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Subject: Lucca Citta: Review rss

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Greg Schloesser
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LUCCA CITTA

Designer: Alessandro Zucchini
Publisher: daVinci Games and Mayfair Games
3 – 5 Players, 30 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser


DaVinci Games and their American partner Mayfair Games have been releasing a steady stream of card games, threatening to fill one’s gaming shelf faster than Elizabeth Taylor goes through husbands. One of the more recent releases is Lucca Citta from Italian designer Alessandro Zucchini.

It is yet another building competition for those palace-crazed, 17th Century Italians. Players compete to construct palaces, with more prestige being earned for multiple windows and for the correct color coordination. Players can also contribute to the building of the city walls and towers, all in an effort to rise to a position of prominence in the town.

Cards depict a variety of palaces in six different colors. These palace cards depict from 0 – 3 windows and/or support shields, as well as a street number which is used to break ties. Players will attempt to construct palaces consisting of like-colored cards, and then open them at the proper time to earn even more points.

Each player begins with a “quarter” card, which indicates the location for the placing of palaces under construction, completed palaces, and open palaces. Players begin with two cards in their “under construction” section.

Each turn, sets of three cards (one more than the number of players) are revealed and players take turns drafting one set. The turn order is based on the number of support shields depicted on the cards each player has in their “under construction” section. The more shields, the better. Choosing early in the turn order gives a player a wider selection of cards, so keeping shields in one’s “under construction” area can be important.

When selecting a set, players have several choices in distributing the cards:

1) Begin a new palace. Cards placed in the “under construction” area must be segregated by color. So, if a player doesn’t already have a palace of a particular color under construction, the player must begin a new palace with that card.

2) Add a card to an existing palace under construction. When a palace reaches the required number of cards, which varies from 3 – 5 depending upon the number of players, it is completed and moved to the “completed” section, earning points for the number of windows in the palace.

3) Build a city wall. A card can be placed face-down directly into the “completed” section of one’s quarter. These cards MAY earn victory points at game’s end … provided they are supported by support shields.

4) Build a tower. There are four towers in the deck, and these are placed directly into one’s “completed” section. They earn points as well, but only if one’s city walls are supported.

5) Discard the card.

Before selecting cards each turn, a player must decide whether he desires to “open” any of his palaces that are in his “completed” section. This is a simple matter of moving the appropriate cards to the “open” side of one’s quarter card, and tallying the appropriate number of points. Points are earned based on the cards one’s opponents have in their “under construction” and “completed” areas. One point is earned for each same color card opponents have in their “under construction” area, while two points are earned for each matching card in opponents’ “completed” area. The idea here is to delay opening a palace until there are numerous cards of the same color in the appropriate sections of opponent’s quarters. This does require a quick check of each player’s quarter before making the decision to open a palace, but fortunately, this doesn’t take much time.

After each player has opened palaces and distributed his selected cards, new sets are revealed and the cycle continues for 5 – 7 turns, again, dependent upon the number of players. After the specified number of turns, players have one final chance to open any completed palaces. Final points are then earned for city walls and towers. Each city wall must be supported by shields depicted on cards in a player’s “under construction” area: two shields per city wall card. If they are unsupported, no points are earned. Ouch! Finally, the player with the lowest visible street number in his “under construction” area surrenders three victory points to the player with the greatest street value.

The game sounds as though it will be intriguing, with lots of choices and decisions. In reality, however, it simply isn’t. The decisions are mostly obvious, with the only real decision being which cards to leave behind as support shields. Most other decisions are clear: grab cards with multiple windows and colors that will allow you to complete valuable palaces, keep some cards with support shields in your “under construction” area, open palaces when opponents have numerous matching cards. Plus, the game plays too quickly, so there isn’t much time to delay the construction or opening of palaces. Build ‘em quickly, and open ‘em when profitable. There’s no use in delaying.

Some have compared the game to Reiner Knizia’s Palazzo. There are definite similarities, particularly in the construction of palaces and scoring mechanism. However, the decisions players must make in Palazzo are much richer, and the gaming experience much more satisfying. Lucca Citta plays fast and isn’t painful, but it just isn’t terribly exciting or challenging.


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Red Dragon
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We're of different opinions about the gameplay, but mine is covered in my review so I'll try to leave that topic alone. I have some clarifications on the rules, however:
gschloesser wrote:
1) Begin a new palace. Cards placed in the “under construction” area must be segregated by color. So, if a player doesn’t already have a palace of a particular color under construction, the player must begin a new palace with that card.

You can only have one palace of a particular color, period, so even if a previous one is completed or opened, you can't start another. This may force you to choose between discarding one of the limited number of cards you get, or using it as a wall which may be difficult to support, or taking a different set of cards that let you use all three. Decisions, decisions... and not necessarily "obvious".
Quote:
Points are earned based on the cards one’s opponents have in their “under construction” and “completed” areas. One point is earned for each same color card opponents have in their “under construction” area, while two points are earned for each matching card in opponents’ “completed” area.

You score two points per palace in the opponents' completed area, regardless of number of cards making up that palace. This may force you to choose between opening a palace immediately and scoring the points that are out there, or waiting in the hope of scoring more points as opponents place more cards in their corresponding palaces. The decision depends on how close to completion your opponents are on their palaces, which cards are available to be chosen that turn, the likelihood of the opponents choosing those cards, and the likelihood of you getting your turn first in the next round. If you wait too long, you end up losing points, or even giving points to your opponents who score based on your completed palace, but if you never wait, you are probably throwing away several points per game. Decisions, decisions... and not necessarily "obvious".
Quote:
The idea here is to delay opening a palace until there are numerous cards of the same color in the appropriate sections of opponent’s quarters. This does require a quick check of each player’s quarter before making the decision to open a palace, but fortunately, this doesn’t take much time.

Depends on how many factors you consider. You could go with the obvious decision and do ok, or you could take a little more time.
Quote:
Final points are then earned for city walls and towers. Each city wall must be supported by shields depicted on cards in a player’s “under construction” area: two shields per city wall card. If they are unsupported, no points are earned. Ouch!

Two clarifications: first, every wall has to be supported by two shields, or you score nothing for any of your walls or towers, not just the ones that weren't supported; and second, the walls and towers don't score points by themselves, you have to have completed palaces. The limited number of cards you get during the game have to be used efficiently to build both palaces and walls, since the bonus multiplies the two together. This can force you to choose between completing an otherwise low-value palace multiplied by a lot of walls, or leaving it incomplete to use those cards as more walls times the other palaces you've already built. The decision will depend on whether your opponents are waiting for you to add more cards so they can score points, and whether there are enough cards of the right color to complete the palace in the turns remaining, as well as the number of shields you have and are likely to get on the last turn. Decisions, decisions... and not necessarily "obvious".
Quote:
Finally, the player with the lowest visible street number in his “under construction” area surrenders three victory points to the player with the greatest street value.

... to the player with the greatest street value in the opened palaces, not including incomplete palaces. This isn't a major factor in any decisions, but since it can be a 6-point swing, you might want to give some thought to whether to complete your low-numbered palaces (to get them out of there so you won't have to pay) and high-numbered palaces (so you're the one who collects) as a higher priority than the mid-range palaces, even if they aren't worth as many points at the time. And the decision depends on what your opponents are doing with their street numbers.

Quote:
The game sounds as though it will be intriguing, with lots of choices and decisions. In reality, however, it simply isn’t. The decisions are mostly obvious, with the only real decision being which cards to leave behind as support shields.

*shrug* Your mileage may vary.
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