Welcome to the high council, how long will last?
“My Queen the dragons have returned, we have no army to defend ourselves with and to top it off those blasted druids are demanding equal rights Personally I blame Viceroy Steven for this whole mess” states Spymaster Andy.
“Very well, Viceroy Steven have you anything to say in defence?” inquired her majesty.
“But I was the Spymaster until you switched our roles last turn Andy” exclaims Steven totally breaking character.
“No excuses Viceroy Steven, you may have been viceroy for a less than 3 minutes but you have failed this kingdom for the last time. You are to be flayed, boiled in oil, hanged, drawn, quartered and cursed to perdition” I decree channelling my inner queen.
The Game of Blame is a fast one, the packaging states an estimated play time of around 30 minutes. I found the sessions I played to last around 15-20 depending largely on the number of players. The concept is simple, The kingdom is going to hell and you need to pin the blame on someone. There is no set number of winners or losers. Each person is scored individually and trying to get less than 4 points.
Why does no one ever trust the Spymaster?
Each player is given a role on her Majesty’s council which grants them a special ability. For instance the Wizard can swap hands when they play 2 cards in a turn. The Viceroy can prevent their role being changed at the cost of drawing 3 more cards. Players start with 3 cards and take it in turn to play up to 3 cards from their hand onto the blame pile. Play 0 cards and draw 3, Play 1 card and you draw 1. Play 2 and you swap the locations of the roles of the last emblems showing on the pile. Lastly if you play 3 cards you can accuse another player which we will come back to shortly. Any card/s can be played as long as the new card/s share a coloured emblem with the card below.
Your role plays a vital part in game-play as this dictates which issues are your responsibility. When a player is blamed the accuser goes through the blame pile counting the number of emblems matching the two players roles. The role with the most issues under their responsibility is to blame and takes the entire pile into there hand. In a tie the accuser takes the blame. Whenever someone else takes the blame you can put a card into your “Secrets” which is a personal discard pile.
The question is not “Who do I blame ?” but rather “Who do I blame first?”
The Game of Blame is quick, and there is often an obviously correct move to make on your turn. There is not much you can do to defend against a sudden role switch or accusation unless you are the the General or Viceroy. When it comes to roles being switched you can take some solace in the knowledge that you were not accused by the person who just switched with you until there next go which is often enough time for another role swap to be played and save your metaphorical bacon.
Once the deck is empty everyone counts up the amount of responsibility in their hand which determines their fate. Over 10 and you meet the same fate as viceroy Steven. As mentioned there are no real winners in game of blame just people who didn’t lose as badly as others. The punishments given out to those with more than 4 or more responsibilities at the end are all bad endings. Thinking about it however these punishments could easily be changed and made into real world forfeits. Which might just be the way to get people to take their responsibilities to the kingdom seriously.
When you play the Game of Blame, you win or you die
So now that you know the rules let’s talk about the important bit, what’s it like to play? I have had the joy of playing with two distinct groups of players so far: the first being my immediate family, and the second being several friends I have known since secondary school. Which hopefully gives you some context for the following. I have been called more foul things playing Game of Blame than any other game in my entire life. Drunken games of monopoly included.
There is something so satisfying about filling the pile with issues relating to your role and then switching roles with someone. I think it’s the sight of them taking the fat stack of cards in the centre turning their hand into a deck. For me personally the Game of Blame is very much a case of how badly can I mess up my role and then shirk off the responsibility to someone else before telling the queen all the problems currently going down.
It took me an embarrassing amount of time to notice the small stories on each card. My lacklustre eyesight mixed with the font and background colour being rather similar made me think that it was pseudo text to add something extra to each of the cards in addition to the pictures. These little stories on the cards however are mostly pretty funny and help paint a better picture of the world in which the game takes place, that is if the players take the time to read them.
How do you improve this game, well that’s a secret
However potentially my favourite aspect of Game of Blame is how simple the surface level game-play is. My mother very rarely wishes to play any kind of tabletop game with the rest of us as she get’s frustrated with rules quickly. Even more so when you explain rather than show. It took about 3 minutes to go over all the rules. There is also a reminder card which informs you what happens when you play any given number of cards. Since the first round we played the game has ended up living downstairs on the coffee table. Only leaving when I manage to steal it away to take out with me to play a few rounds with friends.
The only improvement I can think of would be for an additional method to place a card into your secrets pile. Currently there are two ways to do this, when someone else takes the blame or using the Treasurers special ability. The Treasure can play 0 cards, draw 3 new ones and then place a card into their secrets pile. I would like to see this replace the current standard of play 0 draw 3 for all roles. Changing the ability of the treasure to something new for instance ‘Trader, play 1 card, draw 2, switch a card of your choice from your hand with the person who’s role is last on the pile’.
Simple, elegant, treacherous
I have yet to develop any issues with Game of Blame, it’s a rather spectacular little game that is easy to pick up and much harder to put down. With fast paced yet surprisingly deep game-play that the right players can easily add more to. If my copy was not under indefinite house arrest it would be my current pocket game. I wholeheartedly recommend that you pick up Game of Blame. A perfect warm up game for game night or a new pocket game. I give Game of Blame 7/10.
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