Come the end of a hard day’s adventuring and every good hero will want to gather at The Hero’s Return and boast of the fantastic deeds that he performed that day. You are not a hero, but as a regular at The Hero’s Return, you like to get drunk and regale your equally drunken and equally unheroic friends of the great feats you certainly did not do that day. Sometimes your friends believe you, other times they call you “Liar” and tell you what really happened. This is the set up for Braggart – A game of heroes, lies, and unfortunate fish, a humorous card game that won the UK Games Expo award best card game in 2011.
Published by Spiral Galaxy Games, Braggart is designed for two to six wannabe heroes, and ten and up, and consists of one hundred and twenty full colour cards divided into five types. These are six Summary cards, a My Round card, ninety-two Boast cards, ten Liar! cards, and eleven Ploy cards. The Boast cards are further divided into four types – blue bordered Scene cards, green bordered Deed cards, red bordered Foe cards, and red bordered Result cards. The Boast cards each have a Brag Value at the top, a Victory Point value at the bottom, and a slightly cartoonish illustration with a short piece of text underneath. The black bordered Liar! cards are accusatory and force a bighead to change the details of his Boast, whilst the purple bordered Ploy let a show-off steal cards from a rival or change the cards in his hand.
The aim of Braggart is to score the most Victory Points at game’s end. This is done by creating the biggest Boast in a round as determined by the highest total Brag Value of each player’s Boast. At its most basic, a Boast consists of a single Deed card and a single Foe card. Optionally, a single Scene card and a single Result card can be added to a Boast, but either way, the Boast cards must be in the following order: Scene, Deed, Foe, and Result. This is so that the text on the cards forms a complete sentence. For example, the text from the following cards, “While wearing nothing more than my boots and a smile…” (Scene card), “I woke up next to…” (Deed card), “…a rogue magician of dubious morals” (Foe card), and “…and now barmaids all over town are unable to resist me!” (Result card) when read together forms a whole sentence.
The game starts with each player receiving a hand of four cards and is played in a series of rounds until the deck is exhausted and the game ends. Each round consists of two phases, a Draft Phase and a Boast Phase. In the Draft Phase a number of cards equal to the number of players is drawn from the deck and laid out face up where everyone can see them. Starting with the player with the My Round card in front him, everyone takes one of these face-up cards each.
In the Boast phase, a player has a number of options. He can “Go to the Bar” and draw three more cards in the hopes of gaining to a maximum hand size of eight, thus ending his turn. Or he can he play any number of Ploy cards to take cards from his fellow braggers before actually making a Boast. This consists of placing a single Deed card and a single Foe card with a single Scene card and a single Result card as optional extras, down on the table face-up and reading out the cards in as heroic or as boastful a fashion as possible. In response, the other blowhards round the table can call the swellhead out on the details of his deed by calling him a “Liar!” or an “Outrageous Liar!” and playing the appropriate cards. With these cards the accuser can replace one or two of the Boast cards in the windbag’s Boast with Boast cards of his own, the aim being to force the blusterer to reveal what really happened and reduce the Brag Value of his Boast.
For example, Anthony plays a seven-point Scene card, a four-point Deed card, an eight-point Foe card, and a six-point Result card. All together this has a Brag Value of twenty-five and reads as follows: “While possessed by the spirit of a long dead warlord…” “I opened a crate and was surprised to find…” “…a necromancer and her legions of the damned” “…and now a painting of these exploits hangs above the King’s fireplace!”. Naturally, Anthony reads this out in as heroic a voice as possible and looks around the table to see if any will challenge him as to the veracity of his claims.
With a cry of “Liar!” and a point of his finger, Dave to his left plays a “Liar!” card on Anthony’s Boast and replaces his seven-point Scene card with a four-point Scene card from his hand. Similarly, Michelle calls Anthony an “Outrageous Liar!” and replaces two of his Boast cards with a three-point Deed card and a two-point Foe card so that Anthony’s Boast now reads “In the Queen’s bedchamber…” “I was beaten and robbed by…” “…the vicious village cat” “…and now a painting of these exploits hangs above the King’s fireplace!” and has a Brag Value of fifteen rather than twenty-five. Of course, Anthony is still expected to read out his amended, but now a bit more truthful Boast, in as a heroic a voice as possible.
A round ends once every player has managed to either “Go to the Bar” or make a Boast. The player who made the Boast with the highest Brag Value wins the round and gets to keep all of the cards from his Boast in his score pile for game’s end. Any other player who managed to make a Boast gets to keep one of the cards from his Boast to add to his score pile. All other cards from played Boasts are discarded. Then a new round begins with the My Round card going to the player who scored the least or nothing in the previous round. The game continues round by round until the deck is exhausted and then everyone totes up the Victory Points scored from their Brags. The winner – the player with the highest total – is awarded the title of Lord Braggart.
Braggart is not a game that calls for much in the way of tactics. After all, all that a player is trying to do is get his best Boast out on the table whilst ensuring that his rivals make poorer Boasts by calling them Liars. The only real tactic is watching the cards that each player draws in the Draft phase, whether that is high value Boast Cards to play Liar! Cards on them or Liar! Cards to avoid having them played on your Boast. After that though, it is simply a matter of doing the dirty on the other players. For the most part, this is a random card game and the players have to make the best of their hands.
Lastly, there is the matter of the game’s full title: Braggart – A game of heroes, lies, and unfortunate fish. The “heroes” and “lies” aspects are obvious, but the “unfortunate fish”? Well, there is a single Foe Card worth exactly a Brag Value and a Victory Point total of one for which text on the card reads, “…an unfortunate trout.” This is not the only Foe Card of this value in the game, but when this is played in the designer’s own playing group, it is known as being “trouted”!
Braggart is a fun, silly, take that style game that serves as a good filler to play whilst waiting for more players or a longer game to start. It should appeal to gamers who like to tell a story, even if only very silly stories and it will really appeal to gamers who have played fantasy roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons. It is also a suitably light game to play socially, be that with a drink in your hand or not, though it would be fitting as you do “Go to the Bar” in the game! Every gamer should have a selection of filler games and Braggart – A game of heroes, lies, and unfortunate fish is an entertaining game that deserves to be in your selection.