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Subject: Europhile reviews: The Devil comes out. rss

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Adam Porter
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With thanks to duchamp for use of image


Auf Teufel Komm Raus is evidently a well-known German phrase: Board Game Geek lists three separate games with this title. It translates loosely as "The Devil Comes Out". This 2013 release, from mother and daughter team Sara and Tanja Engel, is a push-your-luck gambling game loosely set in the depths of hell, with players pulling coals out of the fiery pit.

FIRST PLAY DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a single play of the game. Since the game currently has no reviews on Board Game Geek, and I feel I managed to get a fairly good grasp of it in that first game, I have decided to post a review on that basis. I know how useful it is to purchasers (and publishers) of new releases to get early opinions out there.



Designers: mother and daughter team Sara and Tanja Engel With thanks to W Eric Martin for use of image


Very Brief Summary of the Rules

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER (!): I have not read the rulebook since this is not my own game, and was taught to me by a friend. I hope these rules are accurate - they are the rules that we played!

The central board is strewn with small black face-down discs representing coal in the pits of hell. Each disc has a number on the back of it, between 10 and 100, or a picture of a devil. The central mechanic is simple: players bid any amount of money (in the form of poker chips), and then try to surpass that amount by drawing the numbered discs off the board one at a time without revealing a devil, hence going "bust". The tweaks to this central mechanic are what makes the game tense and interesting.

If ANY player surpasses your bid, when removing discs from the board, you receive your stake + an equal amount again (i.e. 1:1 odds), even if you personally go bust on your own turn.

If you are the highest bidder, and ANY player surpasses your bid, you receive your stake + twice the amount again (i.e. 2:1 odds). However, if NO player surpasses your bid, you lose your stake. Hence, it is a risky business being the highest bidder, with the possibility of great rewards.

There is a catch-up mechanic whereby a player who is significantly behind receives pay-outs from other players whenever they go bust (i.e. draw a devil disc).

There are also bonuses awarded for drawing the highest total value of discs, and for drawing the largest number of individual discs without going bust.

The scoring chart around the edge of the board has wide intervals between numbers. Hence players place their pawns at the end of each turn, giving a broad idea of how much money they have, but not revealing the accurate total.

At the end of the round in which a player reaches 1600, the player with the most money wins.



With thanks to duchamp for use of image


Components

These are absolutely fantastic. The game could easily have been produced with paper money, a simple board, and a few cardboard tokens, but instead we have a mass of high quality components. The board is large and lavishly illustrated with a suitably demonic Lucifer overseeing the events taking place. The scoring pawns are large and colourful, and the scoring track is very clear. The wooden discs are standard Euro-game fare, but represent coal very neatly, and make the game good and tactile, where cardboard tokens could potentially have made the product look a little cheap.

The big suprise is the poker chips representing currency in the game: these are large colourful poker chips like you would receive in a high-quality home poker set. I have not seen another game include chips of such good quality. Never having been in a casino, I hesitate to say that they are casino-quality chips, but they are certainly thick and weighty and click satisfyingly together in your hand, or when stacking on the table.

When purchasing the game, I would check out whether you are receiving an English rulebook. Certainly, my friend had an English rulebook but I cannot confirm whether he received it with the game or printed it off online.



With thanks to duchamp for use of image


How well does the theme hold up?

It's irrelevant really. This is a gambling game, and the irreverent "pact with the devil" theme is suited well to it. It is pasted on, but very apt.

Complexity

The game is not complex at all. At first it is slightly unintuitive that you can go bust, and yet still recieve a payout, based on what other players do. But once this is grasped, the game flows nicely. You will be able to strategise effectively even in your first game. This is not a game that you need to play multiple times to learn.

The Luck factor

This is a game of chance and push-your-luck. It should appeal to gamblers, poker players, and fans of that genre of board-games. Essentially, there is no reason you couldn't play this game for real money, however whereas Poker, Blackjack and similar games tend to fall flat when played for imaginary money (using chips or matchsticks), Auf Teufel Komm Raus features a clever scoring mechanic whereby you never quite know what position a player is in, and the race to a set-total creates a lot of tension throughout the game, even though the money involved is not real.

There is genuine strategy here too. Playing safe will net you small amounts of income every round (unlike in Poker for example), so once ahead you can sit back and wait for your finances to naturally increase to the set-total of 1600. However, doing so could give another player the opportunity to overtake, so even in the late game risks are necessary at times. The skill in the game is in assessing what other players are likely to do, and timing your own risks to ensure that you take the lead at the best possible moment, and that you keep it.

What does the game offer to keep bringing me back for more plays?

The replayability really only comes from the high level of player-interaction involved. The game will be set-up the same each time. However, the high degree of randomness involved in the game ensures that each game will feel different.



With thanks to duchamp for use of image


How much interaction is there between players?

The actions of other players directly affect your income each round. Regularly, players will stop pulling coals from the pit when they achieve a total just short of what you require.

"I'll stop at 155."
"Nooooo! I needed 160!"

This creates great tense moments between players. It is a very interactive (and competitive) game.

