Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Purchase Decision - Mascarade

The game in question for this week’s entry is…


Mascarade is designed by Bruno Faidutti who is best known for his work on Citadels.
He has also designed many other games such as Isla Dorada, Pony Express, and Mission Red Planet.
Mascarade is a bluffing & deduction game with multiple roles in the same vein as Coup.

Game Info

Mascarade plays 2-13 players
Published playing time is 30mins
Mechanics – Bluffing / Deduction / Variable Player Powers

How it Might Play

The objective in Mascarade is to use the powers of the characters to obtain 13 coins ( or to have the most coins when another player goes bankrupt ).

The game has very few rules and relies on the character powers ( and the players’ guile ) to make the game dynamic and different each time.
Game Components

At the start of the game, each player receives a character face up. This is visible for all players to see before they are all turned face down.
On a player’s turn, they have only one action but three possible choices
1) Swap their card – or not –
2) Secretly look at their card
3) Announce their character ( execute a power )

The start player and the 3 players after him/her have to execute what is called a mandatory opening move – Swap their card – or not –.
After which, play continues in turn order with each player executing any of the 3 actions as mentioned above.

When performing the “Swap their card – or not –” action, the player simply chooses another player, takes that player’s card ( facedown ), and decides to swap their cards ( or not ) under the table. What this achieves is that there is a possibility that each player ends up with the same card as they started with, or the cards are now swapped. Only the player who activated the action will know.

The second action simply lets you confirm for yourself what role you currently have in front of you.

The last action requires you to announce who you are / who you think you are / who you are pretending to be and to claim the power associated with that character.
When this action is taken, each player going clockwise has a chance to instead declare that they are the chosen role you have announced. Once all the players have had a chance to stake a claim, all the players involved in the claim are to reveal their cards. The player who was indeed the announced character gets to execute the power immediately, and the other liars all have to pony up a coin to the courthouse. If no one made a claim to be the announced character, that player immediately gets to execute the power without revealing his/her card.

Once a player has made known via a reveal that he/she is a particular character, on that player’s turn, the only action that can be executed is the “swap the card – or not –” action. They may not once again announce to be the revealed character.

This carries on until one of the two end game conditions is met
1) Someone owns 13 coins ( or 10 coins if he/she is the Cheat )
2) Someone goes bankrupt
The player with the most coins is declared the winner !

Example of some of the Character Powers
1) Bishop – take 2 coins from the richest player
2) Fool – takes 1 coin from the bank and may swap the cards of 2 other players
3) Judge – takes all the coins in the courthouse
4) Peasant – takes 1 coin from the bank ( both peasants take 2 coins if both are revealed )
5) King – takes 3 coins from the bank
6) Witch – swap all your coins with another player of choice
7) Cheat – wins the game if player owns 10 coins
8) Widow – receives coins from the bank to top up player’s total to 10 coins

Concept Art for the Cheat

What I Like ( from reading the rules )

Character Abilities
The character abilities seem varied and interesting. When played correctly, some powers can be played in tandem and a healthy back & forth seems to be present.
Some may seem overpowered but in a role bluffing game, this is needed so that each role is fought over constantly.

Artstyle and Iconography
I love the art in Mascarade. It may seem messy at first but they all do look very ball like. And the iconography to depict the card ability is very well done that upon looking at it, I can immediately recognize the card ability. And I haven’t even played the game yet !

Player Interaction
Mascarade seems to have player interaction in spades. Nearly all the roles have an effect on other players and always seem to bring the game forward to the end instead of holding them back at the start. The lack of player elimination is also a good thing for me.

What I Dislike ( from reading the rules )

Too Chaotic
I actually appreciate chaos in simple quick games, but Mascarade seems a tad too chaotic for me especially with a high player count. It is good that the game keeps the wealth flying around and keeps changing the roles of the players, but maybe a bit too much ?

Reliance on the Truth
Mascarade gives me the feeling that most players will tend to rely on telling the truth and adverting the risk of outing somebody if you don’t have the actual role. I can’t see the reason behind claiming to be another player’s announced character if you truly aren’t as this will result in you losing a coin and also losing your ability to announce that character on your subsequent turn. This means that only the announcement part of the game seems like the big time to bluff and not anytime else

Restriction on Character Mixing
Although there are multiple character cards, they can’t simply be mixed and match for any number of players. There are some restrictions to follow ( one third must bring money into the pool, some are reserved for 8+ players only ). This also means that without the higher range of players, you may never get to use certain character types which is a shame.

Good with More but Worse with More
The game seems to work best with 7-8 or more players ( based on the cards used and the powers of the characters ), but it also seems to be way too chaotic and unmanageable with such a high player count. If I choose to look at my card, by the time my turn is back, I may already have a completely different card, twice.
The high player count seems to be a very sharp double-edge sword that keeps poking back at me with warning.

Roles Breakdown per number of Players ( not sure why they used pepperoni as check markers ! )

Conclusion – Will need to unmask to see if it’s a beauty or a beast ( try before I buy )

I really enjoy simple card games like Coup and Love Letter, especially when bluffing and(or) deduction is involved. But I have a strange feeling that Mascarade may not be what I am looking for, at least not entirely. I think the gameplay might breakdown to a series of find and use your character rather than bluffing & risk taking gameplay ( which I have hopes for the game ). I hope to be wrong but will need to play to find out. Don’t think I am willing to risk jumping in head first.



basically the idea of "A Purchase Decision" is just to state out what i thought of while deliberating whether or not to buy a particular game.

i'm not sure how each of you decide on what game to purchase ( art, newness, designer, etc etc ), but for me, each purchase goes through a very vigorous and tough selection process, which usually also includes the reading through of the rule-set.
so i thought i would just list through my thoughts on how the game is going to play like and what i considered before i made ( or did not make ) the purchase

if you do read through it, i hope that whatever i had to say might help as well in your game purchasing decision ! :)

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