Res Publica

Hexagames, £9

Res Publica is an interesting idea - a card game with a theme not dissimilar to the ever popular Civilisation and its trading sub system. Unfortunately, yet again, this is a card game without substance. Just how many card games are going to come out of German and British companies before we get one that actually offers a playable challenge? I have no big objection to enhancing rule twists for traditional games (even if you have to pay £6-8 to get them), but these completely new games with a basic card system as a basis are so poor that one wonders how they are accepted for publication - I would go as far as to say that this game would even bore most 'families'. All this is a major shame as I like card games, and if someone could invent something to rival Hearts, I would be a happy man. Unreasonable perhaps, but we are so far wide of the target with these efforts that I despair of even improving upon Gin!

Res Publica works on a stepped Rummy system. The idea is you gradually build up a hand until you can lay down five 'peoples' cards selected from the Romans, Greeks, Huns and so on. This enables you to start collecting 'culture' cards which, again, you need five of before you can start claiming the points cards with which you win the game. Once you have satisfied either condition, you can open up more sets of people and culture cards to speed up the process.

All very simple, but both the claimed 'strength' and the weakness of the game are apparent in the trading round. The idea of this is that you suggest and conclude deals for cards with other players. The format is that you can either request a type of card, 'I am looking for two Persians', or make an offer, 'I am offering one Art and two Religion'. In turn, the players respond in kind by matching the deal from their hand (if they wish) and trying to outbid the other players. The deal is then concluded at the discretion of the initiator. The other players need to keep an ear on what is going on so that they can work out who has what and who needs what which can prove a foundation for future deals.

This strikes me as a desperate way of making an otherwise boring game a little more interesting, but because the trades are rather inflexible and reminiscent of Happy Families, 'Have you got Master Nero the lunatic's son?', the game is flat, basic and too long for what it is. Being nowhere near finishing and wholly bored, we lasted twenty minutes before we gave up in despair. At £9 a set that makes about £30 an hour, or something horrible like that. This is an uninspired, turgid game with very little scope for thinking or strategic play. Very poor, leave well alone.

Stop Press: Stephan Valkyser's Die Abseitfalle dropped through the door today with a review of this game, giving it four stars out of five. I read what I could of the review but could spot nothing missing from the game as we played it. So, we have either lost a subtle something in the supplied official translation or Stephan played with more players (which may be a factor) or Stephan and I simply don't agree again! Comments appreciated.

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