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Deadly Dowagers

Described as a game of marriage, murder and money, Deadly Dowagers is a satirical card game where the 2-6 players are each conniving women intent on social climbing by marrying and remarrying well so that they can win the prize of marriage to a Duke and so nab the title of Duchess. In our plays at Board's Eye View, we were put in mind of the classic Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets.

With art by Mercedes Palacios, Deadly Dowagers adopts a Victorian setting where brides are still expected to bring a dowry to their wedding. You'll start off married to a commoner and you'll inherit their wealth when they meet an unfortunate end, freeing you to marry again - perhaps to a member of the aristocracy... You'll need to have built up a dowry of 120 crowns to marry the Duke but watch out tho' - the unfortunate deaths of your previous husbands and other scandals will earn you infamy and if you are too infamous, you will not be considered as a suitable marriage partner for the Duke...

This then is a hand management card game where each round begins with card drafting so that players each start with a hand of four cards plus up to three that they've carry forward from the previous round. The cards may include land and other investments, realised when your husband dies, and cards that cause the death of your husband or which allow you to marry.

Once players have drafted their hand of cards, they can play land or venture cards to their tableaus, paying the purchase price where required. This is the 'Investment Phase'. This is followed by a 'Husband Phase' where you can play just one cause-of-death or remarry card, but you can also take an action without a card: to strangle your husband if married; elope if unmarried; or, if your husband is a curate or professor, to advance their career and so increase your inheritance when they die. The downside of eloping without a remarry card or killing your husband without a cause-of-death card is that both will significantly increase your infamy...

Tho' I wouldn't be entirely comfortable being her marriage partner, designer Sarah Shipp has certainly devised a fast-playing thematically strong card game that's fun to play. Players all carry out their actions in the Investment and Husband Phases simultaneously, so player count doesn't materially affect playing time - which is a big plus. Because of the card drafting each round, you may have an idea of what cards other players have - at least at the lower player counts - but you'll find you are focused firmly on your own social climbing without worrying overly about what others are doing. You might find two or more players vying for the same husband at the same time but that's fairly rare; on the other hand, there is just one Duke and so you're all in a race to be the first to qualify as his Duchess... That said, this isn't a 'take that' game - indeed, if anything it's a 'take this' game as you could find other players giving you money as the price of playing a charity card. The meaty decisions to take are which cards to choose when drafting and which cards to carry forward to future rounds. Cards, for example, that let you reduce your infamy may be useless at the start of the game but could be essential towards the end - if you see one in the first round of card drafting, do you take it for future use or do you focus on more immediate advancement and hope to get cards later that will let you manipulate your infamy?

Deadly Dowagers is published by Sparkworks and Tabletop Tycoon. It should be making its way to retail but you can click here to order direct from Tabletop Tycoon, where you can quote the promo code DeadlyView134 to qualify for a $5 discount.

(Review by Selwyn Ward)

#DeadlyDowagers #cardgame #carddrafting #handmanagement #Sparkworks #TabletopTycoon #KindHeartsandCoronets #murder #dowry

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