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Designed by Luigi Ferrini and Daniele Ursini, Ensemble is one of the lighter compositions from Ares Games. In fact it's classified as a party game for 2-10 players, and it's certainly a game that can appeal to and be played by 'non-gamers'.

The title and box art from Daniela Giubellini suggests a musical theme but this isn't a game about music; rather it's a cooperative game where your aim is to have players all on the same wavelength or, as you might put it to mesh with the title, to have them singing the same tune. In fact tho', Ensemble is a cooperative Dixit-style game where players are each choosing the picture that they think best connects with or is suggestive of the target illustration ('challenge card').

The game starts off super-easy. With a choice between just two possible options, it's likely in most cases that one will tie in more obviously than the other, so all the players will very probably choose the same picture card. The game steadily steps up in difficulty, however, as each success adds more cards to the options until you reach the maximum of 9 cards. 'Mistakes' (ie: players going for different cards) cost you a heart token but you can win back a token if on a subsequent turn all the players make the same choice. You achieve a collective win if you get to 9 cards and still have a heart token left.

Tho' of course the game gets potentially harder as it progresses and more cards are added, you will probably find that as play goes on, and maybe after players explain and justify the choices that don't gel with those of other players, you'll find that people begin to understand and take account of each other's thought processes. For us, this seemed to work best at around 6 or 7 players, tho' you can certainly play Ensemble with more or fewer players.

If and when you get to the point where Ensemble seems too easy, you can unpack the 'scenario' decks that shake the game up a bit and step up the difficulty.

Perhaps the closest parallel game to Ensemble is Pictures (PD-Verlag), because in that game, as with Ensemble, you'll often find players looking for aspects that tie in with the picture they are trying to match: so that tho' the picture you choose is thematically unrelated, it shares perhaps particular shapes or similar colours. Pictures has shown its staying power, with an annual stream of expansions. If Ensemble succeeds in hitting that same sweet spot, it's a title that we can expect to see get regular party game outings.

#Ensemble #partygame #Dixit #Pictures #cooperative #AresGames

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