For many adoring fans of Jane Austen (myself included), games based on the novels are often disappointing. For many table-top gamers, the same is true. Thankfully, Polite Society is a great option for both types of people. The premise is simple: your goal is to throw a noteworthy party. To that end, you need to invite ladies, gentlemen, and their families to dinner. The first player to entice 8 guests wins!
The setup is simple enough. Each player starts with a table, a modicum of prestige, and two guests. Every turn, guests influence your prestige, earning (or losing) you reputation for your Beauty, Heart, Wealth, and Wit. You use this reputation to convince new guests to come to the party.
Your table is ringed by guests. You begin with two guests, and may assign them as you please. Each seat, however, is numbered. Each turn, you’ll roll the dice. The number activates the corresponding guest, earning you their reward.
Asset cards represent your current reputation, and are the currency with which you “buy” guest cards. Various effects will give you assets, including your guests and action cards. If you end up with a surplus, you may exchange 4 of one asset for 1 of another.
Some guests are easy to secure, but might put off other respectable personages. Miss Lydia Bennet, for example, requires very little. To convince her to attend, your party needs only 2 Beauty and 1 Wealth. Unfortunately, she rewards you with -1 Heart each time she is activated! If you’re foolish enough to invite Mrs. Bennet, she’ll lose you a Wit each time she’s activated. The two of them at the table will mean it’s more difficult to entice guests as refined as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Mr. Darcy has much higher standards. With Darcy, you must offer up 3 Wealth, 2 Heart, 2 Beauty, and 2 Wit. Of course, if he attends your party, it’s much easier to impress further guests. Each time Darcy is activated, you are rewarded with 2 Wealth, 1 Heart, and 1 Wit! A prize for any entertainer, to be sure.
Each guest also features a great Austen quote related to that character. Darcy, of course, is quoted as saying:
“My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
The action cards are varied and fun. Some allow you to draw resources, or steal a resource from a competitor. Others allow you to gossip, forcing one guest from another player’s table. Oh, dear!
Other action cards alter the rules for an individual player, and are called Table Improvements. One changes the exchange rate for materials. My favorite cards, however, reward the rolls of a total of 7 on the dice. Since this is the most common role of dice, it’s important to gather these. Note: there’s also no 7 on the table without the Table Improvement.
The last type of action card is one dear to my heart because of the books. Austen was very fond of indisposing her characters. Whether they are caught in the rain and fall ill or they turn an ankle, these characters aren’t attending any dinners, regardless of their desire to do so. With the Indisposed cards, you can cripple a guest to a player’s party, removing their influence. When that character would normally be activated, they are nullified. Don’t worry, though. You can share the misery. If a player with an indisposed guest draws an Indisposed card, they can recover their character and indispose their aggressor’s guests instead.
Polite Society is also a wonderfully balanced game. It takes some strategy to win, but anyone can employ the various strategies required. The game is advertised as being for 8+ and I can wholly concur with that level.
Game play is for 2-4 players, and takes around 30 minutes. Games with 2 players can go as quickly as 10 minutes, and 4 players can make a game last up to 45, but most games are closer to 30.
One thing to be aware of is that the pieces can get a little hectic as the game progresses. Above is a game at its end. This was played by generally tidy players, but it was clear that we needed a bit more room than our small card table. Polite Society is best played on a regular dining room-sized table.
For the hardcore Austen fans:
This game is in good fun. It’s not set in any one book, as there are characters from all of the books included. Taking that into account, it’s easy to see how things can get a bit wonky. In the books, you’d never seat Darcy with Mrs. Bennet, but in this game, you might have to in order to win. That’s okay! If you want it to be more faithful to the books, here are some (unofficial) objectives I’ve created, which you can apply to your game play:
- Seat a married couple next to each other.
- Seat two rivals across from each other. This can be as easy as Wickham across from Darcy, or Mr. Elton across from Mr. George Knightly.
- Seat only characters from a single book at your table. Note: this is quite difficult, as there are only 7 characters each from Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, leaving only Mansfield Park, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice as the only candidates.
About the Kickstarter:
All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, August 24, 2017, 3:17 AM MST.
Polite Society is already close to being funded.
Backing levels begin at about $4 and permit one to print and play the game.
Backing one copy of the game is AU $39 (about $31).
Polite Society is an excellent tabletop game for anyone to play. Fans of Jane Austen will find joy in the many quotes and references, and folks who’ve never heard of Jane Austen before will still enjoy the game greatly. Quick, fun, easy to learn, and inexpensive on Kickstarter–it’s a win, all the way around.
This project has funded, and now has several stretch goals, including expansions for up to 6 players, a Jane Austen card, and character cards from Lady Susan!