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Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle
3-4 players
20-45 minutes

Review by Dale Yu

“Verrater” in German is translated to “Traitor” in English. The concept of the traitor is central in this clever little game that is packaged (and costs) like a card game but has the complexity to play like a bigger (and more expensive) boardgame. It is an every-man-for-himself type game that cleverly still requires a large amount of cooperation between the players. The goal is to have more points at the end of the game than anyone else. Points are scored (potentially by everyone in the game) in each round. There is a conflict (or battle) in each round – the winner(s) of the conflict get points. Points can also be earned by choosing certain action cards during the conflict. (I know this is a little confusing right now, but it will all make sense later.)

In the setup of the game, you take the 12 landscape cards and arrange them in a circle. Each player then chooses an alignment (either Rose or Eagle). These two symbols represent the two factions in the game. Which faction you are currently a member of determines how you play the game. Each of the landscape cards in the layout can be controlled by either the Roses or the Eagles (each faction is represented on one side of the card). Additionally, each landscape has a base supply point value which is used in the conflict (ranging from 0 to 15). During each turn, the Strategist chooses two adjacent lands of differing control that will be fought over for that turn. Once the location of the battle is chosen, then each player in the game chooses his specific action for the turn (choice of six). Before the actions are chosen, oneof the cards is placed face down into the middle of the board. The remaining 5 are picked up by the first player who chooses one of them. The re maining four are then passed to the 2nd player who chooses one…. Finally the last player chooses his action card and returns the unchosen one to the middle of the board. There is an obvious advantage to being earlier in the rotation here as you not only have a better choice of action cards but also have a better chance of knowing what the earlier players chose. But what are the different actions?

Verrater (traitor) – this is the traitor card – before the battle is resolved, you switch allegiance to the other faction.
                            In addition, you get 1VP for choosing this card 
Bauer (farmer) – you get to draw three cards at the end of this turn to replenish your hand
Diplomat 2 – you get +2 supply points in the conflict; you also get to draw an extra supply card at the end of the turn
Diplomat 5 – you get +5 supply points in the conflict (but no extra card)
Baumeister (builder) – you can build a new supply house, move an existing supply house or convert a supply house to an office
Stratege (strategist) – you can choose the location of the conflict next turn. You also get 2VP for choosing the card.

Once the actions are chosen (and they remain facedown so that no one knows the other’s actions yet), each player plays supply points to aid their faction in battle. In turn, starting with the first player, each player plays supply cards face up and declares their total. A player can play between 0 and 5 supply cards during each conflict. The players must remember that one player is likely to have the Verrater card and will switch his allegiance to the other side before the end of the battle. Thus any supply cards played by him will be added to the total of the other faction. Also, the two diplomat cards will add more supply points to the totals. After each player has had a chance to play supply cards, the action cards are revealed. Diplomats add the supply cards to their respective totals. The Verrater switches his allegiance card over to the other side and counts his points for his new allegiance. All of the player’s supply points are added to the base point values of the respective landscapes
and totalled up. Whichever side has more points wins the conflict. The landscape which loses the battle is flipped over to the other side to show is changed allegiance. 

Victory points are then awarded for the conflict. A clever system is used to dole out the points. Points are awarded based on a chart that is found at the bottom of whichever landscape card lost in the conflict. The chart awards points based on how many players were on the winning side. For instance, if there are 3 Roses and they win against the Eagle landscape “Dorf”, they would each get 3 VPs. However, if there were only one Rose and he won against the other three defending the same Dorf, that one player would get 10VPs. (Sound complicated? Take a look at this picture of a landscape to understand better) Additionally, there are some Victory Point bonuses based on the action cards chosen. Whomever took the Verrater card gets an extra 1VP, regardless of whether his side won the battle or not. Similarly, whomever was Strategist gets an extra 2VPs regardless of the outcome of the conflict.

After the conflict is over, the other action cards have their effect. The Baumeister (builder) is allowed to build a new workshop, move an existing workshop or convert a workshop into an office. Workshops or offices are placed under a landscape card. Only one workshop or office can be placed under any landscape card.  Workshops are important because they determine your ability to draw new supply cards into your hand. At the end of each turn, when it is time to draw cards, a player gets to draw one card for each workshop he has under a land which shares his current allegiance. Offices are important in the endgame as they can provide a nice VP bonus. At the end of the game, each office a player has (maximum of 2) produces one VP for each card remaining in that player’s hand (maximum 3 cards) – thus there is a possible 6VP bonus at the end of the game.

The Strategist, aside from getting 2VP bonus in scoring, then takes the Conflict card and is able to place it next turn. Note: if no one chooses the Strategist action card, the current player who is Strategist chooses the location of the conflict next turn, however this player does not get the 2VP bonus (unless, of course, he chooses the Strategist card).

Finally, the Bauer (farmer) uses his ability in the card drawing phase of the turn. The maximum number of cards a player can draw is three per turn. Furthermore, the maximum number of cards a player can have in his hand is five. If a player wants to draw cards to bring his total in excess of five, he must first discard supply cards before drawing new ones so that his total never exceeds five. The farmer starts the draw by taking three cards from the deck. All the other players draw supply cards based on the number of workshops that player has under landscapes that share the player’s current loyalty.

Now that all of the action cards have been used, the action cards are returned to the center of the board. The First Player is rotated one position clockwise and a new turn begins. The game ends after 8 turns (in a four player game – or twice around) or 9 turns (in a three player game – or three times around). Additionally, the game can also end if all of the landscapes have been turned over to a single loyalty. Whenever the last turn is completed (including the card draw phase), the bonus points are awarded based on the number of offices and number of cards left in the player’s hand. (Note – it does not matter what allegiance the landscape card over the office is, a player gets the bonus regardless). The bonus points are added to the totals, and whomever has the most VPs wins.

This is a great little game that packs in a huge number of tough decisions in a short period of time. The action is quick and furious – each round should only take 3 to 5 minutes once you get the hang of the game. There is an vast amount of strategy in the conflict phase of the turn as you decide how you can maximize your VPs for the turn by choosing the right action card or playing the right number and amount of supply cards to win the battle. The strategy gets more complicated when you have to factor in that one player is likely to turn tail and switch sides. Thus, you can never really get a correct count on the battle at hand. Choosing action cards can also have important implications. Do you take the Bauer in order to gain more supply cards for later battles? Do you take the builder card to make more workshops for more production of supply cards or do you switch a workshop over to an office in order to set yourself up for a bonus at the end of the game? Will you turn Traitor to switch
over into the winning side of the battle? The cards are well balanced such that none of them has more “power” than any other. Rather, it is more important to get the right card for the changing situations in the game. What may be the best card for you on a particular turn will likely not be the best card for your opponent. 

This game seems to be built for four, but it does play quite well with three as well. The strategies seem to be a little changed as there are 2 vs 1 battles on almost every turn. Also, there are now three action cards that remain unused instead of only two. However, these changes take nothing away from the decisions that need to be made or the tension developed in the game. The second best part of the game is its speed. You get a nice meaty game in for less than 45 minutes. Each round is tense and packed with important decisions. And though it is a quick game, it is not at all light. If it is light, it could be called a “light wargame”. But the best part of the game is the size and price. It is the same size as a deck of cards. And the price can’t be beat – about $8 - $10. I highly recommend this game to anyone. If there is any negative of this game, it is that the translated rules don’t fit into the box.