Backstabbing. Betrayal. Underhanded deals. Welcome to the world of Intrigue. The third game on my Board GameQuest was an interesting one. 5 of us sat down to try out a new game of negotiation and sneakiness.
If you haven’t played it, the basic premise behind intrigue is everyone owns a palace. You also have 8 scholars that you want to send to work in the other players palaces. Each player has 4 rooms in their palace, that pay its workers a certain dollar amount ($1,000, $3,000, $6,000 and $10,000). When one of your workers is employed in someones place, you get that amount of money each turn. You have 4 different types of workers, and two of each.
The kicker is, everyone is competing for the same jobs. You send out your workers to an opponents palace to try and secure a job for him. How do you convince that player to hire your scholar over another players? That’s where your negotiation skills must come into play. That and bribes. Lots of bribes. Everything is on the table when it comes to deals. Money. Future Considerations. Favors. Threats.
The hard part is you must negotiate with the player and make your best offer. Then, if someone is competing for that same spot, they will make their best offer. Its up to the palace owner to decide whose offer to take. Bribes must be payed whether the deal is honored or not. If your worker happens to lose out on the job, they are banished to the island of misfits for the rest of the game.
I must admit, when the game first started we were all pretty tame. Deals were made, and more or less everything was fair. However, by round 3 (the game last 5 rounds), that all went out the window. Jobs started getting more and more scarce. With competition heating up for the positions, so did the deals and arguments. Sometimes someone would make a sizable ($10,000) bribe to get their scholar a choice position, only to get backstabbed and sent to the island. Sorry.
The highlight of our game came towards the end when the purple player, made a fantastic, passionate, logical argument (to the red palace owner) as to why his scholar should get a position and how it would benefit both of them. His competition for the job, the green player, made a negotiation that amounted to “Here’s $1k, I don’t care either way.” The Red player decided “fuck it” and gave it to the green player. The look of disbelief on the purple player, followed by the immediate laughter by the rest of us, really solidified just how much fun this game can be. And just so you don’t think the purple player was the only one shafted by Mr. Red, he had pretty much alienated the whole table by the end of the game. I’m pretty sure if this were the real world, we’d be invading his country right now.
Make no mistake, Intrigue will test friendships and relationships. Do not attempt this game with anyone who has a thin skin. Deals will be broken, feelings will be hurt. But for a game that’s really all just about the negotiation, it was priceless. It plays in about 45 minutes and offers a really unique game experience. I would place in in a similar vein to the old strategy game Diplomacy (ruining friendships since 1959). However, where a game of Diplomacy can take 8 hours or so, Intrigue can be played in under an hour. I would say, for maximum enjoyment, make sure to have 5 people. Alliances will be formed, and with an even amount, it’s pretty easy to teams to form.
If you are looking for a great game to start off an evening of gaming, then Intrigue will fit the bill nicely. You don’t even have to be a gamer to enjoy this gem, it’s family friendly and easy to learn.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $16. Not a bad price for a game that easy to teach and a quick play.
Final Score: 4 Stars – Great Game (if you have a thick skin)
• Components could be improved upon
• Will test friendships (yeah, it’s supposed to be here as well)