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Subject: The rise and fall of Renaissance nobility! rss

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Asger Harding Granerud
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Hi all BGG dwellers,
my name is Asger and below you will find my first ever BGG review. Be nice (and mean!).

If you happen to like the review, please let me know & give it a thumb! If there are elements you don't like, please also let me know so I can improve for future reviews. I'm taking the time to do this for your reading pleasure, hence if you can help me help you, it would be much appreciated




Among Nobles is a game currently on Kickstarter (Link). First time I played it was back in 2013 at a playtest event, and then this week I was lucky enough to get a prototype copy in my hands and bring it to my weekly gaming club.


We sat down for a three player game, and laid out the prototype. First we had to pick one of three available ancestral couples to start off out lineage. They're picked in reverse turn order, and the different colour combinations of the couples indicates the different generic traits they possess. This in turn defines their available offspring, and as you can see above the distribution has been made to ensure you're always overlapping on one colour with each opponent.



Once the game starts players take turns activating their characters or couples by placing 1 of 3 discs on them. Each time you make such an activation you get to choose a row of actions to then do in order. The basic actions available are Warfare (Armies), Piety (=VP), Commerce (=gold), Marriage and Birth.
Marrying two characters combines the cards into one, which basically means they can have up to twice the number of actions in a row, giving a much improved return for your limited action discs. This also means that you will be constantly scanning your opponents available daughters, for a suitable match to your son. If a particular attractive young lady is available you better move fast to avoid someone else binding her in marriage. Marriages aren't cheap though, and even if you get to claim a daughter fromthe opposing families, they are also justly rewarded for the alliance.
Hence the game makes you balance between getting sons that need to marry and continue the lineage, and getting daughters to marry off to strengthen alliances.

Marriages really are at the core of the game. The birth action for example, is naturally exclusive to the female characters. Some are predisposed to mostly bear children of one sex or the other, but more importantly giving birth to a child is only possible if said woman is married (with a single exception). All in accordance with the feudal tradition of the time, or at least my preconception of it Once married, birth is the only action that is compulsory though. Thus spreading your genes will follow quite naturally.

The below image shows my family just before the 1st generational change. I've managed to get a daughter and a son, who has even married and provided a grandson! If there were any other daughters born along the way, they are long forgotten to history having been sent off to the other houses. All that matters is the bloodline! whistle
At the far back of the picture you can see some red cubes, which are my armies having taken control of Salisbury and Westfalen providing me with a steady income of VP and gold. As soon as the generational change occurs, your oldest generation dies off, so don't grow too attached or dependant on an aging couple.



Game play really centers around trying to pick the best available action of the ones you have available at the time, while constantly keeping an eye towards your legacy. Doing really well now isn't much help if you fail to get sons and daughters to move your lineage along diligently. After all at the end of the game you could be sitting with the grand-grand-grand-children of the ancestral couple that started it all.
The final picture below shows my lineage just before the 2nd generational change. As you can tell the couple in the middle of the tableau has a strong row of actions with 3 Piety in one line (Piety=VP), and they've also got a son with 2 Piety. In the final phase of the game I managed to marry him to a suitable lady, further strengthening that row and build a pretty effective VP producing engine.




Final Thoughts
I really like Among Nobles. It combines smooth euro mechanics with a strong theme that is cleverly integrated in the mechanics. When you're playing you constantly discover small mechanical details, that match the theme. The game was already good when I first tried it two years ago, but the work they've put into streamlining the user interface has really paid off to not only make it pretty, but also very functional. A glance across the table will let you decipher 95% of the information, which to me is paramount in these types of games.
Despite the core of the game being an engine building euro game, the central mechanic of marriages happening across families (good riddance!) ensures that you're constantly engaged in deciphering the intentions of your opponents. Arranging the right marriage at the right time can make or break your chances.

The two people I played it with had the following things to say (thanks Søren & Ryan!):
- Søren really liked the art style and theme, not least because it wasn’t the same as everything else out there. Flavour text included. He also found the rules very straightforward.
- Ryan emphasized the seemingly high replayability due to new marriage combinations happening, and their combos differing. Bearing in mind we’ve only played it once, I would still agree with him on this.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed playing the game. If you have any comments or questions for the review or the game, just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Regards
Sidekick-Asger
Twitter @asgergranerud
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Johan Anglemark
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Thanks! I have just set up a game for myself, using the P&P PDFs, so I can learn the game before playing it with anyone else. It really looks simple and elegant. I was surprised to see how brief the rules are, half the rules booklet consists of card descriptions.
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M Van Der Werf
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Found this game rather boring.

Also really hated the production of this.

We get round tokens that don't fit snugly onto a horizontal line that has to be played for the cards.
There is a grid of cards for the setup in the middle but the spatial element is completely irrelevant, this could have just been a fixed board imo. The variation in the middle and opening only leads to frustating starts, for example you play with 4 players and the middle area shows 3 good area's (double gain) and 3 daughters. First 3 players take military and grab a daughter getting great income. Last player can choose to screw himself and a random other player or grabs a male instead but is playing from behind quite a bit.

Also why the hell does this game has chits and secret scoring.. I truly hate that mechanism. It includes a random bunch of tokens that immensely delay gameplay compared to just a simple scoreboard. I get that a scoreboard introduces a bit of AP and knowing what people have, but people can just track the chits as well.
Instead just have open scoring but include a few nobles that have endgame scoring, for example "if you have the largest family and this is alive, gain 10 points". That sort of thing obfuscates open scoring already and is more interesting. Or certain combinations, like scores X points if marries a red woman. None of that makes the game bland, you just create a few good couples and grab points a lot of time directly, very boring.

This should be a small box with just a bunch of cards and player sheets with 1 cube to keep track of your money. Needlessly big production for what it is.
 
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