The Emissary is a trick-taking game in which you visit eight kingdoms, trying to win their support for your case. You'll have discussions with their rulers and be very political. Every ruler has their prime motives, and you will have to be forceful sometimes, give in some other times to get exactly what you want from them. Just like with all other solitaire games from Will Su's Isaludo, it can be played with a standard deck of cards.
After you've set up the kingdoms (randomly put the Kings and Queens in a row) and gathered your advisors (the Jacks), you'll shuffle a deck of all cards ranking Ace (1) to 8. You draw eight cards as your hand and estimate how many tricks you can take. You then pick a kingdom and start debating. Every argument has you turn over one card from the deck and that's the subject. You'll have to follow suit (highest card wins). If you can't, you can play another card from your hand: suck up to the royals by changing the subject to their favourite one (play a card in their colour and you automatically win this round), or give in to them (play a card in any other colour and give in to them).
You will have to win the exact amount of arguments it takes to win a kingdom over. For the leftmost card you'll have to win one trick and lose the other seven, for the rightmost card you'll have to win all eight tricks. The advisors can help you out when things get tough:
J ♥️ - diplomacy, discard all cards in hand that have the current kingdom's suit
J ♠️ - politics, change the current ruler with the ruler of an unvisited kingdom
J ♣️ - military, draw a card for every clubs card in your hand
J ♦️ - commerce, draw to cards, then choose two to discard
This hand management makes the game fun, and once you've won a kingdom over, the King or Queen will be added to your assets as a one-time use advisor.
You win the game when you manage to convince all eight rulers. Unfortunately I really suck at trick-taking games. When we play The Crew, my 9-year-old daughter figures things out better than I do. You score points at the end of The Emissary whether you win or lose, so you can check if you're getting better at it. My best score until now is 8 points out of 16 - you count how many kingdoms you won over plus how many unused advising kings and queens you have left. I'm absolutely enjoying my plays and I went from losing in one minute to losing in 25 minutes, so that's progress.
In the meantime the designer has expanded and rethemed the game. The new version is called For Northwood! and features cute animals. I think the only thing I hate more than hobbits are cute animals. But, it may turn into an even better game, so for everyone with a strong stomach, here's the link: For Northwood!
My new deck of cards is called The Dark Kingdom. It turns out the full editorial staff of Solitaire Times is portrayed. Cool.