Der grosse Gallier
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Every year there is a large competition in Gaul with events such as the Wild Boar Chase, Bull Pulling, Stone Lifting, Donkey Running and Tree Climbing. Everybody can enter the tournaments, but it is advisable to collect as many cards as possible for that particular discipline first (yes, it's generally a good idea to have some training in Bull Pulling before you just run out and PULL...). The participant who achieves the best results overall will receive the honorable title "The Great Gaul". The game can be played with the basic rules or in a bluffing version.
Players: 2 - 6
Time: 45 - 60 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 1,140 grams
Language Requirements: Game components contain some foreign text, possibly requiring occasional reference to rules translation. An English translation of the rules is provided.
- 1 gameboard
- 110 tournament cards
- 5 tournament organizers
- 6 rule summary sheets
- 6 bluff markers
- 6 player figures (Gauls)
- 30 tournament chips
- 5 dice
- 1 start player marker
- 6 player cards
You'll need gall to get ahead in this game. Deal everyone cards from the five tournament decks. Die rolls determine the tournaments held each round. Players discard cards for the current tournament facedown, and declare their total value. The current Juror can accuse one player of bluffing. Anyone caught is eliminated and penalized. Others get their declared scores, and a chip if they bluffed! Top scores advance on the track, moving double if alone in last place. Landing on some spaces earns cards and chips. Penalty spaces can be avoided by paying a token. Tokens also purchase cards. As players cross the finish line, even cheaters are cheered!
Since 1995 the various combinations of 'Kramer plus partner' have produced El Grande, El Caballero, Die Hndler, Die Frsten von Florenz, Tikal, Torres, Java and Tycoon. It is a list that constitutes a significant percentage of the best games of the period and which has dominated the award ceremonies to an extent that must have had other designers reaching for the pins and the wax. All of which makes it rather strange that this game has been greeted with such silence. No cheers, no boos, nothing. It is very strange and now that I've played the game my puzzlement is even greater. Der Groe Gallier is not a classic, but it got a good reaction from my group and it certainly doesn't deserve to be ignored.
The game comes in two versions, one with bluffing and one without. It is the bluffing version that is the more interesting and which will be described here.
The setting is Ancient Gaul, where you are a strapping young warrior -- use your imagination -- competing in a set of events that would fit happily in an Asterix and Obelix cartoon: boar hunting, bull pulling, donkey racing, tree climbing and stone lifting. The board shows a circular track with a couple of extra loops and positioned round this are a collection of villages. Five markers, one for each discipline, move round this track and when one of them arrives at a village, a tournament is held in that particular sport. The competition is resolved using cards in a system that rewards players for cheating -- provided they don't get caught. So, not unlike the modern Olympics.
The card deck is split into five suits, one for each discipline. The back of a card identifies its suit; the front also carries a value. Each suit has 19 cards with values in the range 1-6 and 3 jokers with values 1 or 2. The special feature of the jokers is that their values are valid in any discipline; the standard cards, by contrast, are worth 0 if used for the 'wrong' sport. The cards are sorted into suits, shuffled and placed as five face-down decks. Each player gets one card from each deck as a starting hand.
A player turn begins with the drawing of cards. Each player takes the top card from the deck of their choice and the player on turn then draws a second as a bonus, before rolling 5 dice. The die rolls are used to move the discipline markers. The track around which these move has a direction of flow, but the player gets to choose which marker is allocated which die roll and also which fork to take when the road branches. Your normal aim at this point will be to try and set up tournaments that will suit your hand.
Participation in a tournament is not compulsory, but those who do decide to take part do so by selecting cards from their hand and placing them face down in front of them. Most of the cards played will belong to the right suit but not necessarily all. Some may be jokers from other suits and others worthless cards which the player is hoping will be taken for jokers. This is where the 'cheating' comes in: players can bluff. The card play begins with the player on turn and continues once round. As each player lays down their cards, they announce the value of the package. This can't be a number already claimed by someone else but doesn't have to be the truth.
The value of a set of cards laid down is determined by a mixture of the numbers on the cards and by the number of pairs and triples of cards of the same rank. A pair, say two 1s or two 4s, is always worth 8. The numbers on the cards don't matter in this case. Similarly, a triple is always worth 12. Single cards are worth their face value. So, for example, if the sport were tree climbing (red cards) and I played a red 3, a red 1 and a green joker of value 1, my cards would be worth 11. All my opponents could see is that I had played two red cards and one green. The value I announce could be 11 or 12 or 14 or 10, whatever I choose. Make it plausible though: a call of 15 wouldn't be smart.
Once all the bids are in, a 'juror' is appointed. If everyone is taking part in the tournament, this will be the player who has bid the least; otherwise it will be the first player who declared themself to be a non-participant. This person then has to decide if everyone is telling the truth and if not, who is lying. The juror may only accuse one player of lying. That done, all the cards that have been played are turned over. If a person accused of lying was indeed lying, they are disqualified from the tournament and must discard one of the cards they played. All the other competitors, whether they were lying or not, are credited with the score they claimed. These scores determine a ranking for the tournament and victory points are dished out. Each player who wasn't disqualified now discards one of the cards they played and draws a replacement. Usually you have a free choice of which card to discard, but if your play included a pair or triple of jokers, it is one of the jokers that has to go -- a sensible rule to break up powerful holdings.
Now comes the final part of the presentation. If the juror got their call right, they are given a 'tournament chip'. Successful bluffers also receive one of these. It doesn't matter if you overstated or understated the value of your hand. All that does is that you were lying and got away with it.
Tournament chips can be used, at a time of your choosing, to draw extra cards or to move either forwards or backwards on the scoring track, which is where the victory points are recorded. Why might you want to move backwards? Two reasons. The first is that the Gauls, like the British, cheer for the underdog. While you are in last place on the scoring track, any tournament points you score are doubled. The other is that the scoring track contains 'special squares' and if you land on one of these, something extra happens: draw an extra card, receive a tournament chip, move forward four spaces, move back the same amount. This sounds like a dreadful idea when it is first explained, the sort of thing that takes one back to the bad old days of game design. However, it actually works very well in this setting, adding to the tactics not only on the scoring track but in the tournaments, where manoeuvring an opponent into a position that will take him to a bad square is decidedly satisfying and where the fact that you might just do this gives him something to think about. The point is that, unlike in Snakes & Ladders, Monopoly and the rest, here it is something that, for the most part, is within your control.
In the non-bluffing version, there is, of course, no bluffing and no juror. Tournament cards are played face up rather than face down, values are announced correctly and participants don't draw a replacement for the card they are obliged to discard. Tournament chips can only be obtained by landing on the appropriate spaces on the scoring track. For adults this takes away most of the game and most of the fun, but it gives you something you could play with those children who are still at an age where they think that lying is something that only children are allowed to do.