GAME REVIEW: Shakespeare

This one was on my radar because I love games with unique themes.  As soon as I heard about this, I immediately added it to the top of my most wanted list.  I mean, having your own theater troupe and trying to put on the best play you can?  Who doesn’t want to do that?!?


Shakespeare is from Asmodee games, plays from 1-4 players, for ages 10 & up and takes about 60-90 minutes to play, depending on the player count.  This just came out at the end of November.

Each player is in charge of putting on a play in 6 days (rounds).   Players earn points by going up on each of the dress rehearsal tracks, making costumes, building sets, employing actors, and completing objective cards.


Everyone begins the game with a player board, which is their unfinished set, and starts with the same 4 crew members.

During each round, players will bid on turn order and also determine how many actions they will get to take for that round.  It’s a blind bid, by choosing 1-5 of their cylinder pieces and secretly placing them in their hand.


Whoever has the least amount is the start player.  However many action markers you bid is how many actions you get to take during that round.

Once the bidding is done, players will get to take actions by placing their action markers on any of their actors or craftsman.  Actors will allow you to advance on one or more of the rehearsal tracks.  Craftsmen will allow you to build sets, costume elements, or give you other benefits.


Besides activating one of your crew members, you are allowed to recruit one employee per round.  If you don’t want to hire anyone, you can always turn the card over to hire an extra.


They don’t cost anything at the end of the game, and will even give you a benefit if they’re fully costumed.


When activating a set decorator, you must take one or more set pieces that add up (number-wise) to whatever your Set Dresser’s number says in the left hand corner.


When building a set, it must be asymmetrical.  So if I build a purple piece on the far left, I must build a purple piece on the far right.


Building these pieces also give you various benefits.


Activating a Costume Mistress is very much the same thing, by taking costume elements that add up to the number in the left hand corner.  You build costume elements on your actors.


When you complete a costume, you get an immediate benefit (depending on what the numbers add up to) and that actor will give you a another benefit during the rehearsal phase.


There’s also a jeweler who can collect rare gold sets and costume elements.  Those will be worth more points at the end of the game.


Activating the queen will give you an option of either taking 4 coins, or choosing an objective card.  Coins are important in this game since you will have to pay your actors the listed cost on the upper right hand corner of the card at the end of the game.  Objective cards will give you a certain goal to work for during the game, like having a certain amount of actors, etc.

There’s also an ambiance track that will go up and down depending on what is activated  during the round.  After the action phase, if it’s high, you’ll get a benefit, if it’s low, you’ll get a penalty.

Then everything resets for the next round.  New crew member become available, plus new sets and new costumes as well.


Then, finally, you’ll place rest tokens on all but one of the crew members you activated this round, meaning you won’t be able to use them in the next round.

At the end of the 4th and 6th (final) round, the rehearsal tracks are scored.


The red track will give you a certain amount of money depending on where you are, the yellow track will give victory points to the 2 players furthest along, and the blue track will give you a certain amount of victory points depending on where you are.  Before you score the tracks, any actors who have completed costumes will allow you to go up on the listed track on the bottom of the actor’s card.


At the end of the game, player’s score their objectives and their yellow elements.  Then they must pay their actors.  For every actor they can’t pay, they will lost 2 victory points.  Whoever has the most after that, wins.

There’s another game that came out earlier this year called Medieval Academy.  In that game, you are playing cards to go up on various different tracks.  Whoever is the highest on each track scores points.  That game was really highly regarded, but I found it to be just okay.  I thought the theme felt tacked on.  It felt more like an abstract game.  So when I found out that this one had a few similar mechanics, I was worried that this theme would also feel tacked on.

Well, fortunately, that’s not the case.  I thought the theme really came through for me.  I’m not sure exactly how, since essentially you’re doing the same type of thing: going up on different tracks to get points.  But at least here there are different things to do.  Instead of just activating cards and going up on tracks, you’re also building a set.  I liked having to build my set asymmetrical. It was a challenge, especially when other players might take the sets you need.  Also, only getting to pick one crew per round is tricky.  Sometimes there are 3 people you want to hire, but you can only choose one, and if you’re not first player, someone you really want might get snatched up.

I like games where you constantly have to adapt and change strategies midstream.  I played this a few times and have tried several strategies.  But in all games that I played, strategy means nothing if you don’t get money to pay your actors.  It’s not that easy to get money in this game, and it’s also easy to lose track of how much money you need to collect before the game is over so you can pay your crew.  I found that really interesting.

If you’ve been following my reviews, then you know that I love secret objective cards.  I just find them really fun to try to reach whatever goal is on those cards.  I usually got 3 during a game (not that I always completed them though).  But they’re actually not worth that many victory points (I think one is worth 3 points, but most are worth 1 or 2.  This is a pretty low scoring game.

The theme is terrific.  I LOVE the artwork.  Each actor is a character from a Shakespeare play.




That’s so cool!

This isn’t that heavy of a game.  I feel like it’s fairly easy to teach.  My only complaint is that there is no player aid.  When a game has several phases and different ways to score, there needs to be a player aid.  Most games should have them.  So that was a bummer.  But other than that, I can’t really find anything I didn’t like about it.

Shakespeare is a very enjoyable, medium weight game that has wide appeal.  I feel like non-gamers could get into it because of the theme, thus turning them on to games with deeper strategies.  But gamers will enjoy some of the not-so-easy decisions they have to make, trying to balance all the different tracks and making sure they have enough money by the end of the game.  And there is also a bit of a puzzle aspect to the game, figuring out which is the best way to build your set.

Great theme, sound mechanics, and wonderful artwork that really makes the game come to life.   Shakespeare is a winner!



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