The Lord High Chancellor has stepped down and a successor is needed, but the King hasn't chosen just who will succeed. The players are junior chancellors of some sort posturing to impress the king to land themselves the highly sought office of Lord High Chancellor. To do this you will solve problems more impressively than your rivals. You'll need a decktet, 6-10 dice depending on how many players you have, and probably something to record points.
Arrange the dice into pairs. Each pair of dice represents some approaching problem the kingdom faces and an opportunity to be impressive. Roll each pair of dice. Higher numbers are gonna be the key issues.
As basic-level chancellors, you're going to have three departments at your disposal. The army (the Soldier, 5 of worms and knots), the navy (the Sailor, 4 of waves and leaves) and the diplomatic corps (the Diplomat, 8 of moons and suns). These three cards will be set in the middle of the table and you can call on them to help you solve problems. Deal everyone a hand of three and you're ready to go.
This is going to be a broad strokes summary, but this game is not complex. If you have any questions after reading my summary, please consult the decktet wiki. The rules are short, well-written and free to all.
On a player's turn they can attempt to take control of one of the departments, they can attempt to solve a problem, problems then escalate and then cards are drawn.
To take care of a problem, a player must discard cards from their hand equal to or more than the sum of a single problem. To take care of part of a problem, you discard cards equal to half of the sum of the dice. Priority and advantages in solving problems go to those players who control the departments. Players score points equal to what they solve.
After all players have had an opportunity to solve problems, the remaining pairs escalate by turning a die up one number. If a pair is at double sixes and must be turned up again, the game ends in defeat for all.
The game ends when one player has reached 100 points or some other agreed on figure. I hear some prefer it to end at 50. The round finishes and everyone totals their score. The player with the most points is crowned Lord High Chancellor.
Chancellors is just neat. The rising problems create a slow-burning tension that stays in the back of your mind as you process your own agendas and steal departments to work for your own interest. Then suddenly another player points out that a problem is reaching dangerous heights and that something must be done. Who's to do the solving becomes an interesting question, especially if there's other capable players and you have a tempting opportunity solving something else.
In this way, the mechanics of Chancellors work very well to emulate its theme. You'll feel like a slimy politician as you talk your way out of being that helpful soul so you can score the points you want to score. When you're being noble and doing the right thing, you'll feel that too. And when the Chancellors can't get it together to solve the most pressing issue facing the people and you all lose, you'll feel like a bonafide government representative!
The game is pretty good, but the mechanic is novel and surely worth playing just to see it function. It won't be the main event of an evening of decktet games, but it sports the best part of what makes the decktet interesting, which is innovation. I'm not sure I've played anything that feels quite like Chancellors, so if you've got a decktet and the dice, there's no reason to not try it out. If you're a gamer and you don't have a decktet, there's no reason to not have a decktet, especially since they're free to print or easy to obtain.
This review was written for the 5th Anniversary of the Decktet. Check it out to find some other great games and reviews.