Reviewed by: Herb Levy

(Pegasus Spiele/eggertspiele, 2 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; about $55)

rokoko1The court of Louis XV of France was one of opulence. Royalty knew how to live and, judging from this gaming experience, certainly how to dress. Players, as the heads of fashion designer concerns, compete to create the most alluring dresses (and men’s outfits too) as well as to beautify the palace to earn the most prestige in this Matthias Cramer, Louis Malz and Stefan Malz design: Rokoko.

Each player begins with an identical “staff”. Staff is represented by cards and come in three varieties: Master (who can do anything), Journeyman (who can do five of the six available actions) and Apprentice (who can only do half of the available actions of the game). Players also start with a 15 Livre (money) bankroll and, in keeping with the dress designing theme, 1 stock of lace (a white cube) and yarn (a gray wooden cylinder).

The board is a stylized layout of the palace. The palace itself is divided into five different halls. Surrounding the palace are “decorations”: statues, musicians (and yes, they are considered decorations), the terrace (upon which royals will watch the endgame’s fireworks display) and fountains. The board also has a section for obtaining cloth, lace and yarn (needed to make outfits), available dress designs (and, when we say dresses, this includes male designs) to create, an area to hire more workers and a place to curry the Queen’s Favor.

Each player begins with an identical staff of five cards: 2 Masters, 2 Apprentices and 1 Journeyman. From those five cards, a player may choose his initial hand of three, with the two unchosen cards making up that player’s Employee (aka draw) deck.

On a turn, each player (starting with the start player and continuing clockwise) reveals one of his cards and decides which, of the permissible actions that employee may do, the player wants done. (Most of these cards also provide a bonus action that can be done after the main action is performed.) The six possible actions are:

1. Claim the Queen’s Favor – Only a Master or Journeyman may do this. This allows the player to take the Queen’s Favor card which will allow him to go first next round. He also receives a bonus of 5 Livre. (This card is returned to the board after the round is over, available to be claimed by anyone the next round. If a player should have the Queen’s Favor in his possession when the game ends, that Favor is also worth 3 Prestige Points.)

2. Acquire Resources – This is possible for any employee. This allows the player to pick up supplies to make outfits. Each tile displays some bolts of cloth (from 0 to 3, in red, green, yellow and/or blue) and yarn and/or lace. There are three “segments” of tiles and their cost depends on how many tiles are in a segment, ranging from 2 Livre (if three or four tiles are present), to 1 (if two tiles are present) to free (if only one tile remains in a segment). Chosen tiles may be kept for future use (but only if using the colored cloth) or exchanged IMMEDIATELY for yarn and/or lace.

rokoko23. Make A Dress – Dresses (and men’s coats) on display cost money to purchase (from 0 to 8) in addition to material. Each outfit shows the cloth and/or yarn and/or lace needed to make it. Only Journeymen or Masters may create fashion and some outfits REQUIRE the services of a Master to make. Once the necessary supplies are returned to supply, the player may sell the dress (for its listed monetary value) OR place it in one of the five hallways of the palace, placing one of the markers of his color on it. (Not only will it score Prestige Points during final scoring for itself but players will also earn an All Halls bonus if they are the first, second or third player to have an outfit in each of the five halls). Some hall slots are restricted to only those outfits made by a Master; some spaces award additional rewards (another material tile, more money, more yarn or lace) to the player occupying them

4. Hire a New Employee – Only the Master may do this. At the start of each round, four new workers are available for purchase. They can be Masters, Journeymen or Apprentices. As with resources, cost is a sliding scale, with the first employee costing 5 Livre, the second costing 3, the third 1 and the fourth free. Purchased employees go directly into your hand, ready to be used during the very round they are recruited.

5. Depute Your Employee – Any employee can do this and, basically, this is a way to empty your deck of less valuable cards by discarding a card and getting its value in money (10 for a Master, 7 for a Journeyman, 4 for an Apprentice). But you can’t totally trash you deck; you MUST have at least four employees left after taking this action.

6. Fund A Decoration – Another action available to all employees. This is a strict position for money action: you pay and you can place one of your markers on a space on the Terrace or on a Musician or a Statue or occupy a space (but only ONE space) on the upper or lower row of the Fountain. All of these spaces are worth Prestige Points at the end of the game and some can do a bit more.

