Y’all Motherfuckers Need Shakespeare
Cardboard Conjecture — Shakespeare
BARD, n. A person who makes rhymes. The word is one of the numerous aliases under which the poet seeks to veil his identity and escape opprobrium. — from The Devil’s Dictionary
I hate it when the rare TV show I like doesn’t have a board game tie-in. After I watched Taboo for the first time, I wished the God there was a game about witchcraft, incest, and the shipping industry. Instead, I had to settle for doing terrible things to a fresh copy of Seafall. The aftermath wasn’t as much fun as I’d hoped, so when I watched the sneak peek of Will online, I was glad there was at least one good board game about Shakespeare. And it was called Shakespeare. Convenient.
The game puts the players into the roles of theater troupes given six days to to produce and performs plays for Queen Elizabeth. Collecting actors, sets and costumes nets you prestige points, which represent how well your performance goes. Money is used to pay cast and crew, and occasionally hire short term help, but you don’t pay people until the end. That means that if you don’t have the cash to pay up, you lose prestige points from your final total, but you might still win on points in the end. You could win the game and get away with stiffing your people. According to some friends of mine that work in local theater, that sounds about right.
A word about the nomenclature. There are three types of Character cards: Actors, Craftsmen, and Other Characters. Thing is, the Actor cards represent characters from Shakespeare’s plays: Lady Macbeth, Puck, Romeo, etc. This isn’t a big deal, but some people will think it is.
It’s a fairly simple game. I can play Shakespeare over and over and not get tired of it. In doing so I realized that the players are sorta remixing Shakespeare’s plays. My first play-though with the expansion netted me a bloody revenge story featuring Lady Macbeth and Othello. The second was supernatural black comedy with The Ghost of Hamlet’s Father, Titania, Puck, and an out-of-their-depth Romeo & Juliet. The third featured a brilliant story starring a bear, supported by great sets and costumes. I suppose you could consider the Actor cards typecast players, since the player boards include Falstaff and the Author, as both actor and playwright, as default Actors. It sort of makes more sense in the context of the show. Kemp seems to always play the comedic roles, making him “The Falstaff”. Or maybe the answer is, “Don’t think about it”.
There’s a gonzo start-up feel to the idea of putting on a play in six days. The game implies that the players are arting by the seat of their pants. The script is being written and rewritten throughout the week and there are only two dress rehearsals, on days 4 and 6. The show you’re assembling is being held together with thread, nails, audacity, and words. And the “drunkards, degenerates, whores, and spies” that make up your troupe.