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Subject: O Ystari, Ystari, wherefore art thou so brilliant? rss

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Pierre Beri
France
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Shakespeare is Ystari Games’ next eurogame hit. It is a pretty strongly-themed game where players endeavor to set up the most beautiful play for her majesty the Queen. I have played 5 games so far and am really looking forward to playing more, because this, again, is awesome Ystari output.

What is special about Shakespeare?
The game is a pretty standard eurogame, with pretty familiar mechanics. However, it does have a few things to it that make gameplay very exciting and addictive:

- The more actions you decide to take, the later in turn you will play, i.e. lower initiative & higher opportunity cost. Also, the player choosing to play the fewest actions gains 1 VP (see third point below).
- At the end of each day (round), all the characters you have activated this round except one will go unavailable for next round. Another good reason to play few actions from time to time.
- Final scores are low (you may win having scored 10 to 20 points during the game), so every single scoring opportunity is crucial and every single VP you score means something.
- Money can’t be spent during the game, you will use it to pay your company members at the end.
- A fair bunch of different strategic options.

Setup
Place the main board at the center of the table. Each player puts a disc on the starting space of each Act track and on the 5VP space of the scoring track.

Main board at the end of a 3-player game (prototype)


Also, 3N* Costume tokens and 3N Scenery tokens are placed on the dedicated spaces on the main board.
Reveal N+2 characters from the character deck and place them near the main board.
*N means “the number of player”, so 3N means three times the number of players.

Each player starts with a personal board, which shows his theater set, made up of 14 scenery spaces and 4 dummy spaces, where they try and build the most beautiful scenery.

Player board at the end of a 3-player game (prototype)


They also have an Ambiance track, to keep track of how well people get along together in the company, set back to neutral position every day after being scored.

Printed on either side of their board are 2 actors (The author and Falstaff) and 2 non-actors (a 4-value Handyman & the Queen).
The author helps move forward on Act tracks, Falstaff helps with ambiance, the handyman will build up your costumes and scenery and the Queen will provide either cash or objectives that may be worth 1 or 2 VP at game end.

Before the game starts, turn order is determined at random and Initiative order (you’ll soon understand what it means) follows the same order.
Now in reverse turn order, players recruit one character from the N+2 available. The remaining two are discarded and replaced with another N+2 characters.

Gameplay
A game of Shakespeare is played in 6 rounds (days). The 4th and 6th days are the dress rehearsals, during which the three “acts” (red track, yellow track, blue track) are scored. At the end of the 6th day, you must pay your people’s wages and there is a small final scoring (goldware and objectives) and whoever has the most VP is the winner.

Each day breaks down into 5 to 6 phases:

1) Turn order
You have 5 action markers. Choose how many you want to put in your fist. All players reveal simultaneously what’s in their fist. The player with the fewest action markers will play first, the second fewest plays second and so on.
Any ties are broken in favor of the player who is higher on the Initiative track.
The new first player gains 1 VP.
All disks on the initiative track are removed.

2) Actions
In the newly determined turn order, players take one action at a time and play proceeds until everyone has played all their actions or passed.

An action is either RECRUIT or ACTIVATE.

You have 1 and only 1 compulsory RECRUIT action per day. To do this, take a character from those available near the main board and place your Recruitment card in its place. This does NOT cost one of your available action markers (those selected in phase 1).

You may always flip the character card you are recruiting to reveal the “extra” side. Extras demand no wages, so they have no downsides.

Remember you will have to pay all your people at game end and the stronger a character, the more expensive.

Or you can ACTIVATE one of your crew members, placing one of your available action markers on its effect icon.

The Queen lets you either gain £4 or draw 3 objectives and keep 1. Each objective will grant you 1 or 2VP at game end. Objectives include: recruit 3-4 actors (same with non-actors), spend an extra £2-£5 before paying wages, have a total Scenery value of 26-40, etc.

Craftspeople enable you to take Costume tokens (6- or 8- value costume mistress), Scenery tokens (6- or 8- value set dresser) for up to their value. For example with an 8-value set dresser you may take one 4, one 2 and two 1-value Scenery tokens. 4-value handymen (including one base) enable you to take both Costume and Scenery tokens for a maximum combined value of 4, e.g. 2-v costume, 1-v costume, 1-v scenery.

Assistants cannot be activated but boost the value of each of your craftspeople by 1.

The jeweler enables you to grab one golden Scenery token or Costume token. Only the jeweler can access these golden tokens. Each golden token is worth 1 VP at game end.

