Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday 16 October 2016

Your Fault

Launched at UK Games Expo 2016 prior to a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Game of Blame: A Card Game About Shirking Your Duty is a card game of memory and card counting published by Warm Acre. Designed for between two and four players, it is a quick filler of game that is easy to learn, easy to play, and easy in terms of its theme. The players take the roles of courtiers at the court of a capricious, unpredictable, and fickle Queen who is ready to appoint and reappoint them to various positions at her court—and then mete out terrible punishments for those that disappoint her.

Game of Blame consists of fifty or so cards. Six of these are Role cards, Archbishop, General, Spymaster, Treasurer, Viceroy, and Wizard, each of which has its own colour. The bulk of the cards consist of Issues cards, such as ‘Another Holy War’, ‘Faulty Golems’, ‘Scandalous Gossip’, ‘The Treasury is Empty!’, ‘Vampire Rampage’, and ‘We’re Doomed!’. Each Issues card has one or two Seals on it and the colour of these Seals match the Role cards, denoting the responsibility of the Role for that Issues card. There are also Treason cards. These have no Seals on them, but can count as any Seal (so they are essentially wild cards).

The aim of The Game of Blame is end the game with the least number of Issues that match that match your Role. At game start, each player receives a Role card, which is placed in front of them, and three Issues cards, whilst a single Issues card is drawn and played face up to form the Blame pile.

On his turn, a player must play between zero and three cards on the Blame pile. As each Issues card is played, one of its Seals must match the colour of one of the Seals of the Issues card it is played onto. How cards played determines a player’s second action. If he played zero cards, he must draw three new Issues cards; if he played one, then he must draw one; if he played two, then he can swap any two Roles—this can be between himself and another player, between any two players, and one of the Role cards can be one not in play; and if he played three Issues, then he can Accuse someone!

To Accuse someone, a player chooses another player to blame and then together they compare the number of Seals in the Blame pile that match their current respective Roles. The player who has the most Seals in the Blame pile literally takes the Blame and adds the pile of cards to his hand. Everyone else, including the successful Accuser, can bury one of their Issues cards, including a Treason card, into a personal Secrets pile. All Issues in a Secrets pile are safe and do not play any further role in the game.

 This is the heart of The Game of Blame. The problem though, is that because Roles can swap from one turn to the next, remembering exactly what Issues and thus which Seals—and how many—are in the Blame pile, can be difficult to remember! This is intentionally made difficult because the players cannot look through the Blame pile. Plus having all of those Issues cards in your hand at game’s end is really bad, because the more Issues cards a player has in his hand that match his current Role card, the worse his fate is… Each matching Issues card is worth a point, Treason cards are worth six points! The player with the least number of Issues cards that match his current his current Role card in his hand, will win, but his fate is still down to the Queen’s temper…

The Game of Blame is deceptively simple and deceptively tactical. Counting the Issues as they go into the Blame pile is as important as knowing when to swap Roles—your own as well as anyone else’s. Getting this right means that you can avoid the Blame and place it on someone else! There is also room for some tactical play too, stacking the Blame pile with Issues of one colour, then switching Roles so that another player’s Role matches those Issues, just as much as there is for throwing back and forth the Accusations. Though the likelihood is that a game will involve more of the latter than the former.

The game’s advanced rules allow the Roles to do a whole more than just be swapped or matched. Each one has a special function, for example, the General has ‘Honour’ and cannot be Accused if he has no Secrets and the Wizard’s ‘Sorcery’ enables him to swap hands with another player instead of Roles when he plays two cards. These make the Roles ever so slightly more important and Kickstarter edition of the game adds a further handful of Role cards.

Physically, The Game of Blame is nicely presented. The cards all feel like medieval documents—though sadly, the body text on is faded and difficult to read when we really wanted to read it—and this adds much to the game’s theme. In fact, The Game of Blame would be bland without its fantasy theme—as light as it is—and with that theme, it actually encourages a little light roleplaying and table talk.

Lasting no longer than twenty minutes, The Game of Blame: A Card Game About Shirking Your Duty is a light and lightly themed game that works as a solid filler.

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