Designer: シマムラロックボーイ (Shimamura Rock Boy)
Artist: ドウゲンロックボーイ (Dougen Rock Boy), ヤマウチロックボーイ (Yamauchi Rock Boy)
Publisher: ハレルヤロックボーイ (Hallelujah Rockboy)
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes
Times Played: 7 with a purchased copy
There are a few pieces I’m mulling over in my mind that I haven’t decided if I’ll write. One is an exploration of my shift over time into playing “card games” –a term that to me refers not to the components of a game, but more to the feel: a central deck of cards, each player with a hand of cards; there are suits, there are ranks, and we play them to do some things.
I don’t know if I have shifted, but I sense that I have. We’re here today because Gossip and the City is one of those games.
In theme, players are freelance gossip reporters trading the scoop on an embezzling white-collar criminal, an addict singer-songwriter, and a doping volleyball athlete. You want the most credible gossip, but also the juiciest. You also must be safe, as if the subjects of your works find out about an exposé you’re brewing, you may find yourself the victim of an “accident”.
The game consists of a deck of cards and a few tokens. The cards range from 0 to 7 in each of 5 suits. There are actually three 0’s in each suit, and the various cards will have a different number of gossip symbols on them; some may have safety icons. Some of the cards are strictly victory points and a few are safety icons. The players are dealt a various amount of cards depending on the player count, and each player receives a specific piece of starting gossip in one of the suits.
In the end, you’ll each play the same number of cards. They represent the stories you’ve written. Some of these cards will come from the cards in your hand –the gossip you know at the start of the game. But, you’ll have a chance to trade one of those pieces each turn with the active player. The active player will trade a piece of information with one of you, and that player will take a card that wasn’t in their hand. If you’re not chosen, you’ll still write a story, but it’ll be the one you tried to trade away. (Was that a sincere offer, or were you bluffing?)
Specifically, on a player’s turn, they reveal the top card from a central deck of undealt cards and place a token on it face down. The tokens contain either victory points or safety icons. Thematically, this is the piece of gossip the player is offering to barter with the other players.
The other players simultaneously choose a card to offer in trade, but do not reveal them yet. Instead, the active player pushes their luck around the table: first, the card of the player to the left is revealed. If the offering player would like the card that player chose, they take it and set it face up in front of themselves. It was a pleasure doing business with you. The player whose card was chosen now takes the card that was on offer and sets it face up in front of themselves; they also may peak at the front side of the token on the card, but should not reveal it. The remaining players simply slide their card from being on offer into their score areas, without revealing them.
If, however, Samantha had offered a card that Carrie wasn’t interested in, the offer would continue around the table and the next player would reveal the card they wanted to offer. Samantha would slide her card, face-up, into her score area. Carrie cannot choose any offer which she has passed on, and, if it comes to it, must choose the card of the player on her right.
This process continues around the table, with each player in turn revealing the top card from the deck and accepting one of the offers. Shortly the deck will be exhausted, players put the remaining card from their hands into the box, reveal any face down cards in their score area, and count up their points.
For each suit, you must have credible intel: only player’s with a sum of ranks in that suit of at least 5 will be eligible to score points. Among those eligible players, the one with the juiciest story -the most icons- earns 5 points, and the second most earns 3. Players also may have earned points through the trading tokens and cards in their score area.
After the points have been counted, but perhaps more thematically, after the stories have been published, watch out for accidents. The player, or players, with the least safety icons (among their cards and tokens) is eliminated. The player with the highest score among the remaining players wins.
One of the other pieces I’m thinking about writing is about translating the rules for Japanese games when you don’t speak Japanese [UPDATE: Hey! I wrote that one after I drafted this paragraph]. Both the something about card games and the translation one would be apt today.
If you happen to pick this one up, you’ll find I’m listed as the translator for the EN rules. That was an accident.
In my shopping preparation for the Spring Game Market, I was struck by the graphic design of this one and it _looked_ like the kind of card game I would enjoy. But how did it play? Japanese rules were available, and English were not. I asked if there were plans for EN rules, and I don’t remember the details, but they either responded that there weren’t plans or didn’t respond, so I set about making a rough translation, simply so that I could decide where to spend my ducats. Afterwards, I shared it with them in case they were interested. Later, they expressed to an intermediary that they were interested in having English rules, and the intermediary contacted me, and here we are.
(Disclaimer: There was no compensation, money, product, or otherwise, for the translation. I’m reviewing b/c I love the game.)
I liked what I had read.
It’s a trading game.
That Ponzi Scheme/Res Publica sort of trading,-but-without-negotiation.
An auction game.
The Q.E. sort of but-what-did-that-other-player-bid thing.
What card do you play? Do you want the card on offer? If you don’t, can you offer something that the active player doesn’t want, but you do? If you do, can you offer something the active player does want? Will it even get to you? If they never see your offer, what’s the optimal card to play? What are you leaving in your hand for the next offers? How’s your security -what can you offer to earn another trade tokens?
(One day I’ll write a whole review through the questions I ask myself when I play a game.)
A card game.
That Arboretum sort of splitting your resources between hand-value and tableau-value.
Hidden cards which affect what you’ll get to score.
A [ ] game.
That Cleopatra & the Society/Divinity Derby don’t-be-too-reckless-or-you’re-out policy.
When you first deal out the cards, and set the remainder in a deck in the middle of the table, you’ll think: that’s not enough cards. There aren’t many rounds in the game. But it’s fine. Every player will earn a card on each turn: either yours or the one on offer. You might think the interesting decision is when you’re the active player, but I think it’s the other way: choosing what to play when you aren’t the active player with the hot gossip is where the game is. (See that paragraph above with all the questions in it.)
A hand management game.
You’ll play all but 1 card. How will you spend them? How will you intend to spend them?
A logistics game.
How to plan your hand based on your position in the trade offer sequence.
A bluffing game.
That Don Buriko sort of did you put out a card that you want, thinking there’s no way I’d take it, or did you know that’s what I’d think, and put out something I don’t want?
If you have a chance to try it, I hope you find the same delight in the decisions that I do.
Currently, (as I write this) copies are available through the bodoge.hoobby store, and I have two (non-affiliate) links for you. Here is the direct link (with shipping available to Japan) and here is the Buyee link (with an integrated forwarding service for non-Japan delivery).
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dale Y: I don’t have much to add to what JN has written above. I liked this one because it has that Japanese game trait of taking a simple set of components and rules and making a fairly interesting game focusing on just a few things. When JN explained the rules, I thought it would be a mindless, game plays you thing. But, the little decisions here are actually pretty interesting, and on the whole, the entire package is interesting and fun. I wouldn’t say that I love it, but I’d play it again the next time that JN brings it over.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! James Nathan
I like it. Dale Y
Not for me…