What're you looking at!
My wife and I have played this game about a dozen times and enjoy it a lot. We are currently in the middle of a best for seven, and after this game we are tied up at two games a piece.
We have found that the game usually goes for about three or four rounds, so I will divide my report up into rounds. In this game you try to acquire one of each of six houses, or four of one, by bidding on them whenever a doge card comes up. There are lots of dirty tricks in this game, and that is what makes it fun.
Penny had to divide first, so I got to choose first. I like this mechanic because the person dividing up the cards has options: you can provide a balanced choice for your opponent, or try to push them to a certain choice by making one more attractive than the other, or count on them to do the opposite of what you want (my wife is particularly good at psyching me out).
Well, there was a single doge in one of the offerings so I took it. Early in the game it's easier to win a vote, and my two Santa Croces went unopposed. There are a lot of opportunities to count cards in this game, and I afterwards realized that I could have gotten away with only putting one card down.
Penny got the spy, and with it a doge, and easily won Dorsoduro to tie it 1-1.
There were no doges in the second hand; hence no opportunity to acquire a house. In the next turn, there was a doge, which Penny loaded with number cards. I decided to take the weak offer, in order to let Penny get to 10 first, so I could draw three cards.
She got another spy, and with that a traitor and took my gondola! Then she won another house to take the lead 2-1.
I got to choose first and quickly picked up another house to tie it 2-2. We had a turn with no doge, and then finally one came up. We both had a lot of cards and knew the bidding would be vicious. I let Penny take the doge, knowing that I could bid on anything she chose.
It was furious bidding: going from 1-2-3-5 cards, with me taking the house. All my gondolas were gone, my hand was low, and Penny got to draw three cards because my number cards were above 10. To add insult to injury, she had yet another traitor card (my wife's favourite card), but I took the lead 3-2.
I did the dividing this time, and there were two traitors and two doges. I made the offers pretty even, and Penny got Castello easily with her doge.
I used mine for San Polo, but the bidding was crazy, going from 2-3-4-5 cards, with Penny winning it, and taking the lead 4-3.
Penny then divided, and there were three doges! My hand was still pretty low, but I took the offer with two doges. In the first, a bidding war in which I used all but one of my cards, I managed to take Dorsoduro, at the cost of three houses and two gondolas.
I then took San Polo with my last card, taking the lead 5-4. Penny then immediately tied it with her doge, as I had no cards.
It was my turn to divide, and I knew I was in trouble when a doge came up. I made the offer with the doge as unattractive as possible, but she took it, and had the last card she needed to win. There wasn't much I could do but lose gracefully, as I had spent all my cards.
This game combines hand management in its most basic form (do I have enough cards?), with more sophisticted tactics (which cards should I bury? how many of that colour are out? can I force a majority? etc.)
It was a very close, intense match, and the more we play it, the better the sessions are tending to be.