Monday, July 3, 2017

Dave & Busters, thoughts about this business after our latest outing there.

A review (if you will) about going to Dave & Buster's
                                         (what one of their locations look like)

By Jason Elliott of PaladinElliott Productions

So, I knew going into it that money would be spent, and from everyone's experiences that I know, to avoid getting any food there (both for high cost and bad taste). I decided to take the kids (Arnold 8 and Talia 6) after being invited by a good friend. Needless to say, I am officially done in taking anyone there. It comes down to being nitpicked and dimed at every opportunity. Yes, I say again I knew I was throwing money away on this one, but the shear level that it reached was enough to break me of this once every 6-12 months trip for good.

It is an exciting place, loud, lots of flashing colors in the dark, a big bar for adults, but right from the gate, you are going to charge me two dollars a card, so I have to decide on the kids running back and forth to each other, or spend four dollars just so the kids each have their own card, shame on you D&B! I wanted to get a higher amount of points for the cards, but no no, you can't split them, so this is the second way that they stick it to you and make you spend more money. So now you get in there, and no matter how much you say to your kids to try and make the cards last with their points, it just doesn't work that way. The whole system is rigged.

So let's break it down, each game, or prize machine varied from what I noticed to be 4.1 points a swipe up to 9.9 points a swipe. I spent $50 on the kids ($23 for each card, and a $ 2 fee for each card) to give them each 125 points. At best that is 30 plays on one of the cheapest machines. If that was 50 cents a play somewhere else (almost any arcade that I still go into these days) that would be $15. On the worst case scenario (which almost seems what Talia did) that is 12 plays. So D&B gets me on not splitting a package, on the card(s) on the games, and that is not including the degree of chance (the house always wins rule applies here) on these games, and how even with the tickets won, they have a little trinket or some candy to show for it.

                                                (this is how I felt afterwards)

Yes, I will come out and say it, I might as well hand them the money to go spend at a store, or to get some movies or video games to be played at home versus this nonsense. Talia comes out and says she had a good time, but it was quick and she couldn't get anything. Arnold, did better in making his card last on a shooting game, but you don't get any tickets for that. I know no one was forcing me to do this, and that I could have said no at the beginning of this trip, which I should have. Yet, I was thinking for no good reason, that it won't be that bad, they won't nickle and dime you that bad. It will last for a little while, and in this case it was one hour and it was all done.

Again, yes they have what my be the latest video games, and some of the coolest prizes. They will let you order food, drinks, alcohol, and all of that, and have your kids parties there (I hate to think of what that would cost). It is a big place, with lots of excitement, and the rent, wages, games, maintenance, overhead, all of it must be paid for. If it isn't then you don't have a business like this there. I know I am going to bother some by saying this, I wouldn't miss this place at all. Oh, that could hurt the local economy, think about the jobs provided, well I guess I would be willing to take that chance on this place.

This is why board games, video games, books, movies, trips, and almost anything else would be better. It is a lesson learned, that I thought I would share with you all today. Part of this sharing is to feel a little better about things, and the other part is to warn the rest of you not to go through with this type of activity. I get it, if this is your thing, you have money to burn, or you simply can see past the things I have mentioned, then by all means go for it. If you are like me, this trip will stick in your mind, and you will make better decisions in the future!

Wishing you all a very good Fourth of July holiday!

Jason Elliott (Father and Husband)
Creator & Owner
PaladinElliott Productions

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My Little Scythe Reviewed by Jason Elliott of PaladinElliott Productions

My Little Scythe

                    (our home made version of the print and play)
Variant Designed by: Hoby & Vienna Chou
Original Game of Scythe Designed by: Jamey Stegmaier
Original Game of Scythe Published by: Stonemaier Games, Albi, Crowd Games, Delta Vision Publishing, Feuerland Spiele, Fire on Board Jogos, Ghenos Games, Maldito Games, Matagot, Morning, PHALANX, and Playfun Games
Edition: Variant/Playtest
Number of players: listed at 2 -4, we have played games with 4
Time of Play:  listed 30-45 minutes, we had an hour in our first session due to teaching adults and children
Reviewed by: Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

The story so far:
All of the players are whisked away to Hasbro’s My Little Pony and the world of Equestria. You will have control over one to three ponies that will endeavor to find, collect, and transport apples and magic gems to either their personal barn, or the communal barn,  Sweet Apple Acres. Along the way, they will find and complete quests, bake pies, engage in pie fights, and share pies with other ponies to win friends and allies. You will need to judge your movements carefully and think strategically about your strategy. You will need to collect gems, apples, pies and friends to be the first to complete four achievements and declare victory over the other competing ponies!

