The “Choose Your Own Murder Mystery Adventure” has landed and as well as crossing two game genres,(choose your own adventure & murder mystery) it also crosses two gaming mediums (board game, app game). It’s called Chronicles of Crime, and rightly so. There is a crime that has been committed and the clock is ticking. You’ll be investigating crime scenes, interrogate suspects and drawing your conclusions as quick as you can. Do this well and your team will get a high score. Failing slightly or terribly means that you can replay to see if you can do better. Or just look at the solution.
As you can tell, this is a team game or a solo affair if you wish. Both experiences make a little difference. Play on your own and you’ll be 100% engaged, but may miss certain clues or not be able to think out of the box. Playing in a team, your engagement level is as high as you want it to be. The more you participate, the more you get out of it. Being timid may leave you on the sideline, wishing you said “yes” to TI4 instead. And the more minds there are, the better the chance of succeeding at this puzzle. As this is what the game is. A tangled puzzle of what he said, she said, this clue, that clue and “I think it was…”
At the start of the game, after choosing a scenario, you’ll be given very limited information about a crime. Either a murder, theft or a disappearance. And away you go. If you have ever been on a Murder Mystery Weekend, this game will be very familiar. Instead of going away with some friends, to a hotel and dressing up in period costumes, you’ll be sat around a table, trying to decide what to do and where to go. And instead of bumping into character actors in the dining room or hallway, to get their accounts of what they saw and heard, you’ll have a deck of beautifully drawn character cards, with QR codes to scan. Scanning a card will be like talking to these actors.
But as I said, you will start with just one location or one character. By interacting, you will open up new locations and other characters. The game comes mainly from a very smart app that you will have to download to play. It holds a selection of stories for you to play and there are more in the works. Where as the table will hold a board, that houses locations, clues and characters. Everything has a QR code that you’ll scan into your smart device. A very intuitive system, where if you want to go to a location, you scan it and voila, your there. To talk to someone, scan them and they are now talking to you. But they need to be in the location that you are in. Ask someone about something, scan that person then that item. Scan, scan, scan. There is a lot of scanning in the game. More so at the beginning of the game, as you are collecting evidence and clues to a story you know not much about. There’s so much scanning, you may forget that this is a board game.
Talking of scanning...
If you have an older device to run your game on, you may like I, have trouble running the app. Or find that it freezes while searching for clues. Or it may struggle to scan codes, sending frustration through the group as you wait for a response from your number one suspect. Where if you have a brand spanking device, the game will run seamlessly. And fun will be had.
I’d say that around 70% of the game is on the device, the other 30% is at the table or in the imagination of players, trying to piece together this mystery. The game tries to get everyone at the table involved in the form of a light virtual reality, search the crime scene segment. One investigator will be given the app and using it, look around the location, calling out thing of note to the rest of the team. While the team will be flicking through a deck of clue cards, trying to find cards that correspond to what the investigator is seeing. The cards are vague in substance. Stating “bags” or “decorations.” The vagueness works well as player can discuss and debate whether it was a clue or not. It also leaves this items open for use in another scenario, as they could be shopping bags, hand bags or luggage bags.
The virtual reality that the game uses is like a 360 degree image that the investigator can either scroll through with a finger and zoom. Or if you have purchased the Kickstarter addon of the 3D glasses, you can slip these onto you screen and look around the interior of a bubble image. A very nice use of technology in a board game, as it inserts the player right into the world they are playing in. A time limit is added as well, meaning you will frantically be shouting out all kinds of things, in vain hope that your team can find the right clue cards. This adds some of the tension to the game, because as the titles states, you are up against the chronometer.
Every action you perform with the app, costs “in game” time. Your case may be on a time limit, were every minute count. As a team, you’ll be talking back and forth about what to do and what questions to ask. Every question, location change and search of a crime scene costs a different amount of in game time. Before you know it, it’s the evening, in game that is. And each character has a real life in this virtual world. Bob may be found in his Camden Town office during the day, but at night, he is at a little bar in Soho. And because of the way the game is written, Bob may be happy talking to you, up to a point. But asking him about one particular thing may result in him taking a dislike to you or maybe not wanting to see you at all. He may disappear entirely from the game. And that’s a hat tipping moment of the game, to the writers and programmers. You feel this world is alive.
