PALASTGEFLÜSTER (Adlung-Spiele, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; about $10)
Adlung-Spiele makes nothing but
inexpensive card games but over the last few years, several have emerged as
genuine gems. Verrater (Winter 1999 GA
REPORT) and Meuterer
(2000), both designed by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle, have become revered as
classics and are highly rated at Boardgamegeek.com. Quite a few others
have turned out to be neat little games, popularly known as "fillers,"
brief contests capable of happily ending a full evening's entertainment.
In 2007, we were extremely fortunate to see Adlung-Spiele publish Palastgeflüster
(Dark Whisperings), designed by Michael Reineck.
Herr Reineck has already achieved great success in recent years with his designs
of Around the World in 80 Days (Winter 2005 GA
REPORT), the award
winning Pillars of the Earth (Summer 2007 GA
REPORT) and Cuba
(featured this issue).
Palastgeflüster is an amazing little game, comprised of an interesting mix of mechanics, great artwork and ample interaction, for three to five players. There are five suits in different colors, each card with one of the seven principal characters of the King's court. Each player is represented by one of the colors and if less than the maximum of five players are involved, the unrepresented suits are removed. There is also a neutral color suit, with two each of the seven principal characters of the King's court. All of the latter are used in play. There are also seven King cards, each one limiting the play of one of the seven members of the court. As well, each player receives two cards, one with a summary of rules and one with which to mark their own score.
The seven characters and their special powers, include the following;
Zauberer (Magician), the player selects any number of cards from his hand to trade with another player.
Mundschenk (Cup Bearer), trade any card on display with another card on display.
Wachter (Custodian), take a card back from your own display.
Zofe (Lady's Maid), discard a card from your hand, draw a new card.
Schatzmeister (Treasurer), show the other players all cards remaining in your hand.
Hofmarchal (Marshal), turn over the next King card.
Hofnarr (Jester), no special power.
Each player is dealt six cards. A turn consists of simply playing a card to a display before you, ensuring you do not play a character you have already played. If you do, you cause "dark whisperings" in the court and you lose the round, and all the other players score 1 point. On the other hand, if you are able to place six different characters in play, you win the round and gain 1 point and everyone else loses.
Playing to your display is where it all becomes extremely interesting. All of the characters except the Jester have special powers and the player who will take the next turn is the player whose color is shown on the card just played! If the neutral suit color is played, the player with the least number of cards on display takes the next turn. If there is a tie for least cards on display, the player who played the card chooses amongst the tied players.
Careful attention must be paid to the consequences in order to plan ahead and as a result of the special powers, certain play combinations become apparent and useful. To add to the intrigues of the King's court, the King himself may negate a character's special power. However, at the start of the game, all of the King cards are face down, waiting the play of the first Hofmarschal (Marshal).
Note the Jester has no special power at all and that one of the King cards forbids the Jester to be played. If you play the Jester when the King forbids it, you lose and everyone else scores a point.
For example, let's assume Paul (Red) and begins play by placing a Blue Zofe (Lady's Maid) to his display. He then discards a card from his hand, draws a new card and play passes to Susan (Blue). Susan plays a Blue Zauberer (Magician), and trades three of her cards to Jeff (Green). Jeff trades three of his cards to Susan before picking up the cards offered by Susan. Since Susan played a Blue card, she goes again, and plays a Yellow Hofmarschal (Hofmarschal). The next King is turned face up and it is the King who forbids the special power of the Schatzmeister (Treasurer). Dave (Yellow) takes the next turn and plays a Green Schatzmeister. Note Dave does not have to reveal his cards since the King forbids it.
The round continues in this fashion until either one player has six different characters on display or one player is forced to cause "dark whisperings" by playing a duplicate character to his display. In a three player game, the winning score is 6. For four players, play to 5. For five players, play to 4. A variant is suggested in which all players that score also separately score the number of cards they have on display. This total serves as a tie breaker.
The more our group has played Palastgeflüster, the faster the rounds go and it has only been the time factor that has ever worked against our enjoyment. However, as we have grown more familiar with the characters and their abilities, the enjoyment factor has grown nicely. Overall, a rich experience; tough decisions, opportunity for screwage, and a sufficient balance of luck thrown in to support the upheaval of the best laid plans and an occasional sigh of relief when it all works out. Highly recommended! - - - - Al Newman
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