                 (a race to get those apples and gems to the barn)
Our final thoughts on this Variant/Prototype:
As many of you know, I am a husband, and father of two little ones (Arnold 8, and Talia 6) and I always give family games a look because of this. That being said, it does not get more family friendly then this. We all worked on putting this game together, from discussions on what to use in building the print and play, to choosing which ponies would be part of it. In fact, we built the stands in such a way, that we are still able to use our ponies in other games, adventures, and battles!
It is amazing to teach a game such as this to an 8 and 6 year old.  It is also phenomenal that everyone that hasn’t won still truly smiled and had fun because they are playing with My Little Pony in such a way that brings the adult world completely in harmony with the children’s world. Everyone, mom, dad, and kids, all had lots of fun. On top of that, the learning curve didn’t overwhelm everyone.  The printout had 4 pages of rules, and that was it!
This has been in high demand here since it was first played. Will I play it with just adults? Absolutely! Will I play it with my kids? Count on it! This game jumped up fast to number two for Sunday night games with the kids, in a very short period of time! In fact, this one might have set a record for how fast it won everyone over!
If you don’t like My Little Pony in any way shape or form, then you might want to pass, because it is chock full with My Little Pony goodness. People who are looking for a way to bridge simpler games to more complex games will find this as one that will fit that bill. If you are looking for games that can be played in under an hour, you got that right here, and again, we were just shy of an hour, game time and teaching time combined in the first session. I have to give it a 10 out of 10 through Boardgamegeek. Why? I think every single time someone says to me “can we play this?” I will say yes, whether its kids, adults, or both.

                              (the Elliott's having a great time)
Mechanics and concepts found in this game:
This is by far a very direct children’s game theme, using that of My Little Pony. You will have resource management with the apples, spells, friendship, gems, and pies. If you love strong themes, then you are in luck because it is all the My Little Pony you can handle. Cartoon and Fantasy connections are readily available, and if you have watched at least one episode, you will be right at home with the characters in the game.
The game allows for varying styles of play and competition.  There are achievements for resource gathering, battling other players and completing quests.  The pie fights are relatively simple with a blind bidding process and the ability to add special spell cards to increase your pie total.  The pony with the most pies in the fight wins, with the attacker winning ties. With the ability to use resources to make more pies and to add spell cards, there is the need for little ones to be able to do some simple math.
Building the print and play allows you to go out and choose/buy/print what characters from the Ponyverse you personally want to use (which we loved). Being a print and play you are free to choose how much you want to invest into it, so we went all out, miniatures from the stores, along with eraser miniatures, all kinds of tokens we had from our stockpiles to make up the apples (apple erasers), magic gems (from table topper decorations-Dollar Tree), Compass Faces and Arrows (Michael’s Craft Store), metal flat washers for the bases to adhere to magnets, glued within milk jug caps in the four colors needed (red, blue, green, and yellow), star beads (Michael’s), colored Chess pieces for action tokens, and generic pawns, for Friendship and Pie level trackers. You truly get out what you put into this print and play! You have dice you need to add, 3 d6’s- blue for Magic Gems being found through the search option.  3 d6’s- red for Apples being found through the search option, and 1 d6-gold for Quests being found through the search option.
You will have a degree of area control, and you choose where to go with two spaces of movement if not carrying anything, or 1 space if you are encumbered. Not one of these is overpowering in any sense, but you need to be aware of all of these playing into a truly wonderful themed experience.

