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Game Preview: Mafiozoo, or Louis, Louis, Oh Baby, You Gotta Go

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Mafiozoo
Board Game: Louis XIV
We're not even one month into 2017, and it already seems designated as "The Year of the Reprint", the year in which all the grail games come back on the market. There's a smidge of exaggeration in that claim given that some number of grail games are reprinted each year, but 2017 might indeed have a good claim on that title given the announced return of Notre Dame, In the Year of the Dragon, Torres, Stephenson's Rocket, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures (with half of that being new, I admit), and Louis XIV.

But while most of these titles are coming back to print as was, the new version of Rüdiger Dorn's Louis XIV has kept the Dornian core — with players placing items in one location, then scattering them to adjacent areas — while overhauling the scoring and bonuses that drive much of the action within the game.


Board Game: Louis XIV


To refresh your memories, Louis XIV is a game of timing and influence, a (sometimes) area-majority game in which you place tokens on various personalities arranged in a fancy network that perhaps makes sense in some historical way based on the relationships between the depicted individuals, but I wouldn't put money on it. The square tiles are numbered 1-12, and on a turn you either discard a card to reclaim your tokens from the central pit or place 1-3 tokens on the tile matching the number on the discarded card, after which you can leapfrog some of those tokens to diagonally adjacent tiles.

Once everyone has played their cards for the round, you determine who has majorities in the areas where that matters, who has met the token threshold in the areas where that matters, and who wants to pay for a bonus where you have a presence and didn't win something outright. Players win mission chips, money, cards, special cards, and coat-of-arms tokens, with mission chips being the big deal since a pair of those can allow you to complete a mission card, which grants you points and a bonus during future rounds, with more difficult mission cards giving you better bonuses.


From gallery of Aldie
Me playing a prototype of Louis XIV at SPIEL 2004 (photo: Rick Thornquist)


That description covers the basics of Louis XIV, and aside from the mission cards, you'll find the same things in Mafiozoo, which French publisher Super Meeple will present at the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes ahead of the game's release in March 2017.

The French aristocrats have been replaced by animals involved in organized crime, and that probably makes as much sense as it sounds as I highly doubt that a walrus can become a mafia Don, but perhaps I'm merely undereducated on the career aspirations of walruses. The tiles are no longer fiddly squares that you need to arrange prior to play, but spaces on a game board connected by lines that represent the relationships between the pigs, bulldogs, and other animals that are part of the family. (The fiddlyness is still present in a small way thanks to narrow double-sided family tiles that are placed on the game board to show how each family is won in the present round. This aspect was present in Louis XIV as well; when the bonus on a tile is won by the method depicted, you flip the tile to change the method for the next round, thereby driving play in different directions from round to round.)


From gallery of W Eric Martin


Instead of completing mission cards, players now use their claimed mission chips — alcohol, weapons, jewelry, and building plans — to place one of their "GrosBras", their strong-arm thugs, in a "place of influence" at the top of the game board.

You can initially place a thug in one of the seven buildings on the top and right side — the ones which have roads leading up to them — if you can discard the two mission chips depicted on that space. Once you place a thug in a building, you can then place a thug in any adjacent building as long as you can discard the chips depicted. Multiple players can have a thug in the same building, and each building gives you a bonus in subsequent rounds, from money to cards to tokens on the board to discounts on the purchase of chips.


Board Game: Mafiozoo


One aspect of Louis XIV that some people complained about was the resolution of coat-of-arms tokens at the end of the game. You collected them face-down during play, possibly netting a few more at the end of the game based on money still in hand or tokens on the board, then everyone would reveal their tokens. You'd then receive a bonus coat-of-arms token for each majority or tie for majority in each of the six types. After getting these bonuses, you'd then score 1 point for each coat-of-arms token and 5 points for each completed mission card.

For some, the resolution of these tokens felt like a slap in the face by Lady Luck. Sometimes you'd collect coat-of-arms of only one type and you'd pick up one bonus point; sometimes you'd tie for majorities in four types and win four bonus points. I was never bothered by this, feeling that if you cared enough about the coat-of-arms bonus, you should push to get as many of them as possible during the game in order to increase your odds. Otherwise, you could mostly ignore them to focus on missions, viewing any such tokens as bonus points that fell out of the sky.

Mafiozoo changes this aspect of the game, with five of the neighborhood tokens (as they're now called) being face up at all times. Whenever you would claim a token, you can take a face-up one or a random face-down one, refilling the face-up supply immediately so that five are always available. At the end of the game, you turn all of these tokens face up, then claim bonus tokens for remaining cards and tokens on the board but you leave these bonus tokens face down. You then score 1 point for each token (whether face-up or face-down), 1 point for each set of six different face-up tokens, and 1 point for each neighborhood in which you have more face-up tokens than each other player (with ties not scoring).

To this sum of neighborhood points, you then add the points for the buildings where you have thugs, and these buildings range from 5-7 points, possibly giving you more incentive to go one place over another during play — assuming you've collected the proper mission chips, of course.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Pistol-packing piggy!
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