Cost:$25.00 From: Avalon Hill Game Co., 4517 Harford Rd., Baltimore MD, 21214 1-800-638-9292 Players: 2-5 Playing Time: 40-60 minutes Type of game: Family Complexity: 4 Skill level: 5 Reviewed by: Peter Sarrett, Issue 1.4, May/June 1993
Games have a far more prominent role in family life in Germany than they do in the United States. German families commonly gather to spend quality time with each other through the medium of a board game. Consequently, Germany tends to have a greater market for adult and family-oriented games than the United States, and their Game of the Year award is a highly coveted prize. Adel Verpflichtet (recently released as By Hook or Crook in the United States) was named Germany's Game of the Year in 1990. It's easy to see why.
In Adel Verpflichtet, players assume the roles of art-loving members of the noble class engaged in a friendly competition. Through purchase and theft, players try to amass the largest art collection and thus win the admiration of their fellows (not to mention the game). Each player begins with four randomly dealt works of art, four checks ranging in value from 1,000-25,000 marks, two thieves, and a detective. At the start of each turn, players must decide where they will spend that turn-- a castle or the auctionhouse. They do so by secretly choosing an appropriately marked card and playing their choice face down. Everyone's location is revealed simultaneously and the second phase of the turn begins.
All players at the auctionhouse have the opportunity to participate in a silent auction for a work of art-- either by bidding or attempting to steal. Everyone who wishes to bid must secretly choose a check and play it face-down. To try to steal, a thief is played face-down instead. Everyone's choices are revealed simultaneously, and the person who played the highest check uses it to buy a work of art. If one player sent a thief to the auctionhouse, that thief gets to keep the check used by the player who won the auction. If more than one thief shows up, they interfere with each other and the check is simply discarded out of the game, as it is if no thieves arrive. All other checks are returned to their owners.
Players at the castle may display portions of their art collections for prestige and advancement. But beware-- the shadowy halls of the castle may conceal thieves waiting to steal your art treasures. Players at the castle must decide whether they wish to exhibit art, send a thief to steal from the exhibits, or send their detective to catch the thieves. Choices are revealed simultaneously. All players who decided to exhibit must now choose at least three works of art to display. Each work of art has a date and a letter (from A to F). All art in a player's exhibit must have the same letter or be part of a chain of consecutive letters (ex: ABCD or CDDEE). The player with the largest exhibit wins and gets to advance on the board. The second place finisher also advances, but not as far as the winner. If there are no thieves, players pick up their art and the turn ends.
If there are thieves, exhibitors aren't so lucky. Each thief gets to steal any one work of art from every exhibit. But thievery is a risky business-- if someone played a detective, all thieves are caught and put in jail. However, thieves still manage to deliver the goods to their employers-- exhibitors do not get their stolen art back. When thieves are caught, all players who sent detectives advance according to their relative position in the game (so the 3rd place player moves forward three spaces, and the leading player only moves one space). If a thief is sent to jail but all the cells are occupied, the thief who has been incarcerated the longest gets released back to his owner.
When events at the castle and the auctionhouse are resolved, players start the process again by selecting a new location. The game ends when someone reaches the banquet table at the end of the board, at which time one final exhibition is held. When the dust settles, the player closest to the head of the banquet table wins the game.
Adel Verpflichtet is an elegantly-designed game. No two checks have the same value, and they're distributed fairly. Cards meant to be played in the first part of a turn have a big 1 on the back, and cards meant for the second part have a 2. At the top of each card is a list of the places where it can be played, to further avoid confusion.
Such attention to detail is noteworthy, especially since it frees players to devote their full attention to outguessing each other. Nothing's quite so delightful as being the only player at the auctionhouse and making off with a piece of art for 1,000 marks, or being the only thief at a castle full of exhibitors.
Luck plays only a tiny role since outcomes are determined entirely by players' actions. Unfortunately, this leaves you without a scapegoat when you make a wrong decision. Everyone is always involved, too-- so there's no waiting around for your turn to roll around.
The more players you have for Adel Verpflichtet, the better. In fact, the greatest disappointment with the game is that it is limited to five players. Six would have been a much nicer number and, with a little more equipment, would not seem to pose a problem to gameplay.
Regardless, this is an addictive, fun game, wholeheartedly, recommended for all ages and all players-- from serious gamers to mothers-in-law.