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IVANHOE

EXCERPTS FROM THE SPRING 2001 GA REPORT

 

FROM “POINT OF VIEW”:

 

Reviewed by Al Newman

 

IVANHOE (GMT Games; $20)

 

Reiner Knizia continues to plagiarize his own work quite successfully with the new GMT release of Ivanhoe, a card game for 2-5 players. Ivanhoe is based on Attacke, which was published by Germany’s FX Schmid in 1993. Knizia has done the same with two prior GMT entries: Galaxy: the Dark Ages, which was based on Titan: the Arena and Battle Line, which was based on Schotten-Totten – both featured and recommended last issue. Again, Knizia has found a winning formula by enhancing an older and less sophisticated game simply with the addition of special cards capable of turning the game around by providing the element of surpriseivanhoe1

Ivanhoe is comprised of a series of tournaments (tricks) fought by the players with suits in six colors. Five represent various skills, such as the Joust (purple) and Sword (red). The white suit represents supporters of the combatants and these cards may be played to any color tournament.

The player to the left of the dealer begins the first tournament and thereafter, tournaments are always begun by the player who won the prior tournament. The object in the four or five player game is to collect four chips of different colors, each corresponding to one “flavor” of battle. With two or three players, five different color chips must be obtained.

Each player is dealt eight cards to begin the game. Play begins by drawing a card and then the player either plays a card (or cards) or withdraws from the current tournament. Played cards must be the same color as the tournament and the total value played by the player must be higher than any player still in the tournament. Thus, if Robert starts a yellow tournament with a 3, Henry must play cards with a value of more than 3 to remain in the tournament. If John later plays cards totaling 7 to the table, when the play returns to Robert, he will have to play an additional 5 points or more to remain in the combat. Remember, white represents supporters and supporters can be played to any tournament. Green tournaments represent hand-to-hand combat and ALL cards in green tournaments are valued at “1,” even those already played and including supporters!

There are quite a few tricks Knizia has pulled in Ivanhoe, all of which lend interest. The Maidens are supporters and at a value of 6 are extremely powerful, but are played at some risk. If the player later must withdraw from the tournament, he must lose one of his chips.

The special cards lend much to the atmosphere of the contest and offer some great surprises as well. For instance? With the “Counter-Charge,” all cards of the highest value must be discarded from their “displays.” Thus, a player might be able to boost his lowly display to the best in view by forcing the other combatants to discard their 5s, if they were all the highest already on display. Using “Riposte.” the player may take the last card of any opponent’s display and add it to his own! “Ivanhoe” counters any special card and “Outwit” allows the player to trade any card in his display for a card in an opponents display.

The game seems to very much take on the characteristics of a tournament as players battle back and forth between the various skills. Sooner or later, players exhaust their hands and must sit and just draw new cards to recoup lost power. Even here, the character of the contest is accurately put forth. Sooner or later, the active combatants cannot increase the value of their displays and one by one fall to the wayside, leaving only the victor. The victor takes a chip of the same color as the tournament and begins another, with only one limitation – a player who has won a purple tournament may not start another purple tournament. The reason for this rule is that the winner of a purple tournament may take ANY color chip. A lucky deal and two consecutive purple wins might be too easy a victory.

I heartily recommend Ivanhoe. Reiner can plagiarize himself anytime and come out a winner. In fact, the card play is very reminiscent of the main phase in Knizia’s Taj Mahal (Spring 2000 GA REPORT), a Spiele des Jahres (Game of the Year) nominee last year. My only gripe is that GMT appears determined to gimp out on the card stock. Although the cards are thicker than those presented in Battle Line, they do not shuffle well. In attempting to meet their marketing price point, GMT must understand that their audience is comprised of hobbyists who will gladly pay for quality. Otherwise, GMT has done it up quite nicely. The artwork by Rodger B. MacGowen (probably best known for his art hat decorated many a wargame box) depicts the medieval theme quite nicely and is top notch. The rules are written well and, in our testing, the game has played well with 3, 4 or 5. Thank you, GMT! – – – – – – – – – Al Newman


 

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