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Subject: Louis XIV - Rudiger Dorn's Masterpiece rss

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E.R. Burgess
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Louis XIV, the first in the new Middle-Box Alea Series, is a delightful new addition to this wonderful line. After reading the rules, I was very interested in the laying down of the influence markers and the way they can be moved diagonally around the ‘board’ to spread your control. This definitely didn’t feel like everything else out there – which is a Rudiger Dorn thing, in my reckoning. Some of his games are fiddly but they are all distinctive. Goa, Jambo, Traders of Genoa – these are unique games, to be sure.

Louis XIV also is unique with its delightfully ordered setup - 12 portrait cards with persons from the court of the Sun King form a grid with the game tokens and cards put in little nooks between them. It looks great on the table. The rules do take a bit to grasp but the game is quite good – difficult decisions about what you want to pursue (somewhat led by your card draws but actions are also versatile), variance from turn to turn (the portraits change to adjust the requirements to gain their prize, but not the prize itself), and the cool mission cards which add to your ability to work the game and add to your victory points at the end.

Frankly, I loved it right away. The influence distribution (you place up to three influence markers and then can slide them diagonally to other portraits – friends of the court member who can influence them, I suppose - a glorious use of relative space), the various tokens you can acquire to pay for mission cards, the fact that the mission cards (in three shades of blue) are harder to acquire based on the power they will grant when fulfilled, and yes – the way the tiles and pieces are set up with these disparate pieces coming together into a kind of board is just an interesting and aesthetically pleasing design choice. Dorn is a master and I think this is his most interesting creation so far.

Some online have complained about the endgame scoring, where you flip over the Coat of Arms you have collected and additional tiles are awarded for majorities (which are randomly distributed when you acquire them in the game). I normally deplore a lot of luck in games and am always trying to find ways to minimize it. However, I like this element in the game because while there is some random distribution in the Coat of Arms, you can increase your chances through superior play. That kind of luck is okay in my book – even though the Coat of Arms reveal at the end may have made me lose once, I think (there was a six point gap between me and the winner and he had many majorities despite my superiority in the mission category).

The learning curve is steep based on some conceptually challenging mechanics but once your players get it, the play time drops a bit into the hour range. It is well worth the effort because this is a great game.
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