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Robin Hood and his merry men are trying to grab as much treasure as possible from the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Each player wants to be the most successful master-thief. Therefore they will have absolutely no scruples and will even steal treasures which their fellow players thought they had safely tucked away. The player with the most valuable treasures at the end of the game wins.
- 108 treasure cards
- 11 money cards
- 1 Maid Marian card
Average Rating: 3 in 1 review
I had the pleasure of being introduced to this little-known card game from Klaus Palesch (designer of Fossil) by Brent Carter at Ty Douds' home while vacationing in Tampa, Florida, and instantly took a liking to it. I'm discovering that I seem to enjoy the 'rummy' mechanism as used in several card games, including the Mystery Rummy series. This surprises me as I have never been a big fan of traditional style card games.
To quote the game's rules introduction, 'In Robin Hood, players represent Robin's merry men and are trying to grab as much treasure as possible from the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham.' Players can also steal treasures from other players, all in attempts to become the wealthiest merry man.
There are three suits in the game (red, yellow and blue) with four sets of 1-9 respectively. Each player is dealt nine cards to begin the game and cannot possess more than nine at the end of their turn. The remaining cards are stacked and are set on the table and three cards are turned over as in Get the Goods, to be drafted from by the players.
On a player's turn, he may draft one or two cards from the three which are face up (the drafting cards). If you draft two, however, you must perform at least one action. If you choose only one, you may perform actions if you desire.
Actions take three forms:
- Play a meld of three cards, thereby 'stealing' a treasure card from the sheriff. A meld must consist of 3 cards of the same suit and have consecutive numbers. The highest valued card of the meld is then placed face-up in front of the player and will count for victory points at the end of the game if it is still there. The other two cards of the meld are discarded. The player also takes a gold card from the sheriff (worth 3 points).
- The player plays a meld of 3 cards with the same number and one or two suits in front of an opponent. The other player may counter this by playing a card from his hand with the same number as the meld played against him. If the action is countered, the attacker must discard one of the three cards from the meld and take the remaining two back into his hand. The defender retrieves the card he played in defense. If the action was not countered, the attacker steals the desired card from the opponent, places it face-up before him and discards the successful meld.
- The player plays a meld of three cards with the same number and all three different suits in the same manner as listed above. This attack, however, cannot be countered. The attacker takes a card from the opponent's face up-cards and discards the successful meld. Once a player has been successfully attacked, the 'Maid Marian' card is placed in front of him and he cannot be attacked again until Marian moves to another player who has been successfully attacked. This is a clever mechanism which prevents 'ganging up on the leader'.
The idea is to secure as many cards as possible, preferably of high value, and to collect gold coins from the sheriff. All cards in front of a player are worth their face value at game's end and each gold card is worth 3 points.
The problem is that cards are easily stolen from each player. There is a way to protect them, however. If a player manages to collect three cards of the same suit in front him, they are all three protected and cannot be stolen. Thus, the timing of one's attacks and playing of melds is critical so one can collect two or three cards in one turn and protect his cards.
The game ends once the deck has been cycled through twice. The player with the greatest value of cards and coins face-up before him is the victor. Cards in the hand at game's end are worthless.
I've played numerous times and find the game consistently entertaining and challenging. Which cards to collect, how long to hold them, and the timing of one's thefts are all critical decisions. Further, the actions of your opponents, as well as the cards available in the drafting row, often force you to alter your strategies. I always find this 'forced alteration of strategies' to be a good thing as it usually prevents a game from becoming stale and forces players to adapt to various conditions as they arise during the game. It also tends to prevent the tactic of doggedly pursuing one strategy from beginning to end.
Admittedly, the game does have a few problems, but most are easily corrected. Six players is simply too many with only three cards in the 'drafting' row. As is, the cards you want will never be around by the time your turn arrives. The general consensus was that if being played with six players, place four or five cards in the drafting row. I have used this idea in subsequent playings with five or six players and found the results very satisfactory. Six players also causes some downtime between turns, but I, for one, don't feel this is excessive.
The game does have a potential 'kingmaker' problem as well. It's easy to envision the final player not being in contention to win but being able to steal a card from one of several players which would ultimately determine the victor. It hasn't happened in the games I've played, but it could easily occur.
In spite of this, I enjoy the feel and flow of the game. I think there are enough things to think about to keep it interesting and the hand management and timing required is both challenging and fun. I find myself continually looking for opportunities to pull it off the shelf--always a good sign. Why this game hasn't received more and better publicity surprises me. It is truly a 'treasure in the forest'.
For Britons, one of the most memorable moments in the film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves comes right at the beginning, when Kevin Costner lands on the South Coast of England and, in his best North Midlands accent, declares to his companion "Tonight we shall sup with my father in Nottingham." Heroes of legend are not given to bragging and so it is with appropriate modesty that he omits to mention that in getting there they will set a land speed record that will last until the coming of the railway. It would be nice to be able to say that this Robin Hood is also going to set records, but I am afraid I can't. It is a run of the mill and very luck driven card game, whose theme will give it some success with a family audience, but which hasn't much to offer gamers.
Taking up most of the box is a collection of 108 "treasure cards". There are three colours, each numbered 1 to 9 and with four cards of each type. For the rest, there is a small set of coin cards and a Maid Marion card. The idea is that each player is a member of Robin Hood's band, trying to steal as much treasure as possible from the Sheriff and also from each other.
At the start of the game each player has a hand of nine treasure cards, there are a further three face up in the centre of the table and the rest are in a face-down stack, ready to be brought into play. On your turn you pick up either one or two of the displayed cards. If you take one, attempting to steal a card is an optional next component of your turn; if you take two, it is compulsory. These thefts may be either "from the Sheriff" or from an opponent.
To steal a card from the Sheriff, you play, from your hand, three cards of the same colour and with consecutive numbers. For example, red 4-5-6. The highest card of the triple is the one you "steal". It becomes part of your stash and is placed face up in front of you. The other two cards go to the discard pile. Of course, once on the table it becomes a potential target for your rivals and so as a further reward you also collect a coin card -- provided there are still some available. These coin cards can't be stolen and so are certain victory points at the end. The treasure card will also provide victory points, provided it is still part of your hoard when the game ends.
To steal a card from an opponent, you play three cards with the same number. If they are all different colours, the attempted theft is an automatic success and the target treasure card moves from your opponent's collection to your own. If they are not all different colours, the opponent can thwart the attempt by playing a card of the same number.
And that is just about it. The Maid Marion card is an optional extra, which in the basic game is given to the most recent victim of a theft and which protects them from further robberies for as long as it remains with them. The game ends after you have run through the deck twice and you then total the values of the treasure and coins in your hoard.
The game has been well developed. There is a maximum hand size, which stops people just hoarding and pushes them into taking actions sooner rather than later. The coin rewards also give things a nudge in this direction, because they will run out before the end and so the benefit they confer goes to those who took the early risks by getting cards in front of them. However, this sort of skilful polishing can't make up for the fact that, for adult gamers, the game is short of interest. It is pleasant enough, and if you have children of the sort of age where anything that involves treasure is attractive, the game might well appeal, but most of you can cross it off your lists. Klaus Palesch has given us two very good trick taking card games in Sticheln and Hattrick and by all accounts this year sees a third being added to that list in the shape of Mit List und Tücke, but so far his attempts to broaden his range haven't impressed. Fossil didn't make many waves last year and Robin Hood isn't going to this.