The scenarios and dialogue are top notch. Nothing overwhelmingly complicated but still intriguing deep and perplexing. When characters speak, it’s not pages of exposition. It’s short, sweet, to the point and laced with clues. The language is not overly elegant like in Doyle’s Sherlock, but more in the realm of a TV sitcom, meaning everyone will understand what is being said. And everything that is said will make you go, “oooh!” In the scenarios I have played, there always seems to be a myriad of possible suspects or interwinding connections between the cast. The more you learn from the world, the more the path becomes clear. And before you know it, you are debating with your fellow detectives, that your account of the story is the correct one. Once you’ve persuaded them to take you to the station, to file your report to the chief, your in end game mode. You’ll answer a collection of question about the scenario, scanning the appropriate responses. Finally, you’ll get to see if your deduction skills have paid off, with a final score. This score will be made up from the correct answers plus the time that is took you to complete the story.
Each story will, after a time of discovery, get conversations started at the table. You’ll be recounting the events, drawing lines and connections between all the suspects. Laughing, arguing and brainstorming all the possible events that have come to pass, that have lead you to your conclusion. A real team game, where you may be making notes, taking names and placing bets on the outcome. You’ll soon forget that you are sat around a table will a smart device in your hand. You’ll actually feel that you are in New Scotland Yard, with Inspector Morse, Columbo and Jessica Fletcher.
Once you have completed a scenario successfully, it’s gone. You can replay it if you wish, but you’ll not be surprised by anything. Even if you play with a different group, months later. Something will trigger a memory and the answers will come flooding back. You could hold your tongue and let the others discovery the wonders of the game, but there’ll be nothing in it for you. Making replayability null and void. Although, replaying a scenario you failed at miserably, is a little more rewarding. But like the Choose Your Own Adventure book, when you die and restart, you’ll be zooming through the starting pages of text because you already know it. Until you get to that branching point in the story were you find something you didn’t see before or get a different response from a character. It is still satisfying when you finally get the correct conclusion. But again, unplayable after. A nice touch is that if you do fail, there is no obligation to replay, as there is an option to see the solution. Clicking on this option and you’ll get the who did it and why. So if your friends can’t come back next week, they have some closure to the story.
One other bug from playing a set in stone story is that, sometime you may miss a clue, not shown the right clue to the right person and feel that you have walked into a dead end. Not sure of where to go and what to scan, you do this frantically until something falls into your lap. Or not. The game does try to help you in the form of, if you pass a certain amount of in game time, you’ll receive a text from the chief of police. This will inform you that maybe someone else has been killed, and you need to get your ass to a location to interview someone. This puts pressure on you, but also help the story move forward. But if you are prudent about your scanning and not wanting to waste time, you may pass a lot of real game time, look blankly over the table, retracing your actions. What did you miss? Luckily, there are four, on hand experts that you can call on, who deal with forensics, medicine, data information and phycology. Always a phone call away. Another nice feature in the app is the ability to go back through the history of your scenario, reading everything that was said and done. A great feature if you have to stop playing for lunch, to recap “previously on…” And useful if you are all clued out.
Technical score 9.5/10
The presentation of the game is extremely well put together. From the wonderful (slightly to big) box insert to the simplistic rule set. And the artistic palette used in the locations and characters is pleasing to the eye. Cartoonie, but relatable. The fact that everything can be reused in another story and be something different. Like the characters, who are like actors. In one story, character 52 is a gardener and in another story, the politician. There are even linked stories that continue off from the previous ones. With the same roles designated to characters and seeing the repercussions of you solving a case. There is infinite stories that can be told with just this base box, as long as there are more available for download later on. And the app handles really well. Any bugs that crop up are cleaned up quickly, thanks to the quick response from the team at Luck Duck. Although the app lacks one small thing that will help immerce the players into the game further. Sound effect. The music is good (yes, I’m kissing my own ass as it was me that did it) but very repetitive. Many will just switch it off. Shame!
My BGG score 8/10
This is why we get around a table. To debate, discuss and have fun. And that’s what this games does. Although there is a long period at the start of every game of silence and scanning. Are real detective game that feels like a detective game. Just needs either a random element or a bucket load of scenarios to play...right now! =)
This game is my cup of tea
Board games are magic. They can create an air of light, puzzling enjoyment or deep, perplexed confrontation. Normally ending with a in-depth discussion of how things could have gone, one way or the other. And some games have the bizarre ability to make laugh in the pursuit of achieving your goal. Party games fall into this cauldron of games, casting a spell that makes you say or do silly things.
