Histrio is a game from 2 to 5 players created by Bruno Cathala and Christian Martinez published by Bombyx. Each player takes control of a Troupe to present a show for the King at the Munificent Theatrical Festival. The King has a fickle mind, sometimes he is in the mood for a comedy and other times he would like to see a tragedy. It is your job to make sure that your play pleases the King and brings in the most Ecus. The player who gathers the most Ecus after two seasons will be the winner.
Setup is real easy in this game. You start by placing the board and theatre in the middle of the table. Place the pile of Ecus in an easy to reach place and flip one of the Ecus. This will determine the king’s mood at the start of the season. Each player chooses a color and takes the corresponding deck of travel cards, 8 caravels, 3 managers and 3 Ecus. Shuffle the secret request deck and place it face-down next to the theatre. The secret request cards give you extra means of scoring extra Ecus at the end of a season and a bit of a goal to work for. The encounter deck is also shuffled and placed next to the game board. This deck is comprised of bonuses, actors and acrobats. The bonuses give you Ecus, the actors have an ability, a level (1 to 5) and are either a comedy or tragedy player. Place an encounter card face-up in front of each city space on the board. Now you are ready to start playing.
A season consists of different turns and each turn has three phases: Travel, Resolution and New Opportunities. Players keep on taking turns until the encounter deck is empty at the start of the New opportunities phase at which point the current seasons ends. After two seasons are played the game is over and you will see who has gained the most Ecus.
Each player has a deck of cards depicting the 8 cities that are on the board. During the Travel phase each player selects one of those cards and places it face-down. This depicts the city they want to travel to. After everyone has chosen their destination, these cards are revealed and each player places their caravel under the city that they have chosen. Afterwards these city cards go to your discard pile. When you have only one city card remaining you can take back all city cards from your discard pile.
The next phase is the resolution phase where every city is resolved that has one or more caravel arriving starting at the first city. When a player is arriving alone at the city they resolve all encounter decks there from the last to the first. Acrobats are played face up in their Troupe (play area in front of you). Bonuses are immediately payed out and the cards go to the encounter discard pile. Actor cards are resolved and are added to your hand. The level 1 actor lets you take back all your previously played city cards and corresponding caravels. The level 2 actor steals an Ecu from another player. When you get a level 3 actor you can place on of your managers on the stage and gain an amount of Ecus equal to the total number of managers on the stage. The level 4 actor has no effect and the level 5 actor is so good that he costs you one Ecu. After resolving the city you have the option of discarding one of your actors in hand and influence the King’s mood according to the type and level of the actor. If the King’s mood changes from comedy to tragedy or vice versa, all managers on the stage are returned to their owners. The rest of the actors are placed in your Troupe and the caravel is placed on the appropriate city on the board.
When there are two or more players at a single city all the bonuses and acrobats are discarded without effect. The actors are also discarded but first they influence the King’s mood according to their type and level. Each player at that city places its caravel on the board and takes a secret request card into their hand. When you have more than three secret requests in hand you have to discard down to three.
After the necessary cities have been resolved we move on to the New Opportunities phase. If the encounter deck is empty at the start of this phase than the season is over and it is time to total the Ecus. Otherwise, draw and place a new encounter card at every city starting at the first city. In the second season it could happen that there are not enough cards for all the cities but the next turn is still played with the available cards.
At the end of a season it is time see how you have done and total the Ecus. Each player receives one Ecu for each Actor in their Troupe corresponding to the King’s mood. Now you have to see if your show pleases the King. This is done by adding all the levels of the actor types corresponding to the King’s mood and subtracting the levels of the actors who are not corresponding. If this is positive you get an extra 3 Ecus for season 1 and 5 Ecus for season 2. This reward is doubled of you performed the best show thus having the most positive result. Each player can then play one secret request card and score Ecus for this. The secret request card played during the first season stays in play for and can be used as an extra secret request in the second season.
When the first season has ended all the acrobats are straightened and can be used again. The travel cards stay in their discard pile. All of the encounter cards at the cities and all actors from the players return to their deck and is shuffled to form a new encounter deck. One encounter card is placed at each city. An Ecu is flipped to determine the King’s mood at the start of the second season and the managers on the theatre are returned to their owners.
The player who has the most Ecus at the end of the second season is the winner of Histrio.
First off, if you hadn’t noticed the artwork done by Jérémie Fleury is gorgeous. I love the animals depicted as dignitaries and the theatre just draws the attention. The game itself plays very fluent. Everybody plays a card and then you resolve the cities and that’s it actually, but don’t be fooled. There is more to it than that. You have to look out at what options you still have and what you would like to have. On the other hand you have to consider what your opponents might be doing because if you both end up on the same space then you don’t get anything there. I love the system of the caravels, this gives you an immediate overview of what cards the rest have played by just looking at the board instead of going through everybody’s discard pile. The special abilities are great and can give a nice twist like a card that prevents other player’s from visiting a certain city or the ability to play two travel cards at once and so on. The choice of discarding an actor to change the King’s mood is also a great mechanic. You might want to give up an actor that doesn’t correspond to the King’s current mood but this changes the balance and brings him closer to changing his mind, or maybe you just want to change his mood because all of your actors don’t correspond to his current mood or is it a secret request…. The secret request cards make for some uncertainty to how well a person is doing and this is something that I am always fond off, not knowing who will win till the better end. Our games all have ended up being real close games with only a few Ecus in between first and second place which is great plus for me. All in all, a superb game that is easy to learn and yet has a lot of decisions, great moments and is visually appealing.
Play with honor