Play your cards right: A look at ‘Diva’, the game

A card game about opera singers? You betcha.  When we saw the game advertised on the Classical Singer website, it was clear that some investigation was in order.  The game’s creator, Dane Trimble, kindly provided us with a copy of the game, so we could tell you more about it.  Wanting to do it up right, we gathered a small group at my place for a very casual evening of pasta, games and vino.  The four singers in the group played, and we all had a good time (as singers are wont to do).  Here’s what we found:

The game is intended for budding young opera singers, traveling through life and attempting to build a career.  The goal is far simpler than the real thing: the player with the most “Diva points” wins.  Everyone starts out as a waitress (the game is surprisingly very female-oriented, with few divos or male pronouns evident in the deck and the instructions), and tries to improve their lot as far as possible.  Along the way, players draw cards, gaining training and education, then bid for roles, jobs and opportunities.  Better jobs allow you to draw more cards (and ostensibly more options), and strategy counts: using the right cards to get better deals on learning opportunities, for instance, can make a difference in your ability to bid.  The rules also include the possibility for some very raucous fun — one of the options for breaking a tie during the bidding process is to have a “sing-off”, letting the other players decide the winner.  (One of the other tie-breaking options is Rock Paper Scissors.)  There are even cards that take away your hard-earned Diva points, so watch your back.

Game play is done entirely with the deck of nicely illustrated, plastic-coated cards.  They’re durable enough to be a little tough to shuffle at first, even for the card sharps in our midst.  But as with most decks, they’ll likely loosen up with use.  It does seem clear that the game is likely to appeal specifically to its target audience — younger singers, probably high school and college age. That focus may make this game an unusual gift option for parents and teachers.  Be aware that some of the education cards are “branded”, and include a logo of one of the smaller vocal programs around the country.

When playing this game for the first time, we offer these suggestions:

  • Identify a “game guy” (or gal), who can get familiar with the extensive instructions and can help the other players get the hang of it through the first few rounds.  (Many thanks to E Scott Levin for keeping us on track!)
  • Don’t expect the course of action to be exactly like your own career-building experience. This is a game, not a manual.
  • If you work better with visual instruction, take a look at the video tutorials.  They seem to resemble the printed insert very closely, but sometimes pictures help.
  • Plan your group:  as with any game night, the people you choose to play are a huge part of the evening’s success.  But more than that, this game includes some logistical issues that can be planned for.  The game specifies 2 to 4 players, largely because each round uses up a lot of cards from the draw pile.  Our group felt strongly that at least three would be required for the game to be fun (and for sing-offs to have a point).  More than three, and it seems like you’ll run out of cards quickly, and need to recycle the draw pile quite regularly.  If you’re planning on playing with four or more people, consider buying two decks.  With a few adjustments (the instructions will guide you), playing with more cards to choose from may help keep things moving.

The fact is, games aren’t required for a fun evening with friends.  With the right crowd, you’ll always have a good time.  But Trimble and DCal Games have created something unique, and has graciously set up a special discount page for Listers, so you can take a look:  click here.


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