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Friday, 14 February 2014

Finding Romeo

Where art thou Romeo? is not even a ‘Microgame’, it is something smaller. Indeed, the game’s full title, Where art thou Romeo? A Nano game set in the World of the Council of Verona, gives substance to its tiny size. Released as a near ‘Pay What You Want’ project on Kickstarter, Where art thou Romeo? is a card game inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and published by Crash Games that can be played in as little as five minutes. It consists of five cards, plus the rules, and is quick to learn as it is to play. It is a ‘role’ game in which players takes turn being Juliet who is looking for her beloved, Romeo. Depending upon their roles, the players will score points if Romeo is found or if he is not found.

The five cards are all role cards. The first is Juliet. The other four each have two roles on them, so for example, Romeo and Count Paris are one card, whilst Mercutio and Benvolio are on another. At the beginning of each round, one player will be Juliet whilst the other players are each given one card. Each of these other players will choose one of the two roles on their card. So for example, a player receives the Nurse/Tybalt card and must choose to be either Tybalt or the Nurse for that round. Whatever role these players choose, they must keep it a secret until Juliet asks everyone to reveal their roles.

As the players are choosing their roles, a lobbying period of roughly thirty seconds ensues. During this period, Juliet essentially asks the question, “Where art thou Romeo?” and the players have to convince her of the fact whether or not they are Romeo. By the end of the period the players must have selected their role and then Juliet gets to choose which player she thinks is Romeo.

The aim of the game is to score as many points over the course of its several rounds. The numbers gained each round depends who Juliet chooses. She scores the most points if she chooses Romeo, as does Romeo, the Nurse, and Friar Laurence. Mercutio also scores the most points if Romeo is chosen, but will reduce the points gained by both Romeo and Juliet. Benvolio, Tybalt, and Prince Escalus all score a point if Romeo is not chosen or Juliet cannot decide.

The players are free to tell Julia whatever they like during the lobbying period, bar revealing their identity. It is clearly in the interests of several of the roles for Julia to identify Romeo—certainly Romeo, the Nurse, and Friar Laurence have no reason to lie when it comes to stating whether or not they are Romeo. Likewise, Mercutio certainly wants Romeo found, though for different reasons and thus will not lie about his not being Romeo. Benvolio, Tybalt, and Prince Escalus, as well as Count Paris, all have an interest in Romeo not being found and so are likely to lie. This may change as one person gets ahead in terms of points, but in a ‘Nano game’, it should be no surprise that the tactics are ‘Nano’ too.

Physically, the game’s five cards are sturdy and presented in black and white on a sage background. Currently and disappointingly, Crash Games has no plans to develop further titles as ‘Pay What You Want’ projects on Kickstarter—for reasons that are explained here. That said, Tasty Minstrel Games has picked up this baton with titles such as This Town Aint Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us! PWYW, Burgoo - A PAY-WHAT-YOU-WANT game of community stews, Templar Intrigue - A Werewolf type game by @tastyminstre, and Coin Age - A PAY-WHAT-YOU-WANT area control microgame.

There are numerous hidden role games available at the moment, from The Resistance and Coup to Battlestar Galactica – The Board Game and Love Letter. In comparison to those titles, Where art thou Romeo? is likely to get a little lost, but then its slight scope and playing time combined with the fact that it reached only a limited audience, this is hardly surprising. Yet this should not be held against the game. After all, Where art thou Romeo? is a five minute, $5 game that is understandably light and undemanding.