|Towards the end of a 3-player game.|
Players start by shuffling and flipping the double-sided cards and laying a number of these cards out on the table, depending on the number of players - these cards are the agents available for hire in the game. Each agent card has its own specific powers, and the combinations of agents that come out can alter the game significantly. In a 4-player game, there are 32 possible combinations of agents - and while some of these variations are slight, some are quite drastic and can result in some unexpected combos and some fun bluffing opportunities.
Once the available agents have been determined, players take turns placing their bidding tokens onto the various agent cards. Each bidding token is numbered, with a value between 2 and 6. Most tokens are played face-down and are not revealed until the end - this is where much of the bluffing comes in. Additionally each player has two tokens that let them utilise the various agent abilities. Thematically, it's like the players have been able to blackmail the agents into doing various jobs. These jobs include manipulating opponent bids, moving agents around, or locking agents from bids for a round.
Once players have each placed all but one token, they reveal all the face-down tokens, and the values on these tokens determine who has won control of each agent. The player who wins control of the most agents at the end of the game is the winner. In the case of a tie, the tied player who kept the highest value token in their hand is the winner.
The biggest selling point for Sub Rosa is that it is easy to teach and learn, but has a lot of interesting emergent strategies contained within it. This happens because of the interaction between the agent card abilities and also because bluffing is such a central mechanic.
Sub Rosa was developed in the Playtest Dublin group. It started out as a tiny two-player idea and was quickly thrashed into its current shape. Because it's so small, it's been playtested a lot and it's been possible to send it through many iterations. All of this has been great for the game and I'm eternally grateful to the Dublin gaming community for their help.
Sub Rosa: Spies for Hire will be popping up on Kickstarter in about a month's time. In the meantime, you can get a free print-and-play, so you can try the game out. The print-and-play uses only one sheet of thick paper or card and is in black-and-white.
Follow this link and enter your email to get the files.