Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Elad Goldsteen

Golden Egg Games

No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Elad Goldsteen's Alliances is a trick-taking game, in which the players seek world domination (well, at least the subtitle on the game box tells us so). Oh dear, this seemed to be quite chewy stuff for a reviewer - once again one of seemingly thousands of games with three or four suits, one of them used as a trump suit and - of course - those two or three special cards that can be used to alter some of the well-known trick-taking rules. But: Surprise, Surprise! Apart from the cards 20 different country tiles and several tokens for the two participating factions can be found in the gamebox. Should this game be worth a closer look after all? Anyway, as a reviewer I am always curious about new ideas, and so let's see what makes this game so special.

For set-up a 4x5 grid of country tiles is randomly placed in the middle of the table. Each country tile stands for a planet and has an individual power for each of the three different suits of the game. The aim is to gain control over a specific number of these planets. In the four and two player variant, the exact number of planets an alliance needs to win is determined in the first phase of the game, called the State of Nations phase. In this phase the players bid for the number of countries they want to conquer with their alliance. One player after another must raise the last bid or pass. When everybody has passed, the player who has made the highest bid determines the trump suit for the rest of the round. Also, his bid determines the victory conditions for the round since the winning alliance of the State of the Nations phase will win the round if they are able to conquer at least as many planets as they had declared.


In the following conflict phase, the winner of the last trick (in the first round the one who has won the State of the Nations phase) chooses a country of the outlay where it comes to a conflict. We are then asked to play cards from our hands. The card of the first player determines the suit and everyone must follow, play a trump card or one of the special cards. When all players have played a card, the power of each alliance is determined by adding up the values of the cards of each faction and the winning party then can take the control of the country if their total power is strong enough. To check this, the values of the cards winning the trick must be higher than the defensive value of the country in the corresponding suit.

This is in essence the mechanism on which Alliances is built, but the game is equipped with a lot of special cards to alter the rules. 12 different cards with special powers alone are found in the basic game. Some of them triple the power of the country of the conflict to prevent a faction to take control of the planet. Other cards have the power to discard cards of a special suit on the table. And still others add powers of planets to the players power value.

One of the specialties of Alliances is that the author has designed three different game variants which are used with different numbers of players. While many other trick-taking games work only with a specific number of players, Alliances adapts the rules to the number of players. So, things that work well in the four player variant must be altered for only two players. In the latter case, you exactly would know which cards your opponent holds in hand. Players with a good memory would have a huge advantage, and to prevent this the author has designed a drafting phase before the true game begins. In this phase, which is a small game in the game, the players can get rid of their weaker cards, and this effectively prevents players from knowing exactly the hand of each other. As a side effect, about one third of the special cards will fall out as well, because their abilities are nearly useless in the two player variant.

The tree player variant, on the other hand, gets by without the State of the Nations phase. In this variant, two players fight against one. To balance the game, the player who plays alone, exchanges four of his weaker cards with two of the strongest cards of each of the other two players at the beginning of a round.


Some additional possibilities for tactical moves can be found in the display of country tiles, because it is only possible to choose a country for a challenge that is adjacent to a country of the challenger. So, you can try to block enemies by a clever choice of countries. This connection between a trick-taking mechanism based on cardplay and tactical movement gives Alliances an interesting appeal. I especially liked the four player variant for its entertaining player interaction between allies and opponents, but I must admit that I was disappointed by the two player variant. In this variant the drafting phase is too long and gets boring. Additionally, a lot of the special cards cannot unfold their true power, and due to this the game loses some important elements. To a lesser extent, this is also true for the three player variant, because there are always only three cards in a trick, and so getting rid of all cards of a special suit is not as powerful as in the four player variant. In the end, Elad Goldsteen's efforts to adapt the game to different numbers of players should receive a honorable mention, but Alliances remains best if it is played with four players. All in all, the game shows some very promising ideas, but in our modern time of Wizard & Co. it may have difficulties to gain enough visibility among all the other modern trick-taking games.

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Copyright © 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany