To say that we have decorum is to say that we have proper etiquette. We have good taste, exemplary behaviour and conduct ourselves in a decent manner. Floodgate Games, known for its visually stunning games such as Sagrada and thematically captivating games like Fog of Love, has now devised a way to throw all that good mannered behaviour out the window (if you want a window that is)!
Decorum asks 2-4 players to do one of the most stressful things that anyone can do with other people: decorate a house. In a variety of different scenarios, you will take on the role of various characters that have set goals to achieve to feel fulfilled in your home. However, the other players will also have their own secret objectives, some of which may conflict with yours. Collectively, players must communicate and compromise to achieve everyone’s wishes and win the game.
Remember, Don’t Be Shelf-ish!
Depending on the number of players, you’ll need to choose a scenario. There are 2 kinds- a stack for 2 players and a stack for 3-4 players. In the 2 player scenarios, you’ll be given an overview card explaining the setup of the house board and a little bit of flavour text to set the scene.
Each player will get an individual goal card explaining about their character and what they wish the house to look like and/or contain. These goals are varied and can be quite specific in detail. For example, they could be anything from ‘the house must contain 3 lamps’ to ‘there can be no vintage items on the left side of the house’. The most important aspect of these goals is that they are to be kept secret from your fellow players.
Once the house is set up according to the scenarios overview card, you’re ready to get started. During a turn, players can perform one action. This action can be to add an item, remove an item, change a wall colour or swap one item for another of the same type. Whichever you decide to do, you can almost certainly guarantee it will affect the other players and this is where the real key moment of the game comes into play.
After each player has taken their action, the other players must comment on the decision the active player just made. These comments must be positive, neutral, or negative depending on how it has impacted their progress towards their own goals. The rulebook does stress that players must be careful to not give too much away when giving their comments and does offer some examples to give when playing, however you’re more than free to play it off the cuff.
Once the other players have given their comments the game will move on to the next player who then repeats the same process. The aim is for all players to achieve ‘fulfilment’ (or achieve each of their goals) in 30 rounds of play.
This may seem to some, much as I did, like quite a simple task. I genuinely believed that the game may be too easy and become dull quite quickly however I could not have been more wrong. It’s not so easy to simultaneously achieve everyone’s goals at the same time!
Thankfully, the game does offer some respite for players if they are struggling to make progress. At 3 points during the game players will be able to have a ‘heart to heart’. This involves sharing one of their personal goals with the other players and does alleviate some of the pressure.
As for the 3-4 player scenarios, the game works quite similarly to the 2-player version in terms of set up and the overall goal of the players. The game does accommodate for 3 player groups by adapting the 4-player set up which works quite well and is easy to implement, so don’t feel put off or concerned whether the game will still feel as immersive if you can’t find a fourth player.
These scenarios are much bigger as extra players means extra goals to achieve! The chaos is bountiful in these games- it was the first game that I played where we lost the scenario! However, great fun was had by all and despite losing we immediately wanted to play the next part of the campaign.
There are a few small changes to the rules, for example being able to have a heart-to-heart (or House Meeting as the rulebook describes it) every 5th turn therefore increasing the number of times you have an opportunity to share a goal. These extra check ins are certainly needed in a bigger game, although one small difference is you are only able to share 1 of your personal goals with 1 other player rather than the whole group.
Sofa, So Good
It’s worth noting that a big positive to this game is how easy it is to set up. With three boards, a few tokens and a stack of envelopes containing scenarios, there really isn’t much to do to get the game started so its great if you’re looking for a game to jump into quickly.
The boards themselves that represent the house, round tracker, and a space for the supply of tokens are very cleanly designed. There aren’t a whole host of various symbols and wording crammed into the space which is quite a big relief if you’re not a fan of heavier games which can sometimes have lots of different elements to navigate on the board.
All the boards are also double sided; however, the house board and round tracker are the only two which may have to change depending on whether you are playing with the 2-player scenario or the 3-4 player. Overall, the game has a very fresh look to it without any unnecessary excess to the design which works wonderfully as the lack of colour to the boards really makes the bright tokens stand out.
The scenarios themselves are well thought out, with many of the characters that players take on being full of life and charm. It’s also very easy to add a roleplay element to the game if you so wish. The difficulty of the scenarios is well scaled however you can definitely feel a shift in complexity at certain points.
Whilst the 2 player scenarios are wonderfully creative in their approach with their delightful characters and stories, I did feel a little disappointed that the 3-4 player cards did not share the same level of detail and instead are just provided with some flavour text to set the scene. However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that once the game got going we really noticed as juggling a few more goals was far more thought consuming.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that for some, games that use scenarios can be a negative as they are usually one time use. However, Floodgate Games are in the process of creating an app that will provide players with an endless stream of new scenarios making sure that players can enjoy Decorum well past the scenarios provided in the box.
Chairing Is Caring
Decorum is a game which, without a doubt, will cause you stress. It is by no means an easy or simple game to win. Despite being a co-operative game in which everyone is working towards the same goals, it did feel as though we were actively working against each other at times.
As we were playing, it occurred to me how puzzle-like it was and when we were beginning to struggle, I had to constantly reassure myself that there was a way to win and that there had to be solution, we just hadn’t found it yet.
It was frustrating, confusing, and absolutely brilliant all at the same time! Floodgate Games have created a really unique experience in Decorum, unlike any game I have played before and even with all of the mind boggling, riddle-esq gameplay we kept coming back to play again and again. The theming is strong throughout and unique, with a heavy focus on social deduction and player interaction.
Sure, it won’t necessarily be a game that I would bring out for friends that enjoy party games, but for the more experienced gamers or those who love a puzzle to solve this may be a great one to invest in.
If you’re looking for something truly unique for your game shelf, I would look no further than Decorum. It’s not a game which you would soon forget, and you can certainly spend hours working through the campaigns learning the art of compromise as you go.
That concludes our thoughts on Decorum. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Decorum today click here!