Reinhard Staupe burst onto the scene with Basari last year seemingly from nowhere, including a stealth assault on the Spiel des Jahres nomination list with Comeback- a game which had slipped completely beneath most peopleís radar. Turns out itís an elegantly simple- dare I say, Kniziaesque?- bidding game which is perhaps a little spotty in practice.
The tiny deck consists of four suits numbered 1-7, each of which also bears 1-3 stars. Some cards are randomly taken out of play at the start, so you never know the exact mix of cards in the game. The rest are stacked face down. A turn begins by flipping over one of the cards and making a bid on it. The next player clockwise can increase the bid or fold. Bidding increments must be at least as much as the cardís face value. The winning player puts the card up in front of him and deducts his bid from his score, which starts at 150 points. This process repeats until the deck is exhausted.
Now comes the final tally. For each color, a playerís total is the sum of the face values of their cards in that color, multiplied by the number of stars showing on those cards. So if I bought the red 3, 5, and 6, each of which shows a single star, my red total would be (3+5+6) * (1+1+1) = 14 * 3 = 42. Combine your scores for each color, add in any remaining points from your initial 150 point stake, and compare against your opponents to find the winner.
As in Medici, youíre spending your points in order to acquire cards which score points, and thereís a definite tendency to overbid- especially in the early game when you feel flush. After one fierce game, we all ended with scores within ten points of our original 150. But while in Medici a 5 is usually useful to you no matter what suit itís in, in Comeback itís effectively worthless if youíre not collecting other cards of the same color. The scoring system rewards acquiring lots of like-colored cards, so thereís little incentive to venture afield once youíve picked a color. Except, of course, to drive the price up for an opponent. But if Iím collecting red and bid on your blue card, we both know that I donít really want it. The only question is, how high will I go before I let you take it? And how high will you let me push it before you stick me with it?
The game would be far more interesting if it encouraged more diversity in holdings. As it is, with four players each player can have a suit to himself if nobody feels interventional. With three players someone can lock up two colors all by herself. And if two of the three wind up butting heads, the third player just sits back and smiles. It seems that an interesting game requires confrontation rather than isolationism. If that suits your group, Comeback may be for you.