At heart Bzyzanz is a simple set collection game. It makes up for such a humble core by adding a really interesting auction mechanic. The game's theme encourages players to consider themselves traders in one of the Byzantine markets trying to collect lots of goods to sell. Lack of solid theme isn't a problem
The game's components are simply a deck of cards made up of one of six types of goods in values from 1 to 4 and grey wildcards.
In a nice touch for a card game, two picture cards are put together to form a little Byzantine market picture under which cards representing picking order are placed. (more on those later)
The game is played over several rounds and the object is to end up with as many complete sets of 3 cards as possible that can be cashed in at the end of the round. A hand-limit of 7 prevents anyone going into the next round with too many cards. The value of a set of three cards of the same type is the highest number on any card in the set. A set of three wildcards is worth 5 points. A set can have one or two wildcards added to it, but its value is the highest card of a goods type.
These high cards are kept face down in front of the players for end-game scoring, the two lower valued cards are discarded into the box.
The meat of each round is an auction. For each player, one of the picking-order cards (numbered 1 to N) are turned over. Starting with the highest numbered picking order card, that many cards are dealt out and auctioned off.
The bidding is straightforward. Each player can play one or more cards from their hand. Only the numbers, not the types of the cards are important (Wild cards have value zero). Bidding continues until everyone has passed. Bids can only be raised by adding cards to those already laid face up in front of the player.
Once every other player has passed, the winner places all their bid cards into the market, takes the picking-order-card, and takes the set of cards they have just won. They must discard one of the new cards into the market.
Play continues with each picking-order card, players who have already won an auction don't take part and the final player bids nothing but also receives no cards, their single card goes into the market and they receive the 1st place picking-order card.
The market is a really central part of the game. Each player's bid and one card from each of the won sets is placed into the market sorted by goods type (wild cards are separate). By picking-order, players may take a single type of goods card from the market. Any remaining goods types are discarded. In this way, players who received smaller sets of goods are rewarded by getting the first picks.
Set creating happens as described earlier, the picking order cards are returned and the next round starts with a new auction.
Notes on gameplay.
Because you're bidding with cards that would otherwise form sets, it's important to not form sets too early, nor waste 4-value cards on bidding. Also, these cards will help someone in the picking stage from the market, so it's important that you don't end up putting too many cards of a single type into the market. In a similar way, players later in the bidding order can make sure to get the set they want by bidding cards of a single they know they'll be able to pick up again.
Knowing what cards will be needed to bid for the next round is important. Also, there's some tension in not knowing if any of the following auction sets is going to be worth having at all. At least there's the market. Losing an auction that you've forced someone to bid up is almost certainly a good thing since you get an earlier pick from the market.
The wildcards are a lot less powerful that they appear, certainly putting together 3 of them into a single set is a move of desperation. They can be much more valuable filling out sets with 3 or 4 value cards.
There's an issue with the basic game where someone can be forced to take a rubbish set with a late-picking-order if everyone before them passes. I've suggested a no forced buying variant that fixes this.
This came out around Essen 2008 to a decided lack of fanfare, I decided to add a copy of Byzanz to my game collection since I'm a fan of many different lightweight auction games. I suspect this game might have been more popular if it had had an English release, but nicely translated rules are easily available for download in the files section.
I quite enjoy the game, although it's extremely light fare. It provides some entertainment in a short format although the decisions probably aren't hard or tense enough to warrant many replays, it's an excellent game if you find yourself
If you like lightweight bidding games, I have a geeklist of lightweight auction games with small descriptions of each that might provide inspiration.
Somewhat reminiscent of Katzenjammer Blues, which I just added to your aforementioned geeklist. I'll give Byzanz a try and see how it compares.
Can you believe that it's football season already? Still seems like the middle of summer. Oh well, go G-Men!
Byzanz does have some of the feel of Katzenjammer Blues, Gary, and like the Knizia title, has more meat than the simple rules would indicate. I'm still trying to figure out the proper strategy. It's another interesting design from Emanuele Ornella (Oltre Mare, Hermagor).
Having encountered Traders of Osaka this weekend, the idea of games in which goods and currency to buy those goods are one and the same is stirring around in my head. Think there's enough for a geeklist?
I have not yet determined if the game is merely lightweight and random or if I have just not figured out how to play it optimally.
- Last edited Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:37 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Jul 20, 2009 9:48 pm