Posted by: gschloesser | August 10, 2011

Queen’s Necklace

Design by:  Bruno Faidutti and Bruno Cathalla
Published by:  Days of Wonder
Number of Players:  3 – 4, 45 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser
 

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Eric Hautemont of Days of Wonder while attending the Gathering of Friends get-together in April 2003. He informed me that Days of Wonder was taking an approach of releasing games with very high production qualities, even though this meant that they might carry a higher retail price. He felt that customers would appreciate the high quality and the games would gain a good reputation.

Only time will tell if this marketing approach succeeds, but I certainly can’t argue with the quality of the games they have released so far. The latest two – Mystery of the Abbey and Queen’s Necklace – are both top notch in the production category and include some little features and components that, although really unnecessary for game play, are very nice touches and add atmosphere to the games. Queen’s Necklace even comes with an actual necklace!

Bruno Faidutti has teamed with Bruno Cathala to give us Queen’s Necklace. As I’ve mentioned several times previously and is quite evident from some of our pleasant exchanges on various internet gaming forums, Bruno F’s tastes in games don’t exactly match mine. I always approach his games with a certain degree of trepidation. Still, I marvel at his creativity and would be hard-pressed to find a more friendly and gentle man.


I had the tremendous honor and pleasure of learning Queen’s Necklace from both Bruno and Eric while at the Gathering. Experiences such as this fall within the realm of “surreal” for me. Of course, there was the fear that I wouldn’t enjoy the game and be forced to render less than favorable remarks if asked my opinion. To my great relief, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and felt it was high-up on my scale of “Bruno favorites”.

Each player represents one of the king’s jewelers, attempting to craft and sell the most desirable and valuable jewels in the kingdom. Players purchase various gems with which to craft their jewels. In addition, they must spend money to influence (or “bribe”, in more crude terms!) various members of the king’s court – including the king himself! Three times per game, players display their gems in hopes of selling them and gaining a healthy profit.

There are four types of gems in the game: diamonds, emeralds, rubies and amber. These gems are represented on four tiles as well as on numerous cards in the deck. The four tiles are mixed and randomly placed in a row on the table, which determines the order of their “fashion-ability”. These are marked by placing the four “fashion” tiles, one each above each of the gems. The gem that is most fashionable (the one placed underneath the “#1” tile) is worth more than the gem that is least fashionable. The price ranges from a high of 30 to a low of zero. This “fashion” order can be altered during the course of the game by the play of the appropriate card (the Favorite).

The thick deck of cards contains 59 gem cards, depicting from 1 – 3 gems apiece. There are also over 35 special cards, including various characters, rings, etc. These are thoroughly mixed and four are dealt to each player. Then, three merchant cards are divided and dispersed into the deck, one of which is mixed into the final five cards. Five of these cards are then revealed and placed face-up in a row.

Each card depicts a 5-space track which displays the cost to purchase a card. The cost decreases each turn that the card remains un-purchased, eventually causing it to be discarded if no one purchases it after four turns. The current cost of each card is indicated by a small gold ring that slid down with each passing turn.

A player’s turn is quite simple:

1) Influence. The player may play as many influence cards (blue cards) from his hand as he desires. These cards are characters from the king’s court and can be used to perform a variety of actions. Some of the cards include:

a) Confessor: Look at all of the cards in an opponent’s hand. Very useful to gain information as to which cards a player is collecting.

b) Forger: Choose a player and a gem type. If possible, that player must discard a card of that gem type. If he has none, he must show you his entire hand to prove it.

c) Thief: Steal a random card from an opponent. Watch out for that Musketeer, though!

d) Courtier: The player has an extra three ducats to spend this turn.

e) Favorite: The player may cause one gem to become the favorite. The tiles are rearranged accordingly. 

2) Card Purchase. A player has 10 ducats to spend on the purchase of cards from the face-up display. He can divide amongst the cards in whichever way he sees fit. No change is given and money cannot be kept for future turns, however, so “use it or lose it”!

3) Devaluation. Any cards remaining on the table are devaluated. The gold ring on each card is moved down one space on the cost track. This makes these cards less expensive and more attractive to the next player.

After devaluating the remaining cards, new cards are revealed until there are once again five cards in the face-up display. If a Merchant card is revealed, play is temporarily halted and a ‘Jewel Sale’ occurs.