                      (Arnold and Talia letting you know it’s good)
What components have to be built/accounted for:
-The main game board (ours as a 24 by 36 inch, covered with clear packing tape, and backed by foam mats)
-Player boards (printed out, covered with clear packing tape, framed with foam mats)
-Quest cards & Magic cards (printed out, cut out, and placed in sleeves)
-Pie Fight Dials (printed out, cut out, taped to cardboard, and used miniature plastic rods to hold them together)
-My Little Pony minis ( these were of the 2 inch variety, from the eraser packs and toy packs, which we got from a local Target store)
-We had the Blue Dice, Red Dice, and Gold Die, in a huge supply o’dice
-We had the action tokens and regular pawns in our huge supply of extra game pieces and pawns
-We had apple erasers, plastic gems, star tokens, and miniature compasses (like you would use for scrapbooking) in our home supply as well
This is a print and play where you could truly invest a little or a lot, depending on how far you wanted to take it. Yes, we wanted to take it pretty far!

                   (here you get to see a lot of the materials used)

     (and another photo of the game in progress and materials used)
Winning conditions for the game:
You want to be the first player to claim four achievements. Play immediately stops when this has happened. Each Achievement is worth one point. Achievements can be earned as follows:
-If you raise your Friendship level to 10
-If you recruit your Third Pony
-If you complete your Second Quest
-If you deliver 4 Apples to either your starting barn or Sweet Apple Acres Barn
-If you deliver 4 Magic Gems to either your starting barn or Sweet Apple Acres Barn
-If you win one Pie Fight (this is the only achievement that can be done twice by the same player)
-If you reach 10 Pies on your Pie tracker.

Game Setup:
First: everyone picks their color from red, blue, green, and yellow (take your corresponding Action token, Friendship tracker token, Pie tracker token, 3 color bases, 4 Achievement tokens, a player board) and 1 pony to start with.
Second: everyone places their Friendship tracker tokens on 3, Pie trackers on 3, shuffle all the Magic Cards and deal one to each player. Place the Magic Cards and the Quest Cards (once shuffled) where they belong on the board.  Magic Cards you have are secret knowledge. Make sure you place your starting pony on your starting color barn.
Third: roll all seven of the dice, they will tell you where to place materials. So if one of the red dice says 5, place one Apple on the Apple 5 spot. If one of the blue dice says 3, place one Gem on the Magic Gem 3 space. If the gold Quest die says 6 you place one Quest Compass token on the Quest 6 space. The symbols are easy to see, and you do not add up the dice. Rolling the seven dice means seven tokens go out on the board to start the game. Finally, remember that every pony, even though they look different, are still the same for purposes of this game, so no special individual powers.

