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Subject: Figaro -- Game Review rss

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Greg Schloesser
United States
Jefferson City
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Publishers: Mayfair Games and daVinci Games
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Players: 3-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 45 minutes (with a listed time of 20-30 minutes)
Price: $20.00

From prolific designer Reiner Knizia comes Figaro, a light, fun card game wherein the goofy Figaro attempts to help the King while his court is away. Sadly, Figaro is quite clumsy, and his antics tend to result in embarrassment or injury to the King. Players attempt to help Figaro overcome these blunders, and be the one who enables him to secure the job.

The theme is admittedly a bit wacky, but the game itself is actually quite fun. The artwork on the cards is quite humorous, depicting Figaro in various situations wherein he attempts to amuse or assist the king. The outcome is always less than desirable, much to the chagrin of the king. One even has the king horrified as his portrait as painted by Figaro appears eerily like Reiner Knizia himself!

The 60 cards are divided in to five suits (colors), with each suit having values ranging from 1 – 3. There are also five jesters with values 1 or 2, and five special “ring-around-the-rosey” cards. All cards are used, and dealt evenly to the players.

In addition to the cards, the game consists of road pieces of various lengths. These are mixed and placed inside a cloth bag. A number of road pieces equal to one less than the number of players are drawn from the bag before each of the three rounds.

Game play is fairly simple. Players alternate playing a card from their hand in front of any player, including themselves. There are a few rules that must be followed when playing a card:

•There can only be cards of one single color in front of each player.
•No two players can have cards of the same color in front of them.

Jesters are wild cards, and can be any color. Whenever the cards in front of a player reach a value of six or greater, that player must take ALL cards in front of ALL players and keep them in a stack. This isn’t a good thing. This player does receive the king figure and begins the next hand. If for some reason a player cannot legally play a card, he must take all cards as described above.

A round ends when one player depletes his hand of cards. As in the card game UNO, the player must announce when he is down to just one card. At this point, each player counts the number of cards in his stack. The player with the most cards takes the longest road piece. The player with the second-most cards takes the second longest road piece, and so on. The player with the fewest cards escapes without having to take a road piece. Ultimately, the player with the shortest cumulative length of road pieces wins the favor of the king, and wins the game. Thus, collecting road pieces is not a good thing.

There is a chance, however, to get rid of your longest road piece. At the end of the third round, the player who collected the fewest cards gets to exchange his longest road piece for the shortest one available that round. This can be quite powerful – perhaps too powerful.

So what about those “ring-around-the-rosey” cards? A player lays this card in front of himself, then all players slide the cards that are in front of them to the player on their left. These cards can be quite handy … but there are five of them, so cards do tend to rotate numerous times.

The game does require players to manage their hand of cards, and make numerous decisions throughout the game. Don’t expect to be taxed too heavily here, but also don’t write the game off as being too light. There are tactics to employ, and proper timing is essential. Like most Knizia designs, there is more here than initially meets the eye, and skillful play is rewarded.

I didn’t expect much from Figaro, and the cutesy artwork just reinforced my initial skepticism. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. While not filled with deep strategy, there are still some tactics to employ. But the biggest bonus is that the game is fun to play, and it makes for a very good family game. I’m just happy that accident-prone Figaro isn’t working for me!

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