Zoch/Noris Publishers: 3-5 players 8+ 10 minutes per game Designer: Antonin Boccara Illustrator: Alexander Jung £15.00 - £28.00 inc p&p on the internet
The 50 small plastic Gem pieces arrive in a sealed plastic bag that once opened was of no use; unlike most of Zoch/Noris productions there is not a zip-loc bag for these small pieces.
The cards, 5 sets of 8 in ID colours, 14 Nobles and an Overview card are similarly packaged.
Played with three, four and five players this is a fun, fast semi-family/experienced gamer's game.
Each player has a set of 8 cards valued 0 - 7 and 8 points of Gems. The deck of Nobles is shuffled and placed face down as a draw deck.
The play mechanic is not unusual. Flip over the top Nobles card and see what it's reward (aka 'favour') is. If the card has a '!' on it then it will be a straight-forward plus or minus gems from or to the supply. If it has a '?' then the favour will have an either/or choice such as (+0 /-8) or (+5 Left/Right) Mainly moving Gems from the supply between opponents.
So once you see what your reward could be you select a card from your deck, you are only going to use this card once as it is removed from play afterwards. All players select a card face down in front of them until all have chosen and then the cards are flipped face up. The card with the highest value wins and takes the reward, the card with the lowest value takes Gems to that value (the value on their card) from the supply. Tied cards are dealt with efficiently in the rules on page #7 (English).
It is easy to forget what you are aiming at, and that is to be the player with the second most value of Gems at the end of the game, which is after 8 full rounds as all cards have to be played by all players. At all times everyone's Gems have to be in plain sight for all players to know what they are aiming to beat/not beat.
We tried an experiment of playing with just 2 players and a dummy hand. Shuffle one of the unused sets of 0-7 cards and put it face down as the Dummy's draw deck. Play the game as usual with the exception being that the Dummy's card is random (dealt straight off the top and flipped). We had to make some slight alterations to the Favours with choice (such as rolling a die for Left/Right) but the game actually played well and was almost as enjoyable as with other players, more real players are better obviously but if there are just the two of you the game can still be played and fun will be had.
First impression was that it is a game where the mechanic is well used, but the twist of having the second highest gem collection win, and the variations on the Nobles cards, adds an unexpected frolic.