A previous title from Buzzy Games, Top Face, preformed this trick seamlessly. Where one player would draw a card from a deck. Then have to make the same grimace as the image depicted on this card. While the other players had to race to find that face, from a large selection of face-pulling pictures scattered on the table. Simple, amusing and fun for 10 minutes. Longer, if playing with a large group of children and even longer, with a handful of tipsy adults.
Abra Kazam builds off of this game, which is basically the same concept. One player takes the role of the spellcaster and performs an action and the others race to find that action. In regards to the action, Abra Kazam has you casting spells, Potter style. The game comes with a cutely decorated magic wand, which players will be waving in the air, instead of pulling a face. It will be the movement of this wand that will point the other players (or wizards) to discern which spell is being cast by the spellcaster. Unlike Top Face that has around 60 different cards to choose from, this game has a select 24 cards. Narrowing down the choices a tad, but by no means making it easier.
There are four different coloured sets of spell in the game, that are housed in a beautiful but slightly strange box insert. Only two of these sets are used per game, which leads to a slightly different game each time you open the box. On one side is the spell name and a star constellation like drawing, that the movement of the wand needs to follow to activate the spell. The reverse side of the card has the effect of the spell, which I will get to a little later. A duplicate set of these spell cards, with only the spell image are also in the box. These are the cards that the spellcaster will draw from after they have been shuffled. The nice subtle thing about this smaller deck of cards, is that the drawn spell is the reverse to the larger spell cards. So when a spellcast cast their spell from the small card they have in their hand, they will be drawing it in the air, in the correct orientation for the other players.
Each player will have one chance to guess which spell is being cast. Pointing to it and shouting out it’s name. The fastest to do so will win you and the spellcaster a point. Carnage will ensue when kids all scream out, what they perceive the spell and spell name is. “Intellectualis” will become “Intolltacules,” or “Gallinarum will become “that one.” Fingers flailing everywhere. One minute here, the next there, and all because their mother pointed to the same spell too. Guessing incorrectly will mean that you sit out for a while, until someone or no one finds the spell. Finding the correct spell means, both the spellcaster and correct player, takes either the small or the large card into their spell book (a coloured card with a book on it). Each card in your spell book is a point at the end of the game.
Here is another change from Top Face, and evidently, the magic of this game. The player that guessed correctly becomes the new spellcaster. But they have had the previous spell cast on them. They will read the spell effect on the card they have just collected and have to perform the next spell in that fashion. You could be transformed into a Unicorn and have to attach the wand as if it was your horn, casting the next spell with your head. Or a smoke spell covers your eyes, meaning you cast the spell with your eyes closed. Or you are transformed into a snail, casting your spell extremely slow. Whatever you do, the game forces you to mime and act a little. Not too much that you feel like a fool, but a bit. This generates giggles from kids as they watch their parents do crazy things and fits of laughter when merry Uncle Mike does something very bizarre. Performing these actions with a spell becomes a challenge for the young one and also a source of amusement. And once the laughter has died down, the wand has changed hands and you carry on playing.
The game never outlives its welcome, with it’s built in timer. 10 spell remain on the table means it’s game over. Count your cards. It also balances itself, becoming quicker as you remove spells, leaving less possibilities to choose from.
In amongst it’s four types of spells, there are the red spell cards. These are not recommended for your first game. Although there is nothing difficult about them, they add another layer to the game. Making it more of a party style game. These cards have permanent spells that, when cast on the player, stay with them until they guess the next spellcasters spell. Nothing to difficult. Maybe you are now a Cyclopes, watching the game with one eye open or you’ve been turned into a dog, panting with your tongue out. This adds more amusement to the game but only to those who wish to participate in the crazy shenanigans. It might not be ideal for Grandma Gladdis to be tip-toeing around imaginary mice, at the age of 90.
At its heart, this is a family game, aimed mainly at children. And those of a disposition to all things Potter. Adults will probably take it or leave it, but the kids will want to play again and again. And hopefully won't start fighting over the wand. As a party game or cocktail game, it will work at certain parts of the evening. But the game nudges you to be silly, without pushing too hard. And you may or may not like that. Plus, you must alway have space around a bit table, for arms and legs to go flying.
Technical review 9/10
Some magical artwork with a cool magic wand and interesting, yet quaint insert. Simple presented rule book with light mechanisms for families, but party style may not be for all. Not interesting with 3 players.
