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The King is desperate! The whole court is attending the joust and no on is working in the castle. The King really needs a helper! Figaro would like to help, but he is a goofy guy that always gets into mischief! Can you help him get the job while avoiding the dirty tricks of the other players?
From prolific designer Reiner Knizia comes Figaro, a light, fun card game wherein the goofy Figaro attempts to help the King while his court is away. Sadly, Figaro is quite clumsy, and his antics tend to result in embarrassment or injury to the King. Players attempt to help Figaro overcome these blunders, and be the one who enables him to secure the job.
The theme is admittedly a bit wacky, but the game itself is actually quite fun. The artwork on the cards is quite humorous, depicting Figaro in various situations wherein he attempts to amuse or assist the king. The outcome is always less than desirable, much to the chagrin of the king. One even has the king horrified as his portrait as painted by Figaro appears eerily like Reiner Knizia himself!
The 60 cards are divided in to five suits (colors), with each suit having values ranging from 1 – 3. There are also five jesters with values 1 or 2, and five special “ring-around-the-rosey” cards. All cards are used, and dealt evenly to the players.
In addition to the cards, the game consists of road pieces of various lengths. These are mixed and placed inside a cloth bag. A number of road pieces equal to one less than the number of players are drawn from the bag before each of the three rounds.
Game play is fairly simple. Players alternate playing a card from their hand in front of any player, including themselves. There are a few rules that must be followed when playing a card:
* There can only be cards of one single color in front of each
* No two players can have cards of the same color in front of them.
Jesters are wild cards, and can be any color. Whenever the cards in front of a player reach a value of six or greater, that player must take ALL cards in front of ALL players and keep them in a stack. This isn’t a good thing. This player does receive the king figure and begins the next hand. If for some reason a player cannot legally play a card, he must take all cards as described above.
A round ends when one player depletes his hand of cards. As in the card game UNO, the player must announce when he is down to just one card. At this point, each player counts the number of cards in his stack. The player with the most cards takes the longest road piece. The player with the second-most cards takes the second longest road piece, and so on. The player with the fewest cards escapes without having to take a road piece. Ultimately, the player with the shortest cumulative length of road pieces wins the favor of the king, and wins the game. Thus, collecting road pieces is not a good thing.
There is a chance, however, to get rid of your longest road piece. At the end of the third round, the player who collected the fewest cards gets to exchange his longest road piece for the shortest one available that round. This can be quite powerful – perhaps too powerful.
So what about those “ring-around-the-rosey” cards? A player lays this card in front of himself, then all players slide the cards that are in front of them to the player on their left. These cards can be quite handy … but there are five of them, so cards do tend to rotate numerous times.
The game does require players to manage their hand of cards, and make numerous decisions throughout the game. Don’t expect to be taxed too heavily here, but also don’t write the game off as being too light. There are tactics to employ, and proper timing is essential. Like most Knizia designs, there is more here than initially meets the eye, and skillful play is rewarded.
I didn’t expect much from Figaro, and the cutesy artwork just reinforced my initial skepticism. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. While not filled with deep strategy, there are still some tactics to employ. But the biggest bonus is that the game is fun to play, and it makes for a very good family game. I’m just happy that accident-prone Figaro isn't working for me!
"The king is desperate! The whole court is attending the joust, and no one is working in the castle. The king really needs a helper!" Enter Figaro (Mayfair and daVinci Games, 2006 - Reiner Knizia), the lunatic idiot working for the King. Apparently he is attempting to do all the jobs of court, and making a mess of them. This card game simulates (in the loosest possible use of that term) his ludicrous efforts.
In reality, this means that up to six players are basically playing a "take that" game, in which they attempt to stick other players with the wrath of the King. An interesting (yet ultimately dull) mechanic is used to determine this - and some odd, superfluous road pieces are included for scoring. When used with youth, this game had some real potential, but I found that it was uninspired and just nothing special with adults. I'm certainly not opposed to games in which players attempt to mess each other up with direct card play, but Figaro just didn't stand out enough to be interesting.
