Think back to the last time you read a work of Shakespeare. Picture the room you were in. Let me guess…high school English class? No? Well, I’m right if I’m counting myself. I am not very familiar with the works of the Bard. At most, I could give you a brief plot summary of only his most famous plays. Even then it would go like this: “Well, there’s this dude named Romeo, and the girl he likes is from a family that hates his family and then they both die.” So why on earth is Council of Verona one of my favorite games?
Council of Verona takes place in the Shakespearian Universe (since everything has to have a universe nowadays) where the people of Verona are sick of the Capulets and the Montagues fighting. We get it. You guys hate each other. Prince Escalus, leader of the region, decides to form a council of citizens to try to bring peace to Verona. As concerned citizens, players try to gain as much influence as possible in this new government and so what if a bunch of people get exiled? That just means there is more room on the council for people who share your vision for the future.
At the beginning of the game, players draft characters that will end up on the Council or in Exile, depending on where they are played or moved. Each character has a special ability that is activated when played or they have a scoring condition that is checked at the end of the game, giving points to players who have placed their tokens there. Deciding on which card to keep and which card to keep and which ones to pass on is a tough choice. Do you want people with powerful abilities or agendas that you think will score big? You probably need a good mix of both, but be aware of what cards you are passing to your opponent because it could come back and bite you.
Players take turns playing characters to the Council or to Exile, the only locations in the game. If you aren’t on the Council, you might as well be on the outskirts of town, fighting against wild dogs for scraps of food. If your character has a special ability, like swapping tokens or moving characters, you can choose to activate it, hopefully for your benefit. Some of these powers are extremely powerful, such as “View any 2 Influence Tokens”, while others are pretty basic, moving characters out of or into Exile.
The rest of the characters have Influence Spots and agendas, conditions that award points if achieved at the end of the game. Prince Escalus wants an equal amount of Capulets and Montagues on the Council, while Mercutio wants more characters in Exile than on the Council. After playing a card, the current player may place one of their tokens face down in an open position on a card. Each token has a different value but will only score points if the agenda they are attached to is true at the end of the game. You and your opponents have to figure out who played what token where in order to figure out what will score. You could even be playing your token that is worth zero points, just to throw your opponents off. This element of bluffing is tricky, fun, and the best part of the game. Many times I have been sure of a token’s identity, but turns out I was completely wrong. All of the tokens are flipped face up at the end of the game, so it ends in a dramatic fashion every time. Who scored? Who didn’t? Did Romeo and Juliet end up together in the end? Agendas are checked, points are tallied, and you will want to play it over and over again.
The game is so teeny tiny that it can go anywhere with you and is fantastic for travel. Airplane trays and hotel tables are roomy affairs since this game only uses a handful cards and a few tokens. The box is sturdy enough to fit into a pocket without damage. This game is even advertised as part of a Pub Series of games, so I’ve played this at restaurants waiting for food to arrive. Because who has time for small talk with waiters? Not me. My dad, however, is a different story. Back on subject.
I have to qualify this review with the fact that Council of Verona is a FANTASTIC two-player game, but the box says 2-5 players. In my experience, the game becomes much harder to predict and control as you add more players. But since Council is so small and so great with two-players that I have no regrets buying it to play with just one other person.
This review is also for the base game of Council of Verona. Two expansions, Poison and Corruption, add more elements and takes this great game and turns it up a notch. I’ll review those expansions in an upcoming post, but let me tell you this: I never play without the expansions. They are that good. Crash Games will be running a Kickstarter campaign for the next edition printing and the expansions, so definitely check that out when it launches.
My final verdict is that Council of Verona is great game that won’t take up much room on your table, but you will be thinking about it even when you aren’t playing. Trust me. I’m not bluffing. Or am I?