My BGG score 6/10 (OK - will play it if in the mood)
The presentation is well done, but I like my humor in a game to come naturally. Always fun with new people and when I’m finished. I’m finished. I don’t feel the need to replay. I would recommend playing Top Face instead. It’s cleaner, more natural and you know what your letting yourself in for.
Combined score 7.5/10
Driving at breakneck speeds
Cutting off other drivers and spinning out of control. It’s all here. It’s regular Rallyman, but with multiplayer. But you can also indulge yourself by playing solo, in a time trial mode just like in the original version. GT has it all in one box.
This new version of thel Rallyman from Jean-Christophe Bouvier, is being brought back to life, after it’s first sellout tour, and now on Kickstarter. Holy Grail Games, who are no stranger to this platform, have been closely working with the original designer to bring this game to the masses, with a slightly refined mechanism. And when I say slightly refined, I mean it. In fact, to my recollection, the only thing that is gone are the cards, that would keep count of your time around the track.
Now admittedly, I have never played the original Rallyman from nearly 10 years ago. And having only played a few games of this prototype, I must admit that I am tempted to play solo. Against my previous times. Just like in a rally. But the real fun will come from playing against other players. As this is a real battle of strategy and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. With just the aid of the dice, your be plotting your trajectory and seeing if you can hold that course.
The game holds a very simple rule set, that makes getting into the game very speedy. Although there are a few speed bump along the way to slow the game down, it runs very smoothly. Let me light your route.
NOTE: all photos are of a prototype
First thing that players do is verify the turn order. This is a simple case of whichever car is driving at the fastest speed, becomes that player. If there are multiple players at the same speed, it is the one who is furthest along the track. If there is still a draw, it is the player who hugs the inside lane.
Players, then in turn order, will perform two actions. First, plot the route they wish to take along the track. This is done with six sided dice. There are six speed dice, numbered 1 to 6, plus three break dice and two coast dice. You’ll place these on the track, in front of your car, in sequential order. Either making your car go faster or slower. The coast dice act like jokers, sustaining the speed value of the dice place before it. And the break dice are used to jump the order of sequence by one extra. So, to break from speed 5 to 3 would require one break die and the speed 3 die.
This is the tactical part of the game, as you only have a limited amount of dice. This limit will change depending on your tyre set up, the weather and if you have taken any damage. Plotting your course, around bends and other cars can get tricky. To pass an opponent's car, you need to be going at least the same speed as them. And some corners will need to be taken at a certain speed. Leaving you to play out several scenarios in your head.
Already you have this finite resource. Speed. Once you go up to speed 3 and beyond, you can’t not come back down to speed 3 this turn, as you have already allocated the die to a space on the track. Even if you use the break dice, as they require the speed die that you are breaking to. The head scratching will commence. As you try to figure out the most secure and easiest trajectory to take. And while you are taking your turn, the other players are scrutinizing your every decision. You may hear a gasp from another at the table. But was that because you blocked them in? Or will be making them go the long way around? Or because you used your dice unwisely? There is a little tension here, while this takes place. Sometime another player will point out another way to use your dice, which is nice. And that makes this game an easy game to teach, as you do it while you play. The only thing you can’t teach is self restraint and how to handle luck.
Because the second part of your turn is luck, to a degree. If you’re someone who like to throw chance to the wind, you will either win easily or lose drastically. As each six sided dice has one or more sides marked with a Hazard sign. Roll too many of these and your car will spin out, slid off the course and possibly take some damage. All of this is calculated, from the weather conditions, your tyre set up and the speed of the last dice that showed a Hazard sign. The tension that besets the table is always a breathless moment. The anticipation of getting to the last space of your trajected route is thrilling. But sliding off, unable to pull off your fantastic feat, can be inraging. Especially, as I encountered, it happens three times in a row. Every time I rejoined the track. Grrrr!
Whenever you roll too many Hazard signs, you will reference your dashboard, that has your tyre type. There is a table, that you cross reference with the terrain in your location and the speed you were driving at. This will indicate the severity of the accident that has taken place. You may have just spun out on the track or came flying off completely. Meaning that you will miss a turn, as you roll back onto the track. As long as no one is occupying that space. Making you lose another turn, until that space is available again. The fast you come off the track, the more chance there is of you damaging your car. Damage comes from drawing a number of tokens out of a bag.
