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Board Game Review: ‘Veritas’

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Like beauty, truth is often in the eye of the beholder. Before the printing press, a book was an exceedingly costly and precious item explaining great mysteries. Of course, like Twitter feeds hoaxing famous deaths, these books were not necessarily the objective Truth but the accepted, to borrow a term from Stephen Colbert, “truthiness” of how people may perceive the world. Abiogenesis, phlogiston, and a geocentric universe were once understood to be “truths” expounded simply because they were the chief ideas at the time. Cheapass Games takes the state of knowledge in the Dark Ages to create an engrossing game of strategy called Veritas.

VeritascoverVeritas is a black-and-white box Cheapass game, meaning it comes with the board and tiles unique for play. Not included are 40 tokens for each player, which would simply up the cost of production and sit in the closet whenever the game is not being used. Instead, players may come up with whatever tokens they like, such as poker chips, coins, or tiles from another game.

The setting is France, a land filled with monasteries and burgeoning cities. Veritas comes with six pieces that assemble into a board divided into 12 regions each with a unique set of roads connecting monasteries and cities. Players use their tokens as “books,” the prevalent truth at the time in each monastery and city. Whoever’s token is on top of the pile is the established truth, though one idea can be quickly covered up by another.

Players set out an initial stack of truths on any monastery on the board and take turns spreading their truth. On each turn, a player first draws a tile from the box representing a monastery on the board. If it is a monastery with books, it initiates a scoring round. If not, the monastery simply turns to road and the player goes on with a turn either copying (adding another token) or moving (spreading out tokens space-by-space in a line). If a player controls all of the cities in a region, the player may also Grow to add a token in every controlled monastery in the region.

All of the building, spreading, and superseding of the different books makes for careful arrangement of a player’s pieces in hopes of a fire to start a scoring round. When a monastery with books burns, every player controlling the majority of monasteries in a region receives points for that region. Each region is worth two to 12 points, making players strategize whether to control several small regions or fight for the biggest slices of the point-pie. The winner is the first player to 100 points, so players must be very mindful of each other’s progress.

Veritas is a game for three to six players aged 12 and up. Games generally last about an hour, but that time may change with quick-moving players or a series of precise monastery-burnings. It is perfect for lovers of straight strategy games like Chess, Checkers, and Go and offers the delightful addition of random fire.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.