Reviewed by Marty Goldberger

MANITOU (Goldsieber; about $10)

To buffalo hunt or not to buffalo hunt, THAT is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to endure the spears and arrows of competing hunters or to attempt to capture opposing tribesmen is a question the player has to answer before placing each card on the hunting grounds. You don’t have to be a fan of Shakespeare or Gene Autry to enjoy Manitou, Günter Burkhardt’s game of competition on the Great Plains.

Manitou is a “pure card game” for two to four players. Best, and most challenging, with four players, Manitou is enjoyable with two and three as well. A four player game takes perhaps 45 minutes. The game falls into the category of games in which the players all have the same hand/deck of cards. As it involves bidding for ‘+’ cards and avoiding ‘-‘ cards, it travels familiar territory but that’s where the familiarity ends.

Game set-up is simple. There are three types of cards: “Hide Thief”, “Tribal” and “Buffalo”. The seven “Hide Thief” penalty cards (-10 points each) are set to one side. Each player selects a Tribe (a set of 22 identically color-coded cards). A set of Tribal cards contains two types of cards: 11 Hunters (values ranging from 1…10) and 10 Great Warriors (two each of five types with capabilities set up in a variation of a rock-paper-scissors-match pattern. As usual in such designs, the strongest can be defeated be the weakest.). There is also an Interaction summary card (showing who defeats who). The fifteen Buffalo cards are divided into their “Small Herd” (values 1…7) and “Large Herd” (values 9…13) categories and the two herds are separately shuffled.

Each round the dealer lays out three Hunting Grounds each with one or two Herd cards, value side visible. One is always a Small Herd card, another is always a Large Herd card & a Small Herd card. The third Hunting Ground’s composition varies with the number of players. With two, three, four players it is respectively: A Small Herd, a Large Herd, and a Large Herd & a Small Herd. The three hunting grounds should be well separated on the table. You’ll need the room!

Each player secretly selects his/her hand from available/remaining Hunters & Great Warriors. The Dealer chooses seven cards, the other player(s) eight cards. Each player then shuffles his/her (7 or 8) chosen cards and draws three to make a hand. The player to the left of the dealer starts, the others following in clockwise order. The basic turn is to play one card and replenish. Ha! Sounds simple but most plays affect one or more opponents.manitoubox

On a turn, each player places one card from his hand onto any one of the Hunting Grounds and, if available, draws a replacement card from his deck. A neat feature of game-design is that each players’ cards are placed on his/her side of the Hunting Ground in which they compete.

There is no limit to the number of Hunters a player may place at each Hunting Ground or in the number of players that may place Hunters there. A player may have active (that is, face UP) Great Warriors at more than one Hunting Ground. However, only one active Great Warrior may be at each Hunting Ground. A player placing a second Great Warrior at a Hunting Ground at which he/she already has an active Great Warrior, places that card on top (such that the identity of the bottom card is still visible).

If a player places a Great Warrior at a Hunting ground on which another player has an active Great Warrior, a trial of strength immediately takes place. If unequal strengths, then the defeated card (which might be the one just placed) becomes “inactive” and turned face down, the winner is unaffected. If equal strengths, they cancel each other out and BOTH are turned face down. But wait, what if a player has 2 Great Warriors at that Hunting Ground? Only the topmost card is involved in the contest. A player may not have more than two face-up Great Warriors on the same Hunting Ground. If any have been defeated and flipped face-down, that player may now place additional Great Warriors onto that hunting ground within the 2-face-up-per-player restriction. Hunt results are determined after the dealer places his seventh card (and the others return their 8th’s to their respective available piles).

First, determine which player has so many tribesmen out hunting that he/she cannot protect his gains from raiders. Total the strengths of each players’ PLACED Hunters. The player with the highest total for that Hunt takes a ‘-10 points’ Hide Thief card, adding it to his scoring pile. If a tie, the tied players each take a Hide Thief card.

Second, collect buffalo. Each Hunting Ground is resolved separately. Great Warriors cannot collect buffalo. If no one played a HUNTER card at this site, the Buffalo Herd(s) are removed from play. If just one player placed (a) Hunter(s) at this site, that player gets all the buffalo (both cards if two herds) and adds the card(s) to his scoring pile. If more than one player has placed Hunters, then total each player’s Hunter strength points at that Hunting Ground. If a tie for most points, no one collects and all buffalo are removed from play. If there is a clear winner, that player takes a buffalo card (hopefully having enough sense to take the more valuable if there are two herds at that ground). If there are two Herds at that ground, and there is a clear second strongest, that player takes the other herd card. If there are two herds and there is a tie for second strongest, that remaining herd card is removed from play.

Third, capture prisoners. Each Hunting Ground is resolved separately. If there is an active Great Warrior, the owning player takes all of the other players’ Hunters and defeated Great Warriors. Place them with the collected buffalo. Hunters and Great Warriors remaining on each site are returned to the owning players. (All players get their cards back from a Hunting Ground with no active Great Warrior.)

Now the deal passes to the next player in clockwise order to begin the next hunt. A game consists of three rounds (Hunts). At the end of the third Hunt (round), the player with the most combined points (with Prisoners worth +1 point per card whether a Hunter or Great Warrior plus face value points for buffalos minus points for Hide Thieves cards) wins.

Your decision at the beginning of a Hunt of which cards to use is critical. At the end of the Hunt you may have to play cards that cannot gain you points. At first glance it appears that you use all of your tribesmen cards (3 Hunts x 7 cards = 21 tribesmen). However, it is almost a certainty that some of the cards you play in the first two rounds will be returned to your Tribe and be available for subsequent re-use in later Hunts.

Players need to discern the progress of a Hunt at each instant. Card placement onto the playing surface/table is player-position specific and the deck contains clearly marked and differently colored cards.

The concept of playing on ‘your’ side of each Hunting Ground makes it easy to determine which players are contesting what sites. This make the earth-tones well-separated color-coding of the tribes almost superfluous. The graphics on the cards are very good. Each of the Great Warriors cards’ rock-paper-scissors-match situations are printed on the cards and the Summary card speeds up play. But I do have two complaints.

My minor complaint is that the numbers on the cards are done in a type face I find annoying. Not hard to read, just too cutesy. The major is the Hide Thief rules. The ‘-10’ seems excessive. You need to avoid over-committing Hunters and therefore being zapped with Hide Thief penalty cards. It is particularly painful if there is a tie as ALL receive the same penalty.

Günter Burkhardt uses an unusual theme to good advantage. Manitou is a fun game to play. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Marty Goldberger


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Winter 2002 GA Report Articles


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