         (you can see hexes with resource(s) on them in this picture)
How to play:
You will only be allowed to perform one action each turn. You will never be allowed to repeat the same action from one turn to the next turn, you must always choose something different.
Here are the choices:
Move- Pony or ponies, all that you have, can move 2 spaces if they are not carrying any Apples and/or Magic Gems. If they are carrying, then they can only move one hex.
Search- You choose four dice  (you could say, I want to roll 2 of the Apple dice, 1 Magic Gem die, and 1 Quest die) and you place materials out where the rolls dictate. Thematically you and Gabby the Griffon are helping find materials throughout Equestria. YOU GAIN 1 FRIENDSHIP for doing this.
Make Pies (Baking Pies)-You don’t move any ponies and spend two of the Apples you have collected on the board (a hex where you have a pony and there are enough Apples there) to make two Pies. It must always be remove two Apples and go up two Pies on your Pie tracker.
Make Spell (Conjure Spell)-You don’t move any ponies and spend two of the Magic Gems you have collected on the board (a hex where you have a pony and there are enough Magic Gems there) to draw one Magic Spell card. There are no  Magic Spell Card hand limits in this game.
Make Pony (Craft an Invitation)- You don’t move any ponies and spend two of your Pies from the Pie tracker to recruit a second/third (depending on your situation) Pony to your team. You must meet the Friendship tracker requirements as a prerequisite to perform this action. To recruit your second pony you must have a Friendship of  4 or higher, and for your third and final pony you must have a Friendship of 6 or higher. Going below these levels once you have recruited does not remove your pony. Once they are with you, they stay with you.
Things that can happen from these actions not yet mentioned:
Move into another occupied Pony space, this automatically starts a Pie fight. The losing pony or ponies (yes you can have more than one battle for your side) must go back to their starting barns, leaving behind any resources they have been moving along. You would do this to stop somebody from pulling ahead, or winning the game. You have a Pie Fighting Dial that goes up to 7, and you are allowed to use one Magic Spell card per pony in the battle for your team. Any Pies you throw in the fight are removed from your Pie tracker. You add up all of your numbers against your opponent. Attacker wins in ties. Example, I have Rainbow Dash and my Pie tracker is at 5. I decide to throw 3, (opponent doesn’t get to see until both players reveal at same time) and I added a Magic Spell card of 4 (values range from 2 to 5). So I have a total of 7 Pies (keeping 2 in my Pie tracker reserves). My opponent didn’t have a Magic Spell card and used 6 pies, so I win. They have to move their ponies back to their starting barn, and I get to stay there with all of the resources sitting there.
Move, or stand somewhere where Apples and/or Magic Gems are, then you have the option to say you are carrying them with you, or leaving them. If you carry them, you move them on the board with your pony. If you spend them, you spend them from the hex where one of your ponies is standing.
Move Apples and/or Magic Gems into either your starting barn or the Sweet Apple Acres Barn in the center of the game board. This will complete an achievement (you need four achievements to win). You must deliver 4 Apples at one time, or 4 Magic Gems at one time. Extra of these don’t move in with you, and stay in the last known space before going into the barn. 4 Apples is worth one achievement, and 4 Magic Gems is one achievement, so delivering both sets would put you half way to winning the game.
You may move or be standing somewhere when there is an available Quest Compass token. You, as a free action, can say that you go on the quest. Take the top card from the quest pile, and choose one option (as long as you meet the requirements, if requirements are listed). We describe it as each card has three options. One will be a freebie option, one will be choosing the light side, and one will be choosing the dark side.

      (a shot of the game box with all that My Little Pony goodness)
In conclusion, the whole family had a lot of fun playing the game and are looking forward to playing more often.  There has already been talk of other characters we want to add (Spike the Dragon, in particular).  If you are looking for a great family game that helps bridge the gap from basic children’s games into the realm of games requiring more strategic thinking and competition/battle mechanics, this is the game for you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review of:

My Little Scythe 

hope you will check out my PaladinElliott Blog at:

check out some of my videos at:

and check out my Ready To Game Podcast at Soundcloud and/or 

and remember I am always….READY TO GAME!!!

RET. SSG Jason L. Elliott (PaladinElliott)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

DRAKKAR: The Card Game

Designed by: Spaceballoon Games

Edition: Prototype

Number of Players: 3 -5

Time of Play: 20 to 30 minutes for us

Reviewed by: Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

The story so far:

Each player is a leader of their own Viking village. You are the Earl who must lead your village in building ships, completing quests, gathering goats, storing beer, readying Vikings, amassing weapons, collecting gold, raiding villages, and boarding other player’s ships. You need to show you are the strongest Viking in the region, and to do this is to have the most points in the end and win!

Each player will use a deck of double sided cards to play during a round. In this you will be building parts of a Knarr (two part ship consisting of bow and stern) or a Drakkar (three part ship with a bow, stern, and mid region that supports a sail). You will store on this ship Viking(s) and they may carry the Spear of Odin (granting additional strength) into battle. You will need to supply these Vikings beer. You will need enough of both to complete quests and gain additional resources, which get counted as victory points in the end.

At the end, each Goat, each Weapon, and each Bag of Gold, count as one victory point. In addition to this, each set (one Goat, one Weapon, and one Bag of Gold) counts as an additional victory point.  (We have had scores that range around 13, 11, and 10 in three player games).

The mechanics of the game:

The game is only three rounds and plays roughly in twenty to thirty minutes. This is a card driven game, and works off of cards consisting of a color (Red, Yellow, or Blue) which determines turn order. A number system on the Red and Blue Cards lets you know in which order they are played, lowest number first. You will be collecting resources to score at the end of the game, and you will be able to attack other players as well as collect from the bank on completed raids and quests.

