What're you looking at!
My wife and I have played this game nine times, and are still undecided about it. Sometimes it plays very competetively; other times it just seems to be be the luck of the draw. This particular match was the best we have had so far, but I don't know if that is due to us knowing and playing the game better, or just by chance.
In this card game you try to win over nobles mainly by having a higher numerical value than your opponent. There is a philospher card that allows the lower to value to win, and a variety of action cards that allow you to meddle with your opponent or improve your own position. Your scores are only compared, and you are only allowed to win over a noble, when the corresponding vote of confidence card comes up.
At the opening of this game, I like to place my higher value cards under the Censors and Aedils because there are only three of them, and you get points for getting a majority. Sometimes in the opening of the game a lot of nobles are claimed before you have a chance to build up many cards under them.
Not so in this match. The orgy cards--not as exciting as they sound--kept delaying votes of confidence for the nobles and there were a fair amount of ties. This allowed us to play some face down cards as well (you can either play a single card face down, or two cards face up). Often at the beginning of the game we find we are always playing two influence cards face up just to fill in gaps left by votes of confidence, and there is no element of surprise.
It became apparent very early on that we were both trying to get a majority of Quastors for our Secret Influence bonus, so the battle began over them.
The castling action card allows you to disguise your intentions a little by mixing the contents of two columns and placing them face down, and that helped me to get a Qaestor--despite two assassinations by Cleopatra's Asp.
While I was busy concentrating on securing Quaestors, Penny suddenly had the majority of Praetors. The Quaestor scores were tied at 15 with eight cards out, so I wiped out all the cards with a Wrath of God card.
I castled again and managed to get a second Quaestor, but Penny was ahead on nobles. However, it seemed like we had not taken many cards in total. In fact the first Censor was not taken until we each had ran out of action cards, and each had less than five influence cards. I had taken only 4 cards and my wife 8 (21 cards in total).
We fought on, and in my last three cards my two philosopher cards finally appeared. The end game was quite intense as we each only chose to lay one card face down to prolong our chances. In the end I got two more Questors and got the Secret Influence bonus.
When we both ran out of influence cards, the game was over. with two Censors and one Senator left unclaimed. I thought I had done poorly, but a majority of Aedils and Questors, with my Secret Influence bonus, helped me to tie the game.
In the event of a tie, the winner is the player with most cards, and my wife had 10 nobles to my eight.
We always seem to get the same Secret Influence bonus when we play this game, and competing fiercely for that helped make the game more intense. We also used ties as a tactic more. However, I think part of the reason that this game was better than others was also just the way the orgy cards came out, which allowed us to actually use some tactics.
We are now into a best of seven with this game, so we will have to see if our next few matches are as good.