A Derk appears from the mists...
Ken, Drew, Eric, John, Derk
I’ve heard sooooo much about this game, it’s just not even funny. I purchased a copy of the game just prior to the time that Ken bought Ransom, so I’d been waiting even longer than he had been. Needless to say, this game had some sizeable shoes to fit…
The game is pretty free form. There are sixteen deals to be made throughout the game. In order to complete a particular deal, you need to get the help of certain investors. Each player is given a ‘permanent’ investor, and in order to complete the deal, the Boss (the guy who’s trying to hammer out the deal) needs to cut various players in for a little part of the action. The base value of the deal is slightly larger if several investors are needed, and the relative value of the deals increases as the game speeds to its conclusion.
But what really makes this game not suck are the cards. Player can acquire three cards by passing on their turn, with a maximum hand size of twelve. The cards allow you to have temporary control of an investor type, or wrest control from the Boss, or send rival investors on vacation, or steal someone else’s ‘permanent’ investor for good, or (the much needed) stop someone from playing one of the above cards. The cards add a huge chaos element to the game, and make for a very wild and woolly time.
Eric was the only person who’d played this game before, so we relied on his experience to pull us through the first couple turns. A couple deals were made, but several also were not successfully made. Eric said that the deal marker was placed on the board regardless of whether the deal was successful or not, but I’m currently inclined to disagree with this ruling. But it didn’t really make a huge difference and the negotiations quickly heated up. It was quite obvious that we were all being a little too tentative with our card playing, but that would rapidly change. The game seemed to go in cycles where all of us gathered cards until we hit the twelve-card limit. Then we made several deals in a row, burning up much of our collective hands in the process. There was really only three notable occurrences: Ken picked up the extra investor card very early in the game and sat on it for most of the game, Eric seemed to have his finger in every deal, and I seemed destined to wait on the sidelines for the entire game.
Every time a deal was about to go through, Eric would play a card to elbow his way into a share. And almost every time someone tried to kick Eric out of the deal, he’d have a stop or vacation card up his sleeve. It was pretty amazing. And then there was me. I’m not quite sure why I got so totally iced in this game, but it wasn’t even funny. Admittedly, I intentionally avoided the first two or three deals because of their low value, but after that I practically had to beg on bended-knee for even the smallest scrap of the current deal. And even then, someone figured out a way to stop me from profiting.
There was one point that I thought Fate was going to smile at John and me (the cellar twins), but that deal never did go through. And then there was a big ol’ deal that occurred towards the end of the game. It was Ken’s turn, and the current deal was could be totally completed by me and my cards. I offered to take fifteen of the twenty for use of all my investors (and half my hand). But just as time was running out, someone stole the Boss from Ken. This happened three or four times in row just as the deal was about to conclude. Then Drew stepped into the fray, by sending my whole contingent to Aruba permanently. At this point, I was completely frustrated with the game. I didn’t understand why no one wanted to make a deal with me, when I was clearly losing the game. Oh well, such is gaming… There really was no surprise at the final tally, which put Eric solidly on top.
Eric: 37, Drew: 32, Ken: 32, John: 20, Derk: 10
It was truly woeful game for me. I liked what little I saw of the game itself, but it’s definitely a chaos-fest. There’s also a very significant group think element to the game, and this particular game suffered for it. I have to think that the game would be better if there wasn’t a tacit agreement between all the players to build up a hand of twelve cards before even attempting a deal. You think, “If I have twelve cards, then I’ll be able to fend off all comers,” but it never works out that way. And more often than not it’s more like a game of chicken to see who’s gonna play all their cards first. But I do like what I’ve seen of the game, and I can definitely see why it has such a reputation. It’s got many elements of say Intrigue, only the nastiness isn’t as personal because players’ actions are limited to the cards in their hands. I’m really looking forward to trying this game again.