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[Review] Coppertwaddle

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

“To Thee The Coppertwaddling Man and Mayde, Be Thou Sure Thy Debts are Payde.” Does that perk your interest? It certainly does lend an aura of ancientness to the game of Coppertwaddle (Surprised Stare Games, Ltd., 2000 – Tony Boydell), as it winds its way around the outside of the box. Please don’t ask me what it means, for I have no idea, but according to the website, I should. Upon visiting the homepage for Coppertwaddle, www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk, one can find a plethora of more information, discovering that the game was invented around 1470 A.D., that the “Committee for Recording Actions during Play” keeps tabs on how the game is notated, and much more. Of course, all of this is, I think, fictitious – but is an incredible amount of effort to create a thematic back story to a CCG-type two-player card game.

Coppertwaddle is certainly a most unique game. I don’t believe I’ve played too many games like it. On one hand, the cards attacking each other are reminiscent of Magic: the Gathering, along with effects, but the theme, as well as certain mechanics, certainly put Coppertwaddle in its own boat. Because the theme is so engrained into the game, if you don’t like ancient English theming, then this game probably wouldn’t interest you that much. If that is your forte, however, you will find a fairly interesting game with surprisingly deep strategies. It certainly is a game that requires repeat playings to fully understand, but I’m not sure that this can be construed as a bad thing – only that the game isn’t exactly what I would call “light”.

A deck of fifty-five cards (I received an extra card with my game – I’m not sure if it’s a promotional card or not), is shuffled, and placed between the two players, known as the “trumpet”. Four cards are then dealt to each player (I’m not totally sure on this, because it doesn’t mention this in the rules – but the sample game they had online did this, and it only made sense, game play-wise). One player starts the game, following a five-step sequence, with play then alternating between the players. Each player is trying to fill an imaginary two by four grid in front of them. This grid is made up of two “ditches” (rows of four cards): the Noble rank in front, with the peasant rank immediately following. If a player has all eight slots filled with the correct cards – all face up (called “proud”), they win the game, receiving a score based on the total value of the cards they have.

The first phase of each turn is the “Engagement”, where the current player (called the “Guardian”) draws a card. They also flip any of their face-down “Threlms” (the cards in the Noble and Peasant ranks). Immediately following is the “Challenging” phase, where the OTHER player can play “Favor” cards (cause effects on the game), or use abilities of any of their “face-up” threlms. Once the other player states that they are finished, the current player, in the “En Garde” phase can also play Favor cards, as well as “Declaration” cards, more cards that can affect the game – but that can only be played in this specific phase. More importantly, the current player may play one Threlm from their hand into a vacant spot in their ditches. They fill in any holes, placing the card as far left as possible. Threlms can only be played in vacant slots, unless the threlm is a “wind” threlm, which may also be played on top of “covered” (face-down) threlms. Threlms must also be played in the correct row – noble or peasant.

The Guardian can now attempt to “rob” a threlm from his opponent’s ditches. First he selects which of his threlms are “robbing” – which must all be from the same rank, and the same rank as their target – and a target threlm on the opponent’s side. After this declaration, each player, in turn order, can play Favor cards or use special abilities of their face-up Threlms. Once both players are finished, the power of each side is calculated. Each threlm has a power number on it. The attackers (those who are still face-up) total their power, and the defender totals its power, adding those face-up threlms’ power which lie to the right and left of it, as well as the one behind (if it’s a Noble threlm). If the attacker’s power is greater and the target is still face-up, the robbery is a success. The card is then stolen, and placed face-down on the attackers side in the appropriate ditch. Otherwise, the robbery is unsuccessful, and either way – play proceeds to the next phase.

The Guardian then checks to see if they’ve won the game – needing to have eight cards in their domain, all face-up. If so, they’ve won, otherwise, they must discard down to four cards, and pass play to the other player. When a player wins, they total the powers of all their threlms, including any benefits from Favors and Declarations, which gives them their final score, showing their level of victory (Miserable, Ordinary, and Triumphal). Personally, for me, a win is a win – it reminds me of Lord of the Rings – I never cared what my score was, I only cared if we won the game or lost!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The game comes in the type of box that all card games should come in – one with a lid, and where the cards are nestled down in the middle of it, held firmly in place by a cardboard insert with a tab. The box and cards are of very high quality, showing that the publisher really cared quite a bit about this game. The cards in particular are very easy to hold, and seem like they could take a fairly good beating (don’t really plan on it – but you never know with kids in the house!). Everything is illustrated very well, with the artwork really invoking the spirit of the times; and everything is the dull color of ye olde parchment, which also helps with the atmosphere.