Our final thoughts on this prototype:

We loved that it plays quickly; thirty minutes included the learning time. The game has a high degree of luck, as you don’t know what most of the cards you will have during a round will be, but then skill comes in as you decide which to play and which to save. You also need to think ahead to determine which side of the various cards in your deck you will use.  In order to be successful, you need to find the right balance of offensive and defensive strategy. There is a high degree of sticking it to other players in this game, by stealing other people’s resources and cards and trying to sabotage their ship and quest.  People who don’t enjoy high luck should probably play this a couple of times first, and if you don’t enjoy sticking it to other players, then this might not be the game for you.

We felt that we really enjoyed the games so far as we have no problem attacking each other in games. We like how it is very portable and plays very quickly. We also love that the learning curve is not very involved, making it a good pickup game when you want something light and fun but with that added bonus of messing with your friends. On the Board Game Geek rating scale I would give this game a 8, it is quick, fun to play and is a perfect pick-up game for 3-5 players.

Components of the game:

-I rule book
-50 Double sided cards that cover equipment, fights, and special actions
-15 Double sided cards that cover quests, or that your Vikings and Beer our up for sale
-60 Loot tokens made up of 20 Goats, 20 Weapons, and 20 Bags of Gold
-1 Viking Meeple to denote the first player of a round
-The game box J

Game Setup:

You have to adjust for the amount of players. You use cards that say 3+ on them for three player games. Add the 4+ cards for four player games. Play with all the cards in a five player game. You will find these designations on the top right of the card on a Viking shield. Separate the Quest cards into their own deck. You will know these cards as one side will have Viking group at a table, the other side will list how many Vikings and how much beer you need on your ship to go on a successful Quest.

Shuffle the other cards into equal decks for the number of players. For example, if there are three players there will be three decks of ten cards each (all saying 3+). Have the loot divided into their respective piles, and have all of this out on the game table within reach of everyone. Deal a Quest card to each player. This card is private knowledge, and won’t be public until the Quest phase of a round (part 3 of a round).
Now you are ready to play.

How to play:

Each round is going to be in 3 phases. The first phase is the Brawl, where all of you have one hand behind your back, the starting player of the round calls out “BY ODIN!” and each player takes that hand from behind their back, and points to the deck you want. You will not know what is in that deck, so you are making your best guess based off of the top card that you see.

Now to the second phase, where you play all of your cards one by one, simultaneously revealed, and then resolved in game order. The resolve order is Red cards first (lowest number goes first), then Yellow cards (they never have a number), and then Blue cards (lowest number goes first). You will be allowed to choose which side of these cards you want to play, so in essence you have twenty choices that are on ten cards.

This phase you will choose a card, which could be laying a part of a ship, storing a Viking or a Barrel on a ship card (being stored in that part). You could be playing a card to attack someone else,  you can swap out a card that you have played on the ship for a more powerful version (the card that is leaving must be discarded), or you may have no choice other than to discard a card. Every player will have 10 plays in a round. Three rounds and the game will be over, and you count of your total points.

Red Cards will denote Loki (the Lord of Deceit), where you will steal a token from another player, (your choice of player, and your choice of token). Red cards can also be the Thief where you can steal another Yellow card in play, the card chosen cannot be covered by another card (and I will explain that shortly).

Yellow Cards will be the equipment and Vikings you need. You will have Bow Cards (front of the ship), Stern Cards (back of the ship), the Deck (middle region with a sail and deck), Viking cards (their personal strength is listed in helmets at the bottom of the card), Barrel cards (the amount of beer is listed at the bottom of the card), Bardl the Brewer card ( he counts as one Viking and one barrel of Beer), Odin’s Spear (place on top of a Viking card to give that Viking +2 Strength that round), and the Yggdrasil Ship Card (where it has a Bow and Stern and be played as either because of the wood it uses from the World Tree).

The Blue Cards will have Raids where you need to have a higher Viking strength then the opponent you have chosen to attack. You do not have to have a ship complete in doing this, only Vikings that you have played on a part of a ship. If a player loses in a Raid they must get rid of one Viking card in play or an Odin’s Spear card in play. The winning player chooses one resource of their choice from the losing player.  You could play a Boarding card where you must have a complete ship and attack a player with a complete ship, and if your strength is higher you receive the rewards on the card. Whether you win or lose, you must discard a Viking card in play, as that Viking has died in glorious battle. Finally there is Sabotage, and this card will have a big red x on it. This will allow you to destroy one Bow or Stern card of another player (so long as they have not stored something on that card).

