The Kompromat board game is a light small box card game for two players. Recommended for ages eight and up, a full game lasts about 30 minutes.
Anyone familiar with Blackjack (Pontoon/21s) will immediately feel at home with the basic rules. While anyone familiar with Schotten Totten (Battle Line) will recognise the twist. Essentially, you’ll be playing several hands of blackjack at once, with the winner of each gaining rewards.
The hidden cards elements lend them selves nicely to the ‘duel of spies’ theme. While the highly stylised artwork is nicely done. Comparison site Board Game Prices (please use to support the site!) has it available from several independent retailers for around £15, which offers good value for money. While there’s not a great deal in the box (57 cards and 18 cardboard tokens), everything is made to a high standard.
Teaching the Kompromat board game
Anyone with a grounding in traditional card games will be on solid ground. Making this a great game to teach a friend/partner who may be new to the hobby. Each player is given their own identical 14-card deck, while four of the game’s 29 ‘mission’ cards are put face-up between the players. You’ll use all of the mission cards, so the deck makes a handy timer.
Your deck is made up of numbered cards, ranging variously from 0.5 to 10 plus two 1/11 cards. On a turn you’ll look at your top card and decide which mission you want to attempt this turn – placing the card face up in front of it on your side. now, you continue to add cards until you decide to ‘stick’. But these are all face down. So your opponent won’t know if you bust, have 21, have 14 etc. On your next turn, you’ll do the same on a different mission. Once you’ve both played cards to all four missions, the round is over.
The mission deck has 24 standard cards (so you’ll play six rounds). The other five are ‘counter intelligence’ (CI) cards. When you draw one of these, you’ll place a normal mission card on top of it. Missions either give points, or one point plus a one-off special ability. You may be able to discard a card from a mission, look at your next few cards, look at an opponents played cards on a mission etc. It’s all pretty straight forward but meaningful stuff.
Scoring is simply revealing the cards, with the winner taking the spoils. But the CI cards add a nice twist. claiming them gives you notoriety tokens, each of which counts as a point in final scoring. But if a player ever has too much notoriety (nine tokens), they automatically lose. Any hand you bust also gives a notoriety token (while a 21 allows you to optionally discard one). So getting too many too soon can make things very tense. Unless someone busts on CI counters, highest score wins.
The four sides
These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.
- The writer: While the Kompromat board game won’t be everyone, I think they’ve made the best version of the game they wanted to make. The rules are simple, the whole package is beautifully made and the gameplay is assessible. But there are just enough nods to gamers in here to keep a couple of experienced players happy when you’re looking for a quick and light filler game. Especially as it packs up and down in about a minute.
- The thinker: There’s nothing wrong here. Unless, like me, you want to strategise. It’s a light push your luck game, so you can’t expect too much. And it’s based on Blackjack, so you need to come in expecting that. but with such varied numbers, the first couple of hands are a lottery. Only in the latter two, if you’ve done some card counting, do the odds start to become clearer. So it’s a not for me – but not because it’s a bad game. I’d just rather play something with less randomness, such as Battle Line.
- The trasher: The Kompromat board game is basically fun. Bluffing and taking risks are always a laugh. But here things get more interesting later, when the CI tokens start to really come to the party. If you have too many, busting can be a problem. And if some big CI cards come out late, and your opponent knows it, they may bust deliberately to make you win. As a light game, in a cool little small box, this is a great filler/train game.
- The dabbler: I wish I was better at bluffing! If I bust I can barely contain myself – and it’s the same if I get 21 lol. Nightmare. But that should tell you, I really enjoy this one. There are some tactics you spot once you’ve played a few rounds. And it is so easy to pick up. And while the art style might not be for everyone, I thought it was incredibly cool looking.
I don’t have an awful lot to add here, as the game has largely been well received. And I tend to agree with what seem to be the general sentiments people are noting about the game.
As blackjack with bells on, it may not convert many people if they don’t like the original. All it does is cleverly replace the tension of betting real money with a points system. If its the thrill of losing your wages, this isn’t going to cut it. But if you like the push your luck/bluff elements of the original you should get a kick out if this.
Replayability may be an issue, as there’s not much variety in the box. However, in terms of the gamer community, I don’t see this as a ‘play every day’ game. It’s a filler for when two friends are hanging around waiting for something else to do. And for that, it’s perfect. Also, half the fun of Blackjack is in reading your opponent. So if you’re not getting a kick out of that, which should itself add longevity, then it probably isn’t the game for you.
Conclusion: Kompromat board game
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Kompromat and it’s definitely a keeper. There’s a lot to be said for any game that can setup in 5 minutes, be taught in another five, then is back in the box after 30 minutes. Especially when it will fit in your coat pocket. It will never rise above about 6/7 out of 10 in my eyes. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, or do anything particularly clever or original. But this kind of game doesn’t set out to. The designer has spotted a gap in the market, and made a nice little game to fill it. So it’s still a winner in my eyes.