15 February 2021
Hiding in plain sight
The Court of Miracles immerses players into the 16th Century Paris, where they join the dark underbelly of the city as part of one the underground guilds. Players will aim to control various territories throughout Paris, and will scheme, plot and trick to exert their influence. The game uses a mixture of area control, worker placement and even bluffing mechanics, but in a very streamlined and easily-digestible way that makes it easy to learn and play.
Players will place pawns of their guild around the neighbourhoods of Paris to earn various rewards, like coins, plot cards or move the Penniless King on his track. The pawns, however, are not just the simple wooden pieces: on one side the guild’s token is placed (signifying who’s pawn it is), while the bottom side can contain various values or abilities. The latter is known only to the token’s owner and revealed to the rest of the players during the ‘stand off’ the phase of the game, where the value on each token is compared to determine the winner for that territory. At the start of the game, all players start with the same tokens, so it is easier to predict the likelihood of your win. However, during the course of the game players can upgrade their tokens, getting higher values and different abilities, which raises the tension of every subsequent stand-off.
The Court of Miracles is always a balancing act of upgrading your pawns and getting gold versus keeping territories under your control. It is a fun and tense tug of war between players that only improves when played by a larger group. The most fun part of the game is messing with someone else for your own benefit – maybe taking over their neighbourhood or stealing their gold through a cheeky play of a plot card. The more players there are at the table, the more interaction there is, the higher the stakes are in every stand off and the more unexpected – and exciting – is the outcome.
The Court of Miracles looks fantastic on the table. The board is a top-down 3D-like view of romanticised Paris, where the cardboard is cut out along the profile of the towers accentuating them on the table. All iconology is simple and clear, yet fits thematically and within the overall colour scheme to complement the layout of the city. Yet, where some visual ideas have flourished, the finesse of their execution has unfortunately let them down. The irregular board is a nice surprise, but its sharp edges get almost instantly battered, even by shifting inside the box. The player tokens are just a bit too loose inside the rogue pawns, making them fall out when they get flipped over during the ‘stand off’ stage of the game. Even the game box itself: it comes with an insert, which is, of course, always welcome, but compartments are too generic to fit the components of the game just right. The designers have thought of all elements that would make a visually appealing and interesting game, but have not quite nailed all of the practical details.
Yet even with these imperfections, The Court of Miracles is a delight to play. Its fairly abstract gameplay does a really good job of channelling the overarching theme throughout and you do indeed feel like a bit of scoundrel trying to outwit your friends around the table. Although the game uses some familiar mechanics, it also has a fresh feel through simple addition of double-sided and upgradeable rogue pawns. This is a resourceful and clever game, that will make you feel just the same playing it.
It is nice sometimes to let a scheming rogue inside yourself loose, and The Court of Miracles is a great game to do so. It is not overly complex, yet has enough substance to remain entertaining, and its level of engagement only grows with more people around the table.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED: SLYVILLE
With a little less focus on bluffing than Slyville, but a bit more tactics, The Court of Miracles also encourages players to scheme, plot and mess with other players, in a light-hearted and friendly manner, of course.
Designer: Vincent Brugeas, Guilhem Gautrand
Publisher: Lucky Duck Games
Time: 40 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 1 Board
- 24 Plot cards
- 5 Player cards
- 1 Token bag
- 30 Renown tokens
- 1 Penniless King token
- 20 Guild tokens
- 32 Rogue pawns
- Gold tokens
This review originally appeared in Issue 51 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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