Gunpowder Treason, 1987 from Aztral Games, UK, is a
strange little game. The only reason I picked it up is because
it's the only game I know based on Guy Fawkes. I've always had a
fondness for Guy Fawkes - I don't really believe in blowing people
up, but if I did, I would indeed pick a similar choice in targets
- but possibly in a different country.
At any rate, the game can be played with two, three, or four players,
and is better with more. The game consists of a board (with the rules
printed right on it), a pawn and four barrels of gunpowder for each
player, twelve counterinsurgency agents, and a deck of cards.
The board has Parliament in the center, with the four Guy Fawkes
starting in the corners. About a fifth of the squares are white, and
the other four fifths equally divided between the four colors of the
starting players. White squares are the only squares counterinsurgency
agents can be on. The agents only move by action of the cards, and can
be sent to various places on the board. The board also has tunnels,
passages, and listening posts, which allow long-range movement, but
there is some risk of being raided while using them.
The object is to get your four barrels of gunpowder to the Parliament
cellar, then to move onto Parliament itself - or be the last person
left in the game.
Pawns move one space at a time, to any of the eight adjacent squares.
If it's a white square, or one of your own color, don't draw a card -
your turn is over. If it's one of the other three colors in the game,
draw a card and follow the actions on it. There are many cards, and
they range from "Take another move" to "Swap the contents of Blue
Gunpowder Store #1 with Red Gunpowder Store #3" to "Counterinsurgency
agents raid X" - with X being either Tunnels, Gunpowder Stores,
Listening Posts, Cellars or their own HQ: adjacent to Parliament.
You can also head for a tunnel entrance (white space), which will allow
you to move to the next tunnel in one move - this is very quick
movement compared with the slow one-space-at-a-time pace of normal
movement. Listening posts are linked to all other listening posts, so
they also allow quick movement. Is it better to plod along, slow but
safe, or move quickly but with risk? Thereby hangs the game . . .
The major decisions in this game are when to take risks in pawn
placement, and when to draw a card. If you are on a white space when
it is raided, you lose the game right then - remove your pawn. If you
are adjacent to a raided white space, you go back to start, UNLESS you
are on your own color. In that case, you are immune to a raid. You
can, through diagonal movement, usually play it safe, by staying on
your own color when adjacent to a white square, and drawing cards
otherwise, hoping to bust your opponents. But if your opponents are
moving rapidly, using tunnels and listening posts, you'll find yourself
very far behind before too long. Also, the longer it takes you to move
a single barrel to the cellar, the more chance there is of one of your
remaining barrels being swapped to another space - farther from home.
So there will probably come a time when you have to take a
chance - and figuring out the timing is where the real game action
I like this game. There is undeniably a fair bit of luck, but most of
it is in calculated risk. I've lost the game after having gotten all
four barrels into the cellar only to be captured by a raid in the
agents' HQ - the last space before Parliament. Yet it wasn't a bad
feeling at all - it was, in fact, a sense of real accomplishment, since
the winner had only gotten two of his four barrels in place by then! I
had been taking a lot of risks and was zooming along, and enjoyed the
Still, I can't say it's a game I play very often. I only pull it out
every few months, but when I do, I enjoy it. If you can find one
cheap, you might consider picking it up. What other game allows you
the chance to blow up Parliament?
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