After all cards have been played, players collect income – a basic 5 Livre plus (if they occupy a space on the upper Fountain row) 1 for each Decoration they have funded plus (if they occupy a space on the bottom Fountain row) 1 for each outfit in any of the halls of the palace. Then, all available outfits on the board slide down to fill in empty spaces (if any remain on the first two slots, they are simply removed from play), empty resource tile spaces are filled, unchosen Employees are removed with a new set of four revealed and the next round begins. Players now draw three cards from their draw deck. If there are less than three cards available, used cards in their discard pile are taken with cards from those discards chosen to fill out the hand of three, with the remainder available for use on a subsequent round. Play continues until the seventh round is concluded. At that point, we score.

Every 10 Livres handed into the bank scores 1 PP. (Excess funds are kept to be used as a tie-breaker.) As mentioned, the player with the Queen’s Favor card collects 3 PP. Some employee cards will grant endgame scoring bonuses (for total cards in your deck, sets of dresses and men’s outfits etc.). And then we turn to scoring the board.

Presence in each of the 5 halls of the palace awards Prestige Points to the players having the most and second most dresses there. (Tie? Then having dresses in the Master slots will break the tie. Still tied? Then having the musician in the hall will break the tie in your favor.) Majority in the Fireworks area also awards PPs but it does even more.

With the Fireworks majority scored, players may MOVE nobles in the top hall who are wearing dresses of theirs onto the terrace (to “watch” the fireworks), specifically – and only – onto spots they have claimed. These spots act as MULTIPLIERS to the PP value of the dresses. So, for example, a dress worth 4 PPs moved onto a doubler space will score 8 PPs for the player. (This is, IN ADDITION, to the basic 4 PPs the dress is worth all by itself.) For each Statue spot occupied, a player will earn 2 PPs for each different type of outfit (red, green, yellow and blue), up to 1 of each for a possible total of 8 PPs. (A second Statue spot claimed by a player will allow him to do a second full or partial set but the same outfit cannot be used twice.) Finally, all property marker values are added (those for dresses, decorations, and the All Halls bonus) and PPs awarded. The player with the highest total wins.

While the actual game mechanics are fairly straightforward, it is the endgame scoring that can make your eyes change sockets. Fortunately, the rules give a step by step guide to calculations that is easy to follow and covers it all. (The back of the rulebook also clearly details all of the bonuses that employee cards grant, a very valuable play aid.) The strength of the game is that it provides multiple – and viable – paths to victory. Although there is a deck-building element in the game, it is not the major factor here and it is handled a bit differently as you can choose (to a degree) precisely which cards you wish to use, including adding cards to your hand to take additional actions. Actions are the focus here as you need to maximize each employee’s possibilities – making the most of resources on hand – to put yourself on a winning trajectory. For this reason, it may pay to “sell off” some lesser cards for quick funds and to streamline your “employee pool”, recycling more useful cards more quickly. Still, bonus abilities make for some difficult decisions.

Masters can do everything but Journeymen and Apprentices often offer some very valuable extras (money, another tile purchase, creating an outfit or buying a decoration at a discount etc.) to more than compensate for their inadequacies in other areas. These extras can help shape your tactics as the game unfolds. Money can be tight, particularly at the beginning, so be prepared to sacrifice a fashion (or two) for some cash. Buying spaces on the board at a cost of 12 or 15 or 20 or more can seem exorbitant but, since 10 Livres is the equivalent of 1 PP and those spaces can translate into 4, 6, 8 or more PPs, the rate of return is well worth it. Keep in mind, however, that with only seven rounds, the time to make your mark is very limited. Long term planning is good but it can be easily thwarted, especially with 4 or 5 players, as opportunities can evaporate before your next turn. Rokoko rewards the player who can focus on more immediate goals while keeping “his eye on the prize”.

Rokoko is a game with an unusual theme. But, like the fashion geniuses it simulates, the game manages to weave a spectacular pattern – not in cloth but in game playing excellence. Highly recommended.

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.

Winter 2015 GA Report Articles


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