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This board game masquerading as a card game is about a conflict between two factions, the Rose and the Eagle. In each turn, players attempt to change the allegiance of one land district, contributing power cards to swing the conflict in their favor. Players also choose roles such as Diplomat, Traitor, and Builder that give them special abilities for that turn. The most potentially devastating role is that of the Verräter, or Traitor, which allows the player to change allegiances just as the conflict begins. Points are awarded for winning over districts, for taking certain roles, and for building counting-houses.
My friends and I have played this game many, many times. I cannot tell people enough what a great deal this game is for the money. Wonderful and difficult strategic and tactical choices. Some cooperation but also backstabbing galore. Bluffing is also needed in this game. And it plays as well (yet differently) with 3 or 4 players. When you're buying one of those big expensive boardgames, throw this one in the order and you won't be sorry.
What could be more fun than backstabbing some good buds? Verrater allows you to do this. What's more is unlike most deep strategy games, Verrater comes in a pocket-sized package! This is because it's a card game. It's so portable that I bring it to school every day for lunch!!! This game is a MUST BUY if you enjoy a bit o' strategy!!
The Houses of the Eagle and the Rose are at war. While initial loyalties are determined for all players, they're sure to change. The battlefield is formed by six landscape cards for each side randomly dealt into a circle. Each round, two adjacent opposing regions are chosen to do battle. Next, players in turn secretly select one Action Card, then discard supply cards to support their Houses in the conflict. The Traitor Card holder reveals himself and changes sides. The values of the regional cards, plus supplies and the influence of any Action Card Diplomats, determine the victor. Supporters receive points and the region changes ownership permanently. The Traitor gets one point and other Actions reap their benefits in points, extra cards, choice of the next battle site, or investments for extra cards or points in the future. Pleasantly deceitful, the game has a class far above its apparent station, and more depth than many boardgames. The Traitor, with its guaranteed point and probable selection of the winning side, is an alluring proposition. However all Actions have their advantages, and you will need to consider all of them to win this fascinating game.
The letter column of Counter 3 saw Stimmt so! being criticised for being too expensive -- a card game for the price of a board game was the complaint -- and there was some justice in it, even though the amount of fun that my group has had with the game means that I am happy enough with the purchase. However, nobody is likely to be making such complaints about this one, for what we have here is the reverse, a 10DM card game that not only punches well above its weight but also above that of most of its big-boxed brethren.
The concept is also one that you would more normally expect from a board game than from a card game. Two aristocratic families, whose symbols are the eagle and the rose, are engaged in a bitter struggle for control of a region. It is a civil war much like the Wars of the Roses in England where the lesser powers, of which you are one, are motivated more by personal aggrandisement than by loyalty. They think nothing of switching sides if that suits their own plans best. Hence the game's title, Verräter -- Traitor.
The deck consists of four sets of cards. Set one has twelve cards, two each of six types of terrain -- woodland, meadows, cities, etc. These cards are all double-sided, one side showing the area in possession of the eagle and one showing it owned by the rose. At the start of the game these cards are faced so that each house owns one of each of the six types. They are then shuffled and dealt out in a circle, clock fashion. This circle of cards functions as the "board", the region that the two sides are fighting over.
Set two consists of four sets of four cards, one set for each player. These are also double sided. One is eagle on one side, rose on the other, and is used to indicate your current loyalty. Each of the other three is used to mark the presence of your family in one of the twelve areas being contested. One side of the card shows a farmstead and having the card in place and this side up brings you "supplies" in the form of the power cards that are used to contest ownership of the areas. But they only bring such cards if they lie in an area controlled by the side to which you belong. In a civil war the factions do not allow the opposition to be supplied from areas that are in their own control. The reverse of the card shows some sort of regional administrator. Such men change sides easily and are effective no matter which faction controls their region. They bring victory points at the end but nothing at all while the game is in progress. The opportunities for laying these cards and for flipping them over are limited. Doing either is a "special action", of which you have one each turn.
Set three are the power cards -- numbered cards in the range 2-8 -- and set four consists of six "specials" -- two diplomats, the strategist, the builder, the farmer and the traitor. At the start of each turn these six cards are shuffled and one is set to one side, face down. The players then take it in turns to choose one of the other cards that has not yet been chosen by a rival. This is done secretly and the card you have taken determines which of the special actions you will be doing later in the turn. The strategist collects a couple of victory points and decides where the battle will be this turn; the farmer gives his holder some power cards; the builder gives you the right to place or reverse one of the cards referred to in the previous paragraph; the diplomats supply power points for the coming fight; the traitor collects a victory point and will reverse his loyalty once the battle lines are drawn.
Battles are fought over a couple of adjacent areas, one belonging to each side. The winner will capture the loser's area. To fight a battle, the players lay down power cards from their hands, the diplomats throw in their weight, the traitor (if he is in play) is revealed and you add up. Those who fought for the winning side collect victory points, the number collected being dependent on the nature of the terrain and the number of players on the winning side. This continues for 8/9 rounds and then you total the victory points to determine the winner.
The whole thing adds up to a very classy and well thought out little game with a "feel" which is entirely in keeping with its subject matter and which forces you to take hard decisions every turn. The most obvious of these is which of the available special cards to take and here you are probably thinking "take the traitor if you can". After all, he brings in an automatic victory point and there is a very high probability that he is going to be on the winning side, which will garner more victory points, but as with all the other decisions you are faced with in this game, it is not that simple. A traitor is not a lot of use unless he has power cards to bring into play and the only way you get those is via the farmer, the less powerful of the two diplomats and the farm cards you have in place in areas whose loyalty matches the one you currently have. By taking the traitor, you have cut yourself off, for this turn at least, from the first two sources and by switching sides you are about to lose the steady income you have been getting from this set of farm cards. You will be weakening yourself for next turn in return for the benefits you will be getting this. Just as in a real war of this nature, perfidy comes with a price as well as with a reward. The truth of the matter is that all six cards are good and all also have drawbacks. To be successful you are going to have to pursue a mixed strategy, with each step influenced by the state of the score and what you think your rivals are up to.
Verräter wouldn't be my choice as the best game I bought at Essen, but that is only because there are two or three others that I rate very highly indeed. This is still a very good game and worth a place on the short list. It was also the best bargain of the show. 10DM for a game of this class was a steal and, even when you have added on the mark-up that the realities of small volume imports and retail economics bring to UK game prices, you are still looking at a snip. The only drawback is the same one that I drew attention to when I was enthusing about Basari and that is the number of players. This is a 4-player game that can be played with three, but which won't be as good with the smaller number. However, if your group often has four players and if you like political games, this is a must purchase.