The jewel sale is comprised of three steps:

1) Displaying the jewels. Each player secretly decides how many of his gems he will offer for sale, as well as any special characters or cards he will play to somehow influence the sale. Players separate their cards into face-down rows, each containing one type of gem and any special cards being played with that gem. When everyone is ready, these cards are revealed. It is wise to keep the number of cards secret until everyone is ready.

2) Rarity. The number of each type of gem being offered for sale by ALL of the players is tallied. The four ‘rarity’ tiles are placed below the gem tiles to indicate the rarity of these gems. For example, if there are fewer emeralds being offered for sale than any other gem type, then the “1” rarity tile is placed below the emerald tile. The rarer the gem, the more it will fetch when sold.

3) Selling jewels. For each type of gem displayed, the player with the greatest number being offered for sale gets to sell those gems. These gems, no matter how many displayed, fetch ONE price. The gems are sold as a package and not individually. The amount the player receives is found by totaling the numbers on the “fashion” and “rarity” tiles that appear above and beneath that gem. This can range from a low of “0” to a high of “60”. Certain cards played with those gems may alter this number. The displayed gems and special cards are discarded. All other players simply discard the cards of that type that they had displayed and get nothing in return. Very, very tough.

This process is repeated for each of the four gem types, with the money earned being recorded on a piece of paper. This is perhaps the only component deficiency in the game; there should have been some sort of score track included.

Once all sales are completed, the ‘rarity’ markers are set aside and play continues. This entire procedure continues until the third merchant is revealed. A final jewel sale occurs and the player with the greatest accumulated money wins the king’s favor and is victorious.

Adding spice to the game are numerous special characters and items that can be purchased by the players. In addition to the blue “influence” cards discussed earlier, there are numerous other cards that can be played at various times during the course of the game. There are too many to describe in detail here, but here are a few:

a) Astrologer: Discard immediately after purchasing it and draw the top card from the deck into your hand. This is a sneaky way to get a card into your hands and foil the card-counters in the group!

b) Musketeer: This card can be used to cancel an ‘attack’ by the Forger or foil the thief. Further, three musketeer cards can be played to steal the Queen’s Necklace from its current owner.

c) Queen: When a card is drawn to replenish the five face-up cards, this player can take the card directly into his hand.

d) Ring: This VERY powerful card allows the player to sell TWO jewels instead of just one during a sale. However, the card MUST be played with a particular type of gem and only has effect if the player is successful in selling that type of gem during a jewel sale.

e) King: The King cancels the sale of a specific gem type during a jewel sale. Nasty, nasty. However, beware the Queen’s Necklace!

f) Queen’s Necklace: The player who acquires this card also takes the actual necklace included in the game. During a jewel sale, the player may play this card with a particular gem type. IF the King card was played by an opponent on that type of gem, the sale of that gem type is NOT cancelled. Further, the player of the King card must pay the holder of the Queen’s Necklace a tribute of 50 ducats. Ouch!! There is only one Queen’s Necklace card in the deck, though, so once it is played, this threat is removed.

Since the vast majority of cards are acquired from the face-up display, astute players will know which players possess the powerful cards. They should also have a good idea as to the current distribution of gem cards. Of course, since each player receives four face-down cards at the beginning of the game, there is still an element of uncertainty involved.

The real tension in the game is present during the jewel sales. Deciding how many cards of a type to play is vital. You want to play enough to guarantee that you will have the most displayed and consequently be able to sell that jewel. On the other hand, the fewer of that type of gem played, the rarer it will be and, thus, fetch a higher price when sold. You also want to use your special cards wisely, particularly those that will double a sale for you. A dilemma, to be sure!

With so many special powers floating around, the game does have a certain amount of chaos present. That’s not surprising since this is a Faidutti game. Still, it seems rather manageable and not over-powering. Yes, the game can have a bit of a repetitive feel as the same “purchase cards” phase is repeated throughout the game. However, there are enough special cards to shake things up a bit and keep things interesting. Further, the choices that surface during the jewel sale phase are significant and keep this game from becoming stale. I don’t know the life-span of the game, but for now, I’m perfectly happy to play it and introduce others to its charms.

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Responses

  1. Although I understand why the auctions in Queen’s Necklace should be engaging, in practice they just don’t interest me very much. Player interaction is almost limited to just the three auctions in the giant deck, so this is a pretty solitary experience. As far as bling goes, the pricing rings are fiddly and the necklace is hard to put on. I guess I don’t wear jewelry very well. (5/10)

  2. I did not like it. The randomness was to much for me. 3/10


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