Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poor Man's Court of the Medici

In another of my unintentional series of knock-offs using a deck of playing cards, I was recently acquainted with the two-player card game Court of the Medici, and it wasn't long before I came up with a way to play the game using a standard deck of playing cards.  (I will add that reviews of the physical quality of CotM are very good, so playing the game this way means you miss out on the artwork of Richard James and the Z-Man production quality.)

Remove one black king, one red king, and both jokers from a standard deck.
One player gets the 25 remaining black cards; the other the 25 remaining red cards. 
Each player shuffles his or her respective cards and lays out four in the middle of the table to form an "Inner Court" of eight cards. 
Each player also deals himself or herself a hand of five cards. 
The player whose Inner Court has the higher total (Jesters treated as "one") goes first.

Card descriptions
Queens are treated as "Ministers," which are worth zero points but have special abilities.
Aces are treated as "Ladies-in-waiting," worth one.
Jacks are treated as "Jesters," wild cards from one to ten in value.
Kings are treated as "Dukes," worth 15.
All other cards are worth their face value.

In a turn, a player plays a card from the hand to the table, then draws a new card from the deck to the hand.
Playing a card can take one of the following four actions:
1.  Play a card alone to the table in front of himself or herself as part of the "Outer Court." 
2.  Play a card on top of an existing card - Inner or Outer Court, of either color - to build an alliance.  (The card is played in an overlapping manner so that the value[s] of the card[s] beneath can still be seen.) 
3.  Play a card on top of an existing card so that the new total value of the alliance equals that of any other alliance or of a solitary card anywhere on the table to form a conspiracy.  The alliance or solitary card whose value was matched is now discarded from the game.
4.  "Plan for the future" by taking a card from the hand and placing it on the bottom of the deck, then drawing a replacement from the top of the deck. 

Special abilities of cards
When building an alliance, a Minister may be used to discard all other cards in that alliance.
When building an alliance, a Lady-in-waiting may be used to disperse all other cards in that alliance as separate, stand-alone cards in the respective Inner or Outer Court.
When played, a Jester assumes a value from 1 to 10 declared by the person playing it at the time.
When a Jester is played to form a conspiracy, the person playing it may also declare a new value for one other Jester already on the table.

Game end
If both players "plan for the future" three times in a row, the game ends in a draw.
When one player has no cards in the Inner Court or when both players have no more cards to play, the game ends, and whoever has more points on the table wins.

I look forward to trying this out with my wife soon.


  1. Hi - Not sure a "poor man's" version really required for this one. It cost me £6.50 and has given us hours of entertainment already. I also think the official cards make it an easier sell to a new gamer - they're quite attractive.

    That said, it's great that the game copies over to a standard deck of cards so you can play it anywhere once you know the rules.

    1. At the current moment, the game is impossible to find online as a new retail item. It is also extremely scarce used, and some listings are approaching collector's item prices. I am thankful to have this version until the game is readily available again.

  2. Alex, that's entirely fair. The review I read spoke very highly of the physical quality, and at that price, the purchase is certainly worthwhile.

    Some time ago I was enamored of the concept of trying out games before buying them by playing their "functional equivalent" with commonly available components. Now I realize that, except for the occasional "Incan Gold," we never play games that way any more.