- Designers: Charlie Mackin, Harry Mackin, Drew Tenenbaum
- Publisher: Floodgate Games
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 13+
- Time: 30-40 minutes per scenario
- Played with review copy provided by Floodgate Games
Decorum is a cooperative, hidden information game where you and your partner share the same objective: decorate your home in a way that makes you both happy. The problem is, different things make each of you happy and nobody says exactly what they need. Can you find a happy compromise, or is it time to move out?!
The game is played with specific scenarios – in each, the players will get a card with their secret conditions on it (somewhere between 3 and 5). In order to win this cooperative game, all of the criteria on ALL of the cards have to be met by the end of the game. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it might be, except that you are pretty limited in how you are able to communicate in the game, so you’ll have to try to understand what your teammates want without them being able to explicitly tell you what they want.
The board is a schematic showing four rooms in a house. Each room has three types of items that can be placed in the room (curios, lamps, wall hangings). Furthermore, each of those things can be of four different styles (modern, antique, retro and unusual). There is an object board that holds the 12 different combinations for easy reference. Finally, each of the four rooms can have a wall color (red, yellow, blue or green).
Players take turns placing, moving, or removing colored tokens on the board, where each token represents an item of home décor. Each token placed may conform with, or violate, the other players’ criteria. After each token is placed, other players may state they like the item of décor, as placed, or they do not like the item of décor, as placed. Further discussion or explanation is not allowed.
Interestingly, there are almost two different games in the box. The 2 player game has its own set of 20 scenarios that are to be played in numerical order. The 3-4 player game has 10 standalone scenarios which can be played in any order (there is at least a difficulty rating on the front of the envelope). The games mostly play the same in principle; but the scenarios are definitely different. In our group, we almost always have 4 players, so we have only played the 4 player version thus far.
To start the game, select a scenario to play. Carefully open it up and make sure to keep all the cards face down! (Note – make sure you put the cards away carefully as well so as not to spoil the next time that someone plays this particular scenario!). Find the setup card and set up the house as shown by adding wall color, initial furnishings and roommate assignments. Each player then gets one big card and three small cards of their color. The big card has your victory conditions on it – this could refer to just about anything. Luckily, the rules are fairly straightforward. The three small cards each have one of your rules on them, and they will be used later in the game. For now, just put them aside in a facedown stack.
As the scenario is played out, the team will win if all players state that all their conditions are met. The team loses if this does not happen before a certain number of turns. On a turn, a player performs an action:
- Add an object from the object board to an empty slot
- Remove an object from the house
- Swap the style OR color of an existing object in the house
- Paint a wall
- Pass (you can only do this is all your conditions are fulfilled)
After you take your action, you tell the others whether you are “fulfilled” – that is, all your conditions are met. If you are fulfilled, the other players then say if they are also fulfilled. If everyone is fulfilled, the game ends and you win.
Otherwise, after the action, other players are able to make a comment. Here, your reactions are limited – you can only make general Yes/No/Meh statements. “I love it!”. “I’m neutral about that.” “That’s the worst thing in the house…” The rules just tell you to not give any more information other than yes/no/meh, but you are free to word that how you like. After each player has taken an action (and received comments), the round is over. Move the round marker forward. Do it again and again.
At the end of every 5th round, there is a House Meeting. At this time, each player chooses one of their small cards and gives it to ONE teammate. That person will now know for sure one of your scoring criteria. This will maybe help you succeed in future rounds!
The game continues until either all players are fulfilled or the game reaches the end of the 30th round without everyone being fulfilled.
My thoughts on the game
At its heart, each scenario in Decorum is a logic puzzle. There are a small number of ways to arrange the internal pieces that meet all the requirements listed on the player’s rule sheets simultaneously. The twist of the game is that it’s also a hidden information game. No player has all of the rules. While playing, the players will have to watch their partner’s moves just as carefully as they’re planning their own. There may be times when you have to place a piece that goes against your own rules in order to suss out information about what other people want. The limited info able to be gleaned from the restricted comments is a bit frustrating, but it is this uncertainty which makes this a game.
In the multiplayer game, I had a harder time trying to learn some of the opposing goals because there were so many turns between my actions; and oftentimes, even if I felt I had learned something, the intervening actions got us further away from where I wanted to go. Though we got better at it, the first few games felt like we were just waiting for the House Meeting to allow us to give a card to a teammate to help clue them in.
There is a lot of memory that comes into play because you need to remember what sorts of changes people are making… and then, if/when they choose to share one of their rules with you, it might make a lot more sense suddenly. If you have problems remembering what people are changing, then it’s much harder to figure out what they are trying to accomplish!
The game comes with 10 multiplayer scenarios in the box, and while the first two were pretty easy; I must say that I found the later ones a little more challenging. Keep in mind that the criteria are fixed; so unless you have a spectacularly bad memory, you’ll remember bits and pieces of the cases, so this will somewhat limit the replayability. The publisher plans to have a website/app up soon to give unlimited scenarios; so this should not be a long term issue.
However, the main focus of the game (at least how it looks to me) is the 2p campaign game. There are 20 games in the box for this particular player count, and given the fact that these are meant to be played in specific order – this certainly hints to me that this is the preferred method of discovering the game. I also find it much easier to remember the changes made by a single teammate as opposed to three others!
Unfortunately for me, there is little chance of finding enough time for a long 2p campaign of 20+ games, so I’ve only brushed the surface of this mode. I’m hoping to find time to get a number of games in a specific 2p game weekend – but sadly, in my gaming life, 2p only game sessions are few and far between. However, from my experience thus far, the 2p game is much more preferable for me. The immediate give and take between changes works so much better for me. I think that this campaign could be quite good, but I’d like to experience it with just one player – not switching between different 2p opponents as my 2p game days usually do. So for now, I can’t comment too much on this, but I look forward to exploring it more.
This might appeal to those who don’t like to get into open arguments; because here all you get to do is forcefully pick up a piece and slam down another piece in its place! I’d think that if you liked Magic Maze, this might appeal to you for the same reason. My gut tells me that the 2p game is going to be better than the multiplayer, but I can’t say for sure due to lack of plays at this time.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dan B. (1 play): I tried this with four and didn’t really care for it. I like logic puzzles, but with that many players there’s too much information for me to remember it all easily; this would be fine if you were meant to get an approximate solution and score it, but it’s pretty clear you are supposed to get an exact solution (the scoring rules are only relevant if you go 30 rounds without an exact solution, which is a huge number). Given that it just felt like a slog and was not fun after about ten rounds.
Based on what I have heard the two-player game is more fun and as Dale mentions is probably the way the game is really supposed to be played. I would be willing to play with more again only if I were allowed to take notes (which does not seem to be prohibited by the rules).
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale (2p)
- Neutral. Dale (3-4p) Dan B. (4p, only if I can take notes, otherwise Not for me)
- Not for me…