The theme of Viceroy is that you are building a political career, and literally building a pyramid (albeit flat on the table) of character cards, where the higher a card is the more powerful that character.
Players begin with a few gems of four colours (blue/red/green/yellow) and one character card in their hand. Four more character cards are dealt out next to gem cards showing the four colours. Each round starts with an auction, where players bid gems for the cards they want. The bidding can be secret, or discussed, and discussed honestly or dishonestly. If you choose not to bid you can take three gems from the bank instead. It’s possible for bids to tie so players can either both take a card (sometimes there will be two available) or if they cannot agree, or there’s only one card, they have to bid again.
Cards go into your hand until you can afford to build them: each card shows a cost in gems to build depending on which level of your pyramid it goes in. And each card has an effect: either gathering you more gems, or collecting the various tokens of the game – swords, shields, cogs, and victory points. These combine in various ways during (or at the end of) the game to give you resources or points – slightly too complicated to cover in depth here! You’ll see that laying the cards out in the pyramid also creates ‘gem’ pictures where the cards align, and having the colours match also scores points.
There are also Law cards that you can incorporate into your pyramid if and when you receive them – some give options as to how you implement them, and some simply give you points at the end of the game.
It’s a very well-designed game, but unfortunately not my bag. The theme doesn’t hugely relate to the gameplay, and the sands are constantly shifting in a way that made me feel I was negotiating my way through a lot of ifs and buts. Despite the lack of text – the iconography is pretty simple – it reminded me of my dislike for games with text on cards; where the parameters of what you’re trying to do constantly change depending on what cards you’re looking at. Tactically it’s a challenge but, for me, a bit fiddly too. All that said, I can see some will love it for the same reasons I don’t!
Not much, unless you get into a squabble during the bidding. Mostly everyone is busy with their own business, though there is some scoring at the end where sword and shield tokens interact to give (or negate) penalty points.
Moderate. Players need some thinking time to gauge which card they want to bid for.
You'll be looking at what cards are available and how they could combine with your growing pyramid, so it's not a game where playing randomly is likely to result in a win. Familiarity won't necessarily speed the game up an enormous degree, because there will always be these variable tactical possibilities.
Lots of replayability here - there's loads of cards and they combine in numerous ways.