Manufacturer Days of Wonder
Year 2003
Designer Bruno Faidutti & Bruno Cathala
{Queen's Necklace box}

Queen's Necklace


Paris on the eve of the French Revolution. Can you create the most appealing jewelry to give to the Queen? Thematically based on the Alexander Dumas novel.

Background

Bruno Faidutti is a French game designer, who's been very prolifically getting published of late, and whose games can generally be described with the word "chaotic". A second description would be , "hidden information". Now neither of these are things I generally regard as good things in a game, and I wasn't really interested in this game either. But during my recent bout of unemployment, I spent a LOT of time browsing eBay for bargains, and this was one I found. I'm glad I did.

Jump to my opinions

The Gameplay

Queen's Necklace is a card game, with big, beautifully illustrated cards. The deck is made up of the gem cards and the "blue" (read special) cards. There are 4 types of gems, Amber, Diamonds, Emeralds, and Rubies, and these appear on cards with from one to three jewels, (except for Amber, which only come in the one gem variety). The special cards come in a variety of types, some of which will be discussed below. Each card has, along its right edge, four circled numbers, which decrease as they move down the card, which represent how much it will cost for a player to purchase that card, and then below that a card with an "X" inside of the circle. Each player gets a hand of cards, three "Merchant" cards are inserted semi-randomly into the deck, and four cards are placed face-up in the center of the table. A small gold ring is then placed on the top circled number on each of the center cards. The four gem types are found on large cardboard chits, and these are shufled, and placed above the card layout, and then these are marked from left to right with a "Fashion" marker, which shows which gem is the Queen's current favorite, and which is her least favorite.

On a player's turn, they may first play any number of the blue special cards they wish, and then they have 10 ducats to spend on cards in the center of the table. After buying as many of the cards as they can afford, the cards that are left have their rings moved down to the next circle below where they were. New cards are placed to replace the purchased cards, and the rings that had been on the purchased cards are now put on the topmost circle on those cards. So any card a player doesn't purchase will become less expensive for the next player to purchase. If a ring ends up moving to the card with an "X" on it, that card is immediately discarded and replaced with a new one. This process repeats until one of the Merchant cards that were inserted into the deck are revealed.

Now you may recall I mentioned special cards, and no Bruno Faidutti game seems to lack for these. In Queen's Necklace they are here in abundance. Confessors allow you to look at opponents hand. Thiefs allow you to steal a card randomly from an opponent. Forgers force a player of your choosing to discard a gem card of a type you specify. Musketeers can stop a Forger and if drawn by a Thief cause the thieving player to lose a card to the Musketeer player instead. A Favorite card causes the Queen to have a change of heart, and decide that one type of gemstone is now her favorite, moving it up to first place in the "fashion" display. The Queen allows you to take for free any card that is turned up to replace a purchased card. And of course, there is a Queen's Necklace card.

The Sales and Scoring

When a Merchant card is revealed, the game stops, and there is an immediate sale. A sale consists of each player choosing cards from their hand, which show what they are going to take to the Queen to offer her. Everyone chooses their cards in secret, and they are simultaneously revealed. Each type of gem card represents a piece of jewelry with as many gemstones in it as they put down. The player that has the most of a given gem type in a piece of jewelry will get to sell that piece to the Queen. What a piece is worth is based on two factors. The first is the "fashion" marker for each gem. The gem that is currently the Queen's favorite is worth 30 points, 20 for second favorite, 10 for third and 0 for her least favorite. The second factor is a bit more interesting, as this series of markers is placed after all gems have been revealed, and is based on the rarity of the gems. All of the players Diamonds, for example, are added up, and all of their Amber, etc. The lest common gemstone gets a +30 marker, down to 0 again for the most common type. So the maximum base score for any piece sold is 60, and the minimum is zero.

There is another couple of twists in the the scoring however. Rings, Kings, and the Queen's Necklace. If you played a ring with a winning gem set, you get to make another sale of that type. You can play multiple rings with a single gem type, allowing, theoretically a three or four times multiplier to your sale price. these are very good powerful cards to play. The King, however, is a party pooper, and if you play a King with at least one gem, then that gem type becomes worthless. These are very bad cards to have played against you. The Queen's Necklace card is also very powerful, and prevents the action of the King card. So if a player plays Emeralds with the Queen's Necklace card, and an opponent plays a King with an Emerald, the King card's effects are negated, AND the player that played the King has to give 50 points to the holder of the necklace. As this card is so powerful, whenever a player has it, that player is given a necklace, (provided in the game), which they must wear/display in front of them.

After the sale, all cards that were displayed to the Queen are discarded, and play resumes with the face up cards being replenished, and the rings set. After the third sale, the game ends.

Why this game is so great

Great might be a bit of an overstatement. The production values are lavish, in keeping with other Days of Wonder releases. The cards are big and brightly illustrated, the tokens are thick cardboard, the gold rings and the necklace are a nice touch. The game is chaotic, but less so than some of Bruno's other games, (Fist of Dragonstones and Citadels for example). The devaluing of the items for sale is a neat mechanic, which leads to some very tough decisions, as often you will be forced to buy something you don't really want or need, just to keep the next player from being able to buy it for next to nothing. The sales allow for some fun bluffing and think/counterthink, as you are always trying to win each sale, but you want to do so by playing the fewest gems possible, to keep the rarity value up. It's a fairly quick game, and the Rings and Kings allow for late comebacks, as does the necklace.

Why others don't agree

The biggest knock against Queen's Necklace from a game perspective is that it has a very strong memory element. You need to remember which gems your opponents have picked up, and if you look at someone's hand with a Confessor, you need to remember what you saw. The biggest problem from a playability standpoint is that it is extremely fiddly, as after each player's turn, you need to adjust the rings down on the unpurchased cards, and reset the rings on the new cards, and this is a big pain. Also, during the sale, it is hard to organize your gem cards without letting others get some idea as to what you are going to be putting down. All of these playability issues are eliminated when playing the game online, which is possible at the Days of Wonder website, and I will go as far as to say it is a far better game played online than in person. Purchase the game, and you are given a Days of Wonder Web Card, which will allow you to play for one year for free on their website. The online version is also three player only, which seems to be a bit better than when played with four.

Recap

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