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TURANDOT is a fine example of how boardgames/card games are more like fine wine and unlike electronic games when it comes to age. Electronic games have a short shelf life and are like "shinies" to a two year old in a toy shop - the moment a new one catches the eye the previous one(s) is/are forgotten. It's true that many of us say we are going to go back to an old favourite computer game, and indeed some of us actually manage it, but often when we do the equipment we are using is too far advanced to be able to run slow enough for the older game. Boardgames, on the other hand, rarely have an expiration date and all your require are a table and chairs, some drinks and munchies and of course some actual, real-life, players. TURANDOT may not be Champagne, but it sure is a fine Merlot or Chablis.

When I first began reading the rules for TURANDOT my mind wandered a little back to the QUEEN Spiele game "Show Manager" where the players are trying to put together the performers for a Gala Performance event. That was because the players of TURANDOT are trying to gather the performers for the Puccini Opera, coincidentally also called "Turandot". However, as I continued reading, and then later playing, I realised that this, and the fact that they are both card games, are the only similarities between the two games; TURANDOT is otherwise so different.

        

The Opera has eight main characters and the game employs six of them, omitting the Emporer and the deposed King. The six characters in the game are: Turandot and Liu two females and four males, Calaf (the Prince) and the Lord Chancellor, Head Chef and the Majordomo, Ping, Pong and Pang. The cards for these characters are marked 1-6 and laid out in a row for reference purposes. There are several types of cards, each with their own deck; the Performers (singers) - these are the cards players will bid for to put in their show. The Directors - each player requires one director.  Special cards - there are three special cards; Giacomo Puccini (the maestro himself), a Carpenter and a Seamstress. plus the Player decks - each player has their own deck of cards in their chosen ID colour (six bid cards marked 1-6, three money/points cards and 1 Bluff card).

There are 7 rounds in each game. In the first three the players are "bidding" for performers, on the fourth round they bid for a director and then the last three are again for performers. Bidding is a bit of a misnomer as the mechanic is probably slightly different to most, if not all, other games where bidding is used. The Performers deck is shuffled and cards are placed under the main character card row, one card under each up to the number of players plus one (thus 5 Performers are placed in a four-player game). The players secretly decide which of the Performers they wish to bid for by selecting one of the numbered cards, the number chosen relates to the Performer wanted not any value. Players may add a Bluff card to their choice and/or any number of Money cards. The Bluff counts for nothing and the Money cards are basically tie breakers when used to bid with. Players may also bid just one Money card without a number card if they are bidding for the Carpenter or Seamstress.

The winners of the bidding get the cards they want and put them face up in front of themselves. If they bid just a Money card, and either the Carpenter or the Seamstress are available, the Money card is tucked under one of the Performers and counts as an extra point when counting up at the end of the game. Money cards used for bidding for Performers are lost if you win but returned if you don't. Every round all players will gain a Performer, either by winning one in the bidding or by being given one from those remaining by the player holding the Maestro card; you are even given a Performer if you bid for the Seamstress/Carpenter. At the end of each round one of the players is elected to remove a director from the game. They look through the deck of directors and select one who is then placed back in the box. Their choice should be made on the symbols shown at the bottom of the director's cards as these can add or subtract points at the end of the game.Obviously you hopw to keep and win the director that has the best symbols for you according to those on the cards of the Performers you own. After the fourth round the remaining directors are returned to the box and out of the game.

          

Each Performer card has at least three symbols, one to show whether it is a Male, Female or Uncertain, one (a star or stars) to determine the value of the card and one to show the suit, Dark, Comic, Alternative, Classic etc. A few of the Performers also have a symbol that shows their preferred role - Turandot, Calaf or Liu. Apart from the symbols on the director cards there are various other ways that can adjust points totals, such as having Performers in their preferred role adds an extra point to your total, having a person in the wrong sex part loses a point.

The game plays quickly and amusingly, is easy to learn, not hard to understand and has no loops or twists that could cause any problems. In fact the only rule that may cause confusion is that while you have the start player card, Giacomo Puccini, then you may not bid for the Seamstress or Carpenter, but as Puccini is passed round clockwise after each round it isn't any problem. The rule is only in place because it is the Puccini holder who decides which of the remaining Performers goes to which player after the bidding and of course they would give themselves the best card.

TURANDOT may be a 2009 game and thus six years old, but that could be good news for prospective purchasers as it is more likely to be found on one of the trade stands at games conventions, like Spiel, Essen, at a reduced cost. Unlike the electronic games mentioned earlier, being six years old doesn't mean that your table will be too advanced for it to be played on. In all seriousness this is a good 20-30 minute game for up to five players - there are special rules for only two players - aged from eight years and upwards. Designed by Stefano Castelli, the renown Italian designer known for Bomarzo, Nocturno and Tucson City amongst others.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015