2.) Theme: This is one case where I really am impressed with the amount of thought put into the theme of a game. I’m not a big fan of this genre, but still am impressed with the work put into the game’s “history”, FAQ, etc. The website especially is exceptional, and I started reading through it less to find out about the game and more to just peruse the thought put behind the game. The only minute irritant I found with the game was the terminology. I think it’s pretty nifty how every term in the game has an old English term for it – but sometimes it got confusing. When I say that a covered Threlm is made proud or put into the trumpet, unless everybody is completely indoctrinated in the terminology of the game, they won’t understand what’s going on.

3.) Rules: This made the rules a little difficult to work through at first, not to mention the missing info I mentioned about initial hand size. There are examples in the rules, but it wasn’t until I went through the sample game online that I really understood what was going on. The website is phenomenal for answering most questions about the game, but it was slightly disappointing that the rulebook wasn’t as clear. I was able to teach the game, although not as easily as I hoped, and the first game was a bit of a struggle. Once played one time, however, the game runs smoothly on subsequent plays, which greatly enhances enjoyment of the game.

4.) Website: I’ve mentioned the website several times in this review, because it really is pretty nice – listing all the cards, a puzzle involving the game, a back history, detailed FAQs, etc. I mean, will anyone get into the game so much that they need a detailed method of writing down the way the game works? Maybe not, but if so – it’s on the website! Game companies who put this much effort into the websites should be applauded.

5.) Strategy and Luck: At first glance, it seems like the person who gets more powerful threlms – they do vary quite a bit – will win the game. But skillful maneuvering of the weaker threlms, allowing with careful playing of the favor and declaration cards, can help neutralize the dangerous cards, and overcome this “luck” factor. After a few games, players will realize that the luck in the game really is not important at all, and that skillful card play supercedes it.

6.) Fun Factor: The theme is great; the game is very good. I enjoyed playing Coppertwaddle, but the game did not make me shimmer with excitement. We had fun, and there was a good bit of “Take that!” and “Oh yeah, we’ll take that!” involved, but it lacked a certain spark for me. Those I played it with did say they enjoyed the game and would play it again, but not with massive enthusiasm.

However, I can see people who are fans of heavily themed games enjoying this game. Those who like strategic two-player card games would also probably enjoy it, as well as anyone who’s a fan of older English history. It’s not a “light” game, but a serious, yet enjoyable activity. I think that it will have a place where I can entice more scholarly people to play games by showing them this one. It looks really good on my shelf, and I could see this game readily selling in museums, even though it’s only a couple years old. If you like a game with an ancient look and feel, then Coppertwaddle is for you. And maybe you then can explain just what the phrase on the box means. Not like I really care, though.

Tom Vasel

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
[Review] Coppertwaddle

On the whole I tend to agree with much of what you say Tom.
Coppertwaddle is a fascinating amalgam of many different card game mechanics whilst bringing something distinctly new to the genre. The teminology does indeed get a bit twee, but it doesn't really get in the way.

I certainly agree with your "skill vs luck" assessment: it reminds me somewhat of Transamerica in that respect; at first you think it's just a matter of who gets the better cards, and then you start to see how the deeper tactical play works.

And yeah, the website back-up is hilarious, with all the articles being relevant but completely in keeping with the spirit of the game.

If you have two-player games sessions, then Coppertwaddle should be on your regular play list.

(And in passing I will note that I was the first, and may indeed still be the only, person to have solved the puzzle on the website! As a result of which I have the original artwork for the "Mappa Mundi" promotional card hanging on my wall...)

Nazhuret
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Joined: 12/31/1969
[Review] Coppertwaddle

Quote:
When I say that a covered Threlm is made proud or put into the trumpet...................they won’t understand what’s going on.

oh I get it.... *snickers*

ok ok.. sorry... family website here ... stop fooling around....

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