Overflowing with beautiful peacock feathers, Enchanted Plumes by Calliope Games proves that a game can have both beauty and brains!
Publisher: Calliope Games
Designer: Brendan Hansen
Artist: Echo Cherni
Release date: 2021
2-6 Players (edit: now with solo mode!)
Favouritefoe score 9.5/10
*Hand management * Strategy * Card Drafting * Pattern Building * Set Collection *
A very clever pal of mine recently told me that peacock feathers are unlucky. Having never had a reason to doubt her superior intellect in all things, I accepted the statement as fact. Being an eternal learner, however, I wanted to find out why. And it seems that the superstition traces back to the “evil eye” markings that were thought to belong to the female demon, Lilith. Well, whoda thunk it?
Notwithstanding the folklore, I am always wowed when I see a peacock displaying their iridescent tail feathers in full on parade mode. So when I went to a games event hosted by another wonderful friend, and I saw a small box called Enchanted Plumes, it was an instant love.
I couldn’t take my eyes off what was happening on the table. Why? Well, Enchanted Plumes is all about making beautiful peacock plumes. And, as is the case with most things, the bigger the better. But you can’t just pick a pink one or a blue one and splay them out as you fancy. No, in Enchanted Plumes, you have to shake your strategy feathers like a pro!
So how does it work?
Super simple to get to the table, the first step is to prepare the tail feather deck which has 100 cards in sets numbered 0-9 in ten beautiful colours:
- Two players: use only 0-6 cards (note: publisher official solo mode uses this deck set also)
- Three players: use only 0-7 cards
- Four players: use only 0-8 cards
- Five to six players: use all the cards
Shuffle them up and deal each player nine cards. Everyone gets to choose 6 and the rest are retuned to the feather deck. These then get reshuffled and the top 7 are removed. The Peahen card is then shuffled into those 7 and these 8 cards go at the bottom of the feather deck. Finally, flip over the top 5 cards and place them in a row to the right of the feather deck – this is the feather Train (aka pool).
The mechanics of a turn are just as straightforward (but definitely don’t be fooled – each choice will be significant!)
A turn goes a little something like this: –
- play 1 or 2 cards from your hand to start a new plume or add to an existing one you are already building. The cards can both go into the same plume or split up. Then
- Replenish your hand by either:-
- Drawing 2 cards from the feather deck;
- Swapping two cards from your hand with those in the Train; or
- Draw one from the deck and swap one from your hand with a card in the Train.
But, remember! you can never hold more than 6 cards, so if drawing a second card would give you a hand of 7, you must swap one of the feather cards in your hand with one in the Train instead.
As you may have guessed, once you start picking and placing, you’ll be parading your plumes in triangular form with the widest part at the top. Great, you might think! Well, in fact, NOPE! Because the widest row actually scores you negative points at end game.
BUT, of course you need a big wide base to fit as many other point scoring layers in as you can! And if you start a plume but only get as far as one card, that’s always negative too. Crunchy cardy naily bitey, and we haven’t even begun yet!
The layers aren’t just a chase the rainbow either. Because you can only add a feather to a lower layer if the same colour is represented in the previous one. So, in effect, your widest row also sets the available colour palette for that particular plume.
If you get to the bottom of any plume, the single card is flipped over to show the stunning peacock side. And this is something you will want to do as it will reward you an extra point for every card used in your plume at end game. Good for mitigating those negative nellies you are likely to earn at the start!
When the Peahen card is revealed, it’s cards down – that lady isn’t for turning. Everyone counts up their points (remembering to deduct those on the top row of each plume), and the player with the most plumeriffic points is the peackockiest Player of them all!
Beauty and Brains!
Like another favourite of ours, Arboretum (aka Rage Trees!), this small box is going to take you for a ride. A single deck of cards. You’re thinking “how tricky can it be”? Well, dust your Christmas nutcrackers off ready because this game can turn macadamia hard to win in the space of a few turns! It’s beauty and simple rules belie a big think, and for us that is the golden spot.
Every time you lay a card, you are taking a risk. Are you collecting a colour somebody else is gunning for? With plumes appearing on the table in front of you, it becomes a race to collect the juiciest of each. But of course you want to make big wide bases with the lowest value cards you can. So do you sacrifice higher ones now? Or do you risk a big negative hit to stop someone else stockpiling it for a later layer.
Same with pick up. Do you swap for something good, knowing that you are laying a card that someone else is going to snap up? Do you chance a blind draw from the deck? Do you hate draft but sacrifice a better card for your own plume? Decisions, decisions!
We adore this game. For us, it is teeth gnashing glory in under 30 minutes. The tightness of the game play might not appeal to someone looking for an easy card game to mellow out over. But having played the publisher approved solo mode, I actually find it relaxing (even when the AI trounces me!).
The look and process make it such an easy game to bring to the table (and you’ll need a BIG table if your group is more than 2). And whether you are 9 or 99, the chance to make beautiful plumes is likely to appeal. But believe me you’ll be spitting feathers by the end if your plumes are less than parade worthy!
And whether there is 2, 4, or 6 players around the (BIG!) table, the tension remains balanced by the addition of more cards into the feather deck. There may be a bit more downtime as more deliberation happens, but we haven’t found that it slows the game by any appreciable amount. In any event, I love to get my analysis paralysis sweat on!
The deck itself is beautiful. Those 10 colours are almost hypnotic. My favourites are the deep blue and teal. And on that point, the designer and publisher have made each feather colour a slightly different shape/pattern. Admittedly it looks quite subtle to me, but it will hopefully help players with colour vision deficiency play the game without disadvantage.
I also love the fact that the designer has gone back and thought about solo players. My favourite solos are quick to the table card games and this fits right in. I was in fact in the process of testing a home made AI when Brendan released his solo via the Calliope Website which you can find here. Obviously his version knocks spots off mine, so I am very pleased that I can now play Enchanted Plumes on my own.
For us, this has become a classic. A game to get when we want a tail feathered tussle of the most beautiful sort. And, in a house where we actively seek to mess and meddle, this one will be paraded for years to come.