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Shakespeare: Backstage» Forums » Reviews

Subject: All the World may be a stage but what goes on behind the scenes? rss

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Matt
United Kingdom
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That's my perp! Futsie, all right - crazy as a coot! He's got to be stopped!
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Is this first expansion for Shakespeare going to get the critics gushing or will it be a first night flop? Backstage has three distinct elements so lets take a closer look and hand out some awards

New Actors

Nine new actors have conquered the casting coach and joined the merry troupe. This motley crew includes a ghost and a bear and they bring a range of new powers to the game. These abilities tend to be of a confrontational nature, forcing opponents to lose money, ambiance and reducing the level of their acts. But there are others such as aforementioned ghost who when activated has the same power as Queen Liz, allowing players to choose from three objective cards.

Then there are a bunch of new actors who wear less clothing (a sign of the times I guess). They only have two costume slots and usually improve a specific act by one level but when fully decked out and activated this increases to two levels. However, it seems that the world isn’t quite ready for these scantily clad upstarts as their costumes will have less point scoring potential and their skills do not contribute to improving acts doing the rehearsal stages.

These new actors add some much need variety for seasoned players, but the way that you can use them to mess with your opponents isn’t going to go down well with everyone. I guess that because other aspects of the expansion make it easier to progress being able to set your opponents back a bit will help balance things out.



New Objectives

There were not that many objective cards in the original game and since players were choosing from three at a time the deck was being constantly recycled. With this in mind I was really looking forward to this part of the expansion. However, the expansion only consists of five cards and worse still four of these are not even objectives as such.

The new actual objective card awards points for the number of assistants employed, the other cards are one off benefits allowing you to take costumes and set designs from the discard pile and improve you acts and ambiance.

Maybe my expectations were unrealistic and there just isn’t any scope for adding new objectives but I found this a disappointing addition.



Backstage

So now we come to the biggie, the backstage expansion significantly changes the way that the game is played. At the start of the round you layout the same number of backstage cards as you do character cards.

When you make your initial wager instead of just lolling around the place eating grapes your unwagered cylinders are sent backstage to do something productive.On each turn as well as recruiting and activating you characters you can deploy you backstage cylinders to any vacant backstage cards. Some of these cards can be recruited whist others offer one-off benefits. Here is what you can expect

Take gold scenery and costumes without needing to recruit a jeweller

Allow your scenery and costume designers to take scenery and costumes from the discard pile

Activate one of you actors even if they are resting or have already been activated

Place one less rest token next round

Employ a new actor from a deck of nine that is set-aside at the start of the game

Negate the minus points for being in the first three spaces of each act during rehearsals.

Take a costume element and use it as a hat, place it above the first costume slot and if the hat and costume element immediately below add up to 6 you score a point.

Improve the levels of your acts

Increase ambiance levels

Take set and costume elements

Each player also has a personal theatre card with four slots for scenery, visiting the architect allows you to take a piece of scenery from the board and place it on the lowest available space on the theater card. The scenery’s special ability is then activated as well as the powers of any other tiles that have already been placed on the card



Shakespeare is a richly thematic excellently designed worker placement game, which could possibly do with a little extra variety to keeps things fresh. The expansion is reasonably priced and graphically the cards blend in seamlessly with the base game. The modular nature is also a plus meaning that the various elements can be introduced or left out at will. As an added bonus it all fits snugly into the main box.

Using the backstage expansion means that setting you wager becomes much more involved as you not only have to balance the need to activate character cards against turn order but also consider the powers of the backstage cards. It does make wagering less predictable but adds a considerable amount of playing time as players puzzle over their wagers and carry out a load of extra backstage actions. More worryingly, because players are doing so many extra actions although the game becomes more complex it actually feels less challenging as it is now easier to fully deck out you actors and sets and reach maximum levels in your acts.

Overall, the extra actors are a great addition, the objectives a big disappointment and the backstage element is something I may play from time to time but is not going to replace the base game which is more balanced and plays quicker.

Here is a list of all my reviews, some with puns that I really should be ashamed of.
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Nathan Clegg
United States
Escondido
California
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Does Backstage add to the tension or subtract from it? For me the best decision in the game is how many discs to send each round as you are giving up entire actions to move sooner. If instead I'm just choosing one kind of action pool over another, I fear that tension will dissipate.
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Matt
United Kingdom
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That's my perp! Futsie, all right - crazy as a coot! He's got to be stopped!
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Hi, I'm afraid that overall I think your fears are justified. Some rounds the backstage characters that are drawn will not be of that much use for that particular phase of the game so the focus returns to the wager, but at other times the wager isn't so crucial as there will be options to get done what you want to get done through backstage cards.
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Ahmad Lokman Ishak
Malaysia
JERTEH
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Reading this, oh how I hope I could get the actor/actress cards only instead of everything.
 
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Jason K
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moramis wrote:
Does Backstage add to the tension or subtract from it? For me the best decision in the game is how many discs to send each round as you are giving up entire actions to move sooner. If instead I'm just choosing one kind of action pool over another, I fear that tension will dissipate.


You know may opinion differs a bit after playing this a couple times than that of Matt (good review btw ). I felt that the backstage did add good tension as many of the cards and abilities were sought after in addition to the regular items and actions forward. Three areas in particular I think drove this home for me.

1.) The actions in the back stage can actually cost up to 3 cylinders in several circumstances for the "best" possible action. You find yourself using more cylinders that way and still needing to ration them

2.) The hire actor card can actually be used as an additional cylinder for the backstage which means you give up hiring anyone that turn. This is good on multiple fronts imho as you have the tension you mention and you have something more useful perhaps than just hiring another extra.

3.) when good items show up both backstage and in front you really are torn between the two and everyone isn't just fighting for 1 area only like in the base only game.

One of the other features I really loved for the new expansion (besides the bear who is awesome) was the cards in the backstage that allowed certain crafters to draw from the discard piles. Totally made a huge difference on the calculus of the game (for instance the purple set pieces coming back to strike again etc.

Overall I really enjoyed it.
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