Schwarzarbeit is a card game from Friedemann Friese for 3-5 players. The basics of the game are this: Each round you reveal a number of cards from the deck and then, based on cards you have hidden and the clues that the other players give you, you either take a card and add it to your collection, or set the card aside out of play if you feel that it is a card also hidden by one of the other players. Scoring at the end of the game is based on how successfully you have guessed which cards are hidden and which should remain in your collection.
That is really it. Yes, there is a Game Industry theme, but it is merely there for something to look at and occasionally laugh about. Card art work is decent and none of it was horrible, but the theme has a minimal amount to do with actual game play.
You are the owner of either a game store, cafe, archive, manufacturer, or publisher. Your objective is to hire workers for either day, night, or weekend shifts. Each player has three employees that are working under the table for them. You may not hire those employees for yourself and additionally, the employees you do hire should not be the same employees working for your opponents under the table. Each player, after being given a clue from the player to his immediate right about the number of employees currently on the market that he can effect in some way (either by hiring or 'denouncing' as illegal) picks one of the available employees and either adds it to his hired employees (face up) or denounced employees (face down). Players can interrupt a turn once per game by playing their detective on an employee they suspect as illegal. Additionally they may play one of their two lawyers on an employee they think is legitimate. Refill the employee market and begin again.
Things sound fairly simple, but it took us a good 15 minutes after having read the rules, admittedly an English translation of the original German rules, to decipher exactly how to do all this. As is often the case with FF's rules, bits that relate to other bits are not located near each other, so some hunting for explanations is required. After we found the relevant references and took a turn or two things became much clearer.
The game plays quickly, with a players turn taking no more than 2 to 3 minutes. The hook of the game, and the thing that requires the most thought, is determining how what you have heard from the other players, which employees they have taken, and which ones are being avoided relates to which employees are illegal and which are okay to hire. It is also vitally important to track which employees are in your opponents denounced pile, and their positions in the pile since you may want to play your lawyers there and can not look at that pile once a card has been placed face down in it. The more players involved in the game, the more difficult it becomes to track and follow this information. You could write it down somewhere since this is not specifically forbidden in the game, but it does seem against the spirit of the rules.
As mentioned above the artwork is decent. I don't think anyone is going to rave about the pictures, but they suffice to illustrate the cards in a not displeasing manner. Lawyers and Detectives are the typical Euro-style wooden blocks and hexagonal cylinders. All this comes packed in a plastic carry case with the rules neatly folded on top. All in all I liked the very self contained nature of the packaging. It would be nice to see more card games packed like this as it makes taking them around from place to place quite easy.
We'd play this game again. It makes for a nice filler, and for once the recommended play time of 45 minutes seems a bit long. Even with the rules interpretations and learning the game it took us no more than 30 minutes to play. On the whole, if you like logic games and want something to fill the odd few minutes between when game night starts and people actually show up, I can recommend this game for you and yours. For you fans of number ratings, I'll give this a 6 out of 10.