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Vabanque is explained in the detailed review above so I won't bore you with in-depth details here. Suffice to say that this game is a winner. It's drawback is that its theme can be a tough sell to many but if you get them into it, by the midway point of the game, everyone will be asking to play again when it's finished. It's simple to teach but very strategic. The classic combination for a great German game. It may not be Chess or E&T but it is a winner in its own right.
If youve read past reviews Ive written, you know the main reason I acquired Vabaunque (Winning Moves, 2001 Bruno Faidutti and Leo Colovini). Its because the designer, Mr. Faidutti, is my favorite designer, and I have yet to play one of his games I havent extremely enjoyed. The gambling theme intrigued me, and I read online that the game had somewhat of a bluffing factor.
And how did my gamble pay off? First of all, I find it very hard to believe that Bruno designed this game, as none of the chaos that hes famous for is in the game at all. Secondly, the game is just slightly about bluffing but that pretty much sums up the whole game! If you love bluffing games, and dont look for too many other factors to make a game enjoyable you will love this game. If youre not a big fan of bluffing games stay away.
Game mechanics are rather simple. A circle is formed of square casino table tiles, with the amount of tiles (7-12) determined by number of players (3-5). Each player is given a pawn, and four cards of the matching color, one of which is placed face up in front of each person, so that everyone knows what color they are. Piles of chips are placed in the middle of the table, with values 5, 10, 20, and 50. Bills of various denominations, from 5,000 to 500,000, are sorted and placed to the side. One player places their pawn on one of the casino tables, and each other player follows suit, placing their pawn on the second table following. One player starts the first of four rounds.
In the beginning of a round, each player, in turn order, places one of the chips onto any casino table (each table can have multiple chips). In the first round, all the 5 value chips are placed, in the second, the 10, etc. Once all the chips are placed, each player, in turn order, places one of their cards face down at a table, until all players have placed all three of their cards. The three cards a player can play are:
- Raise: For every raise card played at a table, the value of that table is doubled, tripled, etc.
- Cheat: A player who plays a cheat card at a table receives all the payoffs from that table.
- Bluff: This card means nothing, and is only placed as a bluff.
Once all the cards are placed, each player in turn order can move their pawn (they dont have to) up to four tables clockwise. After all pawns are moved, the cards are flipped over, and payoffs occur. Every table that has no pawns at it has its cards removed as nothing occurs at that table this round (the chips, however stay). If a pawn is at a table, payoffs occur. The payoff is 1000 x the value of all the tokens on that table. Every raise card at the table brings up this value and the full amount of this value is paid to every token at that table UNLESS there is a cheater card showing. If there is a cheater card at the table, all players whose tokens are on the table get NO money, and the cheater gets the tables value for EVERY opponents pawn thats there. Each player takes the amount of money equal to their payoff(s), and the game advances to the next round. In the second round, and following turn order starts with the player who has the most money, etc. After the fourth round, the game is over, and the player with the most money is the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1). Components: Very high marks here, as the components are of the highest quality. The chips for the four denominations are superb they are different sizes and colors, and look pretty snazzy. (Of course, they do often lead to a side game of tiddly-winks at the table). The casino table tiles are thick, durable, and have the raise card modifiers printed on them lest one forgets. The money is your typical Monopoly style money, and perhaps a score sheet might have worked better but it gives the theme more credence when money is actually passed around the table. Tiles with numbers are provided to help with turn order in the second through fourth rounds (although the rules suggest changing seats instead). The cards are nice (half the size of a typical playing card) and have nice artwork. (Although, three of the colors have pictures of women, so when six guys get together, it can be a bit strange.) All of these components fit into a stylish small square box, one that holds the components well.
2). Rules: The rules are in German, but a good translation is available at www.boardgamegeek.com. They provide an exact list of components (even telling you how many bills there are), along with color illustrations and examples. The game is easy to learn and teach, and youll really only refer to the rules to see how many of each component you need for the amount of players.
3). Time and Players: The game is for three to six players, and plays much better with more players in the game. Games usually run around thirty minutes, which is about perfect time for this game.
