Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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From shrink-wrap to victory! 2 players Serenissima


Shrink-wrap
Many of our regular players weren’t going to be able to make game night this week, so we were on the verge of canceling it. However, we have a large number of two-player and sorta-playable-with-two-player games still unopened, so we decided to go ahead and hold game night anyway.

The first order of business was to choose a game. We settled on four games that we might try with two: Roads & Boats, Serenissima, Conquest of the Empire, and Railroad Tycoon. From that pile, Kristina, my German gaming friend, chose Serenissima.

“We can play that with two, right?” Sure, why not?

But first we had to break open the shrink-wrap!

After last week’s impromptu photo op during our Betrayal at House on the Hill game night…



…it’s now part of Kaleigh’s bedtime ritual to pose with the latest shrink-wrap sacrifice. This time it was Serenissima.




Setup
Having seen cool photos of this game using LEGO bits rather than the game bits, we decided to forego punching and sorting and just use LEGO pieces. Because I have a well-sorted LEGO collection, it probably saved us some time getting started. Instead of cutting off the ships from the plastic sprues and pasting on the little tiny flag stickers, and punching out all the money chits, we used real coins (pennies, nickels, and dimes) and built LEGO ships as needed using a just-in-time production system.



While I pulled out the LEGO bits, Kristina skimmed the rules. “Seems pretty simple,” she says. Besides, I have this handy rules summary card…

After about 30 minutes of setup and rules reading, we were ready to play. Hmmm, we only play 12 turns? This shouldn’t take too long.


Playtime
The rules give two choices for starting positions for 2 players, Venice and Genoa, or Spain (Valencia) and Turkey (Istanbul). Venice and Genoa seemed pretty cramped, so we opted for Spain and Turkey. We decided to take photos after each turn, so we also took picture of the game start conditions.



Turn 1. I awaken from a hideous nightmare where we play through a game just like this, and I completely get crushed on Turn 5. Good thing that really didn’t happen!* Starting in Valencia, I decided to get as many boats on the water as quickly as I could. That meant taking wood to the two nearby iron ports of Genova and Barcelona. Meanwhile, Kristina sent a ship to Modon for wood, but was also worried about me locking her out of gold, and so rushed a ship down to Tripoli, but didn’t bring anything to sell. We were even in ports 3-3, and I was ahead in ships 4-2.



Turn 2. Continuing my expansionist ways, I sent each of my ships to new ports to take control of them and sell the requisite goods. One difficulty I realized early on is that I was only producing 2 different commodities in my 3 ports, while Kristina was producing 3 in her 3 ports. Hopefully, I could eliminate that disparity on this turn. Kristina took her gold back to Modon, and moved the wood to the iron port of Rhodes so she could build more ships. I took Marseilles, Napoli, Alger, and Tunis. I was ahead in ports 7-4 and ships 4-2. I was now producing 5 commodities to her 4.



Turn 3. I sent my ship from Tunis to control the gem port of Cyrene. I sent my ship from Napoli to sell to Tripoli, and I went to Sardegna, but mistakenly did not have the crew to control it. I missed out on the opportunity to get a new market bonus by selling some of my wine from Alger in Tripoli, but oh well. Kristina made one new ship and moved to Corfu to control that. She also shipped some goods back to Istanbul. On every turn, I was recruiting as many sailors as I could from each port. So, nervous about my aggressive tendencies, she built a fort in Modon. I was ahead in ports 8-5 and ships 4-3.



Turn 4.
Feeling the need to get another commodity, I expanded eastward to control Alexandria, while picking up the remaining cities in the west. Kristina plied her way up the Aegean to Ragusa, expanded to Antioch, and planted a beachhead in “my” territory: Sicilia. She had also built another ship to catch up and moved that to Creta. I got the new market bonus for selling gems in Tripoli; she was worried about me attacking her there, so she built another fort. This was a big money-making turn for both of us, but I was ahead in ports 10-8 and tied in ships 5-5.




Combat!
Turn 5. I decided I didn’t like her foothold in Sicilia. I would eliminate it. I built an extra ship and maxed out the invasion force with sailors. We did the normal moving and selling, but then I initiated the first combat of the game, overwhelming her defenders, and capturing the strategic port of Sicilia. I was ahead in ports 12-10 and ships 6-5.



Turn 6. This was effectively the end of the game. Learning from my “dream,” I knew that I wanted to move last in this turn, so as to be able to target her ships for combat. I bluffed her into thinking I had bid, so she bid for turn order. I had bid zero, so she moved her marker to first player and mine to second. It wasn’t until midway through the turn that she realized she really wanted to go last, not first. She did the normal bit of buying resources, but going after her, I built new ships, and loaded them with my battle-hardened Spanish Marines. My warships caught her in the ports of Corfu and Alexandria. And here is where the damage was done. I was content to just sink her ships, but she pointed out to me a clause in the rules that meant I could take them over, along with all the goods. This was a HUGE blow. Not only did she lose the ships, sailors, and goods, but I was able to sell those goods for revenue – which more than paid back the investment in warships. Meanwhile, she got almost NO revenue from her remaining ships (I had been careful to target the ones that were selling that turn). I was ahead in ports 12-10 and ships 9-3. With no money to rebuild, and safe places to trade for revenue, the game was effectively over. But in the spirit of gaming, we decided to play on to the end to see how things would shake up and how scoring would turn out.




Victory
Turn 7. At this point in the game, just mop up operations were left. I took out two more of her ships, and controlled the port of Venezia. I was ahead in ports 13-10 and ships 10-1.



Turn 8. I captured two more of her ports and her last ship. I was ahead in ports 16-7 and ships 10-1. We decided to end the game – why play on? When we added up the victory points the total was 46 to 23.



From these (two) games, it’s clear that for only 2 players, there are some serious map balance issues and runaway leader problems. If both players are diligent about keeping up a small flotilla of warships to defend their merchant fleet, then there might be some sort of stalemate in combat, resulting in a more tense trading game. It’s also possible that these issues might even out when played with 4 players … but that’s another session report!

Despite its flaws, we both had fun fiddling with our ships and moving them around. She rated it “about a 6”, and I rated it a 7 – it’s a good game, and I’d usually be willing to play.



* It sure did! We thought it was just an aberration because I had tried to attack too early. Basically, I spent all my money on a war fleet, but was moving FIRST. Hard to kill ships when moving first. So I was out of money, and hadn’t done any damage. So we aborted the game and played this one. The second ended on Turn 6!

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Steve R Bullock
United States
Palm Coast
Florida
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Great review! Loved the details and careful explanation of what was going on! Adding the pictures of each turn was a very nice touch! I went and bid on a game on Ebay (and won it) mainly because of this fine article. Can't wait to get the game!

Kudos!
 
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Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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Cool. Glad you liked it. I wish all session reports were like this
 
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Sebastian
Germany
Hürth
NRW
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I won an Games for Geekgold Lottery with 0.09% Chance of winning. You sure you wanna mess with me?
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Nice Report - cool with the pictures.

But if I crushed my girlfriend that badly in a new game, I could probably directly sell it afterwards, because she'd never play it with me again!
 
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