Plague from Grey Gnome Games is one of those card games where each lay of the card can be carefully calculated for maximum payoff. Released through The Game Crafter, Plague is a trick-taking game like the classic Hearts or Canasta and combines solid gameplay with a unique aesthetic.
First noticeable about Plague is the amazing artwork. Reminiscent of medieval tapestry art, or perhaps Romantic paintings looking back on the age of castles and kings, the cards come to life with the vivid depictions of knights, princesses, jesters, mythical beasts, and, of course, Death. The motif carries into the mindset of the game: three warring kingdoms attempting to establish control while facing the ever-present danger of plague.
Trick-taking is perhaps one of the game mechanics as old as card decks themselves. Plague gives it a fresh look by offering three suits: Fish, Dragon, and Tower. Each can trump another, making it a paper-rock-scissors circuit where none is ultimately more powerful but one shines in the moment. Like most trick-taking games, the beginning player lays a card, and other players must follow the first card’s suit whenever possible. Plague offers a difference in that being unable to play in the suit can be a winning move, like Clubs but without the overly powerful single suit.
Plague stands unique in its system of scoring. Rather than each trick taken being worth a point, the top card gives the worth of the trick. Some might be worth only a few points while others could be worth a lot, adding a new layer of strategy to determining which tricks should be taken. The cards marked with Death automatically sink the value of a trick, hamstringing an opponent’s potential win. Of course, the Cleric card can step in to save a trick.
The custom deck used in Plague gives the opportunity to introduce specially powered cards. Animal cards hold a “0” rank but fourteen points, making them perfect for a well-timed trump. Princess cards can double the value of another trick; Mercenary cards allow for a trick-swap with another player, and Alchemist cards can be swapped with any card inside the trick, giving a chance to pick up plenty of points. The Fortress card proves more complicated as it may only be played on a trick that has all even or all odd ranks, which rewards more points with more players as it becomes a more difficult feat.
Plague is a solid trick-taking game for two to six players aged twelve and up. Players add points each round, and the first to capture three rounds is the winner and King, making it a quick game. There are many different cards with different powers, but the deck proves versatile as players may make home rules by not including a card if agreed upon. Others who like games such as Canasta will love the complex nature of Plague and return to it again and again looking for the cleverest play to win the most points.
Three out of Five Stars