Influence or Gold???
The idea of using two currencies (Influence and Gold)may not be new. After all settlers even uses 5 currencies. These curencies are only partially a goal in themselves (a total of 13 VP at teh end of the game depend on them (9 for money 4 for influence). Mostely the currencies are a means to acuire VP's during the game indirectly.
The two currencies mimick a world where not everything is bought by money. Reaissance Italy was still very medieval. Obligation and prestige was still largely a matter of honor not just wealth. (This is still true of course just much less so). What is really stong about POTR is that the two currencies are so strongly linked.
But what is better, influence or gold?
You need money to buy army units, and to get any tangable influence in cities. You need gold to get certain artist tiles giving direct VP or city improvements.
From Gold to VP:
Apart from 9 direct points at the end and the event tiles there are two roads from Gold to VP:
1 City Tiles:
City tiles give you direct benefits, they give you an ingame benefit(special ability)(1), they usually give you additional influence or gold(2), and they give you victory points in the end(3).
(Condotierres in Italy considered it their ultimate goal to become the prince of a city (read il Principe).
Capitalizing on you army units is much more difficult.
First of all you have to aquire the right to become a cities Condotierre and earn money (1) by expending influence. Second you have to win your fights to get victory points(2) and third you have to win or lose your figths to improve your cities(3)
(Fighting wars was perhaps considered an art but also considered unhealthy and wastefull to both parties hence the very low number of casualties during renaissance battles.)
Six Sources of gold:
1 Starting capital:
This is very large it is more than half the money you get for free in the game.
2 Income per round:
This is the other half of the free money the rest must be earned.
3 Fighting wars:
This may give you up to 40 gold during the game if you have a fairly militaristic strategy. It costs influence.
4 City tiles:
This is a minor source of income and should be regarded as a discount on city tiles. The only exception os if yo umanage to secure the merchant event tiles. Tey bring i na lot of extra cash.
Discounts on artist tiles brings in some virtual cash.
If you can get him cheap it is nice extra cash
You need influence to gain condotierre positions. It is also used to gain certain event tiles and to gain the papacy.
Influence to VP:
Apart from the direct influence gained by some artist tiles and the direct VP via the pope in the last round and the 4 points at the end there is only one way to gain VP with influence: Fight wars. Fortunately fighting wars allways brings in some cash.
1 Winning battles.
Winning a battle brings in an increasing number of points. You have to go all the way because winng 3 wars will not bring you victory...
2 Building up cities.
Winning or losing wars can both help you build up cities in wich you own tiles are located. Using the pope is an auxiliary way to build up your cities via wars. It is potetially cheap, but who will give up his turn for an auction??
Six Sources of Influence:
1 Influence income
Most important, total 24.
2 Starting capital
Of relatively minor importance total 12.
4 Influence from Army units
Can easily add up to 9 over the whole game
5 Influence from city tiles.
Could bring in a lot, depending on your choices.
6 Discounts, especially the tiles that give a discount on war biddings is a major source of virtual influence. Potentially bigger than 2-5.
On the surface it seems that money is the key to gaining VP. It gives access to most direct points and is the only way to aquire city tiles. Also it is the only way to get an army to procet or improve you interests.
However, protecting your investment and letting it grow is allmost exclusively done via Influence. You have to become a general before yo ucan fight a war. Also wars are one of the mayor sources of gold income during the game, and victories in war bring additional VP.
So, like in real life, having gold is the key to the game. Having a lot of influence just makes you less dependant on gold.
There even is a way to play almost completely independent from influence!
the merchant strategy:
This strategy could bring up to 14+12+3+14=43 points...
You have to get all VP events, 2 merchant events, 6 merchants(in the worst cities) and the pope in the last round. You would probably also get most money for 6 points.
This would bring you close to a winning number. The strat precludes any serious army buildup or war mongering.