The Game of Blame is an interesting concept with a neat little plot. You, as players, are all members of the royal court, each with your own roles and special abilities. Things are not going well, and so you need to pass the blame for the failings of the Kingdom onto the other players. The person holding the most blame, at the end of the game, loses. It’s for this reason that it is now on our game shelf (that and it was £9.99), the question is – was it worth it?
THE PREMISE OF THE GAME OF BLAME
The Game of Blame is a (sort of) memory based card game for 2-4 players, published by Warm Acre games. In the game, you deal different sorts of blame into a central pile. These fall under seven categories – one category associated with each of the player roles, and then six Treason cards. Most cards have two different categories associated with them, although some do only have one, and Treason cards act like wildcards being all things to all people.
The categories/roles are:
- General – Red
- Viceroy – Green
- Wizard – Blue
- Archbishop – Purple
- Treasurer – Yellow
- Spymaster – Grey
So, for instance, the card blame card Scandalous Gossip is both Grey and Green, so would blame both the Spymaster and the Viceroy.
Each round you can do one of four options.
- Play 0 cards, and draw three.
- Play 1 card, and draw one.
- Play 2 cards, and switch the two roles the topmost card in the pile is showing/blaming (so for Scandalous Gossip it would switch the Spymaster and the Viceroy)
- Play 3 cards, and assign blame to another player. If you are right, then their icon is the most common in the blame pile. They pick up the whole pile into their hand. You, as a reward, get to sneak something under the Queen’s nose – discarding a card (this is called the Secret Pile, and every player has their own individual one). If you are wrong, and their icon isn’t the most common, then you take the blame and all the cards in the centre of the table.
The catch is you can only play a card that is showing a symbol identical to the last card on the blame central pile. If Scandalous Gossip has the Spymaster and Viceroy symbols on it, then the next card needs to have one of those two as well. The next card could be Viceroy and General for instance, or Spymaster and Wizard – or any combo of any icon that incorporates one of those two.
The roles have their own twists on the gameplay.
- General – Cannot be accused if he has no cards in his Secrets Pile.
- Viceroy – If your role gets swapped, you may immediately draw three cards to swap it back.
- Wizard – When playing two cards, rather than switching roles, you switch hands with an opponent of your choice.
- Archbishop – When you play one card, draw one and give a card from your hand to a player of your choice.
- Treasurer – If you play no card, draw three, and then put one card from your hand into your Secrets Pile.
- Spymaster – When playing three cards, instead of blaming a player you take their Secrets Pile into your hand and give them one from yours.
The game ends when the draw pile is empty. At which point, all players look at their hands and count up the icons that match their current role. Treason cards act as another 6 points each. The person with the lowest points wins.
QUALITY AND COMPONENTS OF THE GAME OF BLAME
One of the things that appealed to me about The Game of Blame is that, when deciding whether to buy it or not, it comes in a really small box. The box for the game is the same size as a standard playing card box, and that is really nice. It’s good seeing a game where the box hasn’t been made unnecessarily big for a change. Instead, it is a good size for a game that you can pick up and put in your pocket.
The cards themselves are of average quality. They shuffle nicely, and I suppose that’s all that really matters.
What really makes and breaks the game is the detail on the cards themselves. They have long and intricate stories written on them, the likes of which do make you chuckle – when you can actually read them. The font is tiny, to fit in paragraphs of text, and it is written in the lightest of fonts that make it impossible to read. During the whole of the first game, I think I only attempted to read two cards, which is a real shame. The cards are so beautifully done, but they didn’t really think about the ergonomics during production. This is not a game that is easily accessible for people who usually wear glasses (myself included in that number) due to near unreadable text. This is bar the Traitor cards, where the text is far darker and easier to read due to them actually being rules.
WHAT IS IT LIKE PLAYING THE GAME OF BLAME?
This is a remarkably simple question to answer. It’s Uno…with a theme. The whole game plays out like Uno, where each card you play has to match one of two previous criteria. The theme is quite nice, but so far as the core play is concerned, yes, things happen when you play certain numbers of cards, but leaving aside that it is more or less the classic card game we all grew up with.
The role cards add some flavour in the game, as well as adding a different kind of strategy; however, they didn’t play overly well as balanced cards and, looking at the abilities, it is possible to see why.
No-one wanted to have the Spymaster, because no-one wants a whole host of rubbish cards in their hand (most Secret Piles end up filled with Traitor cards) so it became the go-to rubbish card to force the other player to be, along with the General around five minutes into the game when his ability becomes useless. The second you have successfully blamed a player, you start building your Secrets Pile so the General can no longer protect you.
The Wizard was the most sought-after card, as being able to switch hands lead to an interesting strategy of building up and hand of rubbish cards before getting rid of it; however, being forced to always switch hands when playing two cards soon meant the Wizard player was reduced to playing one card a turn in order to avoid rubbish cards returning to their hands.
The other three roles played out as you would expect. They did things, but nothing really of note.
The Overabundance of the Word “Must”
Ultimately, I’m not sure the game lives up to a potential it could have done. Yes, the cards are difficult to read, but that is not the problem with the gameplay. The problem with the gameplay arises with the word “Must”.
Every action in the game is a foretold action. Every action is “Do X and Y must happen.”
Where this forces players to think about their turn to some degree, it also automates a lot of the game. If the Wizard, for instance, didn’t have to switch their hand but could choose, then it would feel like real magic and not just circumstance. If you could play two cards without switching roles, or play three without having to instantly accuse someone, but instead you could choose to – then the game would have more strategy and less randomness.
Where the game could be asking us what we want for lunch, it is instead asking us whether we want our breaded ham sandwich on white bread or brown. Where it could be asking us what we want to do in the evening, it is asking us how loud we want the TV on. Where it could be asking us what game we want to play, it is asking us where we want to move our first pawn in chess. You get the idea. The choice is removed because of one word: “Must”.
“Must” becomes restrictive and ultimately, I think, holds the game back.
VERDICT FOR THE GAME OF BLAME
My girlfriend and I had a discussion about The Game of Blame this morning and where we stand on it. Ultimately, I am not sure it holds itself high enough to be able to cut through the other games on the shelf. Yes, it is a fine filler, but due to that one word, I feel that is all it will ever be. It’s a shame, because the concept is such a good one, but “Must” makes it difficult to get into.
That being said, will we play it again? Maybe. That’s all I can say. We didn’t hate it, but it isn’t an instant classic.
The question about “Must” is an interesting one in the board game world – what do you think of forced rules by shifting “must” and “may” in scenarios like this? Help or hindrance? Let me know in the comments below.