These tokens can be green flag, which do nothing. Yellow flags stop players overtaking the crashed car. Weather tokens changes the driving conditions from clear and sunny to slippery with rain, and vice versa. Which can be funny if the player after the one that’s accident causes this change, has planned to break hard on a bend. No longer will they be able to if the rain sets in. Sending them also, off the track. Finally, there are the dice tokens. For each one of these you have, you’ll be restricted on using that coloured dice. Drawing two black dice tokens will penalise you on the amount of speed dice you can use on your turn. Pitstoping will cost you a turn but allow you to remove all this damage and maybe change your tyre set up. These dice tokens, I find are fitting in the realm of theme. As you will find your car hobbling along the track after taking massive damage. The weather token, not so fitting.
But you’ll be happy to know that there is dice mitigation. As you can roll the dice, one of two way. First is “Flatout.” All the dice that you used on your trajectory are picked up and rolled at the same time. Yes, this is dangerous, luck driven part of the game, as you have no control over the results and could easily roll many hazards. But it has benefits. If you roll successfully, you are rewarded with Focus Tokens. One for each die used in going Flatout, except break dice. This is great for those who like to take great risks in game, but not so fun for unlucky players who roll four dice and get three Hazard results. Sending you into the barrier...Then do exactly the same on the next turn. Frustrating. But as I said, it’s up to the player to use restrian when rolling dice.
The other way to go about it, is to take your time. Roll each die, one by one and stop when you feel there is a chance of too many Hazard signs showing up. This is a steady and sure way to get around the course without danger of crashing. The sole risk comes from breaking. If you have used a break die to reduce the speed die, these dice get rolled at the same time. So, there is a chance of spinning out of control, even more so if you are hard breaking from from speed 6 to 2. This is where the Focus Tokens come into play. These can be spent, so you can remove dice before you roll them, making them natural success. Meaning no chance of a Hazard sign. The value of each die you remove in this fashion augment by a value of one. Removing the first die costs 1 Token, the second 2 Tokens, so on and so on. This is a great way to get around the circuit, as long as you have them. And to get them, you need to go Flatout from time to time.
After a few turn, the game becomes fluid and before you know it, someone is approaching the finishing line. The pressure is on to get there before them or the same time as them, but with a little more gusto, as you simultaneously cross the checkered flag. And the winner is decided, much like the starting player. Fastest. Furthest. Inside lane. All exciting fun, unless you have walked under a ladder with a black cat.
All in all, an enjoyable and sometime frustrating racing game with solid dice driving mechanic, that is otherwise a realist simulator. The art on the tiles is wonderful and sets the setting nicely, although in prototype form, the cars are nice too. With the hexagonal tiles, there is infinite coursed to make and with the promise of more cars, tiles, dice being unlocked in the the Kickstarter, the more I can’t wait to play again.
Hello Chaps & Chapettes,
It's not every day that you get offered a game and get excited by it instantly. Now, I don't get bucket loads sent to me, like Rahdo or Vasel, but those that I do get are unknown to me. Hence there is a little mystery in discovering a game. Not having any expectations. And never sure of where the game wants to go, leaving me with mixed feelings. For example, a dungeon crawl is a dungeon crawl, which is a sensation I know well and can appreciate it. And a good one will make me feel that I am crawling in a dungeon. Where as game where cubes are moving about, card are being bought, but the game is about concurring the world, can give me the feeling of farming. Not concurring the world at all.
Last year, I had a game shoved under my nose, that was a war game...of movie star clones. And it didn't give me a war feeling, but was immense fun. Plus there was combat. Mental and physical. That game was called Badass Force and in one week, starting on Kickstarter.
The game has an air of Coup. Choosing an A-list action movie star, like Arnold, Sly or Bruce, in front of yourself. Then, either telling everyone that who it really is or blatantly lying about who you have, just to use another power from another character. That way, in no one calls your bluff, you can take down some of the other players at the table. Interesting stuff...
...But it's not all about bluffing. Which is good for those that have a dislike to these type of games. You can play honestly. Because there is more to this game than meets the eye. You can change out the character you have choose. On top of that, there are weapons that need to be loaded, before firing. There is a choice with the weapons. And the biggest bonus is, there is no player elimination. If all your stars have been wiped out, you get to collect them and reuse them...But in a Revenge mode. A mode where their powers are enhanced. So if you are bad at lying or just have bad luck OR are always picked on. You become a tad more powerful, striking a little fear in your opponents.
