m a r k a n d e y a

Board Game Review: Richelieu

Posted by Brian on February 18, 2007

I’m a bit more selective about what two-player games I keep around. While I’ll play just about any game with the right group of people, playing a two-player game requires that I like both the person I’m playing with and the game itself. Oftentimes, I’ll buy a two-player game, play it for a bit, then unload it on someone else. Michael Schact’s Richelieu is a two-player game that I decided to keep. It’s a fun one.

The two players are vying for control over 17th century France. The game comes with 48 playing cards, all done with thicker than average card stock, that represent different regions of France. Each card has either one or two shields on it, and some cards with one shield have an icon indicating special influence in the military (sword), church (cross), or politics (tower). Each card also has a large number on it that represents the total number of shields there are for that region.

Players also begin the game with 3 Property Markers. These markers can be placed on the cards on the board to indicate a special entitlement to that tile.

The final game element is a set of 14 round markers that are used to add an element of randomness to the game. These markers show a regional shield, a sword, a cross, or a tower. In addition, two of them are specially marked and can be used to reacquire spent Property Markers.

The 48 cards are placed between the players in four rows of 12, face-up. Then 8 of the 14 round markers are chosen randomly and placed face down on 8 of the cards (the rulebook describes a certain pattern but I won’t go into that).

Once the cards are laid out and the other markers placed and distributed, the game can begin. The players take turns taking cards from the table for scoring at the end of the game, following these rules:

• A player may only take a card or cards from the outside ends of the 4 rows.
• A player may take two cards but they must be of the same color and can contain no more than 2 shields between them.
• If a player takes a tile with a special marker, he receives the marker and saves it for scoring later
• If a player wishes to take a card with his opponent’s Property Marker on it, he can, but he must sacrifice a Property Marker of his own.

Following these rules, the cards are removed from the middle one by one until all are gone and each player has his or her own set to score. Scoring is done as follows:

• For the 9 regions, each player counts the number of shields he or she has for each region. The player who has more shields receives that number of points towards his final score. Remember, the round markers can also count towards the shield total. In case of a tie, no points are scored. And if a player has no shields in a region he is penalized by 5 points.
• The Swords, Crosses, and Towers are scored as well, in a manner similar to the regional scoring as described above.

Once scoring is done, the player with the most points wins.

Richelieu is a tricky game in that it requires the players to keep track of lots of different elements. It’s easy to fall into a trap of fixating on the cards that you need while ignoring the fact that you’re opening up cards for your opponent to draw (which, I think, is the mistake I usually make). A prudent player won’t draw a needed tile if it will allow his opponent to make an even better draw for himself.

Richelieu is a good game for any two gamers, but it also does well as a couple game. Playing against women, I’ve found that I usually lose, offering further proof to my hypothesis that women do better at multi-tasking in games (see Lost Cities for another example).

I recommend Richelieu highly to any gamers looking for a fun, simple, quick two-player game.

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