Absolution, A Stonehenge Abstract Strategy Game by Nate Christensen
I enjoy cooperative games with some hidden information, like "Shadows Over Camelot" by Serge Laget and Bruno Cathala, so I designed Absolution as a cooperative strategy game with a Stonehenge theme. Like most cooperative games, Absolution should be difficult, but not impossible to win with the right strategy among the players. Many Stonehenge scholars agree upon two points: It looks like some sort of astronomical clock, and people died there. In Absolution, the clock is ticking. Whether anyone dies tonight will be determined by you. Save the Druid!
Number of players: 2–5
Object of the game: You have one day and one night to save the Druid. You accomplish this by playing cards to slow the rate of his death march along the bluestones, and finally by having more disks on the outer ring than the inner ring at the end of Night.
If the Druid would move beyond the final bluestone at any point prior to the end of Night, the Druid is moved onto the altar and sacrificed.
Equipment: To play Absolution you will need the the board and the following components from Stonehenge:
-All 50 colored disks
-The complete card deck (including the trilithon cards)
-The neutral (gray) figure
-The white figure
Setup: 1. Place colored disks on each of the inner ring spaces (day and night) that match the colors of the corresponding outer ring segments. Black outer ring segments will have no disks on their inner ring spaces.
2. Shuffle the deck and deal the following number of cards based on the number of players:
..... 2 players = 9 cards each
..... 3 players = 6 cards each
..... 4 players = 4 cards each
..... 5 players = 3 cards each
3. Place a number of cards from the deck equal to the number of players face-up between the bluestones and above the altar to form an Exchange Field. Set the remainder of the deck off the board as a draw pile.
4. Place the neutral figure (the Druid) on the first bluestone on the right (beneath the 'E' in Stonehenge.... okay, technically that would be the third 'E').
5. Place the constructed trilithons off to the side of the board, within reach of the players.
6. Place the white figure on space 1 of the numbered track. This High Priest will mark the passage of time through day and night as the Druid marches along the bluestones, either to his absolution or his death.
Playing the Game
Players may NOT at any time discuss specific values of cards they hold, but they can (and probably should) talk about which cards would be helpful if they appeared in the Exchange Field before their next turn.
After looking at their cards, players may agree upon who should go first, keeping in mind the rule above. For example, don't say, "I have a 19 and a 17, so let me go second." Instead say, "I'm in a great position for Day 2, if someone else can start us off." Play then continues clockwise. The first time around the track is Day. The first player begins on Day 1, the next player on Day 2, and so on. After Day 30, it becomes Night 1. After Night 30, the game ends (assuming the Druid is still alive). Each turn has four phases:
-Turn Summary (DAY):
1. (Optional) Exchange a card from the Field.
2. Play one or two cards to match the current number on the track.
3. Draw one card if you used the Field, or two cards if you played only from your hand. Draw nothing if you did not play a match.
4. If you played a match, move the Day disk from the inner ring to the outer (colored) ring, -OR- Add a trilithon. (See Black Spaces below.) If you could not (or chose not to) play a match, move the Druid forward to the next bluestone.
5. Move the High Priest to the next space on the number track. Play passes to the left.
-Turn Summary (NIGHT):
Same as Day for phases 1, 2, 3 and 5.
4. If you played a match, move the Night disk from the inner ring to the outer (colored) ring, -OR- Move the Druid back one bluestone if a trilithon is present. (See Black Spaces below.) If you did NOT play a match, move the Day disk from the outer ring back to the inner ring (if possible), and move the Druid forward to the next bluestone.
And now for some clarifications....
Exchanging a Card:
You may trade one card in your hand for one in the Field. You may then play that card alone or with another card to match the current number on the track. You don't have to play it immediately, but if you play other cards from your hand after using the Field, you only draw one card. If you play nothing after the exchange, draw no cards and move the Druid as normal.
Play a single card that matches the current number, or exactly two cards whose sum or difference match the number. For example, a player on 11 can play either a single '11' card, or a '9' and a '2' (9+2=11), or a '23' and a '12' (23-12=11). Trilithon cards can represent any of the five numbers whose color matches the trilithon card, and can ONLY be played on the matching color. For example, the blue trilithon card can have a value of 2, 8, 14, 20, or 26, and can only be played on a blue space.
If you used the Exchange Field, draw only one card after playing your match, even if the match you played did not include the card you took. If you played a match from your hand and did not use the Exchange Field, draw two cards, even you only played a single card. If you did not play a match, do not draw any cards. If the draw pile runs out, do NOT reshuffle the discards. Finish the game with what you have. If you can't play any cards because you don't have any, then move the Druid. You must draw if you played any cards.
If you play a match during the Day, add a trilithon to the black space, so that the bases sit on the inner and outer rings and the 'gap' straddles the number. This will stall the High Priest at night. If you play a match on a black space with a trilithon at Night, move the Druid backward one bluestone. If you do not play a match on a black space with a trilithon, the Druid does not move.
-Don't be afraid to let the Druid step out a little during the Day. You'll need to conserve some cards for Night if you want to beat the High Priests.
-Playing a single card is generally wise, because if you run out you can only move the Druid forward (unless your turn falls on a black space with a trilithon).
-You can predict which spaces players will be responsible for on future turns. Use the Exchange Field to everyone's advantage.
Ending the Game
At any point, should the Druid move beyond the final bluestone, he is moved onto the altar and sacrificed. There is one exception: If the Druid moves to the altar after Night 29 AND Night 30 has a trilithon, the player on Night 30 can bring the Druid back to the final bluestone if a match is played.
The Druid can now be saved, but only if the players have gained greater influence over the High Priests.
After Night 30, compare the number of disks on the outer ring to those on the inner ring. If the outer ring contains more disks AND the Druid is still alive, the players win! Let there be bread and cheese and celebratory choral chanting....
Nate Christensen hopes to someday join James Ernest on an imaginary polar expedition. He teaches mathematics, economics, politics, and social psychology through board gaming. Nate has designed a few games on his own, and some in conjunction with his brightest acolytes.
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