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Subject: Cardinal and Queen rss

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Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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As I understand it, Richelieu started life as the freely-available card-game version of Kardinal und König. The original was for 3 to 5 players, while this is a streamlined version of the game for 2 players only. The theme is the struggle for influence between Cardinal Richelieu and Mary of Medici... so while the original could be translated as Cardinal and King, this could well be called Cardinal and Queen (or, Kardinal und Königin).

The game consists of 48 tiles, 6 blocker chips (3 for each player) and 14 bonus chips. The tiles are layed out in a 4 x 12 pattern, with a random 8 of the bonus chips distributed on some of them -- the other 6 are discarded sight-unseen. On a player's turn, she will be claiming one or two of these tiles from the ends of the four rows and placing them face-up in front of her. Optionally, she may also place a blocker chip on a tile, or move one to a new location. This reserves a tile for later -- her opponent must discard a blocker of his own to claim that tile. The game is over when all tiles have been claimed.

Each tile has a colour, a shield or two, and possibly one of three different symbols. By the end of the game, you will score points for a colour if you have more shields of that colour than your opponent. This also goes for the three symbols that are present on some of the cards -- the one with the most of a symbol will score points for it. A player will lose points if she did not claim any of a symbol or any shields of a colour. Bonus tiles, if claimed, can give extra shields or symbols, or allow a player to reclaim a spent blocker.

The game is abstract and, since the only thing hidden is what bonus tiles are out and where, almost perfect information. You could spend time over-analysing your move, but in practice I find this does not happen. The game moves along at a good clip and is usually over in a half an hour or even less.

The presentation is interesting. I have not personally seen as much hot pink in a game as in this one -- on the box cover, tile backs, and both bonus and blocker chips. Tiles are a curious choice of component over cards, especially since the number is ideal to be represented by a single deck of custom cards. (It is likely to justify the price point of the game.) Unfortunately, though the insert is functional, to make room for the many sheets of tiles it is very low compared to the box top, meaning the game will easily get jumbled around if stored any way but horizontally.

Response to the game from non-gamers I know is mixed. My wife really enjoys it because it is quick and easy to play, with very few rules. Her father finds the many tile colours and symbols to be information overload and does not wish to play again. Perhaps this is because it is a subtractive game: the playfield starts out full of information and you are removing from it, as opposed to other games in which you slowly add to an empty playfield and new information creeps in at a pace easy to follow. Someone looking at the playfield for Richelieu without understanding the rules may dismiss it as appearing too complicated, but it certainly is not.

Like some other Michael Schacht games, and I am thinking of China and Hansa here, it is a game in which the fun is in planning your best moves for the short-term without needing to worry too much about the long-term. It is more tactical than strategic, making for an easier game to play well at and enjoy.

The game doesn't have much room for clever plays, those "Aha!" moments that can turn the game and make it dramatic. It is a game of slow progression, of choosing between a couple of good choices and keeping other good choices from your opponent. It's a gamer kind of fun, for lack of a better term. Players won't be hooting and hollering, or enthusiastically declaring it is the best game ever, but it is a quiet, thoughtful game that is not too taxing on the brain and leaves one feeling satisfied at the end.

I really enjoy such tactical games, and it is the hot 2-player game in my home at the moment, however I wouldn't be surprised if others I introduce it to find the game dry and boring. It is fun that perhaps a gamer can appreciate, not because it is complicated, but because the enjoyment comes from the tactics themselves, not the sudden dramatic shifts of some other games.

On this site's rating scale I would personally rate this game an 8/10, as this game fits me and my family very well. Objectively, I must admit I do not think everyone will enjoy it. It is a pleasant and easy game to play, but there is little that I can say will amaze or dazzle you. But if you like this type of game and the designer's other works, as I do, it is a nice, quick game and one you will likely not regret picking up.





Edit: Oops, I accidentally gave it a rating different from what I intended. Tweaked star rating.
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