I decided to try the online version of Queen’s Necklace. Days of Wonder has these brilliant web sites for all their games, with forums and tips and extra stuff for the games. Queen’s Necklace, Fist of Dragonstones and Gang of Four also have online versions. They aren’t free (dollar a month for each game, it seems), but if you buy the game, you get a web card with a access code that let’s you try the game for free for one year. You can also play without buying a game, but there’s probably some limitations (I don’t know what).
Anyway, I tried the system to try Queen’s Necklace and found it pretty useful. It’s not as good as Brettspielwelt, but the user interface is much, much easier. Of course, the game selection is more limited. But anyway, the system works well and I’m quite sure these games are not coming to BSW any time soon.
The game! It’s about making jewels for the French court in the time before the Great Revolution. Alexandre Dumas and all that. Courtiers, kings and queens, musketeers… All the ingredients for great stories. The game looks good and rather refreshing. The pink and white colour scheme is rather girlish, but in a good way. I can see this game appealing to non-gamer girls — at least Johanna thought the game looked interesting. The components are great, as it seems to be with all Days of Wonder games. The cards (110 of them) are tarot-sized, that is very large. As with other Days of Wonder games, they include blanks you can use to make your own stuff. There are some tiles, which are very thick (3 mm!), some golden rings to use as markers and what’s best, a necklace! The necklace is pretty meager — leather string and a fake crystal, but still, it’s a nice detail.
Players collect gems and other useful cards, until a merchant card arrives. There are three merchants in the deck, evenly placed so that there are three sales during the game. When a sale comes up, players choose how many gems to display. All gems are revealed at the same time and the player with the most of each gem type (there are four types) scores those gems. The score depends on two things: fashion and rarity. Before the game begins, fashion is randomly chosen. Most fashionable gems get +30, the second most fashionable gems get +20 and so on. The same kind of process is done after gems are revealed, but then the amounts of gems are counted. The rarest gems get +30, second rarest +20 and so on. Value of gems can thus be 0-60. Players try to display the most fashionable gems and as little as is necessary to get the majority. Display too much, and the rarity suffers, display too little and you can’t sell.
Gems are sold and each player scores the value of the gems they can sell. Game ends after third sale, and the winner is the player with most money. Cards are acquired with different money. Each player has ten ducats to use each turn and five objects (gems, utility cards) to choose from. Each item has a price range. When the card comes into play, a ring marker is placed on the highest price. Whenever someone declines to buy the card, the price is lowered. If nobody buys the item, after four or five rounds it’s removed. The system is rather clever and forces some tough decisions, mostly whether to buy to get something or to prevent your left-hand neighbour from getting something even better.
The utility cards are an interesting bunch and will take some practise to figure out. There are musketeers, thiefs, forgers, alchemists, cardinals, King and Queen and so on. I already mentioned the rings, which allow players to sell more gems. King can prevent a sale of one gem type (King doesn’t pay), Queen allows players to take cards before nobody else has an opportunity to buy them. Musketeers protect from forgers and thiefs. If you get three, you can also steal the Queen’s Necklace from it’s current owner. Yes, the famous necklace… It’s a card, and it works against the King. Player with the necklace card must wear the necklace so everybody knows who has it. It will cancel the King’s effect and the player of King card must pay 50 point tribute to the holder of Queen’s Necklace. That’s quite heavy, considering I won the game I played having about 250-300 points.
The game was rather entertaining, even though I wasn’t completely sure of what I was doing. There’s a certain learning curve, but it’s about one game, I’d say. So don’t play Queen’s Necklace hoping you’d figure it out the first time you play it. Second game should be better, at least I think I’ll know better next time. I will definitely try the game again, it was short (about 15 minutes with three players, probably bit more played off-line — box says 30-45 minutes) and fun.
It’s for two to four players. I have now tried the game with three, and I think it will work with four as well. How it works with two remains a mystery. I’ll probably play it with Johanna sooner or later, considering how she liked the looks of the game so I’ll let you know. If the other Days of Wonder games I got are this good, they’re doing well.