Reviewed by Herb Levy

GARGON (Rio Grande Games; $9.95)


Magic-themed card games are nothing new. But in Gargon, color-coded cards are used in a different way as players become wizards on a quest to capture mystical creatures and their valuable amulets.

Gargon is a card game by Rüdiger Dorn comprised of 102 “creature cards”, 18 bonus cards and a rules sheet. For 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, a session takes less than an hour to play.

The creature cards of the game come in six different colors and the colors represent a different variety of creature. (White = Dragon, Blue = Pegasus, Purple = Gargoyle, Red = Phoenix, Yellow = Manticore and Green = Fairy). The front of each card shows a creature, some of which have gold circles on them representing amulets. Each amulet is worth one point at game’s end. The cards also have a “power value” ranging from 0 to 15 which comes into play during battle. The back of each card is simply blank showing only the color of the creature lurking on the other side. All creature cards are shuffled and players begin with a hand of 10 cards. The remaining creature cards are equally divided into two draw piles, spread out so that the colors can be easily seen. (The bonus cards only figure in the final scoring and are placed aside for now.) Now the first round can begin.gargonEach round of play consists of two phases: card playing and battle. Starting with the first play (youngest player to start with play passing to the left on subsequent rounds), the starting player may place, face down, one, two or three cards. You can place up to three different colors but you cannot play three of the same color. The other players, in turn, MUST play the same amount of cards (one, two or three) as the starting player but have the option of playing different colors. (There is an exception to this rule. The LAST player in the round may only play colors already in play!) Players unwilling or unable to play in a round (possibly short on cards or lacking the “right” colors may pass and draw up to three new cards from the draw piles.) Once all players have gone, the battling begins!

All played cards are now revealed and the starting player picks the first battle (color) to be determined. If only one person has played that particular color then there is NO battle; that player simply gathers up ALL of those colored cards (placing them in a face down stack for later scoring). If one or more other players have that same color in play, then a “battle” erupts and must be resolved. It works like this:

The two highest valued cards of that color are compared. The higher valued card defeats the lower valued one. The winning player keeps his higher card, adding it to his stack of captured cards. The losing card is discarded. Should there be two other cards in that color remaining, then they battle next and again, the high card is won and the low card discarded. Should there be only one card left of a color after all the battles, then the owner of that card simply collects it and puts it in his stack of captured creatures. Once all battles are resolved, a new round begins. When the last card from ONE of the draw stacks is taken, the current round is finished. All remaining cards held in the players’ hands are discarded and the captured cards are scored.

The player with the most cards in each of the six colors gets a +10 bonus card. If two players tie, a +5 bonus card goes to each. Then, amulets on the cards are counted at a rate of 1 point per amulet. Cards with a value of “0” DOUBLE the value of the amulets in that color. The player with the most total points wins!

At first glance, Gargon appears to be a very random exercise. Actually, there is a layer of strategy lurking under the surface. The higher valued creature cards have NO amulets while the lower ones can have as many as five. Timing becomes everything as you have to know (or, more precisely, know intuitively) just when to spring a high value (to build up you stash of a color to nail down that 10 point bonus) and when to hold back and play a low, amulet-laden, card that you can snatch while two formidable foes battle – an even more important play if your low card is a “0” which DOUBLES your amulet score.

Color is used to good effect here. By spreading out the draw decks, “limited intelligence” is provided. Everyone knows which colors are available and will soon be available but you do not know the precise values. This adds another layer of decision making as you must decide WHEN to pass and draw. (A word of warning about color though. The red and the purples can blur if the light isn’t right. Play in a well lit area!)

Gargon is a colorful magical adventure that brings more to the table than first appears in a very different style of gaming experience.- – – – Herb Levy


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