My avatar is from the chilren's game Monster Mash
(photo by Zman)
Previously entitled: "Small, pretty and fun"
Ok, just so you know where I come from and how the review will go. I'll start by an introduction so you know how I came to know the game and what my expectations of it were, then a little summary of how the game plays and what it looks like, you can skip that part if you're already familiar with it and the rules as I won't go much into detail here. I'll finish by my own opinion and my rating of the game. After that, I'll summarize what my playing group feels about the game.
About me, I started playing and fell in love with heavy games (Serenissima and Caylus). I began to play lighter games later like Odin's Ravens and Kahuna. I like mostly all types of games though I like when these are tense. I also usually don't like heavily luck-dependent games.
My favourites are Through The Ages, Race For The Galaxy, Imperial, Caylus, Dungeon Twister, Monster Mash.
Games I didn't like: Pillars of the Earth, Mykerinos, Caylus Magna Carta, Aton.
I first heard of the game one or two years ago, back when the only thing we knew about the game was that it was a card game about politics in an italian renaissance setting. Since then, I've been actively following the game. First came the photos (which made me salivate, then I started to know how the game played and was still interested, finally, first reviews came in and sold me.
I bought the game for my birthday (may 2009) and played 14 times since then.
My expectations were very high until the gameplay was known. Once I knew how the game played and it became apparent that the game was playable with a standard deck of cards, I was less eager to try it out but still pretty much interested.
What is the game about
The game comes in a small box that fits in a pocket. Inside this box, you'll find around 50 cards in 2 different color. The cards themselves are very nicely decorated with portraits of the renaissance made by great and famous artists such as Raphaël or Da Vinci.
What's in the box
(photo by jerkules)
Each player has its own identical deck. In each deck, there are 2 cards of each value between 0 and 10 plus two jesters (value X) and 1 bigger card of value 15.
It is a standard game: play a card, draw a card. Basically, to play a card, you have several options, play a card as an alliance (ie: put a card on top of a stack of cards already in play), execute a conspiracy (ie: put a card on top of a stack of cards already in play and "kill" another stack of equal total value) or create a new stack (you can also put your card at the bottom of your deck which is a strategic move that I won't detail here).
At the end of the game, the player with the highest value of cards in play is the winner.
The important thing to remember is that apart from the scoring at the end of the game, the colour of cards in play do not matter. Which means that one of your nobles (cards) can make an alliance with nobles of the opponents and that you can kill your own nobles along with your opponents which brings a real macchivellean aspect to the game (now did I spell that right?).
That's the basic. Just to spice things up, 3 cards have special rules. The minister (value 0), that can immediately kill any single stack (alliance), the lady-in-waiting (value 1) which can separate any alliance and the jester (value X) that can change value from 1 to 10 every turn (which means that your opponent can also change the value of your jesters any time he wants).
The red jesters
(photo by Futza)
It is also important to note that players control the endgame trigger (I won't go into detail on how the end is triggered here).
First, the game is gorgeous. Sure the game could be played with a standard deck of cards but the artwork and production is really great here and it would be worth buying the game for that only. In fact, this was the game that made me do the Small yet gorgeous games! geeklist.
Second, the game is entirely counter-intuitive. You'll sometimes want to actually kill your nobles and hurt you in order to trigger the endgame while you are ahead. The fact that your jesters played can also be used by your opponent also means that you need to be super-careful on when you play them.
Third, the game is fast. Most games are played in under 10 minutes.
Fourth, the game is challenging. I'm not sure yet if there is a lot of strategy or not, but I know that I'm still not capable of telling ex ante if my next move is the right one or not. I'm really having a hard time knowing whicg is the optimal move. This might also mean that there are no optimal moves but nonetheless, after 14 plays, I still haven't cracked the case, which is really nice for such a short and simple game. Usually, you discover very fast how to play optimally, the rest of the games are just brainless fun. I can't say if this game is still going to be fun one you know perfectly how to play but right now, I know it is hard to master and I'm having a great time trying to learn.
For all these reasons, I rate the game an 8. However, I must say that when it comes to short and fast card games, I prefer Battle For Hill 218.
What my game group thinks
Laurène is my girlfriend and was initiated to gaming by me, her first hit was Race For The Galaxy, she loves card games like Dominion, Lost Cities, Court of The Medici, as well as real brain burners like Caylus, Dungeon Twister, Through The Ages and Imperial. She also likes Galaxy Trucker, Princes of Florence and Agricola.
She prefers this one to Battle For Hill 218. This is a game that she has requested many times. We even brought it to work with us so that we could fit 1 or 2 plays during lunchtime (we were both interns in the same bank for 2 months or so). She is also a lot better than I am, although I don't know what she does better...yet...
Bassem came to gaming through me, he played Caylus and this is to this day his favourite game, he really wants brain-burning games with absolutely NO luck. Now, he is a bit more open and has started to enjoy games like Shazamm! though his preference still go to heavier games. He is a very competitive player (he's the only one with me capable of getting angry over a game). To him, games are a kind of sport. He's in it for the competition.
He liked the game because like me, he wants to master the game. However, the game is hard to master and he is thinking that maybe there is nothing to master and the game is just chaotic (which is probably true to some extent). Like me, his final enjoyment of the game will come, either when we master it completely or when we'll realize there is nothing to actually master.
Thanks to Zman, jerkules and Futza for the photos
If you want me to review other games, check my collection and let me know. Also, if you have any suggestions on how to mae my reviews better, please go ahead!
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- Last edited Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:41 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sat Dec 26, 2009 3:37 pm
I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather . . . not screaming and yelling like the passengers on his bus
Re: Small, pretty and fun
Nice review, Choubi. Thanks for using one of my photos!
It's one of my favorite quick, card games. I'm also a fan of The Battle for Hill 218.