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Subject: Session Report rss

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First appearance for this, a game I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Renaissance themed city/civilisation type game… always going to have a headstart with me. We laid it out using the basic 4-player suggested set-up, since it was new to all of us.

First off; it looks fantastic. As a fan of Renaissance architecture, how can I not love the beautiful little drawings , the perfect palazzi and ospedali and piazzi… from a practical point of view, however, it can take some real peering at the board to work out who’s got how many of the health/education/culture markers in their city. A more abstract design on the city tiles might have been better for those who want a little more clarity and a little less outright beauty.

I won’t go through the game mechanisms, as they’re rather complex. Basically you have to try and expand your cities, because the final victory points depend on the population of your cities, and bonuses for having them “fully equipped” with at least one building that provides a health, education or culture benefit to the citizens. To do this you’re juggling resources, because you have to have enough food to feed your population, you have to have enough money to establish the various buildings you’ll need, and you also need certain types of building to increase the size of your city/population beyond certain limits. So you’re always keeping an eye on a number of factors to try and keep everything in balance and capable of expanding further.

If it were just a matter of city-building, though, it would be a solo game. The interaction comes in because the citizens are fickle creatures. Each “year” (game turn) they will be particular swayed by the quality of life in one (or two) of the health/education/culture categories. If there’s a city that’s near enough, and better equipped with this year’s fashion, then people will move. This can be bad for the city they leave, as it may lose buildings (you need to have at least one citizen token per building) - but it can also be bad for the city they go to, if you haven’t planned for it and provided sufficient food for the influx! There’s a lot of very fine calculating in trying to see how many people you’ll gain or lose, because losing population through starvation has a knock-on effect, losing you an action next turn - or, on the last turn, losing you a potentially serious 5 victory points.

It’s a good game, with the now-classic “always more that you want to do than you actually can” mechanism. But there is a flaw, and it’s in the interaction, and I think this has been mentioned in other reviews. Cities being (basically) static, you can only “attack” another player if their city is near to yours, and even then the assault is very much indirect - indeed it’s eminently possible that attacking someone else can hurt you more than them, if you have miscalculated on the food supply.

Nevertheless the mechanisms make it intriguing, and there are various strategies to try and balance and optimise your limited number of actions. So a cautious thumbs up from me - one I’ll want to play again (and probably with the randomised set-up). In this instance, Simon won fairly comfortably, with 41 points; I was second with 32, then came Tim and Robin.
 
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