I have been playing boardgames for 62 years, since I was about 7, and reviewing them for around 40 years. A very short while ago I learned of the phrase 'Point Salad'. I had never heard it before, nor had any of my friends that I play games with; though apparently it is very a "well known" and "well used" phrase, so known that on Social Media I was berated for having never heard it.
I mention the above because when I spoke with the lady demonstrating PARTNERS at UKGE last June she told me it was the highest selling boardgame in Denmark and expected me to have heard of it. Like 'Point Salad' it is something that neither I nor my friends had heard of prior my being told then (at UKGE) and subsequently playing it. The point being that even with the experience I have in the games industry there are many things, sayings, games, game systems, people, celebrity gamers etc.etc.etc. that I don't know, have never heard of, have never met, and more worrying, have never heard of me, Games Gazette Online or the 40+ years I have been involved in games.
It is so popular in Denmark that they organise at least 15 championship tournaments throughout the year - that's a lot for a non-collectible card game. There is also an APP available for players all around the World from both the Google Play Store and the App Store. So having established that although PARTNERS was published in Denmark in 1998 and, according to the publicity leaflet, has sold over 25000 copies a year for the past 20 years, that's half-a-million copies, whether published by Danspil, Game InVentorS, or JBLPartners.co.uk, in Denmark, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, United Kingdom, Ireland and France.
PARTNERS can be played with 2, 3, 4 or more players but is optimal with 4, as in 2 (Partners) in 2 teams, players from each team sitting round the table opposite each other diagonally; as an examle: Team A1 Green, Team B1 Blue, Team A2 Red, Team B2 Yellow. In 2018 a six-player version of PARTNERS was launched, though at the time of writing I have been unable to find out anything about it.
It has vague elements of Ludo with the players trying to run their 8 Pawns (4 per player) around the track and get them 'home' to the appropriate central spaces. Movement is determined by the playing of cards from their hands, with the players attempting to work together to help each other and block the oppositions. Each player begins with a hand of four cards dealt at the beginning of each Round. Once they have their cards each pair (team) passes one card face down, unseen, to each other. This basically random trading of cards seems pretty pointless to begin with as you have no idea what cards your team mate already holds, thus are you helping or hindering them. As the game progresses and new Rounds begin then the cards passed between team players become part of the team's strategy and the selection made is much more important.
The cards are numbered; 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12 or they have 'special' abilities - these are described on pages 4 & 5. The use of these special cards should be understood clearly by all players because each of them is very different and some of the abilities are flexible between the team players.
Unlike LUDO, more than one Pawn, of any/all colours, can be on the same space. This is important if an opposing pawn lands on an occupied space: if only one opposing pawn is on the space it is returned to its starting place, but if more than one same-opposing pawn is on the space then the pawn that lands on the space goes back instead - moral 'don't play a card to land on a multi-occupied space'.
PARTNERS is a game that you have to stick with if you want to get the best out of it. You really need the same 4 players in the same teams playing several games, in as close amount of time as possible. If you let too much time go between playing games then you'll probably have to go back to square one and get the system into your system again. Every time you play with new players you will have to go through the building structure until they are up to speed on it - it isn't something you can teach in a few minutes.
I have mentioned LUDO a couple of times and that is because most players will immediately perceive PARTNERS as being similar to it, however it is really far more complex than LUDO and requires more thought a strategic play by use of the cards with the only luck/random factor being the hands of cards dealt, there are no dice and therefore very little luck and very little random.
PARTNERS can be found at a cost just under £30.00 whereas LUDO can be found online for about £5.00. Apart from the varition in price the main difference is that LUDO is a fairly straightforward game that families with (fairly young) children can learn quickly play. PARTNERS is a complex game where the players have to be able to understand the nuances of it, and that takes more time than young players are likely to give.
In today's games market of miniatures war games, tile laying, area control, worker and/or resource management, this seems totally out of place. To some it will appear as a 'dinosaur' to others 'a breath of fresh air'; to my players and myself it was 'advanced Ludo'.