No leader of a government has ever taken control without people beneath them, lifting them to higher levels than they could get on their own. Every leader has had to step on the shoulders of others to grab the reins of government for themselves. Some leaders use the scum of society, others take a moral route to victory and yet others hide the “lower” class help they receive by promoting their “higher” class supporters and pushing the others into the background.
This is the theme of Viceroy, where you are the leader, using your political savvy to recruit supporters and build your pyramid of power. Each supporter brings you different things like money, knowledge, other supporters, etc.
Let me give you a little on how the game plays before I dive into what I do and don’t like about Viceroy. Viceroy uses blind auctions and tile placing as the main mechanics. The game starts with each player having six jewels, one played character, one character and 3 “law” cards in your hands. After you decide which character is placed first you gather the rewards for placing it on the base level and then the game begins.
The Auction Round
For the first round four characters are laid out by the four jewel colors and each player secretly picks one jewel to use as their bid. All players reveal their jewels and if they are all different then everyone gives up the jewel and takes the corresponding character card. If, however, two or more players reveal the same colored jewel then they all discard that jewel into the reserve pile (a limited amount of each jewel color based on number of players) and try again. The players who did not receive a card because of said tie, will grab another jewel (may or may not be the same color) and bid again. The auction round can consist of up to three rounds and for any player who does not receive a character (by choice or ties) is considered to have passed and takes three jewels.
There is one other option; you can openly plan with your opponent what jewels you are going to play in the auction. Of course, you don’t have to actually do what you agreed upon so you can kind of test the waters to see where, in theory, your opponent is going.
At the end of the auction phase you get rid of any characters that were not bought within the last two rounds and reload the jewel cards with four new characters ready for the next round. This can leave two characters by one jewel card and if two opponents play that jewel in the next auction they can discuss what character they will each take, or chalk it up as a loss, losing the jewel, and trying again.
The Building Round
After the auction round comes the building round where each player can choose to place one of their cards into their pyramid. Each player can build up to three cards per building phase, but one at a time. Depending on where you build the card on your pyramid it will cost different amounts shown on the card. Law cards, however, do not cost anything to place, but will give you bonuses either immediately or at the end of the game.
That sounds pretty simple and not so exciting, but here is where the game kicks it into high gear. On each card you have rewards that progressively get better the higher on the pyramid that it goes and each character is unique. Some give you additional cards, victory points, jewels, some will give you tokens and others will give you bonuses for specific types of tokens on your pyramid at the end of the game. And that’s not all folks! Also on each card it has three partial jewels where other cards will be connected. If you complete the jewel using three cards that make it all one color then you gain a jewel of that color immediately and gain victory points at the end of the game. This makes the decision process of what character to buy in the auction and where to place them way more difficult than just looking at their rewards.
After 12 rounds, the game is over and you count up the victory points. You get points from your law cards, the rewards on the cards themselves, sets of the three token types and from the complete jewels that you have (based on how high they are in the pyramid). Before you score though, you get to “paint” some non-matching jewels on your pyramid by paying a jewel to cover up ¼ of the jewel and possibly finishing a couple jewels, if you plan right that is.
So clearly there is way more to this game than I have included. It has so much to it that make it a great game, but I wanted to give you some information so you could see if this game is for you.
What’s Great, what’s Meh, and what’s Mediocre at best
I have said on the podcast and Twitter Viceroy is quickly becoming my favorite game that I picked up at Essen. I’m a big fan of the game, but there are some things that stand out among the game as to why I like it so much. So far I have played the game solo and as two-player. I can safely say that I can see how the game will work with 3 and 4 players as the player interaction occurs almost exclusively in the auction phase.
- The puzzle of the jewels aligning up, giving you immediate and end-game rewards.
- The decisions that you have to make are many and great. When selecting which character to buy, in the auction, you have to consider the colors of the jewels, the rewards it offers, what level you can put it in now or what level you hope to put it in later. You also have to figure out what character your opponents want, trying not to waste a jewel when bidding.
- The artwork is pretty darn amazing and each character’s card has so many details that truly make them a work of art.
- The solo and 2-player game do not have a ton of times where both players (or the player and the random draw for the solo game which is the only difference between the multi-player and solo game) pick the same jewel for the auction. It happens, just not as much as would naturally happen in the 3 or 4-player games. It is still a great game, but you tend to get the character that you want most of the time. For me, this doesn’t take away from the quality of the game at all, because of all of the other decisions that go into which character to buy and where to place them. However, if you are someone that wants a lot of player interaction, the solo and 2-player game do not provide as much of that as might happen with more players.
The Mediocre at Best
- Don’t ever, ever play this with someone who suffers from AP. This game has so many different possibilities that you could sit and think about your next move quite a bit. If you can play a game without worrying about picking the one absolute best solution, then you will not have a problem with this aspect.
This game is great, I will play it solo and I will play it multi-player. It provides enough player interaction, for me, with the attacking at the end and the auctions throughout to make it a bit more than solitaire multi-player. I do know that if you do not like games that can cause AP problems; then this game is not for you. Maybe you don’t like games that have a lot of options each turn, again, this game is not for you. If you do like the idea of picking the best character to place in your pyramid that gives you a combination of immediate and end-game rewards then I highly recommend this game.