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FLASHBACK: VERRATER

[This issue features Attika, the new game by Marcel Casola Merkle. But this is not the first time Merkle’s work has appeared in GA REPORT. Back in the Winter 1999 issue, we uncovered a wonderfully intricate CARD game that had all the heft of a boardgame. Here, from that issue, is a FLASHBACK to that game: Verrater.]

VERRÄTER (Adlung Spiele, 3-4 players, ages 12 and up, 45-60 minutes; $8.95)

 

In Verrater (Traitor), created by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle, each of the three to four players in the game is a supporter for one of two feuding royal families – the Eagles and the Roses. Players try to earn the most Victory Points by annexing land, building Estates and playing Action cards.

Verräter consists of a deck of 60 cards, nearly half of which are 2-sided. Each player openly displays a conviction card indicating whether he is currentlysupporting the Eagles or the Roses. At the start, the conviction cards alternate around the table. During the course of the game’s 45-60 minutes of play, a player can switch sides by playing a Verräter (Traitor) card.verratercards

The 12 countryside cards (2 each of city, village, river, meadow, wood and wilderness) are laid out in the center of the table like a clock. Half are randomly turned to their Eagle side, the other half to Roses. Before play begins, each player places a Gutshof (Depot) card of his color half under one countryside card. Depot cards earn a player on supply card per turn, provided the conviction of the countryside location matches his current affiliation. Players receive three supply cards (out of 23 in all, ranging from 2-8 conflict points) to start the game.

Turn order rotates each round with the starting player shuffling the 6 Action cards. One Action cards is removed from play each round. The player on turn selects one and passes the rest to the player on his left. This player chooses from the remaining Action cards and so on until all have chosen. This very clever mechanism of revealing limited information about which Action cards will be in play and by whom is fascinating. It allows players to play educated hunches instead of merely playing a guessing game.

The six available Action cards are:

1. Verräter (Traitor) – switches conviction and earns one automatic Victory Point.

2. Strategist – selects where the next conflict will take place and earns 2 automatic Victory Points.

3. Baumeister (Builder) – adds a Depot or Estate card to a countryside card or flips a previously placed Depot card to an Estate card.

4. Bauer (Farmer) – draws 3 supply cards.

5. Diplomat 2 – receives 2 conflict points and a supply card.

6. Diplomat 5 – receives 5 conflict points.

The Strategist starts each round by placing the Conflict card between two countryside cards of opposite factions. Action cards are then chosen but not yet revealed. Each player, in turn order, can openly play 0-5 supply cards. Actions are then revealed. Conflict is resolved by adding the conflict points for each side – countryside strength (listed on the specific card), supply cards, and diplomacy Action cards. Whichever faction has the higher total wins the conflict, with the countryside card of the losing side getting flipped to the affiliation of the winner. Victory Points are awarded based on the points listed on the losing countryside card and the number of players on the winning side.

The Builder can then take his action as does the Farmer. The remaining players draw 1 supply card per depot and the Diplomat 2 draws one extra supply card.

Play continues until 8 rounds have been played with four players or 9 rounds with 3 players. The game can end prematurely is all 12 countryside cards have the same affiliation. At game’s end, any Estate cards (up to 2)_ get multiplied by the number of supply cards in one’s hand (3 maximum) for a bonus of up to 6 Victory Points. Victory Points are added up to determine the winner.

Verräter has a unique ebb and flow, forcing each player to constantly reevaluate his strategy, depending on what he thinks his opponent is likely to do next. The key decision toward wining are in choosing your Action cards wisely, sensing when to commit supply cards and when to switch sides for maximum effect. The role of the Strategist is particularly rich – earning VPs and controlling tempo.

Our only complaint is no English on the cards or instructions. The small amount of German text is initially annoying but becomes ingrained midway through the first or second turn. (An excellent translation by our Danish Internet friend, Mik Svellov, helped us overcome this problem.) An English language edition is eagerly awaited.

Verräter makes effective use of a single deck of cards, utilizing them for a variety of functions. For approximately $6 [Editor’s Note: now closer to $9!], it is a better gaming buy than many $30-$40 games; truly a case of good things coming in small packages. – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Steve Kurzban

copyright © 1999, all rights reserved


 

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Winter 2004 GA Report Articles

 

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