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English language edition of Intrige
List Price: $20.00
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(Worth 1,800 Funagain Points!)
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from 6 customer reviews
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A Game of Bribery, Bluffing, Betrayal, and Banishment Intrigue -- a secret scheme... to achieve or force a result by manipulation, scheming, or underhanded means. Can you suppress your integrity and honor? Will only the money in your coffers have value to you?
As master of a palace of unemployed scholars, you must coerce, cajole, con, bully, beg and bribe the other palace holders to employ these freeloading academics and bring you profit. Beware of double-crossing opponents, who may not honor your deals and banish your scholars to the "Island of Misfit Scholars". But revenge is sweet (and the profit that much greater) when they come to you for employment!
Players: 3 - 5
Time: 45 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 264 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.
- 5 palaces
- 40 scholars
- play money
- The Island of Misfit Scholars
Average Rating: 3.8 in 6 reviews
This game is pure negotiation.
Take bribes. Promise deals.
Then keep the money and backstab everyone.
This games has the most screwage for the buck of any game I've ever played.
If your group doesn't like backstabbing and broken promises, run, don't walk away from this game. But if you like screwage as much as I do BUY IT NOW.
The game Diplomacy and I have an odd relationship. On one hand, I think it's an incredible teaching tool - one of the best I've ever used to teach not only pre-World War I relationships, but also the art of negotiation and, well - diplomacy. But personally, I can't stand playing the game. It's mean-spirited, it causes me headaches, people usually end up getting upset with one another - all of which combined with a long playing time simply turn me off from the game. So why do I then like Intrigue (Mayfair Games, 2006 - Intrigue), which is so similar in style and gameplay? I think that the simple answer is that Intrigue is short and straightforward, something Diplomacy is not. In Intrigue, you MUST cross someone; and since everyone is doing it constantly, it's not nearly as big of a problem.
This doesn't mean the faint of heart should play Intrigue, nay - they should run and hide rather than attempt a session of this game. But for those who don't mind a bit of good "stab-your-neighbor" action in a game that runs a mere forty-five minutes, I highly recommend Intrigue. It's a bit too intense for me to want to play more than say, once a month, but I do enjoy my sessions of it exceedingly. I take care to choose my opponents before playing, and announce that the game is to be taken on a light-hearted level, and have had a good deal of success with it.
Each player (up to five) takes four cards and puts them together to form their palace - with spots for four positions, each with a different salary (1,000; 3,000; 6,000; and 10,000). Players also receive eight "scholars" in their color, two each of four types (scientist, doctor, clerk, and priest), as well as 32,000 ducats - the remainder of which are placed in a bank. An island token is placed in the middle of the table; one player is chosen to go first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they first collect salaries from the scholars who are working in other players' palaces (none on the first turn). Each scholar gives its owner money equal to the position it occupies. Players then deal with the scholars who are applying to work in their palace. Finally, the player sends out two scholars to other players' palaces - their choice.
It's the second step that is the critical part of the game. Each player must determine how many scholars, and of which type, are applying at their palace. A player has four positions; each position can only be given to one scholar; and only one scholar of a specific type can work in a palace. So several different things can occur.
- If there is only one applicant for a job in my palace, and no like scholar is already working in my palace, the owner of that applicant must bribe me (minimum 1,000), and make any other promises or threats they want. I then place the applicant in any open position I want. All money given in bribes is received BEFORE the player decides where to place the scholar.
- If there are two applicants who are applying, but they are different types, then the same process is repeated with both players giving me bribes (and verbal promises, etc.)
- If there are two scholars who are of the same type who are applying, then only one of them can be hired. After accepting bribes from both players, I decide which one gets the job, and which is banished to the "island". The scholar banished to the island is never seen again in the game. (This is called an external conflict.)
- If a scholar (or scholars) are applying for a position already occupied by another scholar of the same type, all players involved bribe and threaten; and then the player either removes the current scholar, replacing him and sending all others of that type to the island or by retaining the current scholar and banishing the applicants.
