There and back again....a Shelf of Shame Tale
So when I suggested last night we pick a game we hadn't played before, I had forgotten we even had this game tucked away on a shelf. My partner had gotten it me for my birthday but because it seemed designed primarily for more than two we hadn't often it out ourselves.
The game is essentially a team based trick taking game arraying the heroes of the book against the villains: there are five suits each numbered 1-12 and the core mechanic is the same as any other trick taking game, someone plays a card everyone else has to follow suit if they can, highest number of that suit takes the trick.
However, the tactics of this game have an extra layer, as about half the cards have one of three symbols on them:
Stars: Heal good characters and harm the bad ones
Orcs: same as stars but in reverse
Pipes: allow you to draw and discard extra cards the following round.
And this is the meat of the game, you are trying to 'kill' your opponents. If a character end the round with too much damage then they are eliminated. The way this happens is pretty interesting: the winner of the trick gets to decide how the cards are distributed between the players depending on which character they are, so there is a degree of asymmetry. There is also an asymmetry in the suits; different colours tend towards different symbols or number of symbols which plays into the whole strategy really nicely. So a player who knows they are going to lose the next trick might play a low purplecpurple as they know they are mostly blank but Smaug can't be allowed to win a hand full of red cards as then he will be distributing orcs left and right.
The two player variant was okay but it won't become a regular. However, for a group of 4-5 I think it will be a definite step up over regular wist or the like. I really appreciate that the good guys especially have to try to engineer certain characters to win certain hands. The game is only two rounds long so player elimination would not cause any problems as the game will be over 5 minutes later. Also the artwork on the cards is really enjoyable and there aren't many repeats so looking at your hand is a bunch of fun.