War of Tarot is a deduction game for 2 to 4 players. There are 23 cards in the game, numbered from 0 to 22. At the start of the game you have to pick a card from your hand to be your secret. You place it face-down in front of you. In this game you try to guess your opponents’ secrets. Whoever’s secret is guessed correctly is eliminated from the game. The last person standing wins.
The cards are large and the artwork rich.
On your turn you only have 3 options. The first is to simply play a card and use its power. When you play a card, the number value is exposed, so you are releasing information to all players. The available information in the game keeps growing, and it becomes easier and easier to guess your opponents’ secrets. The card powers mostly help you narrow down the possibilities of what your opponents’ secrets are. E.g. you can play a card to force players whose secrets are an even number to discard a card. Some powers check whether your secret is larger or smaller than a particular number. Some check whether it is a multiple of a certain number.
The cards that have been played are sorted into four groups, for convenience. The 0 and the 22 are in one group. The other three groups are for the ranges 1 to 7, 8 to 14 and 15 to 21. At the top there is a hidden information area. During game setup three cards are placed there face-down. This is information that no one knows yet. Some card powers give you access to this information.
The second option on your turn is to make a guess. You get to play a card face-down to the hidden information area, then reveal one card there and move it to the open information area. You then attempt to guess an opponent’s secret. If you are right, your opponent is out of the game.
Your third option is to change your secret. This is a powerful move, but also a costly one. You have to reveal your old secret and another card from your hand, and then make yet another card in your hand your new secret.
At first the game felt difficult, because every card has a different power, and there is text to read and digest. The artwork looks complicated and that created an illusion for me. Once I understood the game better, I found it pretty straight-forward. The card powers are easy to understand and there are just a few variations. When playing you do need to focus and try to remember the possibilities that have been eliminated. You need to keep track of answers and responses you have received from your opponents, so that you know for each of them what the remaining possibilities are. As more and more information is revealed, there is a sense of escalation. If you don’t quickly guess your opponents’ secrets, they will guess yours first!
When deciding which card to play, you have to consider whether that reveals useful information to your opponents. If your opponents know your secret is an odd number, you probably want to delay playing any odd number to avoid giving up more information. You want to delay helping them guess your secret.
War of Tarot is about the process of elimination. It is the kind of game that works well at boardgame cafes, i.e. good for casual gamers. Easy to learn and not too long. There are only 23 cards so it almost feels like a microgame. I categorise it as a light game. It plays in about half an hour so it works as a family game too.
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