Game Design: Jim Felli
Game Artistry: Tani Pettit & Naomi Robinson
Published by: Devious Weasel Games
Reviewed by: Jason Elliott
Edited by: Stephanie Elliott
Number of Players: 4 to 6
Time of Play: 15 to 30 minutes
Age recommended: 12 and up
Year of Release: 2017
The story so far: You are a Muse, battling other great Muses to see who is the most inspirational. You have chosen a human to inspire and help excel above others. This Virtuoso must be more famous and have more influence than anyone else. To achieve this you must eliminate the rivals by creating doubt and dread amongst them! If you can do this well enough, you will first drive them insane, and then eventually they will become a Fantasma that will haunt others, maybe even you!
Our final thoughts on the game: So after several 4 player games we found that this is now in our regular rotation of games. This is for two reasons. First, this is a "take that" kind of game; you will need to judge and decide when you should gang up on a player, or help a player out in order to achieve your goals. Second, the artwork in this game is exceptional. The Art Nouveau style illustrations on the Virtuoso cards is amazing, and we couldn't help talking about it each and every game that we played.
What makes this one stand out as far as "take that" games, is that a player is never truly out. If you are knocked down to the point of being a Fantasma, you get to haunt players in the game, and continue to dish out the dread cards on other players. So, if you get someone to this point, they will remember who did it to them, and be able to pay you back in the game. This is definitely a point to consider in your strategy of hurting the other players, so as not to make yourself a known target.
Another aspect we really liked was the secret objectives; you might want to help one person while trying to take down the others. It creates an atmosphere of intrigue as you don't know everyone else's agenda. Trying to figure that out and to influence how players are going about bringing everyone down while maintaining themselves is a hard balance, which makes the game more thoughtful. We would have surprise moments when you could see that people thought a certain player would be sane or insane a lot longer than they were, and that moment when people would realize the balance had shifted against them.
This is a game where taking the time to go over the rules really makes the difference. I used two ways to teach the game, reading excerpts from the rules, and utilizing dummy moves. I would read something, and then play it out, so everyone got to see. Having good rules, good summary cards, and having a few things filed to memory really sped up the teaching process.
It is a great game, that I would play 90% of the time when brought up. Yes, a 9 out of 10, and that is only because after awhile (especially after I lose) I sometimes like a small break from the "take that" games. If you have players that enjoy this style of game, then this , might be a 10 for them. If you have people that enjoy phenomenal art, and/or the ability to keep going on and affecting a game, and that you are always in the running for points, then you want to play this game!
Mechanics and concepts found in this game: This is a game where, as I mentioned, there is plenty of "take that", even so that you are never truly out. Even as a Fantasma, your lowest form, you go on affecting other players and bringing them down. As you can see in the pictures this is a card game, that has a fantasy flavor to it, and the art kicks that into overdrive. You are free to negotiate with other players, maybe gang up on someone, or I help you and you help me. There are different powers for the different player cards, so that is variable. You will have hand management with your cards due to draw, play, and discard phases on your turn. You will even use some bluffing, or maybe try, so that you appear stronger or weaker, as different uses of strategy on the other players.
The game components:
-1 Game box
-1 rules book
-6 Virtuoso Cards
-6 Gemina Cards
-66 Doubt Cards
-18 Dread Cards
and we managed to receive two player aid cards.
Winning conditions of the game: The game is going to immediately end when there are less than two Virtuosos that are sane left in the game. Everyone will calculate their scores at that point. There are points for you whether you are sane, insane, or a Fantasma. The highest points win. In the event of a tie sane wins over insane, and living wins over dead.
Game setup: Each player receives a random Virtuoso card. This is who you will try to elevate. You will only use the Doubt cards that match the Virtuosos in play. If there are six players you use all of the Doubt cards. Each player will have a Gemina card (random), this is a Virtuoso you are connected to by dreams; it could be another player's Virtuoso, or possibly your own. Who your Gemina is starts the game as a secret. You will give each player a random Secret (keep this to yourself) and this speaks to the relationship you have with another player, maybe that you want to keep them sane, maybe you want them to be worse off. Each player will receive 1 Dread Card (black skull card). Take the rest of the Dread cards and have them face up in a deck that everyone can reach. You will then shuffle the Doubt Deck and deal out 4 random Doubt cards to each player, and then place the remaining Doubt cards face down on the table. Make sure the Doubt and Dread decks are in reach of all the players. The Doubt deck will be face down, while the Dread deck will be face up. You will refer to the Doubt deck as the Well of Doubt, and the Dread deck as the Well of Dread. Everyone should have their Virtuoso, their Gemina, their Secret, and five total cards. Determine by your own means who shall go first. This means everyone is ready to play!
