Amongst the myriad of Euro-games and humungous displays and banners it was with quiet relief that I stumbled upon, almost over as their table was situated right next to a thoroughfare, a game of British proportions. STAND & DELIVER is a game for 2-6 eight year olds and above who enjoy a little skullduggery amongst friends and family. STAND & DELIVER by David Morris and published by Welsh Company, Dark Blade Creations, doesn't have the gloss and appeal of the average Euro-game but it does have the rugged feel of a good olde fashioned romp. I have to openly admit that I was first drawn to the game by the name of the company, "Dark Blade Creations", for it was indeed myself who actually did create a boardgame called "Dark Blades".
One of the first things you will notice about STAND & DELIVER is how dark it is. The box is predominantly mottled dark-grey, the rules book deep crimson and black, the player pieces are all deeply dark versions of popular executive colours and the cards and tokens despite featuring some very nice artwork also feature dark greens and reds. Throughout there are sprinklings of golds and silvers and white outliner, but the overall impression is that the designer has deliberately, and brilliantly, kept the game in-line with the theme and colours of Britain in the 1600-1700s.
The components are all good quality card, with the exceptions of the plastic spinner mechanics and the Health & Notoriety markers which are wooden cubes. Each character card has the character's name plus boxes to keep check on their Notoriety and Health points, the rear of these cards has an expanded illustration of the character and a very brief note on said character, all of whom are named from actual Highwaymen (and Highwaywomen): Of these characters, Dick Turpin is by far the best known, Plunkett & MacLaine are best known from the 1999 movie that featured their names but little of their real lives, the "Wicked Lady" (aka Lady Katherine Ferrers), Mary Bryant (convicted and sent to Australia), Claude Duval (a French noble who fell on hard times) and Tom King (possibly accidentally shot and killed by Dick Turpin during a failed robbery). Therefore even though it is not part of the game per se, it is fun to inject a little role-play humour into the play depending on the character selected or randomly given. Each character has the same statistics on their sheet, plus one of the Special Ability cards dealt randomly at the start of the game.
The game is quite quick and played over just ten rounds with the objective being the same as it was for those historic Highway People 300 plus years ago, to become rich and infamous but also alive and free. The player who escapes capture and also captures the most treasure wins, getting caught and/or hung in the game isn't such a grand idea now, though I figure it was probably a lot worse all those years ago.
The gameplay itself is easy with barely enough rules to cover the four A5 pages they are spread over. Coach cards are laid face down in a row, the number of coaches depends on the number of players, one card per player. Then using their dials (these are known as Wheels of Fate) each player puts (selects, not spins) the arrow to the required position which has to be one of the numbers that equates to the position of their personally selected coach card. When all players have chosen they place their dials next to the coach and if more than one player has chosen the same coach duels have to be fought. When all duels have been decided the Coach cards are flipped over and the actions on them revealed. The information on the coach cards will state the name of the person being robbed or the coach route; examples for instance may be: Lord Wellington Smythe is robbed of 1 coin and the Highwayman's Notoriety is raised by one or the London to York mail coach is robbed of 3 coins and the robbers Notoriety is raised by 2. The coins are drawn randomly from the large black drawstring purse provided with the game. Amongst the coins in the bag are some coins with an event on their flip side.
If the flip is "Shot" the character robbing the Coach loses one Health point but they get away with the 'real' coins (event coins are returned to the sack. If the event on the coin shows a soldier then the the character must pay a bribe equating to the level of their Notoriety. Copper coins have a value of 1, Silver coins are 3 and Gold coins are 5. The rules do not state it but the assumption is that the player is penalised for each Shot and Captured event. Thus if a player draws 4 coins from the sack and one is completely Gold (both sides) and the other three show 2 Shots and one Captured then that player gets 5 money value, loses one Health point (shot) and has to pay 2 x their character's notoriety level (2 x captured). By sitting out a round a character can regain Health. By partaking in a successful robbery the character always gains notoriety. The higher your notoriety the more it costs you in bribes. Also the rules do not actually state what happens if the player cannot pay the bribe when captured. Again the assumption is that if you cannot pay then in gaol you stay, ie you are out of the game. Thankfully this isn't something that is likely to occur as long as you pay attention and think through your action, plus you need a little luck, just a little.
The character dials are also used when players attend the same robbery and have to duel.The players select the action they want their robber to take. This can be share the loot with the opposition, shoot at your opponent or run away. If you run away or get shot you get no loot from the robbery, if all characters share then they all get a coin, but for sharing to work all players need to share. If one chooses to shoot and one to share the one who shoots wins the lot. It's a little like Rock, Scissors, Paper. Players also gain Ability cards when they reach certain levels of Notoriety.
This may not top the best seller's list or get an award for Game of the Year but let's face it, how many games that get those plaudits are actually worthy of them ? STAND & DELIVER is only meant to be a 30 minute game, and for a game expected to be so short it does stand up and deliver. It has pace, is neatly presented and is amiable even though much of the fun comes from shooting your friend's characters and robbing them.