Thank you for reading my review of:

Drakkar: The Card Game

I hope you will check out my PaladinElliott Blog at:

check out some of my videos at:

and check out my Ready To Game Podcast at Soundcloud and/or Itunes:

and remember I am always….READY TO GAME!!!

RET. SSG Jason L. Elliott (PaladinElliott)

Please feel free to reach out to SpaceBalloongames at:
Facebook: /spaceballoongames
Instagram: spaceballoongames
Twitter: @SpaceBalloongames


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Brides & Bribes by Spaceballoon Games, Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

Brides & Bribes by Spaceballoon Games, 

Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

What are the recommendations for this game?

Number of players: 3-5 Players

Time of game: 60-90 minutes (this can vary due to players learning the game)

Age recommendation: 12 and up

The back story:

This game transports you back to 16th Century Genoa, Italy (during the Renaissance), where families seek greater importance by arranging influential marriages, gaining influence, collecting wealth, and hiring workers. You will lead your family (choosing from Malabita, Granara, Foglietta, Carretto, and Oliva) and attempt to gain dowries and influence from ladies in waiting across the Cities' boroughs. You will pay attention to delegations (loyal members of your family) that need to be sent out across the Cities' boroughs, while at the same time competing with other players doing the same thing. If you do get a bride, you will need to safeguard against your betrothed being poisoned or assassinated! You will need to convince a lord of borough that you wield enough influence, and then convince the bride of your wealth, to secure your place in history.  Use everything you have and acquire to its fullest, and don't be afraid to undermine other players attempts at being the most influential family in Genoa!

What comes in the game? (this was based off of my print and play copy)

1 Rule Book

1 Game Round Book

1 Game Board (the city will be divided into five boroughs, denoted by colors red, blue, green, yellow, and black)

5 player residence boards (following the same colors denoted in the five boroughs)

24 workshop cards (these are the businesses you will need) and are broken into Apothecaries, Hospitals, Taverns, Jewelers, Notaries, and Tailor Shops (4 of each)

32 object cards (item cards) and are made up of 8 poisons, 7 antidotes, 5 wines, 4 rings, 4 Doge's Edicts, and 4 Luxury suits

69 Character tiles that are made up of 5 Lords, 7 First Brides, 7 Second Brides, 20 Loyal Characters, and 

30 Common Characters (these Common Characters will be divided into groups of six characters for each of the five boroughs)

55 Workers (meeples) that are 11 of each in the colors of the five boroughs

16 Coaches (these are what the delegations travel in) 3 of each of the five colors, and the 16th is a white coach to designate the first player token

15 Influence Tokens

42 Ducato Coins

10 Player Markers, where 5 of them would be cylinders (one of each color) to mark the Doge's Favor and 

5 of them (one of each color) mark your influence on the influence track

What is the end game objective? What am I striving for?

You will want to be the one with the highest influence if the game goes all six rounds. Otherwise you will want to be the one to reach the game winning influence first (this will vary based on the number of players). You will need obtain workers, who build your buildings and grant you additional items and support commons folk to help you gain influence, money and abilities. These items and common folk can help sway the marriage attempt, or thwart other player's attempts! You will need to capture influence wherever you can to get you to the victory threshold (20 influence points if there are 4 or 5 players, 25 influence points if there are 3 players, or otherwise whoever is highest at the end of the 6th round).

Remember these are the following ways to collect your influence (victory) points to win:

-have a successful arranged marriage to a first wife (make sure you pay attention to bonuses)

-have a successful arranged marriage to a second wife (make sure you pay attention to bonuses)

-collect influence from a borough

-gain influence due to workers building a workshop

-every 5 Ducato you have at the end is worth 1 influence

How do I set the game up? Where is that leading me to?

