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Kutschfahrt zum Teufelsberg - a review by Martin Griffiths

A review by Martin Griffiths

Kutschfahrt zum Teufelsberg (Coach Ride to the Devil's Castle) is a game I just got to like a whole lot more by losing it embarrassingly. It's a game of secret identities and variable player powers like Bang or Shadow Hunters, and shares the ability of those games to play well with six or more players. However, Coach Ride has the big advantage of not eliminating players half-way through the game.

Up to ten players represent characters aboard the aforementioned coach. At the start of the game, they are secretly divided into two teams: The Brotherhood of True Lies and the Order of Open Secrets. Each player also takes a character card, which has no real significance but gorgeous artwork, a secret profession card that will give them a special power upon revealing it, and an object from a deck, the rest of which remain in a draw pile. The aim of the game is to figure out who is on your team, and collectively acquire the objects your team seeks: three keys for the Order, three goblets for the Brotherhood.

Turns are simple. There are three options: attack a player; trade with a player; or declare victory. A declaration will end the game one way or the other. The player must name his team-mates, who between them must own the three necessary objects. If he gets it wrong, the other team wins. So what about the options that make up the bulk of the game? To initiate a trade, a player offers an object to another player, who looks at it and decides whether or not to accept the trade. If he accepts, he passes one of his objects back; if he refuses, the active player's turn is over. Some objects take effect only when traded away, such as the Secret Bags, which allow the player who gives one away to draw another object from the pile. Some have effects in attacks, and some are downright nasty: the Black Pearl cannot be refused but prevents the player holding it from declaring victory. One object even allows a player to ditch his team-mates and attempt a solo victory.

If you decide to attack, you declare the victim and put your character card 'sword-side' up, while the person being attacked puts his 'shield-side' up. Following round clockwise from the attacker, each other player flips his card to show whether he will join the attack or the defence. After everyone has revealed, players may add effects from objects and by revealing their hidden professions. Finally, a winner is determined or the conflict ends in a stand-off. A stand-off allows the attacker to draw an object from the pile, and is an important way of getting more objects into the game, but a decisive result is more interesting. The winner gets to either look at the team and profession of his victim, or to look at all his objects and choose one to take.

So far, so simple, but that doesn't begin to describe the feeling of paranoia you get when you start playing. Why's he attacking me again? Are those two on the same team? What is the meaning of being offered this object? The game usually starts quite cagily, as in the absence of any information, it's best to force conflicts to a stand-off and not risk giving vital clues to your opposition. But that's not always possible thanks to the special powers of the objects and professions, and soon some players will begin to know things. Then the game moves into a bluffing stage - if he knows who he is, but he also knows that I know... which brings us back to my embarrassing defeat. The (6-player) game had been moving along quite fast and through attacks I knew who two of my opponents and one of my allies in the Brotherhood were for sure. Then one of the remaining players passed me a goblet, the very object my team was seeking. Surely he must be a Brother too! Soon enough, I cockily declared the 'victory', only to be denounced by the deceitful member of the Order. It really brought home the subtletly of the game: the channels along which you can communicate with the other players are narrow, and there are plenty of ways of being exploited.

There are a couple of downsides to the game. With the wrong group it could drag on a bit and become repetitive, and the fix for odd numbers of players doesn't seem very elegant. But overall this is another excellent game from the Adlung-Spiele range. A tiny box, a low price, evocative artwork, and a great game to have around for larger groups.

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