This is a new card game from Rüdiger Dorn, a name we haven't heard much from lately. The theme borrows against the ever-present fantasy genre, with players representing powerful wizards sending mythical beasts into combat. The object is to win these combats and capture as many precious amulets as possible.
The deck of cards is beautifully illustrated with various creatures, including Pegasi, dragons, gargoyles, phoenixes, manticores and fairies. These six suits have values ranging from 0 - 15, with two zeros per suit. The higher the value, the stronger the creature. However, only the creatures valued at 1 - 12 possess amulets, so the stronger creatures may win a combat, but will not yield any amulets. The zero is at face-value the lowest card in the deck, but if captured, will double the value of the amulets collected in that suit.
The game mechanics are quite different, yet simple and easy to learn. Each player begins with a hand of ten cards, with the remainder of the cards fanned face-down into two stacks on the table, forming the draw pile. The backs of the cards correspond with the suit, but do not depict the individual value. Thus, players can readily see what suits will be drawn from these two stacks, as well as discern the suits that their opponents hold in their possession. This knowledge is critical to skillful play.
Game play is fairly straight-forward and simple. The lead player may play one to three cards face-down to the table. Any combination is allowed except one each of three different colors. If subsequent players wish to participate in the ensuing conflict, they must play an identical number of cards played by the lead player and in the same mix. However, the actual suits may be different. For example, if the lead player plays two blue cards and one red card, each subsequent player must play three cards, two of one suit and one of another.
If a player opts not to participate in the conflict, they may instead draw from one to three cards from the face of one or both of the fanned draw piles. Usually a player will opt to take three cards as there is no limit to the hand size. However, there may be occasions wherein drawing one card is a more strategic move in order to prevent an opponent from securing a certain card or cards. I'm sure with more experience this tactic will surface more, but in our game everyone opted to take three cards when the opportunity arose.
Once all players have had a chance to play cards or draw cards, the combat begins. Everyone turns their cards face-up and the lead player chooses one of his suits to begin the conflict. Basically, he chooses his strongest card from that suit and compares it to the strongest card in the same suit which was played by each of his opponents. Strongest card wins and that card is kept as a prize by the owner. All other cards in that combat are discarded and are out of the game. Then, the lead player slides forward the next strongest card in that suit and the process is repeated. Once the lead player uses all of the cards in that suit, he moves on to another creature. Once the lead player has initiated and resolved combat with all of his creatures, the next player continues this process until no further cards remain in combat.
The strange thing adjust to is the fact that you will only win your own cards in combat. Losing cards are simply discarded. Since the lower valued creatures possess more amulets, the general idea is to try to play one of these low-valued card along with a high-valued card in the same suit. Hopefully, the high valued card will eliminate most of the competition before you are forced to resolve the combat with the low valued card. This is especially true when you are trying to capture one of your 'zero' valued cards, which double the value of the amulets you collect in that particular suit.
After all combat in a round is concluded, the start player shifts to the left and play continues until one of the two draw stacks is depleted. At that point, players tally the amulets they collected in combat. A 10 point bonus is awarded for each suit to the player who possesses the most cards in that suit. All of these points are tallied and the player with the most points is victorious.
That's it. The rules and mechanics are quite simple, but there seems to be a deeper level of strategy here than what is initially apparent. I'm sure there are important tactics to use regarding the collecting of cards from the draw stacks, deciding which cards to use in a round of combat, knowing when to opt out of a combat round and draw cards and, of course, keeping an eye on the cards each of your opponents hold in their possession. With one playing, understanding and employing these tactics, however, eluded me. However, I was intrigued by the possibilities and look forward to more playings. Hopefully, this will better develop my skills in the game and increase my appreciation of it.
Jim, Willerd, Lenny and I were the powerful wizards, toying with these magnificent beasts. I managed to get some valuable amulets early and was able to secure the 10 point bonus in two of the six suits. However, Lenny managed to get both zeros in one suit, quadrupling his score. This was enough to catapult him past me and claim the victory.
Finals: Lenny 83, Greg 81, Willerd 54, Jim 50
Ratings: Jim 7, Lenny 6.5, Greg 6, Willerd 6