A bag of road pieces is mixed up, and several are drawn out at the beginning of each of the three rounds in a game (the total drawn is equal to the number of players minus one.) For example, in a six player game, we would draw fifteen road tiles and place them in three groups of five - for each of the three rounds; placing the roads in order from longest to shortest (they are all of a different size). A deck of cards is shuffled and evenly dealt to each of the players. Cards are numbered from "1" to "3" and are in one of five suits (painting - purple, cooking - orange, music - green, fighting - red, and magic - blue). There are also five "ring-around-the-rosey" cards, and five "jester" (wild) cards that are either "1" or "2" value. One player is chosen to go first (and is given a king token), and then play continues clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they must choose one card form their hand and play it face up in front of any player, even themselves. The first card in front of a player may be any color; after that, all cards played must be either the same color or a "wild" card. A player also has the option of playing one of the "ring-around-the-rosey" cards, which causes players to pass all face up cards in front of them to the player on their left.
Anytime a player has a total of "6" or more on the cards in front of them, the King is so irritated that he commands they take all face up cards from all players and place them in a face down stack in front of them. Play then continues, starting with that unlucky player. A player must also take all face-up cards if they have no legal card to play; players may also choose to take all face-up cards on their turn if they wish to. The round ends on the turn of a player who has no cards. This player takes the King token, and everyone counts their cards in the stack in front of them. The player with the most takes the longest road piece from the current round, placing it in front of them. The player with the second most takes the next longest piece, etc. The player with the fewest cards gets no road piece. After the third round, the player with the fewest cards can actually exchange their longest piece (if any) with the current round's shortest road piece.
After the third round, players line up their road pieces next to a castle wall token, and the player with the shortest road is the winner! (closest to the King). The King token is used to break ties. Some comments on the game…
1.)Components: Figaro is set in the same universe as "King Me!" and, thus, has the same cartoonish style of artwork. Each card is well designed with background color and suit symbol, as well as a funny picture of Figaro doing something idiotic, such as almost shooting the king with an arrow, or playing horrible music. One card even has Figaro painting the king's portrait - only it looks like Reiner Knizia! The road pieces are also nice cardboard tiles and fit easily in the included cloth bag. The king token is a cardboard counter that stands upright in a wooden base. Everything fits (rattles around) in a sturdy smallish box with more artwork of poor Figaro.
2.) Rules: There is only one sheet of rules with pictures of components included. They do a decent job explaining the rules, considering how simple the game is. When teaching the game, the concept came across as a little odd for some players but still was easy, once they got into the groove. Once players understood the game was basically a "take that" type of game, everything clicked.
3.) "Take that": There is some strategy, but I put a heavy emphasis on the word "some", as the game is essentially one of hoping that the other players don't gang up on you. A player can get extremely lucky and have some "ring-around-the-rosey" cards to shuffle off a pile of cards in front of them to someone else, but the game is about making sure the person in the lead gets a lot of cards. There is really nothing you can do if the other players decide to take you down, and I found that frustrating. Sometimes I don't mind such interaction, such as in the game Family Business, but the card laying in Figaro gave a semblance of strategy that really was disrupted by the "hurt the leader" concept.
4.) Strategy? At first, I really thought the concept of playing cards, even in front of yourself, was slightly odd. Then, I realized that it could lead to some interesting strategies. One could play a card in front of them of a color that they had seen other players play quite a bit of, hoping that there wasn't enough left to give them a total of "6" in front of them. But after many playings, this simply doesn't work. Table talk and wild cards rule the day; and players will simply play cards on whoever they feel like, following only the restrictions on the board.
5.) Last round: I've played the game several times and have yet to see the person who has the fewest cards in the third round NOT win. They get to replace their longest road with the shortest one from the third pile of roads and not take a new one. Honestly, unless there are some rather odd circumstances, this means that the player will easily win the game. So why play the first two rounds?
6.) Fun Factor: I won't deny that the game is fast enough to be fun for people seeking mindless enjoyment. However, it just wasn't really there for me. I wanted to see my strategy have an effect on gameplay, and I watched as players simply piled up cards on one person. I also found that the futile nature of the first two rounds was a bit offsetting. On the flipside, the teenagers I taught the game to had a blast, although I suspect they wouldn't miss the game if I never brought it again.
I have to wonder if Figaro would have been published if Reiner Knizia hadn't designed it. It's the sort of game that has the spark of a good idea but simply settled down to be just another slightly dull card game. I love the humorous artwork, and the idea of the game is certainly interesting; but neither these things, nor the name of the designer, are enough to make me recommend the game.
"Real men play board games"