Sixteen Thirty Something...
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It is the Seventeenth Century and you are one of the major banking dynasties that finance the rulers of Europe. Through contact and influence your aim is to increase the status of those countries you have an 'interest' in. It is a time of war and sides are being taken which will plunge Europe into one of its bloodiest periods. Can you steer your 'interests' to a commanding position in the new Europe which is being shaped by musket and pike.
Sixteen Thirty Something us unlike any other game you will have played. Virtually everything that happens in the game is decided by voting. Players vote to decide which faction a country will align with, and who it will go to war with. To take part in a vote you must have influence in the country, and that is where the Player Cards come in. Such votes are crucial to your standing in the game, but beware, if you lose a vote then your influence in that country will go into decline.
Sixteen Thirty Something is actually a simple game which somehow manages to capture the flavour of the Thirty Years' War in a way that a more complicated game might fail to do. It recreates the formation of factions, the swings of alliances, military developments, the appearance of battle winning generals, and the subtle, vicious diplomacy of the time.
If you like Diplomacy and all the backstabbing and trickery involved, but hate the LONG game times and actually want to finish a game in an evening, this is a game to check out.
For a simple game, the rulebook seems intimidating, but I've often found that the simplest games have the most wordy rules. There is a deck of playing cards representing individual influence and special action cards. Finally, there are 'tiddlie-winks' of two sizes that are used to keep score on the point track on the outside edge of the game board, and six glued pairs of voting tokens (blue and red).
Each player represents a wealthy financier, and each player secretly scores points when particular nations gain in power and status. To engineer the rise in power and prestige of these nations, the players gain influence among the nations' influentual members. This is done through 'Influence Cards'.
Players use this influence for 'Votes' (which is the whole point of the game). Votes are used to a) change a country from neutral to either red or blue, b) to cause a country to attack another country, c) to increase the Army Size of a country from zero to one, and d) to change a country's color to that of the opposing faction's color.
Players play influence cards for all the nations on the board. You help your nations make smart moves to gain prestige, and help the other nations do stupid things to lose prestige, hurting your opponents point scoring potential (and better to lose that prestige to your scoring nations).
As your influence gains, you gain more power in the votes. Continue to win votes, and you can continue to play influence cards. Lose a vote, and your influence wanes. Each turn you must discard an influence card in the nation(s) you lost the vote in, and you cannot add influence cards until they are all discarded.
All the scoring is calculated in secret, but publicly kept track of on the board. It is often best to fake being concerned about another nation which is nothing to you, to keep your opponents off your trail. Nothing is worse than having a player or group of players figuring out what your scoring nations are, and collectively begin to hammer those nations.
Add a collection of special cards to increase army size, military skill, status improvement, military leaders (to increase possibility to win wars), assassination of another player's influence card, and unrest cards to damage the influence of all players in a particular nation, and you have a game that you should only play with really good friends (who can walk away from a game without hard feelings), or with people you'll never see again.
Because this game comes from a small independent manufacturer, the production value is adequately 'hardy', but not flashy, with the lack of color on the cards or playing board. The cards are otherwise excellent and waxed for easy shuffling.
I've been extremely happy with my purchase, and this game is part of my 'travel pack' when visiting friends and family.