Game: Danse Macabre
Designer: Priit Isok, Asko Künnap
Type: Party game
Category: Card game, bluff, deduction
Number of Player: 2 Players
Play Time: 30 minutes
Recommended age: 9+
Danse Macabre Review Content
Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death was a very common form of art in the late Middle Ages. No matter who, rich or poor will all meet Death at some point in life.
God and the Devil are always here, near us, trying to get our dancer’s souls to their side.
The Niguliste Museum in Tallin, in Estonia, holds a very nice representation of this Danse Macabre. It serves as a background to this bluffing game.
Will you manage to get the most dancers to your side?
back to menu ↑
Though for two players only and with simple rules, Danse Macabre comes with a box packed with quality material:
- 2 decks of 16 cards. Each set, one for each player contains:
- 3x 1 force of air, 2x 2 forces of air, 1x 3 forces of air
- 3x 1 force of fire, 2x 2 forces of fire, 1x 3 forces of fire
- 1 Twister, 1 Flood and 2 signs of tripod.
- 6 hidden dansers
- 1 metal coin, one face for God, one face for the Devil
- 1 board, representing the Danse Macabre from Bernt Notke,
- 1 rulebook, available in 4 languages
back to menu ↑
First, you will want to decide who plays God and who plays the Devil. The youngest player will toss the coin – a nice metallic and heavy coin – to chose his deck. Both decks are identical and will offer you the same chances to win.
Next, you will place every hidden dancers on the board, on the skeletons between every revealed dancers. Shuffle the hidden dancers and place one on every skeleton. Only the skeleton with a bagpipe doesn’t have to be covered.
Both players now take their decks and can organize it as they wish in their hands.
Players will now sit, God above the dancers, the Devil below. God will toss the coin to define who will be the first player.back to menu ↑
How to Play
Playing the game is fairly easy. In turn, players will play one card, face down, above either a visible or a hidden dancer, and will then peek at a card. On their first turn though, none of the players may peek at a card.
Once both players have placed their 16 cards, they will count their points to define who is the winner.
This sounds easy, right? But you need a bit more information before playing.
The visible dancers are valued from 6 to 2 points. The hidden dancers are valued 8 to 4 points. Among the hidden dancers is also a skeleton, worth 0 point. Those hidden dancers, shuffled when setting up the game, may appear in any position.
Playing a card
You will want to play your cards right to gain the most valuable souls, but also reduce the attraction of your opponent. You can bet your card above (if you are God) or below (if you play the Devil) any dancer, without or with any bet already in place.
Your cards are Forces, of Air and Fire, each of them being worth their face value. Just know that on any dancer, a player may put his Twister to cancel all Forces of Air, or his Flood to cancel any Force of Fire played on that dancer. This also includes his own forces.
A player may also place one of his 2 Tripods for any dancer: this dancer’s soul will then not go either to the Devil, nor to God.
After betting a card, you can either look at:
- a hidden dancer: this will give you an edge – you don’t want to bet too high cards on lower value dancers
- a card of your opponent. You may look at a card your opponent played on any dancer, but you may only look at the latest he played there.
After both players finished placing their cards, the scoring will go as follow:
Starting from the Pope – highest value -, reveal all the bets, and take in account any of the special cards. Sum your scores of Air and Fire Forces. The highest wins this soul.
In case of equality, the Devil will will toss the coin to define who will gain this soul.
If a Twister and a Flood have been played, neither player gains the soul.
Count your points: the highest scores win this game!
back to menu ↑
To win this game, you will need a good strategy. You have a lot of decisions to take – will you chose to know the hidden dancers, or would you rather peek at your opponents’ cards? – and the right choice at the right moment will reduce greatly your dependence on luck. Memory will also come in handy: what have you played or seen, and where? Dropping a Tripod on a Force of 3 , or on the Skeleton is really frustrating. Canceling your own Forces of Fire with a Flood is also a reason to feel really unhappy at yourself. Seeing your opponent do such mistakes also gives a bitter-sweet feeling on any victory.
Choose wisely your dancers. You may chose to fight for the highest value, but victory may lie in lower value targets.
In the end: the game is fun, and should be seen as so. It contains too many random elements to my liking, but it doesn’t stop me from getting it on the table. Thanks to the speed of setup, play and clean up, it fits my list of fillers while waiting for guests or to keep two players entertained while the rest of the group plays a different game.
Be warned, play uninterrupted: once you lose track, your game will be totally brainless… You may use this as a key to throwing off your opponent, as with any bluff game, this removes most of the interest in the game.
An added bonus in this game is the element of culture: the board contains, on its reversed side, an explanation about its illustration. This is quite a nice feature. As an avid board gamer, but also an even more avid traveler, Tallin and the Niguliste Museum are now on my to-see places. Looking forward to spring now, and in the meantime: I’ll drag those dancers to my side!
Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death was a very common form of art in the late Middle Ages. No matter who, rich or poor will all meet Death at some point in life. Playing as God or the Devil, will you manage to get the most dancers to your side?
- Beautiful material
- Quick to set up
- Quick play
- Scoring a bit confusing at first
- Strategy relies a lot on memory
- Risk to play randomly if interrupted