4). Bluffing: If you dont like bluffing, youll hate the game, because thats pretty much all the game is about. Yes, there is a miniscule amount of tactics (where you put the chips) and a small amount of logic (if he moved there, he couldnt have cheated here, etc.), but the simple fact is, if you are good at reading other peoples bluffs, youll do extremely well at this game. Theres nothing like cheating at a table that has a couple other pawns, and a couple of raise cards!
5). Last round: I have seen several people complaining online that the first three rounds dont matter, and that it all comes down to the last round. The simple answer to this is that it isnt true. Many, many games come down to small differences of money and how the first round was played. Yes, a massive amount of money can be achieved the fourth round, but every round certainly does count in this game.
6). Theme and Fun Factor: The gambling theme really works well here, as it takes a fairly mediocre game and makes it a lot of fun. When you role play gambling for hundreds of thousands of (dollars, euros, whatever), it tends to make the game interesting. And, unlike many gambling games, you never lose any money. If only this was true in real life! But in this game, it adds a level of excitement and its fun to listen to the intakes of breath when the cards are turned over, and hear the cries of anguish as players realize that they should have moved their pawns to a different spot.
I really enjoy this game, and will gladly pull it out any time. I do realize, however, that anyone who doesnt like bluffing will dislike the game. Most people dont mind bluffing, however, and the added theme and short time make this a great game to add to most folks collection. Bruno has still not failed me in making a game I really enjoy, and one that I can easily entice non-gamers to play. Now youll have to excuse me as I go off to win a half million dollars.
Bruno Faidutti's taste in games tends to the light, short and amusing rather than to the long and heavily strategic, and, being a man of eminent good sense, the games he designs are those that he would like to play. This one is very much in his style, being a light casino-based game in which the primary ingredient is bluff. The information on the back of the box gives it ratings in three categories: Intuition 9/10; Tactics 5/10 and Bluff 7/10 and that pretty much gives you the flavour.
A set of mini-boards representing casino tables are arranged in a circle. The number varies with the number of players, from 7 tables when there are 3 players up to 12 when there are 6. Poker chips are placed on these tables, gradually accumulating as the game progresses. At the start of round one each player places four 5-value chips; at the start of round two they place three 10s; then two 20s and finally, at the start of round four they each place one 50. The total value of the chips on a table provides the basis for the payouts at that table.
In addition to the chips each player has a pawn and three cards. One of these cards is a 'raise' and increases the value of the table by the amount sitting on it; the second is a 'steal'; and the third is a bluff card, whose purpose is to help you mislead the other players as to where you have put the two cards that really matter.
Once the chips have been placed, each player places their three cards face down next to one or more of the tables. Card placement, like the chip placement before it, is done one at a time, round and round the circle of players, so that a picture builds up of who might be trying for what. When this is completed, each player is allowed to move their pawn up to 4 tables clockwise from its current location. Staying where you are is an option. So the information you have to go on when you are placing your chips, and later your cards, is where everybody's pawns are currently located, where they can reach and how much money is already on each table.
After the pawns have moved, all tables which have at least one pawn on them pay out. To do this you first turn up all the cards at that table. The base value is modified by any raise cards that have been placed and then the money is handed out. If there are no 'steal' cards at the table, the owner of each pawn that is there gets 1000 times the table's value. Note: the money is not split; each player there gets the full amount. However, if there are cheat cards present payment goes instead to the players who have played these cards. The amount each gets is the table value times 1000 times the number of opposition pawns at the table. Tables at which no pawns are located do not pay out and the cards played to these are not revealed.
And that is it. The winner is the player with the most money after four rounds. As you can see, this is not a game of strategy. The skill and the fun lie entirely in the bluffing and in the attempt to read what your opponents are likely to do. Is A the sort who will try for the table with the biggest pile of chips? If so, that is the place to put your 'steal' card. If he is more cautious, then you would be better putting your bluff card there in order to frighten him off and instead try to steal from the more modest table that he will think is safer. And, of course, as with any game based on bluffing and second guessing, you must avoid being too predictable either with your card placement or with the movement of your pawn. If you enjoy that sort of thing, you will like Vabanque; if not, you won't. I do and I find the game great fun. Presentation is good, with nice plastic chips to add to the atmosphere.