"All the world’s a stage.”
–William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Some of the best plays of all time emerged out of Elizabethan London—including the works of William Shakespeare. Conditions were, however, far from paradisiacal for playwrights and producers in those days. They had to work with tight budgets and very limited time, launching a production sometimes in as little as a week. Talented actors were few and far between, with the best actors always in high demand.
Shakespeare, a board game for one to four players, challenges you to produce a play in this chaotic and competitive atmosphere. You have six rounds, which represent six days, to recruit actors and craftsmen, sew costumes, and construct the set. On the seventh day, regardless of how prepared your actors, set, and costumes are, the audience fills the theatre and your show opens. Whoever earns the most prestige points by staging the best production wins!
Players Well Bestowed
The first step to staging a play is recruiting your actors and craftsmen. Only once the size of your cast and nature of their talents is determined can you begin writing and rehearsing the play. Every day you’ll have a chance to recruit one character from those available. You might make witty Beatrice, cunning Hamlet, or mischievous Puck the star of your production. There are extras who can take the stage as spear-bearers or party guests and don’t need to be paid. You’ll likely also want to hire craftsmen such as the Costume Mistress and Set Dresser who can make sure your actors are well-clothed and equipped with adequate properties.
To earn prestige points and attain victory, you’ll have to put your characters to work in completing the three acts of your play, depicted as red, yellow, and blue influence tracks on the main board. You can activate at least one character every day. The quills in the upper left of a character’s card show what act they will help you to finish when activated. Hamlet’s yellow quill shows that he lets you develop Act Two. Puck’s blue quill enables you to further Act Three.
Each player also has four characters on their individual board: the Author, Falstaff, the Handyman, and the Queen. The Author’s two white quills indicate that he can further any act you choose to work on. The queen grants no prestige points during the rehearsal process, but instead helps fund your production or allows you to choose an Objective card, which promise you prestige points for reaching certain goals with your show. The Handyman contributes to both costumes or set, and the jovial character Falstaff adds to your play’s ambiance, which is explained further below.
The Fabric of Your Vision
On the fourth and sixth days of your week of preparation, dress rehearsals are held. Your actors may be able to rehearse in their street clothes, but they cannot perform without costumes. Dress rehearsals let you earn prestige points as you fit the costumes, set, and actors together. Each actor also has a special dress rehearsal ability that advances the acts of your play. Since part of the point of a dress rehearsal is to see if the costumes are working, only actors with finished costumes can take part in them—so make sure to costume some of your actors by the end of the fourth day.
Each actor has three spaces for costume tokens, which an activated Handyman or Costume Mistress can provide. Beatrice, Cleopatra, and Juliet can also help out with costuming. No matter who is working in your costume shop, you’ll want to not only make sure all your actors are costumed, but that you purchase the most opulent fabrics you can. The more impressive your costumes are, the more money you make from selling tickets, and the more prestige points you receive.
Cloud-capped Towers and Gorgeous Palaces
A talented cast dressed in stunning costumes deserves a magnificent set, representing the medieval castles, fanciful forests, and ornate palaces where your play's action takes place. Your set is created on your individual board, and must be built from bottom to top by activating Handymen, Set Dressers, and Jewelers. Romeo and Othello can contribute to the set, and an Assistant enables all your craftsmen to purchase more expensive set pieces. Color plays a vital role in this process. Your set must be built so that the colors create a symmetrical pattern. In addition, each color of set piece affects your production differently: pink ones earn you money, green ones enhance the purchasing power of your craftsmen. Yellow set elements function as jokers, earn you prestige points, and they can only be bought by a Jeweler. Blue elements improve your play’s ambiance, and purple ones harm the ambiance of other players.
On your individual board is an ambiance track, which indicates whether you’re producing a heartrending tragedy or heartwarming comedy. A bright ambiance earns you money, prestige points, and helps you complete the acts of your play. A dark ambiance compels you to rework the acts that you have completed and may even cost you prestige. Ambiance is evaluated every day of rehearsal, and set back to zero when the day’s rehearsal process ends.
Draw the Curtain
After six intense days of rehearsal, the curtain is drawn and your show must open, whether or not your set is finished, your actors are costumed, or the three acts of your play are all complete. At this point you determine whether you’ve achieved any of your Objectives, and pay the actors and craftsmen who have put so much into the show. Finally, total up your prestige and see if your theatrical ambitions have come to naught, or if you’ve managed to stage Elizabethan London's best show.
Shakespeare offers you the stage. All you have to do is take it.
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