SMILES & DAGGERS is a card based game from Gianluigi Giorgetti & Andrea Marchi. It has excellent illustrations and colouring all through, from box to cards.
SMILES & DAGGERS is produced by Sir Chester Cobblepot and distributed by Giochi Uniti and Asmodee.
Do not dismiss this out of hand as not for enough players because the box size is very similar to that used by many companies for 2-player games. This is in fact for 3-6 players and it plays better the more players there are.
It can be found online for under £15.00 but always check your local games store first.
This super game is played in turns, but no matter how many players are involved ALL can, if they want, be involved in every turn of the game.
Each player has their own hand of cards, colour and illustration (front and back) coded for ease of recognition. These decks contain one Lord, two Ladies and three Knights.
The base mechanic in SMILES & DAGGERS is Rock, Paper Scissors. Lords beat Ladies; Ladies beat Knights, Knights beat Lords. It is really that easy.
Each card has two options on its Front side; Smiles and Daggers. On their turn each player selects another player to challenge. Then they put one of their cards face down and slide it towards their victim, face down and with one short edge aimed at the opponent. They may carry out this action while offering all manner of inducements, none of which have to be upheld or even have a modicum of truth. They can offer and make deals with their opponent who then similarly places a card from their hand so that one of its short edges is aimed at the proffered edge of the aggressor's card. Both cards are flipped over at the same time - the orientation of the card mustn't change during flipping.
The reveal will show whether the players are being nice - having the Smiles facing or the Daggers facing and thus causing an attack. HOWEVER, prior to the cards being flipped over all other players, in turn order, get to decide if they are going to 'bet' on the result. Thus before the cards of the action are turned over the non participating players can lay one card from their hand face up from their hand against the two face down Challenge cards. The bidding actions of the players is the main way to collect coin;, the other way being by playing either the Lord or a Lady cooperatively against an aggressive opponent who intends to defeat their card by playing their card Dagger forward. Dagger cards discard their opponents to the box and out of the game if the pairing is correct: Lords beat Ladies; Ladies beat Knights, Knights beat Lords.
Player's 'bids' are to guess whether the Challenge opponents have played their Light side - the Smiles, or their Dark side - the Daggers. They can place their bid card against one or both of the cards of the Challengers, giving the bidders the options of Smiles on one or the other Challenger, Smiles on both of the Challengers, Dagger on one or the other Challenger, Dagger on both of the Challengers, or Smiles on one Dagger on the other - it all depends where and how you position your bid card. You use the Knight cards for bidding and you win coins if you are correct. If you are wrong then you lose the Knight card to the box. Players win coins for successful bids but do not bid using coins, only only Knight cards.
The Lord and Lady cards also give you coins if you complete a successful cooperative Challenge. Bidders gain one coin for each correct prediction, thus if you bid and predict both Challenger's actions you gain 2 coins. However, bidding that both players will cooperate can also be dangerous as if one or both of your bids are wrong you gain no coins (even if one of your bids is correct) and you lose the Knight to the box, the same as if you only bid on one Challenger and get your prediction wrong. You have to take chances and make bids though because to win the game you need to be the first to have at least 9 gold coins.
Thus this is a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, with extra fun elements and played using hands of cards with beautiful illustrations (Daniele Dickmann) rather than hands of fingers.
At under £15.00 (seen online at £14.41 but always check out your Local Game Store first) it is extremely good value plus it has the added attraction of getting better the more players (3-6) there are, though bidding cards have to be carefully placed when you have 5 or 6 players (once placed no changing of minds) because it can get a little chaotic.
SMILES & DAGGERS is a cracking family game with a suggested age range from 10 years upwards, but I reckon that a reasonably smart 7 or 8 year old should be able to handle it fairly easily, especially as younger players can see through the chrome to the basic idea, if not always understanding their opponent's tactics.
Games can last from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, the longer games being those where the Challengers really go for it in their discussion attempting to persuade each other how to play their cards, which of course adds the additional Bluff factor. Remember that the persuasion tactics of each challenger is also aimed at the non-challenging players because by getting them to bid, hopefully misdirected so the bid is incorrect, they are depleting the cards in the other player's hands.