Stealthy dining with a dash of murder mystery for up to five players is the story behind this wicked fun card game about killing Caligula, the decadent emperor of Rome.
|Bacchus' Banquet||Mayfair Games||Card Game|
In The Box
Try to visualize a game themed around dining. Objects like a table or dishes might come to mind, but from the imagination of brilliant designer Fréderic Moyersoen (Whitewater, Nuns on the Run) we have…belts. That’s right, the player mats included in Bacchus’ Banquet depict a broad leather belt, and each person gets a wooden disc to represent a buckle. The disc is sized strategically to show numbers 0-10 as you move it left and right based on cards played during the game.
If your belt is the main course in Bacchus’ Banquet, cards are the spicy side dishes. You’ll find a large deck containing food, drink, and other elements that affect your fullness. Two smaller decks determine what role you’ll have during the game and what special actions you can take. Unlike the action cards that are exposed to all players, your identity cards are held secretly. This means that deducing the other players’ roles is just as important as pursuing your own agenda. Let the dinner, and the games, begin!
How It Plays
Players start out with their belts firmly buckled at the zero position, as you would imagine. The big idea behind this banquet is that Roman emperor Caligula is attending with a group of famous Romans. About half of the group have murder on their minds, including Caligula himself. The other half are just there to gorge on food and wine. Along with a player mat for tracking fullness, you’ll take one of the character cards at random in the beginning of the game, which will guide your strategy. Cassius, Octavius, and Septimus have it in for Caligula, so their goals in the game are satisfied when they gather three cards showing daggers or when Caligula bursts his belt. Other characters have different and secret goals, and try to gather certain card combinations without going into a food coma.
The gameplay mechanics are simple but devious. Seven action cards are always face-up on the table, and the active player is allowed to draw three of them per turn. After mixing them secretly, the player picks one to discard, one to keep, and one to present as a gift to another player. There are definitely air quotes around that “gift” since it’s just as likely to be a deadly poison as it is to be something desirable. You can reject and regift this card, but the person brave (or foolish) enough to take the gift has the advantage of selecting the next round of action cards.
Nine guest cards mean that it is possible to burst your belt and keep going with another character, but doing this will set you back. Deducing your opponents’ roles is a huge part of the winning strategy, since you can try and prevent them from capturing cards they need. Smart players will try to throw you off by switching up the cards they keep and give as gifts, but the threat of a burst belt looms large. Bacchus’ Banquet is a great game for both aspiring sleuths and sneaky partygoers.
We love that each character’s motivation in Bacchus’ Banquet is tied, albeit loosely in some cases, to the historical record. Moyersoen proves that he’s just as effective working with a simple palette as he is cooking up big games with complex mechanics.
I like how some characters have two objectives, and how even the characters who are gluttons have different things they are trying to eat and drink. The gifts keep things interesting; as the game proceeds, people get very suspicious of what you’re giving them.