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Council of Verona» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Lend me your hands if we be friends... rss

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Eric Leath
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To the layman, names like Seiji Kanai or Rikki Tahta might not conjure up any specific imagery. Conversely, mention someone like "William Shakespeare" and anyone whose been subjected to a High School literature course might start wringing their hands uncontrollably and/or blurting soliloquies and sonnets.

With their newest title, coming to Kickstarter in May '13, Crash Games hopes to at least make the name Michael Eskue as ubiquitous as that of the bard from Straford-Upon-Avon. In this case, through the use of a little game with big possibilities.

Gameplay
Like Love Letter or Coup (by the aforementioned Kanai and Tahta), Council of Verona is a 2-4P microgame. Weighing in a mere 13 cards and 16 tokens (8 in a 2P game; 9 in a 3P), the game is deceptively strategic.

To start, each player will grab his/her color tokens (4 each, numbered 0, 3,4 and 5). Next, each player is dealt one card; subsequently, the first player will look at the remaining cards, pick one, and pass the rest in a clockwise fashion until the last player is presented with two cards. He/She will pick one and remove the other from the game. The round is then ready to start.

(note: in a 2P game, each player is given 5 cards. He/She may keep only 3 of the 5 cards and pass the rest to his/her opponent)

On a turn, a player will make up to 3 actions in the following order:

-- Play a card from hand. Cards may be placed in 1 of 2 locations: The Council (i.e. a main row between both players) or Exile (i.e. - an area off to the side of all players).

Luckily, a card being placed into the Council--or exile for that matter--doesn't mean it will be there to stay. Certain cards (e.g. Tybalt or Mercutio) will move a council member to the Exile pile while others (e.g. the Nurse or Friar Laurence) will do just the opposite, moving an exiled character to the council.

-- To do this, a player will use the action of the character just played. Other actions may let you do such things as view or switch the influence tokens I'll talk about in the next bullet point.

-- Finally, a player may place an influence token, face down, on any character whose card shows an influence icon. Influence is important because roughly half of the characters in the game have victory conditions you are striving to meet. If successful, all influence tokens on the card pay off at their face value plus any modifiers on the card (typically ranging from +2 to -2).

Mercutio, for example, will pay off if there are more characters in Exile than on the Council. Alternatively, Prince Escalus, the man who proposed the Council, will pay off if an equal number of Montagues and Capulets are on the Council, or if at least 4 of the 5 Neutrals in the game are on the Council.

When there are no cards left to be played, the round ends and victory conditions are evaluated. If conditions have been met (for example: Romeo and Juliet being together), players count the total influence and modifier points (as mentioned above) and the player with the most points wins. {ties go to the player who went the earliest}.

Initial Thoughts:
After a handful of plays, I'm of the opinion that Council of Verona has a lot of potential to it. It's a bit meatier than its predecessors; by that I mean there seems to be more than simply deducing who has what card or how to bluff/call a bluff. CoV requires you to balance not only WHEN to play a card, but put a price value on the likelihood that character's objective's will succeed.

Furthermore, because there are 3 spots in which to invest on any particular influence card, your claim to a particular win condition isn't purely yours. Finally, because you only have 3 tokens (or 4 in a 2P game), decisions must be made regarding whether to spread your influence or go all-in on a particular role. Indeed, there are lots of decisions to be made here, but, as good 'ol Willy would write, "the course of true love ne'er did run smooth."

Despite enjoying the game, there are a few design questions I'd like to ask Mr. Eskue, namely:
1.) Characters in exile are given a lot more influence than I would have anticipated. For example: a character moved into exile keeps his/her influence tokens. Was this done for mechanical reasons, or is there a thematic tie in as well?

2.) Why were the influence tokens marked at 0,3,4, and 5. Rather than 0 ,1,2,and 3? Are higher scores with the 3/4/5 more psychologically pleasing or did the point discrepancy play into the modifiers and bluffing aspects of wagering as well?

Regardless of the design decisions, Council of Verona should be on the radar of not only Microgame fans, but gamers in general. There's a lot of depth packed into the interactions between these 13 cards, but yet... it's simple enough to understand that you won't even need Cliff's Notes
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Whisperhand wrote:

1.) Characters in exile are given a lot more influence than I would have anticipated. For example: a character moved into exile keeps his/her influence tokens. Was this done for mechanical reasons, or is there a thematic tie in as well?

2.) Why were the influence tokens marked at 0,3,4, and 5. Rather than 0 ,1,2,and 3? Are higher scores with the 3/4/5 more psychologically pleasing or did the point discrepancy play into the modifiers and bluffing aspects of wagering as well?



Thanks for checking it out!

For question 1, it's more mechanical than thematic. However, the idea is that the characters may only be exiled temporarily and when they return to Verona, they will remember those who supported them.

For question 2, it's mostly because of the modifiers on the cards. If the token values were 1,2, and 3, the modifiers would reduce the 1s and 2s to zero or negative in some cases. With the higher numbers, there is more flexibility for the modifiers.
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Patrick Nickell
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From a thematic perspective just because a character is in exile doesn't mean that their alliances or other character's allegiance towards them would completely dissipate. Thematically other characters would want to honor them or keep their word about their wishes of who to lend their influence to.
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