The Princes of Florence is a game for 3-5. It is playable in 60-120 minutes. The playing time will depend on the number of players, with an additional player; I would add another 20-30 minutes to the playing time. While the game initially seems difficult, once you actually play through a round or two, the rules become quite simple. It is suitable for players 12+, and I would suspect that younger players would find the game a little too “wide-open” to keep their interest or feel like they can play very well.
The objective of Princes of Florence is to manage your city in the best manner possible. Your success is measured in Prestige Points (PP), which you obtain through numerous actions in the game. At the end of the game, whoever has obtained the most PP wins. Each player begins the game with their own board, akin to Puerto Rico. This board summarizes each round, details the available cards, and notes the points and work values for various actions that can be performed each round. I initially found the board a little “scattered” and the semi-cursive/stylus writing in the game was a bit distracting, but once I began to grasp the rules, I found everything on the board useful during some point in the game. Each player is then also dealt four profession cards, of which they choose three to keep. These profession cards represent master craftsmen you will try to entice into your city to work their craft for the benefit of the city (and your wallet).
The game is organized into seven rounds. Each round begins with an auctioning off potential additions to one’s city. Beginning with the starting player, the player chooses an addition and puts it up for auction at an initial price of 200 Florin. Players then take turns bidding higher, with the high bidder adding the piece to their city. The next player then chooses an addition and the phase continues until all players have obtained one (and only one) piece. There are seven available items to auction off, but only one may be auctioned each round (which is quite the clever mechanic in my opinion). The seven items are: Forest, Lake, Park (landscape items which inspire professions to great works), Jesters (who create a jovial atmosphere for your professionals), Builders (make buildings cheaper and easier to build), Recruitment (allows you to entice workers from other people’s played collections), or Prestige Cards (various conditionals that provide extra PP at the end of the game). What a player chooses to focus on in his city will determine the appeal of each of these items.
Once the auction is over, each player then takes their individual turn, beginning with the starting player. This includes two of the following actions: Building Buildings (1-2), Buying Bonus Cards (1-2), Buying Professional Cards (1), Buying Freedoms (1), or performing works of art (1-2) (numbers in parenthesis indicate how many times that action can be taken. If it is taken twice, that consumes the two available actions for a turn). Buildings and Freedoms may increase the value of a work done by a profession when the Building and Freedom are something desired by a given profession. Bonus Cards may also increase the work value (WV), if the specified conditions are met.
Princes of Florence really centers on the professional works. While it is possible to collect PP for other actions, such as building buildings or other things, works get you money, PP, or both. Each profession has a list of criteria on it. Landscape, Freedom, Building, Jesters, Total Profession Cards, and Bonus Cards will determine the total value of a work. The more criteria that are met, the more inspired the artist is, and the better work they will create. Each profession has an independent set of Landscape, Freedom, and Building tokens they desire. The other criteria hold true for all professionals, but it is nearly impossible to get a Profession to create a work without at least two of the varying requirements.
When a player chooses to perform a work, they determine which of the criteria they have accomplished to make their city an inspiring place for the artist to work. They then total up the value of all the things they have available for the artist, which is called the Work Value (WV). Depending on the round, the player must meet a minimum work value to even play the profession card. This minimum WV increases as the game progresses. When a work is successfully accomplished, the player has a choice: They can receive Florin equal to the WV of the work, or they can take some of the WV in PP, at a rate of 1 PP for every 200 Florin (or 2 WV). This is one of the fastest ways to receive PP, especially in the last round, when money becomes insignificant.
Since there are only seven rounds, each player will only get 14 actions the entire game! While there are so many things you could or would like to do, Princes of Florence forces players to make decisions, play within a smaller scale, and work to be as efficient as possible. This includes determining how much to bid for a particular auction, and even more so how to spend their WV points between money and PP. Money will help you buy more things to keep getting new works, but PP will win you the game. This clever balance keeps players on their toes and always trying to think of ways to be more efficient. In some ways, you are playing the role of city planner: Working to make the city as enticing and beautiful as possible, but making sure you have enough money for further improvements.
Princes of Florence is an exciting game that seems rather overwhelming at first, but is really rather simple in its game play. The difficulty lies with the decisions a player must make to best utilize his limited resources (most importantly their 14 actions).
I enjoyed this game from the middle of the first turn on, and am eagerly looking forward to playing it again.
My Rating: 9/10