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Michel Condoroussis
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Leonardo da Vinci (2006)
Designed By: Acchittocca (Stefano Luperto, Antonio Tinto, Virginio Gigli and Flaminia Brasini)
Published By: Mayfair Games, daVinci games
# of Players: 2 - 5
Playing Time: 60-150 Minutes

Intro

Some of you may have read my session report on this game a few months ago (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/906800). Some of this may be the same since the game has not really changed in mechanics. However, I was able to play a lot more and give an actual review this time, since I like to play several times with different people before I review a game. So if you read my session, you can skip over the next section and go straight to the Strategy/Comments.

Pieces and Gameplay (skip if you want to simply read the review)

The basis of the game is to collect resources and work in your laboratories in order to create inventions. You each start off with three workers, a master (you can never have more then one master and he counts as two workers) and one factory. Now there are five inventions on the board at the start which you must try and complete and get replaced as they are completed by players. On each invention there are several things to note: the materials needed to make it, the payoff if completed first (there is also a payoff for being the second to complete it, more on that later) and the category of the invention.
There are tow methods of play, if you are a beginner, simply choose the starting player and then you receive resources, florin and laboratories based on your turn order. However if you are an advanced player, the first turn is played differently then the others. Each player can take three free actions: either getting more workers, acquiring Florin (money), upgrading factories, getting mechanical men or collecting resources.
Once this is done the real game begins, which comprises of 9 rounds, 7 are regular rounds and the last two are pure research rounds. In each of the first seven rounds, you go through 4 steps. First, everyone decides if they will work on an invention. To do this you simply must have the required resources to build it. Now you can work on any of the five inventions currently being requested or you can work on one you believe will come up. There is a guide to show you all the inventions, however an invention must be on the board in order to be completed. The main reason to start an invention that is not currently on the board is because there is one action that lets you see the upcoming inventions, which if started early could give you that head start you need to complete it first. Everything here is kept secret, so you never have to show people what invention you are working on or what resources you will be using, simply state you are working on one and place the resources under your lab.
Next, the workers are sent out. Beginning with the starting player, workers and masters must be placed on the board in order to collect resources, work on inventions (in your factories), hire more workers, get better factories (or more factories), buy mechanical (automated) workers, collect money, move people on the board decide who will start next turn and look at the upcoming inventions. The way it works is that you must have the most workers on a space in order to collect the item for free and then the player with the second most workers can buy it for 2 Florin, the next one for 3 Florin and the last one for 4 Florin. However, if there are less then four people on that space, the player with the most workers gets a chance to buy more goods (or do the action) again, for the current price. So, if you are the only one on the square, you can get the item for free and then pay 2 Florin for another, 3 Florin for a third and 4 Florin for a fourth. This is great, but don’t expect the other players to let you do this. Also, this is not possible for the four special actions: moving a worker already placed, collecting extra florin, looking at the next four inventions or buying a resource for one florin.
Once you place a worker on a field, you cannot place more workers there, with the exception of the master, who can sneak in with any of your workers or can sneak in extra workers. However, you may choose to place more then one worker. You can place as many as you like in one turn, however no more can be added, so if you think someone will fight you for an item, you may want to place a lot. The only place where others cannot fight you is in your factories, yet the placement rules still apply. Once everyone has played all their workers and masters, you resolve each field and people can collect or buy based on where they placed their men. Now you can always pass, so placing your men can be used simply to block another player or make them pay more. Once all resources, items and workers have been passed out, you can work on your inventions if you placed any workers there or if you have mechanical workers. Each worker counts as one week of work, a master or a mechanical man counts for two. Now depending on the invention, you must reach the required amount of hours needed to complete it, which can be done over several rounds.
Once an invention is completed, whoever completed it gets the money for it. Now there are different degrees of difficulty for the inventions. Some are easy, requiring little resources and time, but some are long and require many resources but give greater rewards. At the start, the deck is weighted so that the simple inventions come out, but as you get to turn three or four, the inventions get pricey. Also, if two people complete the invention at the same time, they both receive the monetary bonus, but only one gets credit for the invention. This is important since you can specialize in a type of invention. There are five different types and once you complete and get credit for one, any future inventions in the same category take you two man hours less to complete. This also becomes cumulative, so if you complete two glass inventions, your next glass invention takes four hours less to complete, giving you a huge edge over others. Also completing different types of inventions gives you a bonus at the end of the game. If you are working on an invention that someone has just completed, you can still get money for it once you complete it, however you get less money and still don’t get credit for it. You can always abandon a project, but then you get nothing for this and lose any man hours you have already spent on it, the resources however are not wasted and can be reused right away.
The game lasts nine rounds, however in the last two you cannot buy any more resources, you can only complete inventions, so you need to stock up. Also, as the inventions get completed in these research rounds, new ones are not turned over. The winner is the one with the most Florin at the end of the game.

