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The Masquerade Ball

Contributed by Leigh Boyd

History: The Masquerade Ball is based on an actual Masked Opera that occurred in Sweden in 1792 where Gustav III (the King of Sweden) was assassinated by a masked perpetrator.

In the game, the identities of the various kings, queens and princes are actually assigned real-life personas such as: Catherine the Great, Marie Antoinette and King George III who reigned during this period. The full experience requires purchasing the official deck, however a standard deck is sufficient to play the game. The countries represented are as follows: Sweden - Clubs; England - Hearts; France - Spades; Russia - Diamonds. .

Overview: This is a complex and exciting game which combines concepts borrowed from games such as chess, rock-paper-scissors, and concentration to create a truly rich card-playing experience.

Players take turns inspecting their cards, and choosing what action to take based on the identity of that card. They may, for example, choose to move, attack opponent cards, or invoke the selected card's special ability, if applicable.

When an attack is made, the success of the attack depends on the relative strength or weakness of the attacking and defending cards. It is normally the defender's task to determine the outcome of the attack.

Game Info: 2 to 4 players. Ages 10 and up. Average game time 20 to 50 min.

Setup: The 6 x 7 card playing surface represents a palace. There are various playing areas: 2 courtrooms, 4 thrones, 12 ascension steps, and a ballroom. The thrones and ascension steps are considered to be within the courtrooms. It is not necessary to mark out these areas some kind of board. A clean flat table top will do the job. However, for a beginner, four coins could be laid down to clarify the positions of the thrones.

    (H)             Legend:
G CATTAC P          C (including A,T) = courtroom 
  CAAAAC            B = ballroom
  CCCCCC            A = ascension steps
  BBBBBB            T = throne
  CCCCCC			
  CAAAAC            H = hand (held by player - not really on the board) 
P CATTAC G          P = prison (face-down stack - not really on the board)
   (H)              G = graveyard (face-down stack - not really on the board)

Take two different sets of cards, e.g. one red and one blue deck. Keep the hearts and the coloured joker from the red deck. Keep the spades and the black joker from the blue deck.

The two entourages of 14 cards (hereinafter called "character cards", or simply "characters") each are placed face down, from shuffled decks onto the 6-card wide x 7-card long playing surface as shown below.

 BBBB       Legend:
BBBBBB      B = blue card
 BBBB       R = red card

 RRRR 
RRRRRR
 RRRR

Cards are not permitted to move beyond the palace outline.

The Character Cards: Take some time to study the characters, and to which class they belong. The cards placed higher on each list are the more powerful.

Royalty:
   Q (Queen),
   K (King),
   J (Jack)
Aristocracy:
   10 (Lord),
   9 (Duchess),
   8 (Baron)
Proletariat:
   A (Assassin),
   Joker

The State:
   7 (Ambassador),
   6 (Diplomat),
   5 (Spy)
The Church:
   4 (Bishop),
   3 (Priest),
   2 (Nun)

Object of the Game: To win the game, you must oust all opponent characters from their thrones, and have at least one of your own characters remaining upon it for one turn.

Play Sequence: The play sequence of each turn is as follows:

  1. Inspect: You must choose one character to inspect; you shouldn't show your character to your opponents. Tap the card diagonally to indicate that the card is still in play.
  2. Play a card from your hand (if any) face down to your own courtroom. Tap the card diagonally to indicate that the card is still in play.
  3. Move the character(s) mentioned above according to the rules laid out in "movement rules". By moving your character onto an opponent card, you are indicating that attack is being made. It is possible to attack twice in the same turn, using the inspected and the played card, but you are not allowed to attack the same square twice in one turn. Keep the cards tapped diagonally, indicating that you are not necessarily finished with the card yet.
  4. Invoke Special Ability. If applicable, you may invoke the ability of any tapped card by flipping it over and revealing its identity.
  5. Untap. In other words, realign the cards.
  6. Attack verdict: Consult the circle of power to determine a victor. The surviving card (if any) is put back in play to the square where the defender last stood. The completion of this step marks the end of the turn.

Allowable actions outside the turn. At any time, whether or not it is your turn,

3 - Movement rules: Characters have their individual dancing behaviour. Therefore, it is important to move the character cards correctly since this offers clues as to their identities.

Only one card can occupy a square. It is illegal to move a card to a square occupied by one of your own cards. Moving to a square occupied by an opponent's card constitutes an attack, and at most one card will remain on the square after the attack is resolved.

Royalty characters (face cards) move one square in any direction, including diagonally. This includes the Joker, and the Ace (known in this game as the Assassin).

The remaining character cards move according to the arrangement of symbols (pips) on their face. Consider the arrangement as a map, where the centre of the card represents the current position, and each pip marks an allowable destination square. If there is no pip in the centre, then the card must move if any of its destination squares is empty. The x's on the representations of the 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 below indicate that these cards can not "stand still" unless all their potential destinations are occupied. However, a card is never forced to attack: even a 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 can stand still if its only legal moves would be to squares occupied by the opponent.

                          8 8    8 8  9 9  0 0  
2  3  4 4  5 5  6 6  7 7  8 8     8   9 9  000 
x  3   x    5   6x6  777   x  or 8x8   9    x
2  3  4 4  5 5  6 6  7 7  8 8     8   9 9  000
                          8 8    8 8  9 9  0 0

JJJ  QQQ  KKK  JJJ  AAA  
JJJ  QQQ  KKK  JJJ  AAA  
JJJ  QQQ  KKK  JJJ  AAA  

Ascension steps, (or movement into and out of the thrones): The thrones are not level with the rest of the floor, but rather elevated by a number of steps which one must ascend. Regular movement rules apply on the majority of the board, however, cards located on the ascension steps have an advantage when moving towards the throne.

