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In the teachings of the Catholic Church, an indulgence may be granted to relieve sins. In some cases, this might be by doing good works or engaging in meaningful prayer, but in the darkest of times, indulgences were sold to anyone willing to make a significant “contribution”. As the rising families of the Italian Renaissance conspired and plotted to seize control, the indulgence offered a clear conscience for many a questionable deed committed in the name of power.
Indulgence is a trick-taking game for 3-4 players. On their turn, players choose an edict that gives the rule for the hand. The other players then decide if they want to violate the edict by doing the opposite of what it commands. So “Don’t take any Medicis” suddenly becomes “I must take all the Medicis”. Committing a sin can be challenging, but a player attempting it gets the benefit of the indulgence, a token that turns one of their cards into a winning hand. Can you trick your opponents into committing sins without the indulgence? Can you avoid sinning yourself? Whoever can pull that off will end up with a pile of gems and the title of victor.
Indulgence is a restoration of Dragonmaster, originally published by Milton Bradley in 1981 and designed by Jerry D’Arcey. It was itself a reimagining of D’Arcey’s prior game, Coup d’Etat, and its classic progenitor Barbu. Dragonmaster enjoyed lavish production, with oversized cards, art by the incomparable Bob Pepper, and some nifty interlocking gems for keeping score. In addition to the retheming, the restoration evens out the game play. The original game suffered from a runaway leader problem in which an early power play with the dragon card all but assured one player’s elimination from contention and gave the other a big leg up. The indulgence token replaces the dragon card to make it more accessible, less powerful, and easier to understand. It also increases the number of contracts from 5 to 20, and ups the deck to 36 cards.