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Subject: Review of Die Kutschfahrt Zur Teufelsburg rss

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Scott Tepper
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Adlung-Spiele is adept at squeezing an amazing amount of game into little teeny-weeny boxes. The image I have in my mind of this publisher is a cartoon assembly line with huge hammers pounding and funneling game bits into tiny packages. It’s a pity that American publishers won’t touch these games. I know it’s not the quality of these games they’re avoiding, but rather the minute profit margin available in a small card game.

Luckily for us though, Adlung-Spiele has the confidence in their product to translate their rules and game components into English. This is very clever. Since they know their games aren’t going to be picked up for production by other companies, why not produce their games so that they are more accessible to gamers in other countries.

Adlung-Spiele’s newest cardgame, Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg(Coachride to Devil’s Castle) by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach, which was introduced at Essen last year, follows in the footsteps of Die Fugger, Verrater, and Meuterer; All feel like there’s more “game” packed into them than a traditional cardgame.

Die Kutschfahrt feels innovative. The theme is definitely new. The 3-10 players are members of one of 2 secret societies, riding in a coach on their way to Devil’s Castle. Each brotherhood has a goal of collecting 3 specific objects. Once the members of a team have acquired the 3 items, one of them announces which of his teammates has the items, and they immediately win and declare supremacy over the other clan.

Sounds simple? But wait, there’s just one little thing I left out. At the beginning of the game, no one knows who is on their team. It’s up to the individual players, using mechanisms within the game, and a little intuition, to figure out who is the enemy, and who possesses the needed objects.

The components are simply a deck of 60 cards, broken into 5 categories, and a small book of rules. The rulebook is thorough, with detailed explanations of all of the different cards, but a couple of rule points are a little vague. A FAQ posted on Boardgamegeek clarifies the fuzzy areas.

At the beginning of the game, each player receives a Character card, which is simply a 2-sided picture of the same character. One side of the card has a shield icon in the upper left-hand corner. The reverse side has a knife icon. This card goes into the players’ hands.

Each player also receives 2 cards that are placed face down in front of them: an Association card, which states which of the two groups(either The Order of Open Secrets, or Brotherhood of True Lies) the player belongs to, and an Occupation card, which describes the rule that this player may break during the game.

If there are an odd number of players, everyone is given a Drink of Power card, which is placed in front of them on the table. The 21 Object cards are shuffled and one is dealt to each player. The remaining Object and Occupation cards are placed face down in separate draw piles. Any unused Character, Association, or Drink of Power cards are removed from play.

One thing must be said about the cards. They are strikingly beautiful! The artwork done by the talented Eckhard Freytag and Lukas Zach is incredibly ornate and completely evocative of the theme. I found myself mesmerized by the intricate artwork on the cards, both when opening the box for the first time, and again when playing the game.

A downside to the cards is their finishing. Not being an expert on the design of card manufacture, I don’t know if it is a result of the coating used, the type of paper, or the thickness of card stock, but I don’t think these cards will hold up well over time. After the first play of the game, I noticed that some of the cards were already starting to become nicked at the edges, exposing the cards white insides, resulting in a less than clean edge.

The gameplay is, as is often the case, easier than it would appear from the rulebook. On your turn you can do one of 4 things: propose an exchange of items with another player, attack another player, end the game by declaring your sect’s supremacy over the other, or pass.

I’ll get the easiest one out of the way first. If you pass, you don’t do anything on your turn. I can imagine a very rare instance where you might want to do this, but for the most part, you’re not going to pass on your turn.

If you propose an exchange of items with another player, you take an item from your hand and pass it facedown to another player. If the other player accepts your item, they must give you one of theirs. Why would you want to do this? Many of the cards trigger an action when they are traded away.

For example, if you offer someone the Secret Bag, and they accept it, you not only receive the card that they give you in return, you get to take an additional card from the draw pile. Some cards don’t automatically trigger an action when they are traded, but rather give you some sort of benefit at certain times during the game.

Attacking another player is the other main action that you may take on your turn. If you attack another player, you first declare which player will be the target of your attack, then place your Character card sword-side up on the table in front of you. The player you attacked places their Character card shield-side up. Going clockwise around the table, starting with the player on your left, the other players declare if they are going to support the attack, or defend against the attack, by placing their Character cards appropriate side up on the table in front of them. A player not involved in the direct attack or defense may choose to abstain from committing to either attack or defend.

To resolve the attack, you simply add up the swords and shields exposed. If there are more swords showing, the attacker wins. If there are more shields, the defender wins. Whoever is the winner of the skirmish gets to do one of two actions. They can either look at the loser’s Occupation and Brotherhood cards, or they can look at the loser’s Object cards and take one of them. In the instance where the winner takes a player’s only Object card, the winner of the skirmish must give their opponent one of his cards so that a player is never left with no Object cards in their hand.

If the attack results in an equal number of swords and shields, then the attacker simply draws an Object card from the draw pile.

So through these two main actions, trading and attacking, you may learn something about the other players and or exchange or acquire Item cards. Here is where the Object and Profession cards can shape the game.