The game comes alive, very quickly after a moment of uncertainty that players get in the first round. Not only as they adapt to the rules and strategy's, but as they start quoting...
"I heard you were dead!"
“Go ahead, make my day.”
"That's not a knife, that's a knife."
"This is my BOOM STICK!"
"Hasta la vista, baby."
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… And I’m all out of bubblegum.”
"Say hello to my little friend."
Man, I could go on and on...
This game is an enjoyable party style game. And I'm not just saying that because I am now the community manager for the KS. But because I do enjoy this game. The player interaction is high and made higher when one liners come out of other players mouths. Of course there is a bit of luck involved in the game. Calling bluff on a player you've never encountered before. But there is always the rematch, as you figure out their style of play. And there is a surprising amount of strategy hidden in the game. Should you bluff? Should you use your loaded weapon? Should you choose this character? Should you make their grenade, blow up in their face? Lots of choice and plans to formulate. But I won't ramble about it too much. I'll let you look for yourself. Below are some links to the rules, character powers and tips. Check them out and I will see you soon, with some videos.
Link to HOW TO YIPPEE-KI-PLAY (part 1)
Link to HOW TO YIPPEE-KI-PLAY (part 2)
Link to CHARACTER POWAA!
Link to WEAPONS TRAINING
Link to Facebook page
As far back as I can remember, I have always enjoyed sitting at a table with my family. A handful of cards in front of me. Brainstorming, which card to play to win the hand of cards already piled on the table. Contemplating the number of trick I had said that I would win to gain the maximum points. Yes, I'm talking about playing a game we use to call “Trumps.” Where players would start with a number of cards, a designated suit would be the trumping suit and we'd bid on the number of tricks we believed we would win with that hand. All from a standard 52 card deck.
Jump many years forward and my family still love playing that game. Although, this time I am what you'd call a gamer with my head filled with other ways of playing. I introduce The Great Dalmuti from the renowned Richard Garfeild. The guy who created Magic: The Gathering and Netrunner. Two very intricate card games that are so revered in our circles. Unlike those titles, Dalmuti is at it's core a very simple trick taking game, like Trumps, with no scoring but bucket loads of fun.
The funny thing is, I was introduced to a French tarot card game a few years before buying my copy of Dalmuti, that very much resembles it. This French version carries a slightly vulgar name with it, although that is part of the pleasure of it. In the forward to the rules, Garfield acknowledges that his game came from many traditional card games from around the world, that used these mechanisms. It's just that he took it and published it as his own. Very brave of you Richard.
One of the major differences of this printed version of the game is that it has a distinguished deck of cards. No suits, just numbers. Each numbered card contains that number of cards in the deck. Starting at 12 number 12 cards, 11 number 11, and so on. Just until the number one card, aptly named The Great Dalmuti. The most powerful card in the deck. There are also two Joker cards that have a hidden number of 13. The weakest cards, possibly. We'll talk about them a little later.
The deck is designed for 4 to 8 players, as the less of you there are, the bigger your hand of cards is. Not that this detriments your game. Playing as 4 or 8 the game scales and feels the same. Although, the position you sit at on the table may feel like a detriment. This is because this trick taking card game has more of an air of a party game. Before starting, players will draw a card from the deck to be allocated their position in the world. If you have the lowest card, you become the Dalmuti. ruler of your wonderful kingdoms and all it's subjects. The player with the second lowest becomes the Vice Dalmuti and sits to the left of their King. And so on around the table until the last player sits on the right of the esteemed leader. This player is the lowest of the low. The Peon. It is their job to deal out the cards and collect the cards in every round. Maybe even be told by the Dalmuti themselves, to bring everyone drinks or snacks. Or scratch a back or two.
It is the job of the Peon to elevate themselves into a position of power and for the Dalmuti to keep their own. This is done in a trick taking fashion. Be the fastest to discard your hand to become the Great Dalmuti, or the second fastest to become the Vice Dalmuti. So on and so on.
After the Peon has dealt out the whole deck, there is a taxation phase. The Peon is obliged to give 1 or 2 of their best cards, depending on the number of players, to the Dalmuti. While the Dalmuti does the opposite. Bare in mind, the low the card, the better it is. The Vice Dalmuti may have to do the same with the Vice Peon, if there are more players. So already, our Peon has got it hard. Collecting the rubbish from the top chair. In fact the Peon player may get down hearted by starting a game with a hand that they can never win a trick with. But with a little patience and timing, a Peon can jump into the number one spot. Or at least climb the food chain without the aid of luck.
