According to James:
Council of Verona is a mini-game, or pub-game (portable/quick), set in the world of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Players attempt to steer the course of events in Verona (the setting for the play) through card drafting, strategy, bluffing, and dastardly deed. In play, you will note the lack of tremendous depth and strategy found in larger games. But hey, this is not a larger game! This game fits in a purse or a large coat pocket (or even a shirt pocket if you leave the box behind). This is a game for at the airport, in the bar, at a lunch table or even just between larger games. I would say that this is probably my go-to game for screwing-over friends on-the-go... realizing of course that you will get yours too. One might also go so far as to say that this game leaves the traditional labels of "deduction", "push your luck", and "strategy" behind altogether. I'm thinking that this game sits firmly in my new category of games that I've just invented for lack of having one that fits it better... I'm going to call this a "push your strategy until your bluff runs out" game. Seems appropriate!
Much to my delight, this game opens with one of my favorite strategic mechanics, the draft. Each player is given one card to help them build a strategy for success. After the initial card is dealt, one player is selected and drafts their next card from the remaining stack. After choosing, the deck is passed around the table until everyone has drafted appropriately for the number of players in the game. This is your best chance to set up your agendas and deprive your opponents of the options they will need to win. After the draft, players are given their point and bluff tokens for bidding on the character agendas (some characters have an agenda, some a special action that may be taken, while others have both). Tokens are placed face-down for secrecy. The characters and agendas available depend on whether you are playing with the full complement of five players or not. Each player in turn chooses one card from their hand to play onto the Council, or into Exile, and decides whether or not to utilize any special ability on the card they placed. Next, the player decides whether or not to place any of their point or bluff (null) counters on their card or an opponent's card. At the end of the game, any characters meeting their agenda's condition is scored (the tokens are flipped over and any bonuses or penalties are applied). Each player also receives one final opportunity to place one token. Simple enough... Enter the Poison expansion (available from www.boardgamegeek.com) With the poison expansion you receive 10 additional wooden tokens (2 for each player). One of these tokens is the poison token, while the other is the antidote. Instead of placing a point or bluff token, a player may place the poison token on a character card (with agenda) to try and kill that character and prevent them from scoring (even if the agenda condition is met). An antidote token may be placed to counteract a suspected poison token. At the end of the game the tokens are flipped and the character is discarded (dead) if there are more poison tokens than antidote. This expansion, I feel, adds a whole new layer of tension, bluff, and wickedness to the game and is essential for the more hardcore gamer. Ultimately you will have to read your opponents well and decide when to bluff, and when to push your luck. When you get down to it, even the most carefully planned strategy can be overthrown by devious play and a missed "tell". Watch your opponents well! I highly recommend this game for a quick (15 minutes or less in my experience) play. I find this game is great for creating tension and rivalry prior to the main game of the night!