Updated: Nov 20, 2019
Designed by T C Petty III and published by Nevermore, Spires is a simple but elegant design that combines elements of trick taking, set collection and auction bidding in an attractive and original card game.
Players have a hand of cards in various colours. Every turn, three auctions will be held, each for at least one card - but more if an auction wasn't bid on in the previous round. Players simultaneously and secretly decide which of the three auctions they will participate in and they choose a single card from their hand to place a bid in that auction. The highest value card will win, except that a card of the same colour as the card being auctioned will beat a card of higher value in a different colour. Cards marked with an 'A' are Architects not Aces: they are deemed the highest card when used in an auction for a card of their colour but have a value of zero when used to bid for a card of another colour. If you are the only bidder for a card, you automatically win it. If there is competition, then the winning bidder takes all the cards bid.
Problem is, you don't always want to win. The game is called Spires because your cards represent the building blocks in towers you are building for the king. Every card you win in an auction has to be played to a tableau in front of you. That means you will be playing to your tableau, the card you bid on, the card you bid with and all the cards that other players used to bid. At the end of the game, you will score 5 points per card in every colour with three or fewer cards but the king doesn't want his glory overshadowed: you are penalised, therefore, for any spire made up of four or more cards (-1 point per card). Bonus points are available for collecting sets of symbols and for some of the 'scroll' cards that come up for auction. This all makes for a scoring system that keeps every player on their toes.
Spires is an enjoyable and sometimes tense game that plays more quickly than you might expect given the chunky deck. It definitely plays best with four but it comes with options for playing with two, three and even as a solitaire game. Spires also includes some optional rules introducing a more complex hierarchy of suits for the purpose of trumping. Played with a full complement, Spires inevitably involves a degree of bluffing and you'll find players deliberately trying to unload cards onto an opponent to push their spires into the negative. Certain scroll cards allow players to discard from their tableau, which can make them very valuable if they turn up towards the end of the game. Also at the end of the game, players have to place into their tableau all but one of the cards from their hand - so this really is a game that isn't over till it's over.