Game Buzz: Mascarade

In the last post, I talked about a game about a party.  Well, here’s another one:

image by BGG user faidutti
image by BGG user faidutti

Mascarade is a new game from designer Bruno Faidutti, published by Repos Productions and Asmodee.  It’s a game for 2-13 players (though 2-3 players is more of a variant) that takes 30 minutes to play.  It’s a hidden identity game (hence the masks) where you’re trying to earn gold.  The theme is very loose, and it seems to be another of these miniature games that are so popular lately.  Think Love Letter meets Citadels.

image by BGG user cnidius
image by BGG user cnidius

The game comes with 13 charcter cards, a blank character card, a courthouse board, a number of gold coins (totaling 194), 14 character tokens, and 5 game aids.  Each player begins with 6 coins.  Six characters will be selected if you have 2-6 players, and as many characters as there are players are taken with more than six.  There’s a chart in the rules to tell you which ones should be used with each player number (at least, in your first games).  Each player gets one, and they are all face up.  When everyone has gotten a good look, the cards are flipped face down.  Character tokens are used to mark which characters are in the game.

On your turn, you have three options: swap a card, look at your card, or announce your character.

SWAP: Take your character and one other character, put them under the table (you should not use a glass table for this game), and then put them back without looking at them.  You can keep your card, or swap.  But no one knows what you did.  Please note that the first four turns of Mascarade must all follow the swap option – you can’t do the other two until the fifth turn.

LOOK: Peek at your card.  If you ever accidentally look at it, your next turn must be this.

ANNOUNCE: Say who you are in order to take advantage of the character ability.  The other players also get a chance to claim that character as well.  If no one else claims it, you can take the action without revealing.  If others claim it, everyone must reveal.  If any of the revealed characters are the claimed one, that player immediately takes the power.  Anyone who claims a character falsely must pay a one gold fine to the courthouse.

So, this is kind of the heart of the game.  The possible characters are:

  • Spy: Look at your card and another character’s before swapping them, or not.
  • Bishop: Take two gold from the richest of players, deciding who in case of a tie.
  • Fool: Receive a gold from the bank and swap (or not) the characters of two other players without look.
  • Inquisitor: The Inquisitor points at another player, who must announce who they think they are and reveal.  If they’re right, nothing happens.  If they’re wrong, they pay the Inquisitor four gold.  You need at least eight players to use this role.
  • Judge: Take all fines on the courthouse board.  This is the only role you must use in every game.
  • Peasant: There are two peasant character cards.  This role receives one gold from the bank, but if two players reveal as the peasant, they each get two gold.
  • Queen: Receive two gold from the bank.
  • King: Receive three gold from the bank.  Also, prepare to hear a lecture on how women get less money than men for the same job.  That’s not in the rules, I just think it’s going to happen.
  • Witch: Swap all of your gold with another player of your choice.
  • Cheat: Win the game with 10 gold.
  • Widow: Receive enough coins to bring your total up to 10.
  • Thief: Take one gold from the player on your left, and one from the player on your right.

As soon as a player has at least 13 gold, they win.  If any player goes bankrupt (loses their last coin), the game ends and the richest player wins.

As I mentioned before, this seems to fit into the small games category that Love Letter pioneered.  13 character cards are all you really need for the game, though the character tokens and gold tokens will help with bookkeeping.  The hidden identity aspect will provide some good opportunities for bluffing, but this really is going to be a game that is easier for people with good memories.  The ability to swap or not will make things tougher, but if you have a bad memory, you probably need not apply.

While the theme does not seem to be terribly important in this game, it makes logical sense for a Masquerade to be the backdrop for a game where no one knows who anyone else is.  It looks like it will play well with lots of people (though it probably gets very tough with the full 13 players), and it looks to be a fairly quick game.  So check it out if interested – I think some people in my group have it, so hopefully I’ll get to try it out someday.  Thanks for reading!








    • I actually hadn’t played it yet when this posted, but I just played for the first time last night. And yes, it IS an incredibly fun game. There’s lots of uncertainty, but it’s fun to take stabs in the dark to see if you can get it right.

  1. When we first played this game anyone could challenge the person who announced their character, which we found later was not the correct rule. when played by the rules, the only person who could challenge an announcement is the person who actually is that character, it took the fun out of the game because there was no reason to keep track of swaps… as long as you know who you are and it’s not the announced character, you just have to sit and let them collect their coins… are we reading the rules incorrectly?

    • It’s been a while since I played, but I think anyone can claim a character. If you’re wrong, you have to pay, so you probably shouldn’t do it unless you think you are the character. I’m by no means an expert, having only played it once.

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