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Who says a Leopard cannot change its spots ?

VICEROY by Yuri Zhuravlev Published by MAYDAY Games

MAYDAY Games are a superb independent publishing company known mainly for their fun family games which are whacky and weird, so what an amazing change of direction to publish a game that has been published several times by many other companies; including Hobby World;  Funforge;  Games Factory Publishing; and Heidelberger Spieleverlag.


VICEROY is as far removed from anything Mayday Games are known for and that may affect the way some people approach it. Whether you like it or not, or believe it or not, there are still many players who judge games by their author or by their publisher and make purchases based on those ideals. If you are one of those players I would like to urge you to give VICEROY your time as I am sure you will find it a very good, well balanced, game.

The only failings w have found are in the translation from whatever to English - if there aren't translation issues then there are rules issues and we would like to err on the side of translation. Most of these rules irregularities aren't major and are on the Law Cards, and can be sorted with a little common-gaming-sense. Two Law cards that come immediately to mind that need clarification are "Royal Favor" and "Secret Service". The first (Royal Favor) says to put a "free" card from your pyramid underneath this card. There is nothing to explain what a "free" card is. Our suggestion is a "free" card is one that has no token on it and is also not supporting another card - makes sense but could have been rule-written a little more clearly. "Secret Service" is not quite so straightforward. The wording is "Put any number of cards from your hand underneath this card". Does this mean you put cards under it when you play it or can you put cards under it during your turn throughout the game ? We play it using the latter idea

Another card that caused some conversation and discussion amongst our players is "Decree on Guilds" which is played under any character card on your pyramid. Seeing as it's corners are never brought into play, as it seems like the only legal playing of this card is to put it under an already played character card, it is surprising that there are both coloured corners and a semi-circle of colour. Having these tend to suggest that the card can also be played just as a card that does nothing except match colours, and this is how we choose to play it, either underneath a character card to gain an additional token or as a dummy card and matching the top edges or semi circle section.


VICEROY is a powerplay strategy game where the players are trying to build a pyramid of characters that will rule and govern by the passing of Laws. A pyramid is made up of a base line, also known as level one, which can be as long as the player wishes, going right up to the top, the fifth level. The pyramid is created by laying cards atop of each other so that each card on a level higher than the first is balanced (or placed) across two supporting cards. The majority of cards are activated as they are placed and then their powers are no longer available. Some of the Law cards have immediate Laws and others have Laws that continue throughout the game. Finally there are Law cards that do not become activated until the game ends.

There are two different types of card, Character and Law, and they each have their own separate decks. The Character cards are brought into play through an auction where the players bid just one token. Four coloured cards, Blue, Green, Red and Yellow, are removed from any deck thy may have ended up in whilst clearing away after the last game, and laid face up in a row in the centre of the table. Under each of these cards is laid a face up Character card, taken from the remaining deck. There is a reasonable amount of Luck and Randomness in the gameplay, but also a fair amount of thinking and strategy is required. To begin with the players have to choose 2 cards from the 4 they are dealt, and then from those 2 cards one is placed face up to begin their pyramid while the second card is kept to form the beginnings of their hand. We decided on a house rule that allows the players to make their decision on which cards to hold and which to discard after the auction cards have been placed for the first round.


To bid for one, and only one, of the cards on display each player secretly takes one of their gems - all players begin with six gems - personally decided by secretly removing 2 from the 8 (2 of each colour) they are given during setup.All players reveal their bids at the same time and then take the card beneath the gem of the colour they bid. Of course there may be conflicts, in which case the gems are discarded to supply and the drawing players get to go again. You may only win one card in the auction but if you don't win one you can take 3 gems from the supply.

Any cards not won in the auction are moved to the top of the gem card that it was beneath so that on the next auction there are two cards available for that colour. If 2 players bid for them  they can decide amongst them who gets which of the cards or they can decide no one gets them, either way they lose their bidded gems. This is a clever mechanic that works extremely well, often forcing the players to make deals between themselves. Of course if you are the only one to bid for a colour you win the card you went for. I like this auction idea because it makes you think before bidding, there are always 4 cards to bid for, and only one gem is required to win one if you are lucky.


After the auction it is time to begin building your pyramid. You may place Character cards and Law cards in your pyramid. Each card, either type, has two colours on it at the top right and left corners, plus a same-colour half circle. When you place cards on your pyramid they may not be moved but you may place colours next to each other that are not the same, though it is often an advantage if you can place like colour next to like colour. Placing these cards is using another fine mechanic. Each card has four rewards on it of which you get one depending on which level you place the card. To place a card on the first level you pay the cost - one gem - the one that is shown on the bottom rung of the list and get the reward opposite. However to get the reward for the third level (as an example) you have to pay for costs for the first, second and third levels - three gems - but you only get the reward for the third level, you do NOT get those for the other levels on the way up; so no reward for the first and second level even though you pay the costs.


After the mechanics for the auctions and the pyramid you have the gem and card management mechanic. To buy the cards from the auction you need gems, to get gems you need to either play cards that will give you gems, not join the auction, to gain 3 gems or discard a card that gives you 2 gems. Okay there is luck, to a point, on what cards you place and what cards come up for auction, but you do have the option to collect gems and not play cards so it kind of does balance out overall, though there are times when it may not feel like it does.


The end of the game has the players adding up points for making full circles of one colour on your pyramid (by careful placing of the cards when you build your pyramid), for having infinite gemstones on your pyramid - certain cards give these, Law card give points, Power tokens give points, magic gives points, completed sets of icons on your pyramid give points but you lose points for every sword token other players have in their hands when the game ends. As you can use sword tokens to immediately win auctions it is a toss-up whether you keep them to know opponents points tallies down or whether you use them to win the card you want. Another fine decision of balance.

VICEROY is a very good, enjoyable, and certainly very playable deviation from Mayday Games usual style and well worth investing in.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015