The game continues for four rounds, players sending out two scholars each round. During the fifth round, no more scholars are sent out, but any remaining applications are considered, and income is given out. After the fifth round, everyone receives salaries one more time, then everyone totals their cash on hand. The player with the most money is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The game comes in a small box, which barely holds the materials of the game - but well enough. The money is double-sided paper cash, which is acceptable, although slightly drab. At first I was a bit wary of using four cards to form a player's palace; but they worked out well, and the artwork was quite nice on top of that. The scholars are square cardboard chips with simple symbols on them, which at first seem a bit drab but then make more sense as players are constantly comparing them to other scholars. All the scholars and the island in the middle are double-sided, and thick enough to remain fairly durable. Simple components, but certainly good enough for the game - which is focused on mechanics.
2.) Rules: The rulebook is twelve pages long with many detailed examples of conflict and how to resolve things in different cases. Really, though, the rules are simple enough to explain in less than five minutes. Players catch on to the nuances of how conflict works throughout the game; and while I'm certainly glad for the clarification in the rules, it's not nearly as difficult as you might be led to believe. I've taught the game to many groups of people, including teenagers, and it has gone over well each time.
3.) Negotiation: There is a bit of strategy in the game, but most of it comes solely from negotiation. In most of the games I've played, the person who people worry about the least often comes up on top at the end. Sometimes it takes a game or two to realize, but controlling a 10,000 ducat job is very useful - especially if you control it at the end of turn four, giving you potentially three payoffs! Deals are made, alliances are formed, deals are broken, and alliances are severed - all within a few turns. Knowing how to sweet talk someone is important, but more important is the knowledge when and if to break an agreement. Many times, players agree to a, "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" type deal. "Give my player the 10,000 ducat job, and I'll give the same to yours," is often heard. However, only one person can win, so these two-way alliances can't last for the entire game.
4.) Players: I can't see that playing the game with less than five is that good. Playing with four is acceptable, but never with three, the game just loses something from the negotiation phases. Four is still not ideal, because the game can easily break up into a two vs. two situation. Five is fantastic, because if two players agree to mutually hire each other, the other three players can shun them; which is very effective, as one needs the money from multiple players in a bribing war. It's fascinating how alliances can fluctuate and change within a short forty-five minutes; I've often seen two players who were rather tight at the beginning of the game, swearing to kick the other to the island every chance they got near the end. And a player who you may be at odds with may be forced to take one of your scholars on if no one is competing with you, and they have an empty spot.
5.) Fun Factor: Well, I'm not going to come close to claiming that Intrigue is a "nice" game; and that if you play gently and with integrity, you're going to win easily. No, dear readers, it's a vicious, potent game packed into a small box and a small playing time. But because of the small time, I can stomach this game; while longer games with the same negotiation and backstabbing, such as Diplomacy and Game of Thrones, can cause me grief and headaches. In Intrigue you KNOW people are going to stab you; and since everyone is doing it to everyone, no one is exceedingly upset. Before each game, I firmly state that "it's only a game"; and even though Intrigue has a reputation for players refusing to play it again, I have yet to see any (lasting) antagonism. For me, all this negotiation and deceit is good in small doses, which Intrigue is.
6.) Editions: Intrigue is a recent reprint by Mayfair of an older Amigo game. The reprint is smaller, more compact (eight scholars instead of ten), and the components aren't quite as good. But, after long thought (because there's no reason for me to keep both editions), I've decided to keep the new Mayfair edition. The fact that it's easier to carry around is the main reason, but I think I prefer the game shorter (which Mayfair's is), so my decision isn't really that difficult. Your mileage may vary.
Unless the thought of negotiation and slightly hurting other people's feelings for a short moment of time scares you, then I would recommend at least having a play of Intrigue. There are very few games like it - only Dragon's Gold gives me the same intense negotiation in the same short time. It's certainly a keeper for my collection; and although there are people I'll never play it with, it has a much wider versatility in audience than you might expect. Still, even though it's only slightly evil, it's still evil, and that might not be for you.