Some of the Profession and Object cards allow you to add to the attack or defense of an attack. For example, The Bodyguard Profession card allows you to add +1 shield or sword in support to another player. The Poison Ring Item card lets you win in an attack that resulted in a standoff. Depending on the particular Profession card, and this is smartly printed on the cards, it may be used repeatedly or only once during the game.

Included amongst the Object cards are 3 Keys and 3 Goblets. If you are a member of the Order of the Open Secrets, your team needs to possess at least 3 Keys. If you belong to the Brotherhood of True Lies, your team needs to possess at least 3 Goblets.

I say “at least” because at the end of the game, some other objects can be counted as the goal items. One of the Secret Bags can count as a Key, the other as a Goblet. Remember the Drink of Power cards that are only distributed if there are an odd number of players? If your team has fewer members (it will be one less) than the other team, then you can count your Drink of Power as a Key or Goblet. This ameliorates the imbalance of your team having one fewer player.

How does the game end? If, on your turn, you possess between 1-3 of the items that your sect requires, and you believe that the remaining ones(3 minus the number you have) are in the possession of your teammates, then for your action you may declare your supremacy over the other team. You must reveal the appropriate item(s) in your possession, then name ONLY the members of your team that you believe to possess the remaining items. They must reveal both their affiliation and their items. If you were correct, then your team wins. If you are wrong, then the other team wins.

The feel of this game is strangely unique. It has a hint of Werewolf and Shadows Over Camelot, in that at the beginning of the game, you don’t know who to trust, but Die Kutschfahrt’s motif is different because instead of a large group against one or a couple of people who know they are the “bad guys”, everyone starts out this game similarly in the dark.

Part of the challenge and fun of this game is that while you’re trying to feel out the other players, they’re doing the same to you. Unlike other “traitor” games, you and the other players will send out hints and support to your teammates, hoping that the other players won’t pick up on them.

While you are trying to figure out who is and who isn’t on your team, you are also trying to acquire and find the 3 items that your team needs to win. You accomplish both of these tasks by judicious use of your Profession card, clever use of the items in your possession, keen decisions of when to attack and trade, care in the signals you give to your teammates and watching for those made by other players, and just a little bit of intuition.

Some people have made comments that the game may not be balanced when playing with an odd number of players. From what I’ve seen, the Drink of Power do a good job of correcting this imbalance. The game works well with 4 to 8 players. I have not played with 3, nor with more than 8, so I can’t make an effective judgment about these numbers of players.

I imagine that DKZT will play just as well with 9 or 10 players, although the game will take longer with that many people. My first game was played with 8 players, and it took about 2 hours because we ignored the suggestion in the rulebook that made the suggestion for beginners not to play with all of the Object cards. In subsequent playings the game moved along very briskly when all the players were familiar with the gameplay as well the different cards in the deck.

I am doubtful that DKZT plays as well with 3 players as it does with more. Part of the fun of the game is finding out who is on your team, and working with them to defeat the opposing team. With 3 players, one person will be forced to work on their own. While the Drink of Power cards will probably even out the imbalance of the number of players, part of the fun of the theme of the game will be missing.

Overall, Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg is a great value for the price. The theme is original and the gameplay is engaging. The artwork is worth close to the price of the game alone. If you’re tired of tile laying, or action point games, this is a nice, engaging change of pace; a lot of game in an itty-bitty box.

Overview
Rules explanation time: 10 minutes
Game length: 60+ minutes depending on # of players
Difficulty: Slightly above family-game level. The subtleties of alliance communication will be beyond younger players. The players must be able to read the card text.
Production level: Very Good
Effect of luck: Moderate
Replay Variability: Very good
Good with: 4-8 players (possibly with 9-10 if experienced)
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Richard Tyson
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Thank you very much for this Scott, I now see what rules I missed and have a far clearer idea of how to best explain the game to my group. Cheers
 
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Scott Tepper
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Richard,

You're most welcome!

I didn't touch on this in my review, but there's an easily overlooked rule that you need to remember when setting up the game.

To prepare the Item cards for distribution at the beginning of the game, make sure you pull out the 2 Secret Bags. Shuffle the remaining Item cards and take N-2 of them, where N=# of players. Take these Item cards plus the Secret Bags, shuffle them, then deal one to each player.

This insures that 2 players will start with a Secret Bag which will nudge the game along faster.

Happy Gaming!

Scott
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Lukas Zach
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Scott,

thank you for your great review! Regarding the 3 player version:
Scott Tepper wrote:
I am doubtful that DKZT plays as well with 3 players as it does with more. Part of the fun of the game is finding out who is on your team, and working with them to defeat the opposing team. With 3 players, one person will be forced to work on their own. While the Drink of Power cards will probably even out the imbalance of the number of players, part of the fun of the theme of the game will be missing.

You are right, the phase of finding your partner is very short. Maybe sometimes a bit too short, so we developed a variant that I posted some days ago. It would like to hear your feedback about this variant (if you will find the time to test it):

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/144675
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Jonathan Davis
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I'm intrigued! Thanks for the thorough review.

So if I look for this game from an overseas site should I expect it to be non-English? Or rules in English? For instance: http://www.ludibay.net/kutschfahrt-teufelsburg-p-2756.html?o...

Doesn't seem available stateside at the moment.
 
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