Components

  • 100 cubes
  • Gameboard
  • Counters
  • 4 Screens
  • 4 Bidding Boards
  • Rulesheet

Game Elements and Setup

Three or four can play. Place the gameboard in the center of the table.

Each player picks a color and takes the bid card, bidding screen, influence cubes, and score marker of that color. Place the score markers, with the "bomb" side up, on the exclamation point at the top-left of the board.

The Board

The gameboard has two important features. The Support Track goes around the edge. Your score is the overall support your faction has gained in your troubled city. These points are never lost. If your Support score reaches 99, turn your marker over to the 100 side and go around again.

The board also shows seven different "areas" of town, representing different sorts of political power. For in- stance, the Cathedral represents religious power, and the Fortress represents military power. Each area has 5 to 8 white spaces for Influence Cubes (below).

Controlling an area at the end of the game will give you extra support.

The Influence Cubes

Each time you gain influence in an area, you will place one of your cubes on an empty space in that area.

If all the spaces in an area are full, no more cubes may be placed there. Even when an area is full, though, Influence Cubes can be switched. There are 25 cubes of each color.



The Bid Board

Each player has his own bid board, divided into spaces. Each space represents an influential person who can help your cause . . . and shows the benefits that person will give you if you win him over. None of these characters ever stays bought, though. You'll use the bid board on each round.



The Screen

Your screen keeps the other players from seeing your bids be- fore they're revealed.

Tokens

There are three types of tokens.

You will place these on the bid board to indicate what sort of per- suasion you are applying to each of the characters. From strongest to weakest, the tokens are:



Each player starts the game with one Force, one Blackmail, and three Gold. The rest of the tokens make up the bank. There are 32 Gold, 12 Blackmail, and 12 Force.


Rounds

The game is played in rounds. Each round has four phases. All players act simultaneously on each phase - there are no "turns". The phases are:

  1. Espionage
  2. Bidding
  3. Resolution
  4. Patronage

1. Espionage

The town is full of spies, so everyone knows what resources his rivals have. At the beginning of the round, every player must show the tokens he's starting with. Knowing your opponents' capabilities will help you plan your own strategy.



2. Bidding

During the Bidding phase, each player hides his bid board behind his screen, and places his tokens in secret. Each type of token represents a different sort of "persuasion" to use against the town's power structure.

Force trumps everything. One Force will beat any amount of Blackmail or Gold. Blackmail is the second strongest token. One Blackmail will beat any amount of Gold. Gold only wins if no Force or Blackmail are present.


Illegal Bids

There are two ways to bid illegally.

  • A player might bid a token on a character who is immune to that form of persuasion.

    Red tokens cannot be played on a character with a red background, and black cannot be played on a character with a black background.

    Illegal tokens are removed, but there is no other penalty. If your remaining tokens make the strongest bid, you still win.



  • A player might also accidentally bid on too many characters.

    Only the first six bids (see Resolution) are evaluated; the others don't count and are discarded with no effect.



If the highest tokens in a bid are the same kind, look at their numbers. Two Force beat one Force, three Force beat two, and so on.

If the highest tokens in a bid are the same kind and the same amount, look at the lesser tokens. For instance, a Force and a Blackmail beats a Force. A Blackmail and three Gold beat a Blackmail and two Gold, and so on.

You must use all your tokens each turn, but you may not bid on more than six characters in one turn.

Not every token can be used to bid on every character! For instance, the General is immune to Force. The bid card shows what kind of persuasion will work on each character. If a space is red, you can't bid red tokens on it. If a space is black, you can't bid black on it.

When you're finished bidding, raise a hand. When all play- ers are ready, the screens are removed.


3. Resolution

With the screens set aside, each player can see all the bids. Now each bid is evaluated.

Resolve each row of characters from left to right, and then move down to the next row.

Thus, the General - in the upper-left corner of the bid card - is always the first character evaluated, and the Mercenary is al- ways last.

