Theme and What is it?
Indulgence places players in the midst of the middle ages when the wealthy frequently abused the privilege of indulgence with the Catholic Church. Originally intended for the sinner to make some sort of atonement for their sin (by saying a prayer a certain number of times, for example), the wealthy would often pay out riches to the clergy in exchange for pardon.
Players of the game are wealthy members of that society, who may or may not choose to sin, and who are all struggling to be the wealthiest player at game’s end.
Primarily a trick-taking game, all cards are dealt out to players and hands are played, but in this case, you don’t always want to be the one to win the trick. So tricky! Instead of traditional suits, there are four families (Sforza, Borgia, Medici, and Orsini) of cards, with numbers ranging from 1 to 9. Money is measured in 1 florin coins and 5 florin gems.
In addition to dealing cards, setup requires that three edicts be laid on the table. The Ruler (AKA dealer) is the player who is wearing the most red. The Ruler selects one edict, which generally says something like “Don’t take any Sforzas.” Any player who wins a trick containing Sforzas owes the Ruler one florin per Sforza taken. If the Ruler takes a Sforza, she does not have to pay anything; she simply loses out on the earning potential of another player getting that card.
If a player (NOT the Ruler) so chooses, he may decide to sin, and do the complete opposite of the edict. The edict is turned over so the Sinner side is showing. The Sinner then becomes the first player and tries his hardest to collect ALL the Sforzas, following the above example. The Sinner takes the ring and is allowed to place it on any value of card of any suit, thus turning the card into a 10 of that suit. If the Sinner wins, he gets paid, but if he fails, he owes money to the Ruler!
Each game consists of three rounds, with each player leading one hand each round. At the end of each round, a new edict is drawn from the stack so there are always three to choose from.
I was seriously impressed by this game. Everything about it from the quality of the materials used, to the art, to the hype I’d heard about it, to the game itself. I had heard nothing but good things and was really excited when it came across my desk for me to review. I was very happy to see this one!
Game Build Quality
As mentioned above, the game build quality is impressive. The ring is made of metal, not cheap plastic. The 1 florin tokens and the silver Edict cover board are made of beautifully printed heavy cardboard. The 5 florin gems are made of colorful plastic and my nine-year-old immediately decided he loved the game upon seeing them. The cards themselves are linen finish and a pleasure to hold and shuffle. Very high quality product here.
Everything about this game speaks of richness. The colors are rich. The family members depicted on each card are dressed richly. The ring reminds one of the wealthy nobility and their signet rings. And of course, all this richness fits right in with the theme of the game: the Medieval elite who would irreverently purchase indulgences to cover their sins.
Indulgence was a LOT of fun. My husband enjoyed it, I enjoyed it, our nine-year-old who was up way past his bedtime (this usually makes him REALLY cranky) and lost spectacularly (this sometimes triggers meltdowns) REALLY enjoyed it. This is easily going to become a family favorite.
Age Range & Weight
The nine-year-old was easily able to handle this game. I’d recommend for ages 6 or 7 and up. It’s not a very heavy game, and can be taught and played in quick succession.
The one criticism I really have to offer is that I always felt like I was trying to lose tricks, instead of the typical attempt to win. It’s not really a negative comment, I suppose, and more of a warning that this is not your typical trick-taking game.
It’s not about how many tricks you win. It’s about whether you obey the edict or, conversely, if you’re a Sinner, how well you disobey. My family is apparently a bunch of goody-two-shoes, as we didn’t sin much. If you obey the edict, you get to keep your money. If you disobey, you have to pay money to the Ruler. If you Sin, you pay or earn based on how well you sin, shall we say. At the end of the game, the player with the most money wins.
So if the edicts have you NOT taking any Sforzas, and there’s a Sforza on the table already, your goal is to LOSE that trick. This happens with other types of edicts too. There’s one that says not to take the first or last trick. There’s another that says don’t be the first to take three tricks.
It’s just a mechanic that you have to be aware of as you’re playing the game. It’s an unusual take, but I found it a fascinating and engaging one. I bet you’ll love it too.