You will need to make sure you get acquainted with locations on the board, and your families' board. You will first have the boroughs, Village (yellow), Fortress (red), Citadel (blue), Market (green),and the Port (black). You must remember that no matter what, the Port must be used in every game. You also have the Influence scoring track just below the Village, the Doge's Favor track just above the Port, and the Distant Colonies (Ships sailing to and from the Port).

Then you will look at the breakdown of the Borough (I will be speaking in terms of looking at a borough), with the Lord symbol at the top left (going left to right), the First Bride's bonus Influence, the Second Bride's bonus Influence, the symbol of the Borough. Moving down slightly and going from left to right again, The Lord placement area, then the First Bride area, the Second Bride area, the Workers Placement area, the Influence token area, the Ducato token area, and the area to place the stack of 6 Commons, and then below is where you will place your Carriages with your Delegations.

You will want to pay attention to Prestige values (to convince Lords to allow the marriage- Shield values), and Charm values (to convince the Bride to accept the marriage-Gem values). You will need to meet or exceed these values. You will be able to add to your attempted values through Common Characters, Items, and sacrificing Influence and/or Coins at a 1 to 1 ratio (whatever you are short). Then the other players who have sent Delegations to that same Borough will be allowed to attempt to break the marriage by influencing the values, poisoning, and assassination. You will be allowed to try to prevent, and respond to these threats, depending on who and what you have sent with the Delegation, versus who and what the opponents Delegations have brought with them.

If your marriage is successful then you reap the bonuses, and dowry. If you don't then you still get to respond again last in the turn order for that Borough. So, you may have been thwarted, but you are not entirely knocked out. If your marriage is a success you will have married off one of your loyal family, and will no longer be able to use that Character for the rest of the game (or until the marriage is dissolved through an assassination or poisoning), so always think about what will be your best move for the most Influence points.

Now that you have considered these things you can study the setup proper.

Have the game out, make the sure someone is playing black, as the Port. The other players may choose any of the other Boroughs. Place on each Borough in play one of its color workers, one Ducato, and one Influence token. Then you will want to sort the Common Characters by borough, shuffle each borough's deck so that the order is random, and place them face down in the appropriate borough. Then flip the top one up as it will be common knowledge (throughout the game, the top one will always be common knowledge).

Special Note: At the Port Borough (Black) the top Common Character to start the game will be an Assassin. This is only to start the game!

You will assign at random a Lord (1 Lord for each player and then add a Prestige Value 3 Lord into the shuffle) to each in play Borough. Then shuffle the Brides that have Charm values of 8, 9, and 10 and draw at random one for each in play First Bride position. Then shuffle the Brides that have Charm values of 5, 6, and 7 and draw at random one for each in play Second Bride position.

You will place your cylinder marker at zero on the Influence track. You will place your player disc marker at random on the Doge's favor track. Get your piles of Influence tokens, all five colors of workers, and Ducato coins close to the board. Get your Workshop cards separated into their stacks by the board with the lowest Influence value at the bottom of the stack and then the highest at the top (so the first person to build that Workshop gets the most influence and so on), and below them, separate the Items cards into their respective stacks.

Here is the details on those Workshops:

Apothecary, makes Poison, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build the Workshop.  You spend 1 coin there to make a poison (gain that card). This is important to poison another player's potential bride.

Hospital, makes Antidote, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Blue Worker to build it.  You spend 1 coin there to make an Antidote (gain that card). This is important to heal from being poisoned.

Jewelry, makes Ring, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Blue Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to make a Ring (gain that card). This is important to raise your Charm.

Notary, makes Doge's Edict, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Black Worker, and 1 Red Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Edict (gain that card). This is important to act first in a given Borough's order of resolution.

Tailor's Shop, makes Luxury Suit, you spend 1 Blue Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Luxury Suit (gain that card). This is important to raise your Prestige.

Tavern, makes Wine, you spend 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Wine (gain that card). This is important to take a worker from the Borough it is in, in addition to whatever action you are performing.

Finally, you will make sure you have your residence board, all four of your loyal family Character cards, the 3 Coaches of your color, 2 Ducato coins, and 1 Worker of your choice (any color) to start with. This is for all players.

