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Druidenwalzer

Publisher: Kosmos
Players: 2
Reviewed by Debbie Pickett
Reproduced here with kind permission from Funagain Games.

Fairy unusual

Played lots of German games? Starting to recognize common elements in them? Looking for something different? I guarantee it, you've never seen anything like Druidenwalzer.

Druidenwalzer - this is a play on words in German, implying both forest and dance, both elements appearing in the game - is yet another in Kosmos' successful two-player range. (Others include Lost Cities, the Settlers of Catan card game, Caesar & Cleopatra and Kahuna.) It is vaguely derivative of the classic game mancala in the way the playing area is set up and in the way that the fairy cards move, or 'dance', but even this relationship is tenuous.

Each player has four trees, which are laid out in a row in front of the player, and a discard tile; both discard tiles are placed roughly between opposing players' outermost tree tiles. The ten tiles together then form an approximation to a circle; this is the circle that the players' fairies will dance around. Fairies are represented by cards numbered from 1 (weakest) to 5 (strongest). As well as these fairies, each player has three druids in black, gold and purple. The druids guard a tree each (so that one tree per player is unoccupied at first). Every time a new fairy card is played, and the other fairies on the table have done their mysterious dance, like-coloured druids fight it out, and the tree with the weakest fairy takes a point of damage. When a tree gets six points of damage it is lost and out of the game; that player must then get by with just three trees. Lose another, and you lose the game.

The fairy's dance is simple to describe, but very difficult to visualize: when a fairy card is played onto a tree, all the fairies of the same strength on other trees move (the one just played stays where it is). The direction they move (clockwise or anticlockwise around the ring of ten tiles) is determined by a symbol on the fairy card played, and how many spots they all move (one to four) is determined by the number of spots on the tree the fairy was played onto. These moving cards may reveal other cards underneath, with different strengths. The battle then takes place between the three pairs of druids, except that the druid guarding the tree you just played the fairy card to doesn't participate (and nor does the corresponding opponent's druid).

It really does take a couple of plays of the game to appreciate the dynamics that this gives Druidenwalzer. It isn't always clear at all what the best move is, and sometimes you just have to make a guess. There is also often a need to take a point of damage to give your opponent damage, so it is easy to get a close game in Druidenwalzer.

Beautifully produced, and with a theme that is strangely apt, Druidenwalzer is an eclectic game; it borrows mechanisms from many other games, and intertwines them together in such a complex way that the resulting game becomes quite challenging, and probably inaccessible to some players. This is a game that will certainly not appeal to everyone, but for a game that is far off the beaten track, it just may be your number.

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