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Review: Histrio Board Game

OFFWORLD - OTHER

Richard Cosgrove becomes a theatrical manager is Bombyx's superb Histrio...

Ever wanted to be in charge of a troupe of travelling performers in ye olden days? If so, then Histrio from Bombyx Games could well be the game for you. Every year at the Munificent Theatrical Festival, his lordship King Leonus XIV presides over the festivities and demands a performance from each of the troupes present. Wanting to please the King, you and your fellow managers travel the land to assemble a group of players and put a performance worthy of his appreciation. There is one small problem, however, in that the King can be very indecisive and is prone to changing his mind as to whether he wants to see a comedy or a tragedy. It’s you job, then, to assemble a troupe able to put on the required play, while attempting to influence the King’s mood in your company’s favour.

The object of the game is to amass the most Ecus, the currency of the kingdom, which can be achieved by putting on plays that please the king, being the best play, and/or using Secret Request cards to achieve success based on your circumstances. The game lasts for two seasons, with the player holding the most Ecus are the end of game being the victor.

Setting Up

Histrio is essentially a card game, so there is no board as such, just a sturdy cardboard strip with lavish illustrations of each of the eight cities that you are able to travel to in your quest for players for your troupe, and a beautiful cardboard stage that takes a couple of minutes to assemble, as comes complete with a comedy/tragedy swingometer on top of it, and a revolving stage backdrop that represents the type of play currently being demanded by the King’s mood.

Each of the (up to) five players are given eleven beautifully moulded playing pieces, eight of which represent caravels that are used to travel to the eight cities that make up the kingdom and mark the places visited, and three representing stage managers. Each player is also given eight Travel cards, each of which details one of the eight cities, and three well-crafted plastic Ecus.

In addition to the Travel cards, there are three other kinds, split into two decks. There are 48 Encounter cards which are split between Performers, who can be either comedians or tragedians and have skill levels of 1 to 5 assigned to them (more on this later), and Acrobats, who have specific abilities and can be played once per season.

The second deck comprises 22 Secret Request cards which can be played at the end of each season to allow players to gain additional Ecus if certain conditions are met.

Finally one Encounter card is placed face up under each of the cities on the board and the game is on!

Gameplay

At the start of each round, each player places a Travel card face down which are then revealed simultaneously. If a player is the only one to select a city, then they get to resolve the card, or cards as the rounds progress. They will either collect an actor for their troupe, an amount of Ecus, or an Acrobat which is placed in front of them but do not become part of the actors company. Depending on the actor’s skill level, the player may be able to recall all of their caravels (which normally remain on the cities once visited, thus limited the amount of cities available to visit as the game progresses), steal an Ecu from a player of their choice, place a manager on the stage (receiving an Ecu for each manager on the stage, regardless of colour), or pay a one Ecu fine to the treasury.

Where there are two or more actor cards, the player may keep one of their choice, and discard the others. However, the discarded actors affect the King’s mood, so for example is a comedian of level 4 and a tragedian of level three were discarded, then the King’s mood would swing by a net 1 comedy point.

If, however, two or more players select the same city, then the encounter cards are discarded, but the King’s mood is still influenced by the net effect of the actors involved. As compensation, though, each player gets to pick a Secret Request card which may well help them at the end of the season, and game respectively.

Once each player has resolved their move, Travel cards are discarded and one new Encounter card is placed under each city, so that any cities unvisited in the first round will now have two cards, and so on.  Players then choose another Travel card and repeat the above until there are no further Encounter cards.

When this occurs for the first time, players are awarded Ecus depending on whether the net mood of their troupe matches the King’s mood, and are allowed to play one of their Secret Request cards.

All of the actors held by players are then discarded and season two begins, which is exactly the same as season one but players retain any Acrobats they have picked up in the first season.

At the end of season two, the player with the most Ecus is the winner.

Conclusion

Histrio is a great game, easy to pick up and playable in less than an hour. There is a certain amount of luck involved, but an element of strategy and forward thinking comes into play when considering which actors to pick up and which to discard, and their subsequent influence on the King’s mood.

The design of the game is beautiful, with lavish illustrations adorning the box, stage and cards and the moulded plastic pieces are beautifully designed and rendered.

We played with two players, and again with four, and the game definitely improved with the greater number of players but was still fun and enjoyable with two.

Histrio is highly recommended as an ideal after dinner game that can easily be played twice in an evening, and which will have a different outcome and require a different strategy each time.

5 stars

Many thanks to Tim at Esdevium Games for the review copy of Histrio.

Histrio (by Bombyx Games) is available now at an RRP of £34.99 - find your local stockist here!


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