Matryoshka (pronunciation may be found here on Wikipedia) from White Goblin Games is a very beautiful game that takes the wonderful art of Russian nesting dolls to create a fun and easy to play, yet strategic card game with mechanics of set collecting and trading. Matryoshka is a 3-5 player game, and plays for about 20-30 minutes.
In Matryoshka, ten rare dolls have been spread throughout the world, becoming separated from their set mates. Antique collectors from all over have come together for a meeting of trades. Each collector is attempting to leave with the most valuable collection by means of collecting dolls that come from the same set, or from collecting dolls of the same size (number).
Matryoshka is played in four rounds. During those four rounds, players will attempt to collect cards that are of the same number, as well as cards that come from the Matryoshka doll. Depending on how many cards of the same number and doll set a player has at the end of the game will determine how many points they earn. Whichever player has the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
Players begin by removing either four sets of cards for three players, or two sets of cards for four players. The remaining cards are shuffled and made into a draw deck. All players begin with six cards to make up their hand. They all then choose two cards from their hand to play face up in front of them for all players to see in the area in front of them. This is the player’s display. At the end of each round each player’s display will increase in size.
The game consists of three phases:
- Phase one is the Draw phase, in which all players will draw two cards into their hand from the deck.
- The next phase is the Exchange Cards phase, in which the starting player (chosen at random) will play a card face up from their hand that they are offering for trade to all the other players. All the other players will then offer a card from their own hand in return for the active player’s card, however this card is placed face down. Only the active player may look at the offers from their opponents. Once the active player has selected one of their opponent’s cards to swap with and finishes the trade, both players put their new cards into their hands, and the active player then passes turn. The next player begins their turn in the beginning of the Exchange Cards phase.
- Once all players have gone through their Exchange Cards phase the game moves into the next phase, the Display phase. All players simultaneously take all of the cards from their displays into their hands. Players may now choose a new display from their hand. While round one required two cards in the display, round two will now require four cards, round three will require six, and the final round will require eight.
Once the fourth round has been played, players will then create one final display of thirteen cards. Out of these thirteen cards, players may then figure out their points. Points are dealt out per cards of a kind, as well as number of cards from the same set in sequential order:
- Two of a kind/Two cards from the same set in sequential order = 2 points
- Three of a kind/Three cards from the same set in sequential order = 4 points
- Four of a kind/Four cards from the same set in sequential order = 7 points
- Five of a kind/Five cards from the same set in sequential order = 10 points
- Six of a kind/Six cards from the same set in sequential order = 13 points
- Seven of a kind/Seven cards from the same set in sequential order = 16 points
- Bonus points given to players who have five, six, or seven cards from the same set in sequential order.
Player with the most points is the winner.
What I liked about the game:
- The artwork is what originally brought me to the game. It’s gorgeous, every single Matryoshka doll. The artist is Eduardo Bera, who also did work for the games Pasha and Medina.
- The game plays pretty quickly once you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. I enjoy a game that is easy to teach as well, and this one is.
- There is a lot of strategy behind the game that a player discovers once playing through it. Attempting to figure out what your opponents are trying to collect, deciding to reveal cards that you want to collect or not, as well as deciding whether certain trades are worth the risk.
What could be better:
- The game has a suggested way of placing cards in the display so it is easier for opponents to see. The suggested way takes up a lot of space though, so I just played cards in the display in a row.
- Have something to write with for scoring. It just makes the scoring math go faster.
- The box has very little spare space in it, preventing cards from being sleeved and put back in the original box.
Very lovely game! I enjoyed playing it very much, and would highly recommend it to fans of filler games, set collecting games, and Matryoshka dolls. 🙂