My God I’ve been on a rules writing binge in the last four days! Three new rules sets in four days, and I’ve got another scratching at the door of my brain now. Amazing! These art games are going to be so cool, and so different from my line of story games. Enjoy!
Vanity Fair Rules
Greed, envy, and lust for power are all the things that make up Vanity Fair and this game is all about those things.
Vanity Fair, the game, is set in a medieval city and is about the struggles for power between two to six important families. Players will collect retainers, gather resources from trade, trade their surpluses for what they lack, occupy territory and the offices associated with territory, and fight one another for control (especially at the end of the game). The game lasts between one to two hours.
Vanity Fair, the idea, is a very old allegory. In Piers the Plowman, it is the fairgrounds between the white city on the hill (St Augustine’s City of God), and the dark abyss (the fiery pit of Hell). On that plain of life all manner of corrupt and evil things happen, but also good things. A few centuries later, Pilgrim’s Progress coined the name Vanity Fair as a place visited by Christian on his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Vanity Fair, the game, ignores all this and concentrates on life. It may be life that will lead you to hell, but that is between you and God. Enjoy the game!
One City Map – divided into city block areas
120 Retainer Tokens (divided into 6 teams of 20 tokens each)
120 Resource Tokens (20 Grain, 20 Fish, 20 Cloth, 20 Wine, 20 Men at Arms, and 20 Priests)
3 Cloth Bags – One for grain and fish, one for cloth and wine, and one for men at arms and priests
6 Leader Tokens – one per family
Explanation of the components
The City: The city is a map divided into different spaces by roads, walls, and canals. They also have important places like docks, town halls, cathedrals and citadels marked as well. Players vie for control of these areas.
Retainers: Each family has a unique color (corresponding to a resource). Retainer tokens are placed on the map to show interest or control of places on the board. Retainers may also be used to kill other player’s retainers.
Resources: Resource tokens represent trade in the game, which is the life blood of all communities. Each resource corresponds to a color: Grain=Yellow, Fish=Blue, Cloth=White, Purple=Wine, Red=Men at Arms, Black=Priests. Each resource token has five plain sides and one colored side. This is so because resources are rolled as dice in combat. When the colored side comes up, it scores a hit and kills one enemy.
Leaders: Each family has one leader, represented by a larger token of the same color as their retainers. Leaders count as two retainers for area control purposes and are much harder to kill than regular retainers (they can only be killed by men at arms dice).
How to play the game
Players take turns moving and making actions. The youngest player goes first, play then goes around the table to the left. At the beginning of a player’s turn they pick a policy, that defines what they can do that turn. Policies both give and limit actions.
In their turn a player may: recruit new retainers, collect resources from one of three bags, trade resources with other players (to try and form ever bigger sets of colors), move retainers and leaders, and fight other people’s retainers (to kill them and take over territory). Once a player has completed their actions, the player to their left starts the next turn. Players may always stop play at any time to talk and strategize.
Players chose one of three policies to follow for a turn: Recruit, Trade, or Fight.
Recruit: The player gains two new retainers from their off board stash and place them on the board. They may move retainers and their leader to take over areas by intimidation but may not fight and kill other people’s retainers or leaders.
Trade: The player picks one bag to draw resources from. If they have a retainer in the area associated with that bag, they draw two tokens. If they don’t have a retainer there they only draw one token. After drawing tokens all the players may trade with one another to try and form ever bigger sets of colors, the more sets the better. The player may not move any retainers or their leader, or fight.
Fight: The player may move all their retainers and leader and take areas by intimidation or roll resources to fight. Defending players may roll resources to defend if they are hit.
Winning by Intimidation
When a player has two retainer tokens for every one retainer another person has in an area, they may intimidate that player’s retainers. The loser moves their retainers to a neighboring area.
Areas may hold retainers from all the players, so the board will inevitably be a mixed up mess. When intimidating, the attacker picks one other player to beat up on. The rest of the players sit back and watch. Players may not combine their forces at this level.
Fighting = Rolling Resource Tokens/Dice
Players may fight retainers in areas where they have retainers. They may move in retainers to do this or use retainers who are already there. Having more troops present in a fight is not needed unless you want to intimidate the opponent rather than fight. A determined foe, like Cyrano De Bergerac, can face down a hundred opponents if they are brave enough and dedicate enough resources to the fight.
The attacker decides how many resource tokens they want to use, but there are limits. Tokens are rolled as sets of colors so if only one color is used, only one token is rolled. To roll two tokens they need to be of two different colors, for three tokens, three different colors etc. If a player dedicates a full set of six colors to a fight they do not roll and score instead an automatic hit.
The player scores a hit for each token that rolls its colored side up. Each hit kills one retainer, so it is possible to pull off a major massacre with luck.
Fighting leaders is a little different. Players still roll resource tokens to try and score hits but the only hits that can affect leaders are men at arms, so only red kills leaders.
Once the attacker has rolled, the defender may opt to roll dice to save their lost retainers and possibly do a counter-attack. The player picks sets of colors to roll and rolls. For each colored side rolled one hit retainer is saved. It takes a red roll to save a leader. If there are colored sides left over after all the retainers have been saved (not including leaders) they count as hits on the attacker, who lose that many retainers. The attackers may then roll a defense of their own. This goes back and forth until one side decides to take their lumps and lose retainers.
The goal is to have the most victory points at the end of the game. Players get points for the following reasons.
1 Per area you solely control
10 Additional point if the area is the city hall, cathedral or citadel
1 Per three color sets
3 Per four color sets
6 Per five color sets
9 Per six color sets
5 If your leader lives to the end of the game
5 If you have all twenty retainers out on the board
When the game ends
The game begins to end when the last token is drawn from one of the three bags when means the game could be as little as twenty turn but could be much longer.
When the last resource is drawn that player finishes their turn as normal. Play then will go around the table one more time in an orgy of violence as players fight one another for last minute advantage. The player who drew the last resource token goes last, which may be an advantage if they have anyone left alive to use it!
The final push for Victory Points
The last go around the table is an orgy of violence. The players must pick fight as their policy. They then move retainers and roll fights. Players do not have to fight but if you have a resource tokens that don’t fit into sets of three or more colors, this is your chance to use them up to advantage.
When the last player finishes their fight, the game ends. The players tally up their victory points. The player with the highest total wins. Players may share victory if they are tied.
At the end of the game it is good to return to the allegory of Vanity Fair and remember that all is vanity. The winner and the loser are the same. The only real winners are those who leave the fair headed in the right direction. Consider if your actions point you towards the city on the hill or the dark pit. If that teaches any lessons they are of your own creation because this is just a game!