As the Dalmuti, you'll lead the game by playing a card or a number of cards of the same value. Maybe 3 of the number 12 cards or 1 number 7 card. All players are inclined to play the same number of cards but of a lower value, or pass. It might be even advantageous to split a group of same value cards, just so you can play in that round. You may even decide to pass, while holding cards you could have played. This will continue around the table until everyone has pass, making the player who added the last cards to the pile the winner of the round. The Peon collects the played cards, and the winner starts a new round. As stated before, a player that empty's their hand is considered finish, gaining a position that for the next game. This is easier said than done with big groups, remember who finished third or fourth, but you can rely on the Dalmuti to sort out any conflicts as that player always knows when they have finished.
Card counting is a trick that you will utilise when your hand is not up to snuff. Where as if you're the Dalmuti, you can normally play the cards willy nilly and win. Judging when to pass and jump back in to snatch the win, making you the lead player is a skill that can be overlooked in all the fun. You'll need to be aware of how many cards the others have left, because if everyone passes, you may not get the chance to steal the lead. And you may even force the player to your right to win a round, just so they can start the new one with some higher cards, giving you the possibility of removing a few from your hand. There are so many slight little things that you can do that can swing the game in your direction, so the game doesn't feel like, the luck of the draw. You see one player is down to two cards and a possibility of becoming the next Dalmuti, you play you 11's. All four of them. You know that they wont be out this round. Then maybe someone else can hold that player up in the next round.
Power comes from the numbers. If you have been dealt a large number of one value, this can be great. As in one play, you remove a chunk of your hand in one swoop. Or it may not help at all as the other players play their sets of 2 or 3 cards, diminishing their hands slowly but surly. You'll then be tempted to break this large group of same numbered cards into smaller groups, just to you can play something this round. The Jokers do the reverse of this. A Joker can be added to a number of cards and disguise itself as that number. One minute you have three 3's in your hand, play it with the Joker and you now have four 3's. If your lucky to get a one of these, they add a little advantage but also a handicap. If played alone, they are a value of a 13. So saving them can hinder if that is the only card you have left. But sneaking them into another group, especially if it helps you win the round, is a great feeling. An even greater feeling that the Jokers can provide is a 'Revolution.'
In the Taxation phase, if a player has the pleasure of owning both Jokers, they can overthrow the government. If they wish. This throws the balance of power on it's head as all player change their position with the player of their polar opposite. In other word, the Peon becomes the Dalmuti and vice versa. And ever player in between does the same. Which is great if your at the low end of the food chain, but not so if you are in the higher echelons of power.
Leaving the game after playing your final cards will give you your position for the next hand. Being first will automatically make you the Dalmuti, second the Vice, all the way down to the last, who becomes the Peon. Or retains that same post, due to the bad hand of cards they couldn't get rid of. This game is a struggle for those at the bottom of this power struggle, but they will be totally overwhelmed to move up a post from hand to hand. Or even jump straight to the top position, without the help of a revolution. So far, so card game...
The party game part comes from the fact that the new Dalmuti gets to sit in their chair while the other players change places, depending on where they finished. A kind of musical chairs that places the new Peon on the right of the majestic “D” and then beckon to whatever they crave. And the fun can mount if insults are spray by those in power and if you inject props into the game. Giving the Dalmuti a crown and the Peon a baseball cap just adds the the ambiance.
All in all, as a family, we love this game. It's simplicity to play works great for the young players, who many not see the card counting as essential. While older players will grasp the concept as they have played similar traditional card games. We love this game. No scoring is necessary, we play it until we are bored. It's nothing much to look at though. It's cards. And they even deteriorate with multiple plays, much like mine in the images. The art itself is nothing spectacular and adds nothing to the game. The theme is weak if you play it flatly as a card game. You need the swap chairs. You need to role play. And you definitely need props. Shame there was none in the game, even if is was a badge or folded hat.
One of the greatest games on my shelf. One that I would drop anything in an instant to play. Shame it is not technically a great production, but some of the best games don't need to. Think, Werewolf.
Technical score 6/10
My BGG score 9/10
Combined score 7.5/10