Scenery: must be built observing "gravity" and left-right symmetry. Not only do golden Scenery tokens grant you 1VP at game end, they act as wild tokens as regards symmetry.
When placing a new Scenery token, gain the bonus printed on it (in ascending value order: nothing / £1 / -1 ambiance for opponents / +2 ambiance for yourself / one-shot “+3 value” token to boost one of your craftspeople). If you cover a “candle” icon printed on your theater, gain 1 VP.

Costumes: when a character (actor or extra) has 3 Costume tokens on them, you gain a bonus depending on the total value of these 3 tokens. 6-7: £2 / 8-10: £1 + 1VP / 11-12: 2VP / 13-15: 3VP. Also, a character with a full costume will trigger their Rehearsal effect on days 4 and 6.


Actors mostly provide feathers. When you gain a feather, move one space forward on the corresponding color Act track. If the feather is white, choose any track. Act tracks will be scored in phase 4 (Dress rehearsal) of the 4th and 6th days, just after your actors’ full costumes have been “triggered”. Actors may also grant you costume bits, scenery bits, boost your ambiance, or (Hamlet) decrease your opponents’ ambiance.
Only Falstaff does not affect Act tracks but just boosts your Ambiance by 2 spaces.

IMPORTANT: the first time you activate an actor in a day, put your Initiative disk on the topmost free space on the Initiative track. This is an incentive to activate actors early, although you really want to use your craftspeople as soon as you can, when the Costume and Scenery tokens you want to grab are still available. Tennnnnnsionnnnnn!
Initiative is most important in phase 1 (to break ties) but has other small uses.

You may also choose to PASS on your turn, discarding any remaining action markers. This makes sense for the Rest phase.
Once every player has recruited once and used up all their markers or passed, off we go for phase 3.

3) Ambiance
For each 3-value Scenery token left on the main board, each player loses 1 Ambiance, moving their Ambiance token one space to the left if possible.
Then, in turn order, every player applies whatever bonus or penalty matches their Ambiance status: -1VP / -1 feather / nothing / +£1 / +1 white feather / +1 VP.

Then set your status back to the “nothing” space.

4) Dress rehearsal (days 4 and 6 only)
In the order defined by the Initiative track, every player triggers the effect of each fully (3 tokens) costumed character. Most provide feathers, one provides £2, one provides 1VP. Extras always provide a white feather (choose any Act track).

After this, score each Act track:
- Act I (red): gain £0, 1, 3 or 5 depending on your position.
- Act II (yellow): gain 1VP if second rank, gain 2VP if first rank. If tied, the bottommost disk (first come) wins, hence the importance of initiative here.
- Act III (blue): gain 1, 2 or 3VP depending on your position.
- Each act: lose 1VP if you are on one of the leftmost 3 spaces.

5) Maintenance
Remove any remaining Costume and Scenery tokens and un-recruited characters from play and replace them with the appropriate number (3N, 3N and N+2).
Skip this phase on day 6.

6) Rest
Remove any “Rest” markers from the previous day, then place one “Rest” marker on every character you have activated during the day, except one. You will not be able to activate these characters on the next day. So if you have gone heavy on actions this day, you will be forced to be more reasonable on the next day.
The fact that the Maintenance phase occurred before the Rest phase lets you know exactly what will be available and choose wisely. For example, no golden tokens on the next day means you can leave your jeweler to rest with no downsides / no blue Scenery tokens means King Lear (a specific actor) won’t be very efficient.
Skip this phase on day 6.

Game end
After the Dress rehearsal of day 6, every player first reveals and scores their Objectives. As a reminder, you get objectives by activating the Queen and may score 1 or 2VP for each. Only one objective may get you 3PV: the one that gives you 1VP for each Act track you are ranked first on. Being first on all three tracks is quite a big challenge.

Then, score 1VP for each golden Scenery/Costume token in your theater/on your actors and extras.

Finally, pay wages. Every character you have recruited comes with a wage (except for extras). For every character you are unable to pay, lose 2VP, which is quite significant, accounting for more or less 10% of your score.

The player with the most VP wins. If tied, leftover money is the tie-breaker.

Final thoughts
Shakespeare is an awesome game. Not much newness in there (recruiting and activating and moving forward on tracks) but the few original points are really great and the game makes for cool sensations. It has simple rules and quite a not-that-common strong theme (setting up a play). Even non-gamers might be able to play and enjoy this.

