Twilight is a perverse little trick-taking game. Very
simple in its components and concept, it nonetheless has a bizarre
twist which makes it both hard to grasp easily and yet fun and
challenging once you get it.
The game is made for four players, though a three-player variant (which
I haven't yet tried) is included in the rules. The game consists of 29
cards, 1 card to denote which cult the teams belong to, 14 cards of the
Sun cult, and 14 of the Moon cult. Cults? Oh yes: the premise of the
game is that two players belong to the Sun (or Light) cult, and two
players belong to the Moon (or Dark) cult, and you're trying to gain
souls for your cult. The players belonging to the same cult are
partners, and sit opposite each other.
Each side has 14 cards: Five Adepts, ranging in rank from 1 (highest)
to 5; three Sanctuary cards (x1, x2, x3); five Soul cards ranging from 3
to 7 souls per card, and one Purgatory card. There is a 29th card
which shows two moons flanking a sun - place this card in the center,
with the two moons pointing towards the Moon cult players, leaving the
sun sides of the card open to the Sun cult players, to denote who is
playing which cult.
A game hand consists of shuffling all 28 cards together and dealing
out seven to each player. The player to the left of the dealer then
begins, and each player will have a card on the table face up at the
end of trick. The high card wins the trick, the table is cleared, and
the winner of the trick leads the next trick. Once all seven tricks
have been played, teams total their scores, record them, and the deal
passes to the next player. When a given point total is reached, the
game is over.
Sounds simple so far, and it is. Even the four types of cards are easy
to understand: Adepts are good for taking tricks, and are also worth
one soul during the scoring round. The higher the Adept, the better at
trick taking it is. If two equally high Adepts are in the same trick,
the first one played wins the trick.
Souls are identical for trick-taking purposes - if there are no Adepts
in a given trick, the first Soul card played takes it, regardless of
the number of souls it represents. Likewise, Sanctuaries are identical
for trick-taking - if there are no Adepts or Souls played, the first
Sanctuary takes the trick.
Purgatory introduces a slight complication: if a Purgatory card is
played, the four cards in the trick are left on the table, and another
round is played, with the winner of the second four cards played
winning all eight cards on the table. Still not too complicated.
Scoring is a little weird, but tolerable: at the end of a hand, each
side totals the values of souls they captured. Light Souls, Dark Souls
- doesn't matter, you score them all. But you have to get them to your
own Sanctuaries to score them. Add together the values of your own
Sanctuaries you captured (your opponents' Sanctuaries don't help your
score, but capturing them hurts their score). Multiply that value
times the values of souls you've captured, and that's your score for
the round. So if you capture five Soul cards: 7, 7, 6, 4, 4, that's 28
souls plus two adept cards brings your total to 30 souls. If you captured
two of your own Sanctuaries, the 3x and the 1x, that's a total of 4x30 =
120 points for that hand. Still not too bizarre, eh?
So why did I say it was a perverse game? That comes in the play. The
catch is that all the cards are shuffled together and dealt out
randomly. So I might have 5 Moon cards and 2 Sun cards of my total 7
cards, regardless of which Cult I represent. (The cards are marked on
the back with a sun or a moon, so everyone knows how many of which type
a given player has.) But ... if I'm a Sun player, only a Sun
card can be played on the table in front of me, and vice versa for the
Moon cult players.
This means that on my turn, I can either play a card from my hand, or
ask any of the three other players to place the correct cult
card in front of me as my play. This is the part that hurts the brain
sometimes - especially when one opponent is sitting there with seven
cards of your cult!
So the trick becomes learning when to ask for an opponent to make a
play for you, when to make your own play, and when to ask your partner
to make a play for you. You don't have to be out of your own cult
cards to ask someone else to play one - in fact, it can be wise to hold
onto yours. The basic strategy is to ask your opponents to play the
first card for your team each trick, and try to play the the second
card for your team each trick - but even this isn't a hard and fast
rule. And when playing an opponent's card for them, learning when to
play a Soul, Sanctuary, Adept or Purgatory can be a bit difficult. The
game definitely takes some getting used to.
Once you've played a couple of rounds, though, you'll get the hang of
it and start to enjoy it. Given that the game costs under $10 and has
a fairly high replay value, if you like trick-taking games, it's
definitely a winner. Recommended.
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