Strategy/Comments

Now that the lengthy explanation is done with, I can get to the more important stuff, how it plays. There is a lot of fighting in this game, nothing comes free and you need to buy everything at the same time. Since everyone can place their men on the board to get a favor, more workers, mechanical men, more and larger workshops and resources, you need to pick your fights wisely. To do so, you need to look around. Players keep their items visible, with the exception of money and resources. So you can always tell if someone has a lot of workers already or if they have all their mechanical men or even if they can upgrade and buy new workshops. This will give you an idea of who will be fighting for what. You are never sure what invention people are trying to complete, so it is hard to determine what resources people will fight for unless by some chance, most of the resources on the board contain the same materials. As people place their pieces on the board, you need to decide if you want to fight it out or not. There are two possibilities here:

• Play first to win ties
• Play later to outbid

Now both have their advantages. If you have more men then most players, you can outbid and if you can afford to place a lot at the start, then you can bid first. But again, neither is guaranteed. It may be best to settle for second or third place if you have the money rather then waste so many guys just to get an item for free. Also, the master is almost always kept for the end by most players. So playing last can let you steal something, but then again, one of the favors, the first section scored, lets you move a guy, so another steal can occur after that section is scored.
You must also make sure to finish inventions first. Finishing them in a future round gives you less money and no credit for the invention, which puts your opponent not only ahead of you, but also gives them the advantage of reducing the time needed for future inventions of the same type. This part is a little tougher since you cannot see what people are inventing and have to try and keep track of the resources they took. This task is a little bit too much for any player, since there is a lot to think about. Depending on the players, there may also be some delay between plays during the worker placement phase, but the game usually flows pretty smoothly and you tend not to have to wait around for others to play.
To upgrade your workshops, you cannot be building inventions in them, so you can often tell when someone is going to want to upgrade. The thing is that you need to be sure to win that upgrade in the turn you leave your workshop empty. Failing to get the upgrade (even if you need to pay for it) means you need to leave your workshop empty again, should you still want to upgrade it and wasting turns without working on inventions is not a good move.
Canceling an in progress invention is also a tough choice. If someone completes it way ahead of you, it may be wise to simply start a new one since you do get your materials back and only lose the man hours. But if you are almost there, then you really need to check if your resources could be put to better use. The difference in Florin received when completing an invention in a later round after someone else has completed it is often not that large, but you must remember that you also do not get credit for the invention. Getting credit is not only helpful for the reduction in man hours needed for future inventions of the same type, but also for bonus points at the end of the game. You can make up to 20 Florin for having a variety of invention type at the close of the game.
There are also a few variants that can be played that can be played should you become familiar with the game and in my opinion, this is the way the game should really be played. Although good with or without variants, the starting variant really adds to the game by giving players their choice of resources. In the basic game you get resources based on a pre-defined guide in the instructions. Now these are tilted depending on what position you will play in, however if you play with the expert variation you get to choose your starting resources. You get three favors from the Lord and can choose what these favors are. You have the choice of money, resources, labs, upgrades and mechanical men. By doing this, each player not only gets to make their own decisions, but can see what strategy each other player is tending to. Another variant is that the players can decide to move an opponents piece should they win the favor of displacing a worker in the first area to be settled on the board.
Finally, there is one part that I also tend to switch, because I find it plays better. In the last two stages you are only allowed to complete the five inventions on the board that were present at the end of turn seven, but we play that you can turn over new inventions at the end of turn eight since this gives a benefit to viewing the upcoming inventions should you win the favor during turn seven.
One other thing to note is the number of players. Since there is always the same amount of things to fight for, the less players the easier it is to get certain things. At four or five players, there is a lot of fighting everywhere, but even with less, the fighting remains pretty constant. The extra workers, the mechanical men and the workshop upgrades are always highly coveted early on regardless of the number of players, so the game scales pretty well.

Conclusion

I must say, that they did a great job with this game. The interaction between the players is non stop. It is a pain when you don’t complete an invention first, but that is part of the game. The worst part is definitely explaining it. There are a lot of intricacies and it always takes two or three rounds for people to get the hang of it.

Rating: 8.5/10
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jbrier
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Choosing the favor at council that lets you look at the cards is very useful in round 7, because you can choose which invention cards will come up first in order to replace any inventions that are completed in round 7.

Personally, I am against explicitly going against the rulebook of a game, but to each his own. However, I do LOVE the variant that lets you move someone else's worker, but it is stated that this was intended by the designers to be the way the game was played AND it is offered as an acceptable variant in the rulebook.

What I like most about Leo is that because the number of turns are so few, the decision to invest in infrastructure versus actually getting your works done is very interesting. Many times I will look at my position mid-game and realise that it isn't worth it to get those last apprentices from the academy but rather that I should invest in finishing a work. In most other games there is a clearly defined ark of first building up your machine to be efficient and then trying to optimize your score. Here the timeframe is so short that those quickly blend in together and offer some difficult choices.
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Scholle
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verandi wrote:
What I like most about Leo is that because the number of turns are so few, the decision to invest in infrastructure versus actually getting your works done is very interesting. Many times I will look at my position mid-game and realise that it isn't worth it to get those last apprentices from the academy but rather that I should invest in finishing a work. In most other games there is a clearly defined ark of first building up your machine to be efficient and then trying to optimize your score. Here the timeframe is so short that those quickly blend in together and offer some difficult choices.


Well put. I completely agree.
 
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