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Subject: A Stupidly Honest Review: #6 - Mascarade rss

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Chris Lein
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NOTE: THIS REVIEW IS A BIT OF A LIE. I'VE ONLY PLAYED MY HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME RETHEME OF THIS GAME. WHAT CAN I SAY, I'M JUST A GROWN UP KID. IT'S NO BIG DEAL, THOUGH. I'M CALLING ONE CARD "FROLLO" INSTEAD OF "THE JUDGE". THE JOKE'S ON YOU BECAUSE FROLLO IS A JUDGE.

Mascarade is not a game that had a huge impact when it was released in 2013. And it was never meant to. Mascarade is a nice little game that is easy to understand and easy to play. So what do I think of it? Aw, shucks, I'm a bit embarrassed. Let's do something else until I work up the courage. Maybe we can see how it plays?

BASIC IDEA:
Players are given a card face down. Although they can use this card's power to take money from the bank or hurt other players, they may also use the power of anybody else's card, just as long as they are not caught doing so. Players will be swapping and bluffing to confuse other players as to what card they have. First to 13 coins wins (my ambition in life is not to get $13, but to some people it might be).

SETUP:
Put the coins in the middle. Put out the Courthouse area for penalty coins. Choose a balanced set of cards that fit for the number of people you have. Then deal one card face up to each player (or more for two and three player games). Everyone takes a little time to look at what everybody else has, then all cards are turned face down. Then, begin the real action.

GAMEPLAY:
A player may take one of three actions on their turn: 1) pick up your card and another card and put it under the table, swapping it or not 2) play a power which you claim to be your own 3) look at your card. The first four turns must be the "swapping or not" action. Then players will be using their own powers or deciding to bluff and use other people's powers in order to get 13 coins. If a player thinks that they have the card a player is claiming, they can call them, prompting both players to flip over their cards. The wrong player pays a coin to the Courthouse. The Judge (Claude Frollo) is the only card that must be played with as it has access to the funds of the Courthouse.

REVIEW:
I love this game. In no way do I think it is deep or has complicated strategy, but it's nice for a light experience. It's like the whipped cream of board games. I like it as a nice, light topper. But it's also a bit more than that. The number of cards (especially including the expansion) makes it so I can play many games with entirely different cards. Another point that surprised me a bit is the three player version of the game. It is actually very well adapted to the smaller audience. Actually, I think that I like the three player version better than with more players. This brings me to my next point which is the chaos this game brings. The more people, the more the chaos it is, with cards being swapped all over the place and no one really knowing what they have.

RATING:
This is my rating system to all of the uninitiated (in which case, welcome):
Bronze: 3rd rate - from bad to okay.
Silver: 2nd rate - from fair to good.
Gold: 1st rate - from great to excellent.
Diamond: A Top 10 game - one of my favorites.

Mascarade: Silver

What keeps it from being a gold? What keeps it from falling to bronze?
I think the insane amount of chaos is what turns me off a bit on this game (especially in games with 6 or more people). It can be frustrating when it takes forever for your turn to come up and you think you have it all down and claim a power, but you get shut down and get to do nothing. However, if I was just ranking the three player game, I might put it in gold. I think with two cards, a player gets much more to do and is able to keep track of everything much more easily. That being said, there is a lot going for the game (both the three player and the larger group versions). The powers are all unique and there are quite literally more than two dozen of these unique abilities. Plus, the really neat "swap or not" action makes the game interesting and opens up all kinds of possibilities. These two factors alone make it a winner and a blast to play with all of my regular gaming characters.

Conclusion: Even though its three person variant outshines the actual game, Mascarade has heavy doses of fun with its unique abilities and cool "swapping or not" mechanic. But beware the long lulls and chaos that comes with it.
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Chris Hajny
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--- Light Grey Art Lab --- Gallery - Minneapolis, MN http://lightgreyartlab.com
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Wow, I've never even considered playing with less than 5, but I'll
give it a shot now! Thanks for the review!
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Leo M
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Did you find any other combinations of cards that worked well for the 3 player version of the game? Aside from the default recommendation of bishop, fool, judge, queen, king and witch?
 
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Chris Lein
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To be honest, we use just about anything as long as there are enough money-adding roles in the game. And the judge has to be in. We like 1 of the card swapping roles, 1 of the fortune swapping roles, 1 money-from-the-bank role, 1 stealing money card, and a wild card.
 
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