I Don't Know Who I Am Any More! - Mascarade Review

Bruno Faidutti designed one of my favourite games in my collection, the one that kick-started me back into the board gaming world and that was Citadels. So when I discovered a new game featuring a similar role selection style mechanic, one which I look highly on, my interest peaked.

Unlike Citadels though this is intended as a light party game for the masses, allowing up to 13 players to play at the same time. My assumption is that this game is on the same bandwagon as other mass player games such as The Resistance, Avalon and Werewolf.



“2-13 players – why does part of that sound dubious?”


I Don't Know Who I Am Any More! - Mascarade Review
Designer: Bruno Faidutti (2013)
Publisher(s): Asmodee / Repos Production
# of Players: 2-13
Ages: 10+
Play Time: 30 Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: #1353/6.98
Dice Tower People’s Choice Rank: n/a
Category: Bluffing Party Game

Easy To Learn, But Your Brain Will Still Be Hurting

Each player is dealt a specific character card, originally determined in the rules based on the number of players. If there are less than 6, the difference is placed in the centre as a “ghost player” and there are variant rules for 2-3 players. Once everyone has taken a look at the cards in play, they are turned face down.

The object of the game is to collect 13 coins and each character has a special ability typically related to income generation or card manipulation. On each turn a player has the following 3 options:
·         Secretly look at their character card
·         Take their card and another player’s under the table and decide whether to swap them around or not, before passing them back face down.
·         Announce their character.

On the first four turns, the player is forced to take the “swap” action – this is to induce confusion around the table (and trust me there’s a lot in this game)

“At this point, you’re rarely certain of anything!”

The third action entitles a player to announce who they are (i.e. “I am the King”). Starting with the player to their left, each person may dispute the announcer and claim to be that character instead. Once all disputes are raised, each of those players flips their card. Those who make an incorrect claim, pay one gold to the Courthouse which is a giant token in the centre of the table. If anyone was correct, they get to use the ability of the character.

Doesn’t sound enticing yet does it? However note that if no-one disputes the claim, the announcer gets to use the ability of the character regardless of whether he is that character or not because he only reveals his card if someone disputes. Therefore it is technically possible to use an ability that you don’t think you have access to and this is where the bluffing shines.

Play continues in this fashion until one player has amassed 13 coins, or one player goes bankrupt, in which case the richest player wins.

What’s a Pretty Young Lady like Yourself Doing in a Place like This?

This is becoming second nature when it comes to Asmodee / Repos Productions, but my god is the artwork sublime in this game. Just look at these characters below.

“Ok you can stop looking now………….hello?”

All of the illustrations in this game are some of the best artwork I’ve ever seen in a game, and I’ve played classics like Small World, 7 Wonders and Libertalia in the past. And it’s not even just the character cards; you saw how nice the front of the box looked earlier, and check this out:


That’s the inside of the box – have you seen a box interior that looks as nice as that? Jeremy Masson is the artist for this game and he deserves great respect for what he’s done here. The coins and courthouse have similar high quality.

Confusion in the Ranks

A game that is based on memory games and bluffing is best played with multiple players and this game is a classic case in point. I’ve yet to try the 2-3 player variants, but in the games I’ve played, it has been far more enjoyable to have 7+ players than only 5 or 6. That’s not to say it’s not a good game however even with 5 or 6 players as I’ve had some good times, but the best moments are when people’s memories fail them and obviously that’s usually the case with mass players. Similar viewpoints are felt with games such as The Resistance – the more players the better.

The choice of characters is at first dictated by a chart in the rulebook for optimum game play, however you’re free to choose your own providing you meet certain conditions (e.g. at least 2 with income generation). The game can play out very differently depending on your choice.

“Additional characters usually reserved for 8+ players or blank for “create your own”.

Swapping characters is key however as by inciting more confusion, the fun element comes out and it’s a common occurrence for people to make mistakes with their announcements, myself included. However from experience you get a lot of people unwilling to take risks and like to stick with their current character – a little “gentle persuasion” is required to remind players that an opponent is in a position of power.

The rules of the game are easy to understand and teach to new players – a few “what if” questions may be raised, but the rulebook does a good job of answering them. Rules explanations take very little time and the game itself can be wrapped up in less than 30 minutes. Reference sheets are provided to assist players with all the abilities.

Interaction is obviously on the high side, with players directly raising accusations and counter-accusations on who is who. It is particularly satisfying to get away with a successful bluff when you’re trying to steal another ability. The memory aspect is going to be the key deciding point for players however. Some may get frustrated at their inability to tell what’s going on, and if you’re the kind of player who “spaces out” on a regular basis, you’re going to get lost quickly.

“Even the rulebook and reference sheets look gorgeous!”

Verdict

Gamers are going to query whether this is merely a clone of Citadels, but without the buildings. There are 3 key factors these games have in common.

1.      Both require an element of bluffing
2.      Both seek to amass coins in quantity
3.      Role abilities seek to gain income or attack other players

However the downtime and game play length of Mascarade is a lot shorter than Citadels and the memorisation aspect is a lot stronger in Mascarade.

Mascarade will not replace Citadels however. They may use similar mechanics but the style of play is very different. In Mascarade, there is a light party atmosphere with all the bluffing and the game isn’t taken very seriously. Citadels would appeal more to strict gamer types. I enjoy both games, but accept that they have different times and places. I bring this out as a light introduction to a gaming night and I’ve yet to see anyone with an eidetic memory spoilt it!  

I would take this game over Werewolf and Resistance any day though for a mass player game. The short downtime and short length is a good thing with games involving a large group of people and when these kinds of games drag out, you almost get a sense of cabin fever! With this game, if it becomes a hit, it’s easy to get multiple plays in one night and with the abundance of characters including promos, there’s a lot of re-playability, though I feel that some characters will have balance issues in smaller games – best to adhere to the recommendations in the rulebook to begin with and not use the 8+ player roles unless instructed.

It’s not the best game in the world, and if you held me at gunpoint to decide between the two, I would take Citadels easily, but it provides some good laughs and will get repeat plays. Did I also mention it’s very cheap to acquire? Go into it expecting a light, interactive party game, don’t take it too seriously and you’ll enjoy your time.


2 comments: