Review - The Great Dalmuti

This review draws heavily on a game we played earlier this week.
Aged 8+, 5-8 players, 15+ mins playing time

The Great Dalmuti - Some of the cards
The Great Dalmuti designed by Richard Garfield and originally published in 1995 which was out of print for a while and I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of at Essen last year. The aim of the game depending on your position at the court is to hold onto your position (me as I started as The Great Dalmuti) or advance your position (everybody else), this involves changing seats around the table starting with The Great Dalmuti who can select the most comfortable of those available and has been known to make the Peon's stand or sit on cardboard boxes.

As you may already have spotted this is a silly fun game were winning is not
the point.

The game is played with a deck of cards numbered 1 through to 12 (representing various medieval “classes” and indicating how many cards there are in the deck). The cards are as follows:

Earl Marshal
The Great Dalmuti - Some of the cards

In this card game you sit higher or lower in the court (both physically and in game terms) depending on what card you draw (everybody draws one card and depending on the number on it they will rank higher or lower with the higher numerical values equating to a lower position in the court).

To get the game going I took the role of The Great Dalmuti (well somebody had to) with Crispin as the Lesser Dalmuti and everybody else sitting below us (as merchants of progressively lower rank) until you reached the lowest of the low The Lesser Peon (Ben) and even lower the Greater Peon (Daniella). It is the Greater Peon’s job to deal the cards, tidy up discarded cards and generally be respectful to all those that rank above her, although deference should be shown by all those of lower class to their betters or at least in this game anyway.
The Great Dalmuti - Some of the cards
There are also two jester cards that if played individually rank lower than the Peasants or rank the same as another card/s when played together. Also in the event that a player gets the two Jester cards they can declare a Revolution which stops the Dalmuti’s benefiting from taxing the Peon’s. In the event that a Peon gets the two Jester cards they can call a Greater Revolution which means everybody swaps with their opposite and so the mighty fall to the gutters and the poor rule the land.

Once all the cards have been shuffled and dealt out the Peon’s are taxed passing their best cards (1 for the Lesser Peon and 2 for the Greater Peon) to the Dalmuti’s whilst in return the Dalmuti’s pass the Peon’s their worst cards - who said life was supposed to be fair!
The Great Dalmuti - Some of the cards

The Great Dalmuti then starts play by laying one or many cards of the same denomination; the person to the left then has to lay the same number of cards but of a lesser value. If you are not able to or choose not to do this then you pass and when everybody has passed the person who laid the lowest value cards starts a new round (obviously after the Greater Peon has tidied the cards up).

The first person to play their last card(s) becomes the Greater Dalmuti for the next round. Through clever game play Ben (?!) managed to rise from The Lesser Peon to The Great Dalmuti (who said there was no social mobility in Britain!) although he struggled as indeed did everybody else with this meteoric rise as he kept forgetting his new found rank and was spotted helping The Greater Peon (now Natalie) by tidying the cards away.
The Great Dalmuti - Some of the cards
What Did We Think?
This is a very funny game with much opportunity for abusing your fellow players and claiming rights on the basis of hierarchy within the court, over others. It is not a fair or balanced game but with the right group of like minded fun loving people it can be and was very funny.

I am sure we will play this one again! It was a game recommended by Nigel from Imagination Gaming and having seen him play it in the Family Zone at the UK Games Expo with a group of people who had never met each other before it’s a game I would love to get on video. He also used two of the optional rules:

  1. The wearing of silly hats to reflect your position in the court.
  2. The passing of Acts which can require the lesser players, the Peon’s , in particular to sing, cluck or in some way act even more daftly when playing the cards or addressing The Great Dalmuti with a question.
Maybe we will introduce these next time!

Who Will It Work For?
The Great Dalmuti - The card backs
  1. Gamers who are looking for a silly game as filler. Although I also think it will work best as a closing game as moving to a quieter game after this may leave people feeling a little flat.
  2. Anybody looking for a party game that could handle 8 and you might get away with pushing it to 10, although we haven’t tried that.
  3. Educators looking for a game that might fuel creativity around drama and play acting.
  4. If you like the idea of the Great Dalmuti but find humour in the the corporate / political world of modern office life then you might prefer Dilbert: Corporate Shuffle It is the same game but set in the modern world with CEO's, Sales, Marketing etc and lots of brilliant Dilbert cartoons.
  5. The caution with both these games would be the danger that the balance of humour becomes abusive and leaves players feeling uncomfortable. It is perhaps a fine line to tread and one that any of us could unwittingly cross over.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I still had my original deck the new ones are so cheap and smaller cards and cost more .... I am so sad that they made the new decks so cheaply ... the original deck was like a work of art