The highest bid wins (see Bidding). The winner immediately takes the benefits granted by that character (see Winning a Bid, below). If the highest bids are tied, no one wins. And if no one bids on a character, no one gets that character's benefits for that round.

After each character is evaluated, regardless of the outcome, all players remove all tokens spent on that character. Put the discarded tokens in the bank. At the end of the round, no tokens will be left on anyone's bid board.


Winning a Bid

Winning a character can give you different kinds of help.

  • If the character grants support, move your scoring token that number of spaces on the Support track.

  • If the character grants tokens, take them from the bank, and set them aside for the next round. Don't mix them up with the tokens you have on the bid board.

  • If the character grants influence, place one of your in- fluence cubes in the specified area of the board. If all the spaces in that area are already full, though, you do not place a cube.

  • The Spy and Apothecary affect cubes already on the board (see Spy and Apothecary).


4. Patronage

After all bids have been resolved, check the number of tokens each player has. Anyone with fewer than five tokens (regardless of type) takes enough Gold coins from the bank to bring his total to five.

You never get Force or Blackmail during the patronage phase. The only way to get those tokens is by winning character bids. Your secret patrons will only give you Gold, and only when you really need it!

After the patron age phase, a new round / begins.


End of the Game

The game is over when all the influence spaces on the board are full at the end of a Resolution phase. Players will now score added support for the areas they control and for the tokens they earned on the last round.

  • Tokens: Each Force grants 5 support, each Blackmail grants 3 support, and each Gold grants 1 support.

  • Areas: Each area grants a large bonus to the player who has the most influence there. It is not necessary to have a majority of its spaces - just the most. If an area is tied, no one gains its sup- port.

Example A: The Cathedral has seven spaces. Red and Green each have two influence cubes, but Blue has three. Blue wins the 35 Support.



Example B: Red and Blue each have three cubes, and Green has one. The area is tied and no one gets its support.

The winner is the player with the most Support.


Spy and Apothecary

The Spy and the Apothecary can be the two most powerful characters, if used correctly. They are the only way to change the positions of cubes on the board, or shift the balance of power in an area once the spaces are full.

Winning the Spy will allow you to take an influence space away from another player. The Spy is also the only way to reduce the total amount of influence a player has on the board.



The more influence spaces are filled, the stronger the Apothecary becomes. In the early rounds, there may not seem to be much point in switching influence cubes, but late in the game, you can help yourself and hurt your rivals with a carefully planned exchange.

Remember, you don't have to move your own pieces with the Apothecary.



In the example above, Red has traded one of Blue's pieces in the Cathedral for one of Yellow's pieces in the Tavern. Now Red has the most cubes in the Cathedral, and also the most in the Tavern.


Hints and Tips

  • Do not underestimate the importance of the Printer, as pop- ular support is ultimately the key to victory.

  • Pay attention to the characters the other players are fighting over. Bid on the neglected ones. Perhaps you can pick them up cheaply.

  • If you start a round with only Gold, you still have options. There are two characters on the bid card that only take Gold. And you can always spread your Gold across the board and hope to get lucky.

  • Characters may be worth bidding on, even when the areas they influence are already full. If you can sway any character for a single Gold, you have a bargain.


Optional Rules

Bid Refunds

The standard rules assume that the townspeople pocket every bribe they are offered, and never give refunds. What if you tell them you'll only pay when you see results? Winning bids still go to the bank, but losing and tied bids are returned to the players to be used on the next round.

Refunded tokens count toward your Support total at the end of the game.

Area Control Bonus

If you control all the spaces in an area, your influence there is so great that it can't be broken. None of your cubes there can be removed or switched, and you get an extra 10 Support for that area at the end of the game.

Making Deals

You can allow negotiation. For instance, "I won't bid on the Captain if you don't bid on the General this round".Deals made during the game are not binding, though anyone who breaks a promise will find it harder to convince someone to make more deals with him.


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