Now follow these special instructions concerning the order of tokens on the Doge's Favor track:

If 3 players, give 1 additional Ducato to player 2, and the White Coach Starting token to player 3
If 4 players, give 1 additional Ducato to player 3 and the White Coach Starting token to player 4
If 5 players, give 1 additional Ducato to players 3 and 4, and the White Coach Starting token to player 5.

The Sequence of play:

In each round you will go through:

Placing your Carriages and Delegations (you will be able to supplement these Delegations)
Choose from this list twice during your action, and then the next player does the same, and continues on until all players have declared pass:

1.      Send a Delegation to a Borough (to attempt marriage, to claim Ducatos, to claim Influence, to claim Workers, to hire a Common Character, and whatever your special actions are (to poison someone else, to assassinate someone else, to gain more money, to gain more money through a specific action, to gain additional workers to a specific action, etc.)

2.      Send a Delegation to the Distant Ships (to trade a worker that you have for a different color one, or to spend money to hire more workers)

3.      Reinforce a Delegation (bring in additional help through Loyal Family Cards, Common Character Cards, or Item cards)

4.      Go to the Doge and ask for favor (to change the order in which borough Turn Orders will play and resolve)

5.      Declare Pass ( you have ran out of Characters/Carriages to act with, or determined better to stop)
Resolving all players who are using Distant Ships

Resolving each Borough (one at a time) -make sure you follow the correct order. This is also dictated by who marries the First Bride, then the Second Bride, and finally the Highest Guide Prestige Value (the Guide is the one who you have designated the Lead Character for the Carriage, and/or the one to marry.

End of the Round (this is a phase)-Each player will receive 1 Ducato per Worker they have on their family board, each player must pay 1 coin for each Common Character they have, if they can't or choose not to, then the Common Character leaves the game permanently. Each player can pay one Ducato per used item from their plays for the round coming to an end, otherwise this chance is lost. Now each player can build a Workshop (only one, and you are allowed only one of each type to own). Then check for the Victory conditions being met. If the conditions have not been met, then the game continues.

Cleanup (what you will need to do after the End of the Round, and before starting the new Round)- You discard any Common Characters that were not claimed (that were face up in the borough). Turn over the next Common Character card for each stack. Make sure to add one Worker, and one Influence to each Borough in play (so yes there could be a stack of either or both building up in a Borough if it wasn't claimed). Pass the White Coach to the player on the left. Make sure you have taken back your cards, and Carriages that were used. Leave Characters that have been married on the board.

Now you are ready to start again!

Are there any variations for this game?

I did not see any additional plans for expansions or variations of play at this time.

Some game results:

Our games have been riveting to say the least. My wife has personally taken to this game. Possibly due to the very first game being a victory for her (she ended up with 26 Influence points in a 3 player game). You can't solely fixate yourself on Workshops alone, as that will only gain you, at most, 19 Influence points (and only if you are the first to  build each type). You have to risk and go after those important marriages!

That being said, there are a lot of ways to mess with other players both directly and indirectly. You can poison, you can assassinate, you can perform an action within a Borough that they wanted to do, thus that player losing out on it for that turn, and manipulate through Bluffing. With the Carriages having cards played face down, and not revealed until the moment of truth, you will have to make the best decisions that you can, and just let it ride.

Final Thoughts:

You have a game here that brings Strategy and Tactics head on with Chance and Bluffing. You will always be able to do something, but is it the right something, or the something that you really wanted to do? You will find this game to be a race from start to finish, as you want to make decisions that allow you to strike first during opportunities. You don't want to be late to whatever it was you needed in a given Borough!

Options and choices are all around you, ready to take, yet once the other players get into the mix, you have to consider who will get to act first. Will you be able to bring down their attempts at the big marriages, or will they be able to bring down yours? Will you have the right Workshops in place for key items? Will you have enough Ducatos to pay your Common Characters? Will you have the right workers at the end of a phase to build the Workshop that you need? Does that other player have the card that you didn't account for in your marriage attempt?

Take all of this into account when you sit down to play Brides & Bribes, a game where every decision counts, and bluffing is just as good as actually having.

Thank you so much for reading this report on Brides & Bribes: A Game of Cunning, Intrigue and Deception from SpaceBalloon Games!

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RET. SSG Jason L. Elliott (PaladinElliott)