DESIGNER: Alan Ernstein
PUBLISHER: Hangman Games
TIME: 45 minutes
Some of you may be familiar with Hangman Games, who published ten or so games back between 1998 and 2008; titles like Tahuantinsuyu, Ars Mysteriorum and Dry Gulch. They had decided to stop publishing their own games and instead license their games to others, but now, in 2022, they are back to publishing. Their first project is a series called DecaDesign; as part of this project they plan to publish a new game every 10 months. 100 copies will be sold to people who registered on the Hangman Games website, with priority given in order of registration. Once the game is available they reach out and you either pay, in which case a game is shipped out to you, or decline, and they move to the next person on the waiting list.
The first game being released is the Jewels of Porto Primo, a set collection card game for two to four players. Players are pirates, trying to amass the best gems and make a large profit selling them to the pirate king, his wife and his daughter.
The box contains a deck of 84 jewelry cards representing seven different gems, 16 bonus cards, 100 metal gold and silver doubloons and a first player marker in the form of a black diamond. There are also four player aid cards.
The bonus cards are shuffled and one is dealt to each player; the rest are kept nearby. The jewelry cards are shuffled; four are flipped face up and the rest remain face down as a draw pile.
The game gets played over the course of a year. The first three months of the game are referred to as the Speculation Phase. During this phase, a bonus card is revealed and players then draw a Jewelry card, either from either the face up cards or the draw deck.
After all players have drawn a card, the first player marker gets passed to the left and you enter the Open Market phase, which takes place over the next six months. Another bonus card is flipped face up and placed on top of part of the previous card in a manner determined by which month it is. Each player then takes their turn; they again draw one card, but then they must also play a set of cards onto the table. A set can be as few as one card or as many as six cards. Cards in a set have to either be all the same color, or of consecutive colors of gems, or of the same setting (which is the number) or of consecutive settings.
Based on the number of cards in the set you earn the Gift of the Princess. Then, based on the same cards you earn the Queen’s Desire bonus, which is shown on the bonus cards currently in play. End your turn by drawing a jewelry card.
After all players have taken their turn you evaluate the number of bonus cards on the table; if it is less than none, go back to month one and lather, rinse and repeat until there are nine bonus cards you move on to the Final Sales Phase. Instead of revealing a new bonus card you flip a current non-scoring card over. Players then take one turn, drawing a card, playing one set, score the Gift of the Princess and any two Queen’s Desire bonuses, then drawing a card. After all players have taken their turn, flip another bonus card. Players then take one final turn where they draw a card and play a set.
The year has now ended; players reveal their hidden bonus card and score The King’s Ransom for that card. The player with the most coins wins, and if there is a tie it is broken by the player with the most unplayed cards.
My Thoughts on the Game
The game comes in a compact box that has exactly enough space for the game, which I appreciate; I don’t need another game in a giant box that has a lot of empty space. The quality of the cards is good, and the coins are metal coins with a nice heft to them, which definitely contributes to the enjoyment of the game; they make a satisfying clink. THe rules are clear and include pictures and examples as well.
I enjoy this game very much. It is a very interesting puzzle; you have to play at least one card every turn, but you also need to save some cards to build up better sets. You also have to worry about your hidden bonus card; is what you are playing contributing to that? What about the bonus cards you haven’t seen yet – when do you shift from what you thought you were doing? The different sets may seem confusing the first few times you play, but the player aid makes it really clear, both with language and pictures. Every time we play I immediately replay in my head what I could have done differently, and always look forward to the next play. I have only played it with 2 and 3 players; it works well at both numbers.
If you want to learn more about this game, or the DecaDesign project in general, visit https://www.hangmangames.com/home