The Virtuoso and Gemina Cards are from the following:
The Secrets will deal with:
-someone being sane
-someone not being sane
-someone being insane
-someone not being insane
-someone being dead
-someone not being dead
The Special Powers of the Characters will be:
-moving doubt to another player
-turning doubt to dread
-moving dread to another player
-turning dread to doubt
Why is that important?
-If you have 5 total cards played on you a mix of Doubt and/or dread- You turn INSANE
-If three of those 5 total cards are Dread Cards you turn into a FANTASMA (you die)
-You can go back and forth between SANE and INSANE, but you cannot cross back once you are dead!
How to play: Let's start with playing as Sane, because this set of steps becomes altered when you become Insane, and then a Fantasma.
Sane (your character is Vertical and color side up)
-Draw Two cards from the Well of Doubt (must do this).
Now choose one:
1. Play a Doubt Card ( you must play it on the Character the card says and you can't play this on anyone who has five cards on them).
2. Play a Dread Card ( you can play this on anyone, except you can't play this on anyone who has five cards on them).
3. Use your special ability (you do this by playing a card with your name on it. You can target whoever you want with the ability as long as it is applicable).
If you are Sane then you can choose this option as well...
4. Play any pair of matching cards and take a Dread card from the Well of Dread and play it on a Sane player. If you choose this option you will then change your future hand size.
If you are Sane at the beginning and end of these choices you may make another choice...
5. Make an additional play from the previous options.
At the end of this you discard one card. You may never skip the Discard step. So if you have any cards at this point you must discard one.
If you don't have a legal play, you still must discard one card.
If you are Insane then... (character is turned horizontal, color side up)
-Draw two Doubt cards.
-Then take all the cards you have and shuffle them, draw two at random, you play one, and discard one. You can never play both.
-If you don't have a legal play you still must discard one card.
If you are a Fantasma then... (character is Vertical, black and white side up)
-Get rid of your hand.
-Get rid of the cards played on you.
-Draw one Dread card.
-Play Dread card either on another living player, or replace a Doubt card with your Dread card on a living player.
If Doubt cards are replaced they are placed face down in the discard deck. If the Well of Doubt runs out, just reshuffle all of the Doubt cards back in the deck.
These connections to other players grant you another player's ability, but there are certain rules to be observed.
-They start face down.
-They turn face up either by:
1. You willingly choose to flip it and place a Dread card against yourself (as if it had been played against you). This is a free action.
2. You become Insane, and then you must flip the Gemina.
Once flipped, the only way the Gemina flips again, is if you hit the Insane step again. Example, you were made Insane, and the Gemina flipped and is showing. If you become Sane, and then Insane again, your Gemina will flip again (it does not flip when you become Sane again).
You can only use the Gemina power if the Gemina is face up.
Endgame: There is no specific end game phase, but you will constantly need to watch how well everyone is doing, because you want to keep yourself better off without making yourself stand out as a target. The same applies if you bring someone down, you don't want to do so to the point that you make yourself a target. You will find that there are surprise moments, even to the point that some games are brought to an abrupt end!
Here is how the scoring works at the end:
-If you are Sane, then start at 10 points, -1 for each Doubt played on you, and -2 for each Dread played on you
-If you are Insane, then start at 9 points, -1 for each Doubt played on you, and -2 for each Dread played on you
-If you are a Fantasma, then this...
4 player game = 2 + # of other Fantasma in the game
5 player game = 1 + # of other Fantasma in the game
6 player game = 0 + # of other Fantasma in the game
Thank you so much for reading my review of Bemused from Jim Felli and Devious Weasel Games!