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Subject: Join the party - My thoughts on Bacchus' Banquet rss

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Michel Condoroussis
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Bacchus' Banquet (2008)
Designer: Frederic Moyersoen
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Players: 3-5
Time: 30 - 45 minutes


A wicked party has begun, full of food, wine and poison!


In Bacchus' Banquet, you have been invited to a party and must try and win the party by completing the goal indicated in the game. The guest of honor is Caligula and the other guys are either trying to kill him, collect gifts or just eat and drink.

The goal of the game is to arrive at the pre-stated goal during the party. The goals are as follows:

* Caligula: Either eat 2 dishes and 5 points of wine or kill three people
* Cassius, Octavius and Septimus: Kill Caligula or have three daggers appear in play
* Caesonia and Agrippina: Collect three presents
* Claudius: Eat three dishes and three points of wine
* Messaline: Eat four dishes and one point of wine
* Vespasianus: Eat five dishes

Each player is handed out a character card. Of the nine characters Caligula is always in play and the remaining players (2 to 4 others) each get a character in secret. The player with the Caligula card shows his character to everyone, while the others stay hidden. Each player also receives one privilege card, except for Caligula who gets two (see below) and everyone sets their belt buckle to zero on their player board.

The starting player (Caligula), selects from the seven face up action cards laid in the middle of the board. The cards will consist of food, wine, poison, presents, daggers, activities and special cards. Depending on the players goals (i.e. which character they are) they select their three cards. One card is placed in front of the active player, the card they will keep, one is discarded and one is passed to another player (the gift card). The keep card will have to be applied to the active player, the discard will be thrown away and the gift will be applied to the player that accepts it.

If you are given a gift card, you must chose to either accept it without looking, or pass it on. You cannot pass it back to the player who gifted it to you, but you may pass it to any player who has not been offered it yet this turn. If all players have been offered it, you may pass it back to the original player, the active player). Whoever accepts the gift, will have it applied to them and becomes the active player. If everyone refuses it, it goes back to the active player and they must accept it.

Once the gift card is accepted (either by choice or by force to the active player), all three cards are revealed. The gift applies to the person who accepted it, while the keep cards is applied to the active player and the discard is simply shown and discarded. The cards have a variety of effects. Food cards all have a value and increase your belt by that amount. Wine cards have the same effect as food, but generally for lower values. Gifts have no effect but are simply kept next to the player, same for daggers. Any special cards will describe what they do. The special cards include the Food Taster who can prevent you from eating a dish, the Umbra who can cancel the effects of any card and the Hymn to Bacchus which makes all players drink with you and increase their buckle by one. The special cards are kept and used when desired.

Now based on your stated goal, you may want food, you may want gifts or you may want to kill people. To kill someone, you must make their buckle go over ten. Poison is especially good since it has very high values when accepted. Once all three cards have been revealed and the gift and keep cards applied to the respective party, the three missing cards are replaced and the player who had the gift card apply to them, is now the active player.

The process thus begins again with the new active player choosing three cards, discarding one, keeping one and gifting one. This goes on until one player meets their goal, in which case they simply declare victory. Cassius, Octavius and Septimus declare victory together once Caligula is dead or three daggers are on the board.

Should you die before someone wins, you simply draw another card and play as that individual. You can keep your privilege card if you still have it, but if you used it, you do not get a new one. If Caligula dies, yet no one was Cassius, Octavius or Septimus, then they are removed from the draw pile before a new card is given to the Caligula player.

The privilege cards can be played at any time and allow you to alter the game and card passing, they include:

* Claim: You may take and accept (unseen) either of the two cards indicated on the card. You must then apply the effects to yourself;
* Exchange: Swap two cards in the positions indicated. Then resolve the cards normally;
* Give Back: When a player gives you a gift card, you immediately give it back to them and they must apply it to themselves;
* Special Gift: When given a card, you immediately give it to another player who must accept it. You may give this gift to the active player or to someone who was already offered it.


Many people compare this to Bang! And it definitely has some similarities. The main goal is to reach your specified winning condition, but at the same time, you need to be sure that no one else reaches theirs. At first, you would think it is easy to determine who is who and I guess if you really pay attention, you can, but the better players will hide it better. At one point, people cannot hide it anymore as they try harder to reach their goal since others are also getting close.

Some goals are harder to do, such as killing off others, since no one wants to die otherwise they will have to start over. For Caligula, the best bet is to go for the two dishes and five points of wine. Same for the conspirators, who are much better off trying to get the three daggers since they only need to be in play (accepted by anyone). Even killing Caligula may prove difficult since you also do not want to give him his wining conditions by feeding him. Selecting a dagger during a round almost ensures that it will be out it play if no one uses their privilege card. This also makes it obvious that you are a conspirator if you do not discard the dagger, but this may be a good idea since if there are other conspirators, you can now work together. Being two trying to obtain the goal is much easier. Since there can only be a max of five players, having 2 conspirators is a little of a disadvantage to all others who will be working alone.

The catch of having to accept a gift to be the active player makes it so that you cannot just pass on the cards all the time, which would really suck if the start player simply rotated. Generally, you need to try and become active when there are cards you need on the table and it may even help you to pass on a card if you are trying to kill others and you suspect that food with a high value is being passed along. Also, if you see someone else almost at their goal (based on your suspicions) you may want to chose the card they need when you are the active player and discard it. Not only do you need to win, but you must prevent others from winning.

Another nice rule is that if everyone rejects your gift, you get it. This may prevent you from obviously trying to kill off others. This is not a problem for the dagger cards however since they only have to be in play, another advantage to the conspirators.

Since the cards that are not drawn remain in play, you can be patient and wait for the right time to accept a gift, but again, ensure that no one else wins and that no one knows what you want since they may discard it.

One final thing I like is that if you die, you are not out, which is often a problem with these types of games. But the problem is not that simple, since once you die, it would be very hard to win since you have to start over and you tend to die later on in the game. Now you become more of a king maker or an obsolete character. If you happen to draw a conspirator and there are two daggers in play, then you just got really lucky.

It seems the game plays almost individually with people just trying to make their goal and not many people trying to kill others or determine who is who. Only after some time do you really need to look around and see what others are doing to ensure no one is close to winning. Also, it is often very hard to stop someone from winning. You only get one privilege card and it cannot always stop another player. In many games, everyone knew someone was going to win, yet no one could stop them. But I guess someone has to win. I wish there was a little more interaction and trickery.


All in all, a decent game that does not have that early player sits around and waits aspect that many games of the type are plagued by. There is less interaction then you would think here and it is a little dry. It does play fast and is simple to understand and definitely plays best at five since more characters are out and there is more back and forth. Worth a try, but I still am not a huge fan of the genre in small groups since there is not enough interaction or options.

Rating: (6.5 / 10)
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