Playing time is ok. With 2 players, it’s quite quick (about 45 minutes for my three plays).

What I particularly love is scores being so low. The lowest score I’ve won with was 15VP, that is only 10 more than initial position (every player starts with 5VP) and the highest was 22. Therefore, every single VP counts a lot.

Also, in my only 3-player game, there were so many “ambiance-bashing” Scenery tokens out there, with us being unable to remove them because no Set dressers were available for recruitment, that we all lost a lot of Ambiance in the first 4 days. While I managed to concretely lose nothing, my opponents lost 2 VP each. Therefore the scores were particularly low (15-14-10). It’s really cool to see how the random factors (which are only there to make no two games similar) create very different games and sensations.

Finally, this game offers a number of different strategic paths. You can try to go big on – extras, costumes, scenery, high-wage characters, 1, 2 or 3 Act tracks, objectives. A lot to do with, a lot to have fun with, a lot of games to explore everything. At least, I guess, because I’m only up to 5 plays. Can’t wait to play again tonight!
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Morten K
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It looks like multi-player solitaire. Or is there player interaction in it? If so, what kind and to what extent would you say? Perhaps compared to other games
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Corinna S
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What a perfectly structured and well-written review, Pierre! And the game also seems good to look into
 
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Pierre Beri
France
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Tigrillo wrote:
It looks like multi-player solitaire. Or is there player interaction in it? If so, what kind and to what extent would you say? Perhaps compared to other games
There sure is.
- there are only 3N Costume tokens and 3N Scenery tokens every day: take those you want before anyone does
- there are N+2 characters available for recruitment every day: take the one you want before someone else grabs it
- ruin other players' ambiance (with Hamlet or 3-value Scenery tokens)
- race them to #1 or #2 rank on the yellow (2nd) Act track

The first two points have the highest amount of interaction and are key in this game.
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Morten K
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Thank you for the answser. Looks like a low level of interaction to me - through occupying action spaces mainly
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Jimmy Mero
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Sherman Oaks
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Someone should make some quill meeples/discs (for the act tracker), candle meeple/discs (for the prestige tracker) and an hourglass pawn (for the day tracker) so we can pimp out this game even further.

I can't wait to use my Tuscany metal coins with it haha.
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Franco Antonio Regalado
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This is the first time I've seen number of actions used as currency in a blind-bidding mechanic. Are there other games that use the bidding mechanic that way?

Now my curiosity about this game is piqued even more. Doing some production work back in college probably helped too. arrrh
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David Jones
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ocknarf wrote:
This is the first time I've seen number of actions used as currency in a blind-bidding mechanic. Are there other games that use the bidding mechanic that way?


Dungeon Petz sort of does this. You still use currency to bid for the order you want to take your actions in, but you can choose to bid five dollars on one action or one dollar on five actions or any combination you want in between. Its a bit more involved than that, but you can essentially get more actions if you're willing to take last pick.
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Ronan
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Tigrillo wrote:
Thank you for the answser. Looks like a low level of interaction to me - through occupying action spaces mainly


The order in which you take your actions is going to be heavily influenced by which characters are in play and not Rested for the current turn. If both my opponents are 'Resting' their Jewellers then I can wait to grab any golden costumes/sets which are available. Is King Lear in play? Then I should maybe target blue set pieces. You are definitely looking at each other's tableaus and evaluating as you go. The resources available often run out before each of the relevant characters are activated. It is more interactive than I first thought.
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Mav
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Lots of indirect interaction and a huge amount of fun.

Played my first game and I am very impressed, not often a game impresses me so much first time out.
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Super Turtle
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How much depth does the game have? Is it deeper from Caylus for example?
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Thomas
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"Music That Glows In The Dark"
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S0laris wrote:
How much depth does the game have? Is it deeper from Caylus for example?


And are there multiple paths to victory
 
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Loc .
Australia
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Tigrillo wrote:
It looks like multi-player solitaire. Or is there player interaction in it? If so, what kind and to what extent would you say? Perhaps compared to other games


You all take resources from the same pile, so there is an element of racing or taking something that other players need.

It's kinda got a "feld" feel to it with the multiple paths for scoring.

I played today for first time (3p) and would definitely play it again a few more times.
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Christian B.
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S0laris wrote:
How much depth does the game have? Is it deeper from Caylus for example?


Not many games are.
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Byron Campbell
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thumbsup just for correct use of "wherefore."
 
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