The High Council, A Stonehenge Political Game by Volker Hesselmann
Mike presented Stonehenge to me at the Essen Games Fair in 2006. I was fascinated right from the start and eager to publish the German version. Around Christmas I got my own prototype and had time to read and play the five games. I was a little disappointed that the collection didn't include a two player game. When I told Mike, he said the focus in developing the rules so far lay only on different types of games, and not on different numbers of players. But if I did feel there should be a two-player game, I should go ahead and invent one. And so I did. And it turned out well. That was the final proof that the Stonehenge concept works great, because the material really allows for a lot more games than have been invented yet and it will be fascinating to see Stonehenge grow.
Number of players: 2–4
Object of the game: The Druidic High Council is being held, and a critical matter must be decided. But the council is split between those who support and those who oppose the motion. One by one, the delegates of the different clans arrive, take their seats, and enter into passionate debates with their neighbours, attempting to convince them of their viewpoints. The decision is reached the moment one side controls more than half of the council.
Equipment: The High Council uses the game board, the deck, the five trilithons, ten bars in five colors, and ten disks and one figure each in white, yellow, red and blue.
Setup: Place the board in the middle of the table. The outer ring is the circle of the council, on which the factions place their disks ("supporters") and figures ("speakers") during the game.
In the two-player game, each player plays two colours. "Pro" is white and yellow, and "Con" is blue and red.
In the four-player game, each player has one colour. The players of the "Pro" faction sit across from each other, alternating with the players of the "Con" faction.
All players place their supporters and speakers in front of them.
The number cards are sorted into day and night cards. One pro player gets the day cards, and one con player gets the night cards. Each faction shuffles two trilithon cards into their stack and deals each faction member three cards. (If a card deck is ever used up, it is reshuffled immediately.)
The bars ("arguments") are sorted by colour and placed on the five trilithon spaces in the centre of the board, with each trilithon holding all arguments of one colour.
Playing the Game
The game is played clockwise in turns. A member of the pro faction starts.
- Supporters and speakers of the same colour in adjacent spaces create a group.
- Adjacent groups of the same faction create a bloc.
- As soon as a bloc comprises 16 or more speakers and supporters, the respective faction wins immediately.
Making a Move: The active player can choose and complete one card action, and before and after that, place any number of arguments in order to convert. Then his or her move is over and it's the next players turn.
A player can choose from the following card actions:
- Debate (Play one or more cards to collect arguments)
- Take a seat (Play one card to place a supporter on the board)
- Ponder (Discard hand and draw new cards)
- in the four-player version only, Consult (exchange a card with the player's partner)
Debate: The player plays one or more cards of one colour other than black, and takes the respective number of arguments of that colour from the pool. These arguments are placed in front of the player. A player can play several cards of one colour to obtain several arguments of that colour in one go.
Example: A player plays two blue cards and takes two blue arguments.
Black cards are wild. If a player plays only black cards, that player can choose the colour of the argument. If the player plays more than one black card, the arguments have to be of the same colour.
Example: A player plays two black cards and takes two green arguments.
Or a player can play black cards together with cards of another colour. They then count as cards of that other colour.
Example: A player plays two black cards and a yellow card, and takes three yellow arguments.
A trilithon card is a double-wild card. If a player plays a trilithon card, that player can pick any two arguments.
Example: A player plays a trilithon card and takes a white and a blue argument.
No faction can hoard more than six arguments of one colour. The other faction must always have the chance to obtain at least four.
After debating, the player refills his or her hand from that faction's deck.
Taking a Seat: Supporters and speakers can be taken from the pool and placed on the circle. This requires playing a number card and possibly the use of arguments.
If a player plays the number card of an unoccupied space on the outer ring, the player may place one of his supporters or his speaker on that space.
Example: A player plays a 12 card, and places one of his supporters on the unoccupied 12.
If a player plays the number card of a space that contains one of his or her own supporters, the player can replace the supporter with the speaker.
Example: Later, the same player plays another 12, and replaces his supporter with his speaker.
If a player plays a number card and three arguments of the same colour as the card, the player can place one of his supporters on any free space of that colour. The speaker cannot be placed in this way.
Example: A player plays a blue 14 card, and three blue arguments. He places a supporter on the unoccupied blue space 8.
Black is wild. With a black number card and three arguments of any one colour a player can place a supporter on any free black space.
Example: A player plays the black 18 card and three red arguments. He places a supporter on the unoccupied black space 30.
In the two player version, the player can decide which of his two colours he wants to place. However, groups and blocs are formed the same way as in the four player version.
After placing a supporter or speaker, the player draws one card from his or her faction's card deck.
Pondering: The player discards one card and replaces it with three new cards from the deck.
Consulting: The player gives one card to his or her partner. The partner, in return, gives one card back, whether or not it's the same card. (This action is only possible in a four-player game.)
Converting: A player can use a supporter or speaker of his own faction to change a supporter or speaker of the other faction into one of his own. He can perform any number of conversions after one another, before or after performing his card action.
The number of arguments needed to perform a conversion depends on the size of the group of the supporter that is to be converted. If the supporter stands alone, it costs one argument. If the supporter stands in a group of two, it costs two arguments. If the group size is three or more, or is the player trying to convert a speaker, three arguments are necessary.
The arguments must have the colour of the space from which the conversion is initiated. If that is a black space, the player can choose the colour.
If the right number of arguments is placed, the supporter or speaker of the opposing faction is removed from the outer ring and replaced with a supporter of the player's own colour. Speakers cannot be placed in that way. The replaced supporter (or speaker) goes back to the respective player. The arguments go back into the central pool.
If a player may place a supporter, but has none left to place, the player can move one of his or her supporters already placed on the board instead.
Ending the Game
When the last free space on the circle is taken, the voting starts immediately. To mark that phase, a trilithon is placed in the middle of the board. The game continues with one acceleration. From now on, it is easier to convert supporters in groups. If the converting group is larger than the one being converted, each conversion costs only one argument. If the converting group is smaller, nothing changes. The player filling the last space on the circle can continue his turn with benefiting from that change.
Winning: As soon as a faction owns a bloc of at least 16 supporters and speakers, it wins, as it has managed to convince the majority of its cause. This of course can happen before the circle is complete.
In 1995 Volker dropped out of his History and Geography classes at Cologne University to open his own board game shop Spielzeit in Krefeld, Germany. In 1998 he started publishing games under the same name. 2003 he co-authored the World Factgame, which presented 5 different games for one deck of cards - sounds kinds of familiar ;-). But this was not his first invention: His really productive period was in childhood days. Just to mention a few of his never published creations: The Housewife Game (family), Trafalgar (cosim), Farmers (economics) and Spies in the Park (espionage).
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