Number of players

The game plays with 2-6 players. We played with five. The duration was around 45 minutes. I would imagine that it suffers a little with lower player counts, and would work well with six. That said, I don't think it would be a bad game, even with two.

Will my non-gamer partner and friends enjoy it?

Yes, if they enjoy gambling. I don't think this is a game my non-gamer girlfriend would want to play - it's fairly ruthless. But my brother, who is a poker-fan but not a board-gamer, would probably love it. It is certainly easy enough to teach to anyone, and it isn't a long game.

What other games is it like?

I've discussed the similarities to gambling games like Poker or Blackjack, but there are board-games which utilise this push-your-luck mechanic too.

Diamant (now available in the form of Incan Gold) is the classic example of this genre. Players repeatedly draw cards representing rooms in a dungeon and share crystals as they go. But if monsters or hazards are depicted on the cards they lose all that they have gained. Players hence have to choose when to leave the dungeon.

Can't Stop and Pickomino are other classics in the genre.

Positives:

- Easy to teach and learn
- Great components and artwork
- Tense gambling game, even with imaginary currency
- Plays well with large player counts (and duration is still short)
- Very interactive and competitive

Negatives:

- Only available in German (currently)
- Non-gambling fans may find it hard to engage with
- Irreverent theme may put some people off

Is it a keeper?

I liked it a lot. It feels closer to a gambling game than a board-game (and a very good one), but it's not a genre that greatly interests me. I prefer strategy games. So I won't be seeking out my own copy of Auf Teufel Komm Raus. But, I'd very happily play it again.

The game seems to be available in some UK online stores. I don't know about further afield. Currently, the BoardGameGuru store is worth a look.

See my other reviews at http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/146115/europhile-reviews-a...
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Steve K
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Although its only available in German - the box also contains rules in English, French & Italian - and these rules are online (see the Weblink to the publisher's game page).
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david karasick
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This game is a riot. The chips are fantastic quality as well. Play the odds to win.
 
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Benji
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The expression "auf Teufel komm raus" actually means "at any cost".
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Adam Porter
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Benji68 wrote:
The expression "auf Teufel komm raus" actually means "at any cost".
Yes, that makes sense. I used Google Translate which gave the literal translation "Devil comes out", but using Wiktionary, I can see that the equivalent English phrase is "by hook or by crook" which is basically the same as you are saying - "at any cost".

The German version of the title clearly gives the game a little more character, since the Devil is very clearly present in the game components.
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Lang Bedang
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Indeed a great game!

The only "mild complaint" we had when playing was that we always seemed to be running out of the chips we needed to give change or award at the end of a round. While we were able to get around this by constantly exchanging with each other, it was a little frustrating/time consuming. But not enough to want to stay away from the game.
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Adam Porter
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lajaro wrote:
Indeed a great game!

The only "mild complaint" we had when playing was that we always seemed to be running out of the chips we needed to give change or award at the end of a round. While we were able to get around this by constantly exchanging with each other, it was a little frustrating/time consuming. But not enough to want to stay away from the game.
Yes, we had the same problem. It's the downside of having such high quality chips I guess: they can only include a moderate number. I wouldn't want the quality to drop though - the swapping of chips/ making change is a problem, but not a big one.
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Ludovic Roy
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Great game, great review. Thanks Adam!
 
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Robert Ell
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I can't believe this wasn't hotter at Essen this year. Zoch Verlag is always one of my primary stops and they didn't disappoint this year with this and Ghost Blitz 3.

With 6, way too often we had two players tied for last place and there was little incentive to stop drawing coal. It may be worth trying a variant where devils play up to two players in last place, rather than just one.

 
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Josh Jenkins
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Great review! After discovering this game I plugged the title into about a dozen different internet translators, with widely varied results:

Dining with the Devil
In Love with Strangers
The Devil Comes Out
At Any Cost
By Hook or By Crook
Like Crazy/Mad
Come Hell or High Water
Hell-Bent
On Devil Come Out

Just goes to show how accurate/subjective these internet translation services are...
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Peter J
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I own this game and I cannot get over how awesome the poker chips are. They have a significant weight to them and they feel just like real casino chips. Most publishers probably would have opted for cheap plastic poker chips instead. I can see myself using these chips to replace currency in other games, they are that good.

Elltrain wrote:
With 6, way too often we had two players tied for last place and there was little incentive to stop drawing coal. It may be worth trying a variant where devils play up to two players in last place, rather than just one.
I noticed this as well when I played with 5 players. More often than not there would be several people tied in last place, which significantly limited the penalty of flipping a devil. If your target bid was already reached by a previous player, then the decision to keep flipping on your own turn to try for the +50/+50 bonuses was generally automatic.

I look forward to trying this game with less players. I imagine you'll have to bid more carefully as you have less help from others to reach your bid, and the pact with the devil will kick in more frequently.

lajaro wrote:
The only "mild complaint" we had when playing was that we always seemed to be running out of the chips we needed to give change or award at the end of a round. While we were able to get around this by constantly exchanging with each other, it was a little frustrating/time consuming. But not enough to want to stay away from the game.
Yeah I noticed we were constantly running out of a denomination or two, particularly the 100's. Not a dealbreaker though, as long as everyone is diligent on making change when necessary.
 
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