What's Eric Playing? #202 – The Lady and the Tiger [Traps]
Full disclosure: A review copy of The Lady and the Tiger was provided by Jellybean Games.
Upon hearing the trapped lady’s plea
the tiger did not set her free.
He brought honey and bread,
and once she was fed
‘twas his turn to dine sumptuously.
(Peter C. Hayward)
Alright, friends, this is the end of the road. I’ve written up an entire week’s worth of The Lady and the Tiger game reviews for you, and this is the last one. Analyzed the games, did whole sets of photography for each one, and had a blast with it. Hopefully you have, too! I like to try and experiment with the blog every now and then, and this was a fun adventure to be on with y’all.
Anyways, in Traps you seek to trick your opponents into choosing poorly while hoarding treasure for yourself. You’ll need some good luck, a decent memory, and a bit of deception if you want to walk away with your treasures unscathed. Will you be able to emerge victorious?
As with many of the Lady and the Tiger games, you’ll first want to shuffle the Door cards:
Place them in a stack in the center. These are your Seasons. Flip the top card up; that’s the target card for this round. More on that later.
Give each player one gem and place the rest in a pile nearby:
We’ll call that the Treasury.
Shuffle the Clue cards, and in a first for The Lady and the Tiger games, deal them out to players, evenly:
In case you’re wondering, that’s:
- 2 players: 6 cards (gotta leave some out)
- 3 players: 4 cards
- 4 players: 3 cards
- 5+ players: 2 cards
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start! Set three gems in the center of the play area to form the pot for the first round.
So, a game of Traps is played out over several rounds until any one player has 5 gems. Players are attempting to create stacks of cards with traps and treasure in the hopes of tricking their opponents into uncovering traps while safely uncovering treasure. It’s actually … remarkably similar to Dungeon of Mandom VIII, but without the adventurers.
Anyways, players start each round by choosing a card from their hand and placing it face-down in front of them, creating their stacks. Each turn, a player has two options:
- Build: You take a card from your hand and place it face-down, on top of your stack.
- Bid: You may end the building process and declare a number. That number is the number of features matching the Season card that you think you can find across all players stacks. You may not bid higher than 13, as that’s the maximum possible number of matching features.
Once bidding begins, again, no player can build, but they can outbid you — unlike Favor, bidding continues until all other players pass. Once you pass, though, you cannot bid again.
After bidding has concluded, the highest bidder delves into the stacks! They can reveal any of the top cards from any of the stacks in the order that they choose:
- If one feature matches: that’s one point in your favor.
- If both features match: that’s two points in your favor.
- If neither feature matches: That’s a trap! Give a gem from the pot to the player whose trap you revealed. If it’s your trap, give a gem to any player with 3 or fewer gems. You cannot make another player win by revealing your own trap. You kingmaker, you.
You might be asking about, oh, these cards:
Excellent question, glad you’re paying attention. The Red / Blue card is always a partial match (+1 point), and the Lady / Tiger card is always a trap! Be careful with that one.
You must keep revealing cards from stacks until one of three states occurs:
- The pot is empty. Nice job; you found lots of traps. At least you’ll always have that lingering feeling of shame and emptiness. The round ends and players take their cards back.
- You have achieved your target bid. Great work! You earn all the gems in the pot. Remember, you only need 5 to win. If this means you won, great!
- You have run out of cards in stacks. Well, the round ends. Sad trombone noises ensue.
As mentioned, players take their stacks back into their hands at the end of each round, except in one case. If the Season deck was depleted last round (basically, if this is the 5th round), take everyone’s cards (and the out-of-play cards), shuffle and re-deal them, and shuffle the Season deck. Reveal a new Season card. Have each player start a new stack, and the player to the left of last Season’s high bidder is the new start player.
Play continues until one player has 5 gems. They immediately win!
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
At 2 players it’s going to be a lot more about memorization than anything else (plus you’re going to see a lot higher bids, since you know more information in play). Do you know all of your opponent’s cards?
At higher player counts, you’re going to see a lot more early bids and a lot more frenetic gameplay. Who do you trust to have not played a trap? Who do you suspect? It may be easier to memorize cards a bit since you can just match two cards with a person, at 5 / 6 players.
