Review – Courtisans

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Designer Romaric Galonnier, Anthony Perone

Artist Noëmie Chevalier

Publisher Pandasaurus Games (Asmodee North America)

Category Card Game

Length 30-45 minutes

Release Date Summer 2024

Player Count 2-5

Price $24.95 MSRP

Pandasaurus has made a reputation for great, small card games like The Mind, Faraway, and Sea Salt & Paper. One of their latest attempts is Courtisans from designers Romaric Galonnier and Anthony Perone. Players play three cards a turn: one for them, one for an opponent, and one to help dictate which cards are good or bad. It’s a simple concept, but is it a good one? Let’s take a look!

The central concept of Courtisans is that you play three cards on your turn: one goes into your personal tableau, one to an opponent’s, and one to the Queen’s Table. The cards played to the Queen’s Table can be played above or below it, and at the end of the game, cards score as either +1 or -1 depending on whether more cards of that type were above or below the Queen’s Table. This means putting a card in front of your opponent can be a good thing for you, if that particular suit has fallen out of favor. Each suit also has several cards with special abilities; you can assassinate other cards (including your own!), play spies face-down, or play cards that count twice. Overall, I really like these concepts, but it’s not enough.

To say that Courtisans feels random is an understatement, and this is primarily because of the 3-card draw that entirely determines your turn. There is no long term planning, as there are no actual carry-over from turn to turn: no cards or tokens or special abilities. You have two secret goals, but again, without the ability to plan, these are very difficult to do. And in a four- or five-player game, the game state varies so wildly from one of your turns to the next, that planning really does seem to be a fool’s errand. Some players will not mind this, but for me, it makes the whole exercise feel like a waste of time. Before the end of the first game, the other players were wanting to house rule it (e.g. 5-card hands, but you play three of them), and if that’s not an indictment, I don’t know what is. 

In this golden age of board games, my only house rule is “if you need a house rule, play something else,” and sadly that’s the recommendation that I give this one. It’s a shame, because the game is simple to explain and absolutely gorgeous-looking, but there are too many better options.

The Bottom Line

Simple rules and intriguing concept, but a total lack of control.

 

5

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Author: Derek Thompson


I’ve been a board game reviewer on Geeks Under Grace since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.