dirt cheap). A lie? Never! How could I possibly
know if you'd have enough treasures left to win it yourself??? It's called bluffing, my man! ;-)
I headed off to an early lead by avoiding the city and concentrating on treasure collection from the dragon's caves and converting it into artifacts directly. Rick went long on spells. Kevin's market strategy got him back in
the game. Jeff generally went the play two artifacts in a turn route. I sort of mixed and matched. In the end it was pretty close.
Scores: Pat 7, Jeff & Kevin 6, Rick 5
A rating of 6 after 1 play for 'ok game, some fun in the occasional play'. The crapshoots were fun, but they were crapshoots after all. The end-game dragged a bit whilst the last artifacts were being bought up. And let's face it, there is no matching of theme with mechanics. I have no idea what the tokens are meant to represent, or why you're only allowed to play 1 artifact, or ... you get the idea. Still, as I said, I was pleasantly surprised that the game was fun. It allowed different strategies, there were
occasional tough choices, including the double-guessing 'what did he place in there' element. I'd give it another whirl.