"Real men play board games"
Some games allow for some vicious play where one player can really harm or even eliminate another players strategies or chance at victory. Then there are games that have very little strategy, they are just plain ol' vicious. They are almost like their own little subgenre: backstabbing games. The three I've played are Nicht Die Bohne!, Rette Sich Wer Kann, and this little game, Intrige. You either like or hate these kinds of games. If you enjoy chances to K.O. each other, and don't carry a grudge very easily, then you may enjoy this, but take it personally and it could sour your whole game night.
Play is not too complicated as players have little mats in front of them depicting an estate that has five paying positions up for grabs. Players also have 10 disks representing relatives looking for work, 2 each in five different professions. All players are doing on their turn: collecting money for any of their relatives currently in salaried positions at other players' manors, taking two of their own relatives and sending them to other players' estates, and then trying to get jobs for their relatives by bribing other players.
The salaried positions are $10k, $20k, $30k, $50k, and $100k. Only one chip can occupy a positions so positions are at a premium, and obviously the $100k space is a dandy. If I accept a certain profession into a salary range (say, a knight into the $30k slot) I can only ever put other players' knights in the $30k slot. Where the game gets really fun is that players will be trying to oust each other from salaried positions in the various estates. So Al has a knight in my $30k, then Bob sends a knight to me. Either Al's knights stays, or Bob's knight displaces Al's. Bob bribes me first with cash (and future consideration?) then Al defends with a bribe. I keep ALL the money and decide who gets the position. Nasty, nasty little game.
It's not much more complicated than that and the game can be a bit player-chaotic, so this game definitely falls into the play-to-have-fun camp. And if you can't fun playing this type of game, you will be miserable for the next 45-minutes. I actually enjoy playing this game quite a bit, but give it only 3 stars because it is very chaotic, and though it says 3-5 players, it is really only a 5-player game, in my opinion. The graphics are workable if a bit drab (and hard to tell apart with two of the colors) but pulling this out once in a while with 5 people can be a lot of fun.
There are plenty of games where deal-making and deal-breaking are important (Rette Sich wer Kann, Kohle, Kies & Knete, Diplomacy, Chinatown, ...) but this is the one which strips off all remaining veneer of civility. This game is pure bribery, greed, and coaxing. The simply mechanic is that you send an emissary to someone else's plaza in search of a job. With a good group of gamers, you'll throw in heavy role-playing by whining and sweet-talking about how you're the person for the job, before you hand your opponent some money (usually more than you announce).
Others will probably do likewise and, when it comes time to decide, the plaza-owner is bound in no way to grant the job to the highest briber. In fact, his decision oft times is based on issues far beyond the amount of under-the-table money you gave him.
Actually, this is a fun concept, for those who enjoy a little play-acting and some good-natured bribery. However, the game breaks down in the final round, as seating order dictates where you'll send your job applicants. This large flaw makes an interesting game nothing more than a chance to show off your acting abilities.
Somewhere in Italy, each player has a palazzio (building) that offers 5 jobs of various salaries. Each player also sends out two pawns each turn to try to get jobs in other players' palazzios.
The fun (?) begins when multiple players' pawns try to go after the same high-paying jobs. Only one player can get each job. In addition, once your pawn has a job, they can be bumped out of it at anytime by another player's pawn.
How do your pawns get jobs? It's completely up to the player with the job opening. So, you bribe, threaten, deal, etc. in the hopes of getting the high-paying jobs. In the end, the offering player can do whatever they feel like. Oh, and they keep your bribe anyway.
If you like the social interaction of dealing and arguing while you play, this game is the epitome. At least one member of our casual quartet (the one who much prefers strategy to wheeling and dealing) did not like this game at all.
To be blunt, any strategy in this game is completely secondary to how well you can whine, threaten, and cajole.