I particularly enjoy this at 3+, mostly for those reasons, but I’d still play it at 2.
- Are you going to bid or bow out? This is pretty much the most important question of the round. If you lace your stack with trap cards, well, you know that you have trap cards, so you don’t want to go through your stack and activate them. That said, if you’ve only played high-value treasure cards, you should keep track of how valuable your stack is.
- Generally, I find that early on it’s more helpful to go through other players’ stacks. Sure, there might be traps, but you’re trading those gems for information. If you know every card in the game then you’ve got a pretty good sense of which rounds can hurt you. If your opponents don’t know your cards, well, then you might be able to trick them into some bad plays or earn yourself some free gems with sneaky subterfuge.
- Don’t be afraid to drive up the bid a little bit. Be careful that you don’t get stuck with it, but if people seem raring to go, upping it by one or two to goad them into bidding too high is a good idea, especially if your stack is full of trap cards. Just don’t get too aggressive.
- By the same vein, don’t pass too quickly either. That gives off the vibe that you think your stack is worthless, so other players may read that and then not look at your cards at all. Especially late in the game, you might want players to find trap cards in your stack and give you that last gem you need. Naturally, don’t be a jerk and drag out the gameplay with some fake hemming and hawing over what to do, though.
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- Plays quickly. Maybe a bit too quickly, overall, but the rounds are nice and fast-paced, as well. I don’t feel like there’s much downtime between turns in Traps, which I appreciate.
- Easy to learn. It’s a simple press-your-luck game of matching cards. Not much more to it, and that’s totally fine! Simple games are great for introducing new players to hobby gaming or as an easy thing to transport to a game night or a house party.
- The art, as always, is fantastic. I mean, I mentioned it five times, sure, but I stand by that assessment. It’s a lot of fun to play games with great art, and this is certainly no exception.
- A very nice and very fast game for up to six. I appreciate the variety of the games included in the basic The Lady and the Tiger set, as there is a solo game, two two-player games, one two- to four-player game, and a two- to six-player game. That’s a lot of variety, both in player count and genre style of the games. Traps is a good representative to have in this set.
- Doesn’t aggravate my risk aversion as much. I think that might be because the game plays more quickly, but I have no idea. It’s not a particularly stressful game given the press-your-luck element.
- The game will quite often end pretty quickly. You may feel like you didn’t get a full opportunity to try and learn the other players’ cards since the game just kind of dropped faster than you expected. This happens, and you can (and should) either just play again or extend the game to 10 gems to win if you really want. The 5 gem limit seems mostly due to the number of gems available in the game box, in my opinion.
- Naming the game “Traps” with the presence of the Blue-Bearded Lady promo card is not great. I think Joe Sondow does a good job of explaining why, here, and Jellybean addressed it, so, not trying to dunk on them with this, but rather using it as a cautionary tale of the importance of being mindful of the way you present your game even if you’re doing a notably good job of being inclusive.
- At higher player counts it’s quite possible that you lose the game without really doing anything. You may have 0 trap cards and not really get a shot for bidding based on the way the game goes, only to have one player get really lucky, take all three gems, and then get one more gem off of another player’s bad luck on the flip the next round. Your agency is a bit reduced, but that’s, again, a function of the number of gems. I think you’re totally fine to increase the victory threshold up if you’d like to ensure all players have some agency in the game. 10 seems like a decent start, again.
OVERALL: 8 / 10
Overall, I do really enjoy Traps! I have a slight preference for Labyrinth, but, I mean, I have a lot of fun with this one. It’s, in a few ways, a bit more streamlined and simpler Dungeon of Mandom (as previously mentioned), but it still has the same light and simple feel that I would expect from an Oink title, just in a significantly larger box (Oink makes pretty tiny games, to be fair). The nice thing this adds to The Lady and the Tiger is the ability to expand gameplay beyond four players, which is excellent, and I think the gameplay here is pretty fun. I’d recommend bringing some coins from another game and using those instead of just the gems so you can extend the game a bit more, sure, but I think that also speaks a bit to how much I enjoy playing Traps. If you’re looking for a neat game of luck and bluffing, Traps might be worth checking out! I’ve certainly enjoyed it.