Ascension cards may:

The reverse is also true. I.e. the throne characters can access the ascension squares in the same way.

If a member of the aristocracy enters an ascension square on the first step of its movement, then they may move to either of the throne squares on their second step.

Ballroom In the ballroom, the 2 and 3 are permitted to move laterally.

4 - Special Abilities

Certain characters possess a special ability. To use this special ability, the character must be revealed (flipped face up) at the end of the movement phase.

The following cards have special abilities. The abilities are invoked by flipping the card face up, thereby unmasking the card. This includes automatically invoked abilities. It is possible to invoke an ability instead of attacking, in conjunction with attacking, or independent of an attack.

6 (Diplomat): Immunity:
The Diplomat can request the return of one prisoner. The Prisoner will be returned face down into your hand or may be placed immediately anywhere within your courtroom. It is permissible to move it, attack with it and use its special ability in this turn, if desired.
5 (Spy): Espionage:
This character's ability forces the identity of another card to be revealed, i.e. flipped face up. The affected character thereby loses its special ability.
4 (Bishop), Resurrection:
Take one card from your graveyard (or your opponent's if desired) and place it facedown in your courtroom. It is permissible to move it, attack with it and use its special ability in this turn, if desired.
3 (Priest), Redeem:
Restores the special ability of a card. The affected card is flipped face-down.
2 (Nun), Deliverance:
Take any character (including itself) and move it anywhere except to an opponent's throne. The card being delivered can also use its special ability if desired. Deliverence from the 2 cannot be used to attack enemy thrones directly, but may be used to defend your own throne, or the throne of an ally.
A (Assassin), Assassinate - Automatic: Invincible attack.
Required only when attacking State and Church characters, the assassinate ability is automatically invoked and the respective defender is killed.
Joker, Lure - Automatic: Invincible defense.
Required only when being attacked from the State, the Church and Assassin characters, the Lure ability is automatically invoked and causes the Joker to survive and the attacker to be imprisoned. This character ability is different in that it uses its ability only during the opponent's attack. For the special case of the Joker being attacked by the Assassin, the abilities cancel each other and the Assassin wins as though the abilities were never used.

5 - Untap - realign all tapped cards to indicate that you have finished your turn.

6 - Attack Verdict (Circle of Power):

If the defender's character card is...

The attacking card is compared in strength to the defending card. The relative powers of the cards can be determined from the circle of power. If the attacking card is...

The relative strength of the characters is determined using the circle of power. The circle is difficult to describe using words, but it is similar in principle to the rock-paper-scissors game, except that there are 5 classes of cards. The 5 classes are: Royalty, Aristocracy, The State, The Church, and Proletariat

            Royalty:
   Q (Queen),
   K (King),
   J (Jack)
           
Aristocracy:
   10 (Lord),
   9 (Duchess),
   8 (Baron)
        Proletariat:
   A (Assassin),
   Joker
                   
    The State:
   7 (Ambassador),
   6 (Diplomat),
   5 (Spy)
    The Church:
   4 (Bishop),
   3 (Priest),
   2 (Nun)
   

The Circle of Power

The arrows move in a direction of descending power anti-clockwise around the circle. Each class can defeat any card from the next two classes, and is defeated by the two classes preceding it. If the attacker and defender are from the same class, then the higher card within that class wins. Note that the Queen is higher than the King or Jack.

Note also that the 10 can defeat all numbered cards down to the 2.

Four-Player Game rules.

Board set up differences.
If the game is played with 4 players a region called the ballroom is created between the 4 teams. The ballroom acts as one giant square where anyone is allowed to stand anywhere within the square and attack anybody they please, so long as the cards have the correct rotation (see movement differences).
Movement differences
The only exception is that the attacking card must be rotated to the right orientation to match the defending card orientation. This rotation is performed in the ballroom. Aristocracy cards can rotate and move in the same turn if they sacrifice their jump ability during the move.
Throne control rules
Conquering the throne is the same as for 2 player games, with the following differences.
You must defend the new throne as if it were your own, otherwise you will risk losing it. In this way, any throne can be conquered repeatedly, thereby being liberated for your ally, etc.
Alliances may be formed, but they have no bearing on the rules. In this way, the balance of power may shift at any time and former allies may become mortal enemies.

A Note on Fouls

For beginners especially, many things can go wrong, including falsely reporting the outcome of an attack, peeking at your opponent's characters, moving a character incorrectly, etc. These events are called fouls. Experienced players make very few fouls, but they still occur. Some guidelines to prevent fouls are as follows:

Failing to abide by the above rules does not necessarily constitute a foul. You have committed a foul if you have attempted to make a play that could conceivably change the outcome of the game, to the detriment of your opponent (or to the advantage of your own allies). Allowing your opponent to make a mistake that is detrimental only to him is not a foul, but extremely bad conduct.

If the foul is spotted before harm is done, then the mistake was caught and there is no need for a penalty.

When a foul occurs, the game is NOT typically forfeit (since it is rather unsatisfying to win due to a foul). Assuming all affected parties are amicable, the game should continue so long as a reasonable means of compensation is agreed upon.

If a card was inadvertently looked at, then perhaps two cards could be peeked at to compensate, etc. As a rule of thumb, the penalty should be about twice as severe as the foul.

Due to the nature of the game, there is no way of preventing cheating (i.e. intentionally rigging the outcome of the game). If you suspect that your opponent is cheating, my advice is to stop playing board games with them.

Questions/Comments

A special deck is not required to play the game, however a deck is being developed which may be ordered in the near future. Please contact for suggestions for improvements, questions, or ordering info.


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Last updated 30th June 2008