Friday, 24 January 2014

26. 'The Great Dalmuti' review. The Cardboard Cartographer Issue 3

Welcome to Issue 3 of my apparently weekly board/card gaming blog here at 'The science of selling yourself short.'

This week sees me reviewing a favourite game of mine called 'The Great Dalmuti.'

First though, a notice on scheduling.

The Cardboard Cartographer will not be weekly forever.
At some point I need to research and play some more games to review and talk about.
 There will be at least 1 post per month, and this may not always be a review.
Future Issues may focus on up and coming games, kickstarter campaigns, 'top 5's' and so on.

But for now, sit back and enjoy the show.

The Great Dalmuti

  The Great Dalmuti is a family and party card game designed by Richard Garfield and published by 'Wizards of the Coast' in 1995.
The game features some great art work by Sandra Garavito, Margaret Organ-Kean and Christophe Swal.
For more information you can head over to Board Game Geek's page on the game -

  Dalmuti is game for 4 - 8 players that is part bluffing and luck, and part strategy and scum-buggery.

  The game represents life in feudal society.
You have the peasants; the most numerous of folk at the bottom of the social order, working your way up to the King or 'Dalmuti;' a single entity of divine standing.

The object of the game is to be the first player to discard all of his or her cards wins the round and secure the title of 'The Great Dalmuti.'

 The twist in this game is what other players do on their turns; whilst you agonisingly wait for it to be your turn, can make or break your bid for victory. A few advantages and disadvantages depending on your social standing also give some gravity to which position you finish in.

First Impressions.

Since I have been playing this game for almost a decade now, it is safe to say my 'first impression'  will be slightly rose tinted. I will try to remain as objective as possible (if you have read any of 'The science of selling yourself short,' you will know this is less than likely).

The game is small and compact, like all good party card games.

The contents are;

  • The box
  • A small rule book
  • 80 game cards

 I do think that the game is very nicely put together.
The cards are simple and colourful, with wonderful mural style artwork that adds to the feudal theme.
   The box is simple enough, but a bit lacking in substance; it isn't something you'll want to move around often in, say, a bag. I suggest getting some form of deck box.

Game Play.

 Like all good card games, Dalmuti is simple, fast paced and has very little down time (more players = more downtime).

 Before starting each player picks a card. The number will denote your rank for the first round of the game.
 The lowest, and thus rarest, number (ignoring the jokers) will be the original Great Dalmuti, the highest, and thus more common will be the Greater Peon. If a game has 6 players the second lowest/rarest and second highest/numerous will be the lesser Dalmuti and Lesser Peon respectively. Every other player is a merchant.

The players should then find a way to identify each player accordingly. (The game suggests switching seats; the Greater and Lesser Dalmuti having the best, while the peasants occupy the floor. In our games we have found this a little arduous, so we use hats. The more glorious the hat, the better the rank!).
 These different classes play a small, but important role at the beginning of the game. 

Before each round begins the lowest ranked player; the Greater Peon, shuffles and deals all of the cards out to each player.
Then the Greater Peon must then give the Greater Dalmuti their best two cards; that is to say, their rarest/lowest number (No lying!). The Greater Dalmuti then hands any two cards of their choosing back to the Greater Peon.
 The Lesser Peon must then give their best card to the Lesser Dalmuti and receive a card in return.
Everyone else; the merchants, may trade cards between each other for as long as the Greater Dalmuti permits.

When this phase is over the round may begin.

Game round.

Starting with the Greater Dalmuti, players go around in a clockwise direction playing cards face up in the middle of the table.
Subsequent players must match the quantity of the cards first played, and be of equal or lower/rarer value.

An example to illustrate this would be as follows.
The greater Dalmuti starts the round, and plays 5 Masons; valued at 8 (There are 8 of them in the deck).

The next player; player A, must then place down cards. These cards must ; a) match the quantity of the cards played. In this case, player A must play 5 cards; b) be of equal, or lesser value than the cards player, in this case a mason (8) or lower, and c) b) be all of the same value.

In this instance, player A plays 5 Knights; valued at 6

This move is fine. The cards match the number of cards put down initially (5) and are of a lower/rarer value than a mason.

Player B then tries to play 4 Abbess; valued at 5. 

This move is incorrect Whilst the cards are of a lesser/rarer value than the previous players cards, they do not match in quantity.

Player B then tries to play 5 peasants; valued at 12. 

This is also incorrect. Whilst player B now matches the quantity of cards put down (5), they are not equal to/lesser/rarer than the value of player A's cards (6 < 12).
Player B therefore decides he cannot go.

(A note on the Jester card. This card has no value and therefore is not the best/worst card and does not have to be given in taxation. This card may be played in conjunction to any other cards instead of an appropriate number. Example. If player A played two Archbishop cards he would usually win, however, if player B plays The Great Dalmuti card and a Jester card, that would count as two cards of a lower/rarer value, thus player B would win the hand).

If a player cannot go, or doesn't want to go, they are out of that particular hand and cannot go again until the next hand starts.
A hand ends when a player cannot be matched or bettered by any remaining player in that hand.

The winner then starts the next hand.
This continues until each player runs out of cards.
The first to do so is the greater Dalmuti, the second the Lesser Dalmuti and so on. The player who still has cards remaining when no one else does is the Greater Peon.

The game continues in this fashion... well... forever?

You can find the rules here if you fancy reading them yourself -

Personal Opinion.

I love this game.
Every time I go to a person's house I take this just in case there are enough people.
It is a great, quick game that isn't too serious and is laid back enough to enjoy at any pace whilst maintaining enough strategic planning to keep you focused on the game.

The game becomes more engaging the more you get into it.
At the back of the rulebook it explains the 'additional rules' about seating, symbols, scoring and the merchant trading (which really should just be a core rule. The game isn't as strategic without it).
But there are other rules such as revolutions (having two jokers = reverse roles) and rank related perks (ordering the peasants about and so on).

Whilst I enjoy the game immensely, I do have two gripes with it.

Firstly, without setting a score the game never really ends. This can lead it to grow stale and/or drag on and on and on...
 It is probably best to set a score limit, a time limit or a round limit. First to 'x' points, or the last person to be Dalmuti after 'x' hands or 'x' time is the winner.

Secondly, you don't really need to buy the game.
 The rules are readily available online (and up in the game play section), and the card set up can be made with three decks of regular playing cards for a fraction of the cost.

That being said I really do encourage you to buy the game.
It isn't massively expensive, there are no crazy expansions and due to its simplicity and random draft nature, the replay-ability is pretty high.

Have you played 'The Great Dalmuti'?
What did you think?
Any suggestions on other board/card games I should look into?

Feel free to comment here, or hit me up on Twitter @DarKHaZZl3

Thanks for reading

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