An Ideal Necklace is a “Victorian grabbing and gifting” game from Flintlocks & Fancy, up on Kickstarter now. In it, 1-4 players will take on the roles of Victorian Ladies who are each trying to achieve the ideal life by ending up with the Ideal Husband and the Ideal Necklace.
Our Ladies will spend their time in Charm School, purchasing and receiving necklaces, and wooing potential suitors, all the while in pursuit of their Ambition, some of which include having the most expensive necklaces, having a ruby necklace, or having at least 5 necklaces.
The Ladies like them some necklaces, is what I’m saying.
Andrew: So, I’ll come right out and say it; even though we believe An Ideal Necklace has potential and we really wanted to like it, it was a miss for us. However, we know that Flintlocks & Fancy stands behind their game and we really want more publishers like them to keep trying new things, so we want to explain why it didn’t work for us, because your group might find it more to your taste.
First, some basics. An Ideal Necklace is sort of a set collection game, though you are really only collecting one thing: necklaces (you are technically also collecting husbands, though you can only have one of those). There are several variable setups depending on the number of players, including dummy player rules and solitaire options.
Each turn, Ladies will take one of several actions, including buying necklaces according to their wealth levels, gifting necklaces to each other to gain Favor, attending school to increase their Charm, and wooing Suitors in pursuit of husbands (and, of course, more necklaces). She can also gather Event cards, which either help her attain her goals or subvert other players’ efforts.
Two of the available actions are actually quite clever in intent. By gifting necklaces to other Ladies, players earn Favor for themselves, which they can spend on Wooing, among other things. And by lessening their own Charm, a Lady can instruct another, raising that Lady’s Charm in exchange for a necklace from the Lady receiving instruction.
Jess: These actions are really neat because you are voluntarily giving away an advantage (either the points from necklaces or the influence from Charm) in order to gain another resource. Most interesting is that, since the necklaces and Charm aren’t simply discarded but are rather transferred to another player, you must assess the cost/benefit of taking advantage of these mechanisms. You might want those Favor points now, but will it be worth it when that Lady gets points from the Necklace you gave her, or turns it into Favor for herself?
Another of the available actions a Lady can take on her turn is to spend Favor to force another player to lose their turn.
Andrew: Oh man, do I hate this. It’s bad enough when a game features ‘Lose a turn’ mechanics in general, but An Ideal Necklace uses it as a central tactic. Lots of actions and events force you to lose turns (Charm School makes you lose 2), and of course, whenever you have some Favor to spare, you can snipe another player so that they get skipped. This one feels lazy, and I wish it was gone.
Once a Lady has Wooed a Suitor twice, he is her Husband and, as soon as she fulfills her necklace-driven Ambition, the game ends (assuming she can endure a round of everyone ganging up on her, but more on that in a second). The Lady who has amassed the most valuable collection of necklaces (and husband) is declared the winner.
Like any good Victorian social gathering, the rules of An Ideal Necklace are a bit fussy. For example, the process of “Wooing a Suitor” is described in 10 bullet points! Hopefully the instructions will be reworked a bit to make them more intuitive (a per-player cheat sheet would help immensely!).
Gameplay-wise, if you are not happy frequently cutting down your opponents while they do the same to you, An Ideal Necklace may not be to your taste. There are plenty of moments when the game is a pleasant little tea party, but every once in a while, the teeth come out and it’s every Lady for herself as the Husbands start flying.
The worst of this comes when one of the Ladies has actually managed to meet her victory condition; there is simply no reason for the other players not to spend every effort to drag her back and keep the game going a bit longer. But hey, that’s just the cut-throat world of Victorian necklaces for you.
Also, and this is as petty as anything I have ever written, but the men in this game aren’t Suitors. Suitors are defined by their active pursuit (see, same root in both words); these guys stand around like frat boys at Mardi Gras, throwing beads in exchange for ‘conversations’.
Criticizing the game for its theme feels a little lousy, because, in fact, the whole ‘social warfare’ and catty, backhanded gossip-mongering is perfectly within the theme of Ladies gunning for status. And, at first, I liked the idea of the Ladies being the ones who were actively pursuing husbands and ambitions; I thought, maybe, it would be a flip of traditional gender roles. No such luck; the women are just social manipulators and the men are just necklace dispensers. All very thematic, but disappointingly so.
Again, we really had our hopes up for An Ideal Necklace and it definitely had a few moments of genuine cleverness in its design, but ultimately, it didn’t match our tastes. However, if your group really likes ‘take-that’ style gameplay and can get into the slightly fussy, slightly pasted-on Victorian theme, there might be some enjoyment to be had from it.
(Flintlocks & Fancy were good enough to send us a review copy of An Ideal Necklace. We thought it only proper to give our honest, earnest feedback, and we wish them the best of luck with their Kickstarter)