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Subject: Medici: Component and Presentation Review of the new Grail Games edition. rss

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David B
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Medici is a well known Reiner Knizia auction game. This is not a review of the game itself, but an overview of the new edition by Grail Games.

Medici, for some reason, is a cursed board game as no publisher can seem to come up with a graphic design that is both pleasing to the eye and functional. The French design is perhaps the best looking, but the commodity tracks are a functional disaster. The RGG edition is perhaps the most functional, but is somewhat of an eyesore and the score track should come with a warning as it could easily elicit a seizure.

This year, Grail Games along with revered artist Vincent Dutrait decided to take the torch and attempt to erase all past sins regarding this game that has earned classic status despite the visual offenses. So did they succeed? Mostly. But there are still some areas worthy of nitpicking. The following are my observations.

THE BOX
My copy did not perfectly survive the trip across the sea and arrived with a minor dent. But I emphasize minor as the artwork is intact. It is somewhat of a miracle the damage was not significant as the packaging was poor (bubble wrap but then stuffed into a plastic bag envelope which was then stuffed into my mailbox). Overlooking this, the box is stellar. The art is cheery and the quality is through the roof. It is a thick stock with a high gloss linen finish. It is also a perfect size. It does not eat up shelf space but still looks prominent. There is also next to no wasted space on the inside. I have heard the box can be the most expensive portion of production and Grail Games did not cut corners here. Well done.

THE CARDS
This edition uses cards instead of tiles. Some may lament not pulling tiles from a bag but removing random tiles, which is necessary depending on player count, without seeing what you are removing is a real hassle, especially when you have to do it every round. Removing N cards is much easier and will decrease set up time significantly. The cards themselves are mini euro size and have a quality linen finish. I though the stock was going to be a tad thicker, but since they are small, it does not matter. If the cards were standard size, there would be complaints about it being too thin. The size needed to be small so as the goods would all fit on the player boards. The artwork on the cards is quite attractive, which is no surprise given the artist. A minor nitpick is that the artwork on the cards does not match the artwork on the board. Each good on the card has the same color scheme as the board, but the graphic is different. Thematically (well, you know what I mean), the cards depict a transaction (a hand delivering a good) where as the board depicts storage. The cards and board both have icons to keep things straight, but it takes a bit of getting used to.

THE BOARD
Once again, the artwork is stellar; no eye sores here. Seriosuly, you could frame the board and hang it on your wall. The quality of the board is also top notch. My previous version of Medici (RGG) had a linen finish board that was extremely prone to scuffing. I had played a handful of times, was always careful, and "shelf wear" scuffing was easily seen along the borders of the board. This board features thick card stock with the same finish as the Pandemic board by ZMan. It is a very smooth semi gloss finish that will see a ton of play and little wear.
There are a couple of gripes, though. For one, the score track could have been better. Every fifth number is a prominent golden color and very easy to see. All the other numbers look like faint watermarks and are almost indistinguishable against the background.



If the spaces for each number were clearly separated, you would not need to see the intermediate numbers. However, the spaces are not clear. There are points along the decorative ribbon that correspond to the spaces that help, but this is one of those "attractive but not completely functional" score tracks. Even so, it is still easier to use than the alternating white and black spaces in the RGG version.
As eluded to above, the goods around the commodity wheel depict the storage phase of the goods. And though the graphic does not completely match the cards, again this is something that can be gotten used to. The colors depicting each good type should have been more distinct. For instance, grain and spices appear to be two shades of brown. The bluish hue of dye is similar to the violet hue of silk/cloth. Red could have been used for dye and green could have been used for spice. The icons help, so the color similarities certainly are not a deal breaker and again, they are easier to distinguish than past versions of the board.
Another issue that was debated in the threads during the kickstarter campaign is the gold colored wheel around the commodity wheel.


This appears to be a border. The problem is that the player markers cannot be placed on the first space of each track as it would leave the tracks one space short. So the markers must be placed on the outer ring. For the most part, this works, but it looks odd. The outer ring does not look like it was meant to be a functional part of the board. There is also one side of the board where pieces on this ring interfere slightly with the score track. A good solution to this is for players to keep their markers off the board until they purchase a given good. This would keep the board less cluttered and may actually be an improvement.
This sound like a lot of complaints. Perhaps, but even in spite of these, this is still the best looking board a publisher has offered for Medici.

PLAYER BOARDS
Not much to say here except they are a huge improvement.

They look great with thick cardboard stock. They are even included extensions for a 2 player game which I have not yet tried.

PLAYER MARKERS

I also find these to be a big improvement. The spice sack shaped pieces used in the RGG edition were an awkward size and shape. They did not fit well on the scoring track nor on the steps of the commodity tracks. These markers have a good size and they fit comfortably on the board. They even have a finish that makes them resistant to sliding so the game can withstand a minor bump and not be altered. They even have "family crests" etched onto them to help with any issues of not being able to distinguish the colors.

OTHER MARKERS

Markers are also included to mark each round as well as to mark which commodities have been scored in each round. These are also round wooden markers similar to the player markers, but with a shorter height. These are a very nice touch to help make scoring a more fluid process. There is also a larger wooden Medici crest given to the player currently offering a batch of goods for auction. Again, a very nice touch.

This version of Medici, like most games, does not reach perfection. But it came darn close. Aside from my nitpicks, I do think Grail Games has given us the best edition of the game thus far. Their additions will improve game play and I think this is a game you can be proud to have on your table. Observers will be drawn to the game, not turned away as they were in the past. I typically do not support KickStarter campaigns, but I am glad to have backed this one. Grail Games care about their products and they care about their customers as was evident in the numerous updates. David Harding answers emails and posts and one can tell he is a gamer at heart and not just a businessman looking for profit. I am very looking forward to Medici: Card Game that Grail Games is releasing next year. If it is going to be KickStarted, it's a no brainer that I will back it on day 1.
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Kevin Garnica
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Nice review of the aesthetics. I'm still waiting for my KS copy to arrive. Supposed to be this week.
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alan beaumont
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An Amigo version veteran writes
pfctsqr wrote:
PLAYER BOARDS
Not much to say here except they are a huge improvement.
We need player boards? If you can't count to 5 you can't play this game!

(Although they fulfil a vital function in showing player colour, a card each would have done the same job cheaper and probably more attractively.)


Good review. Any sign of the dread board warping reported elsewhere?
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David B
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Not here. My board is completely flat.
 
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Eric Brosius
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misteralan wrote:
PLAYER BOARDS(Although they fulfil a vital function in showing player colour, a card each would have done the same job cheaper and probably more attractively.

I just added six colored meeples to my (Amigo) copy.
 
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Graham Robinson
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We didn't find "start your tokens in the gold wheel" at all problematic, but did find that all the "other tokens" did was make scoring more fiddly, and gave up using them very quickly. Still, if they work for you, they're worth having.

Other than that I'd say you're spot on. This is a gorgeous edition, very high quality, and my copy arrived in perfect nick, even the box.

Cheers,
Graham
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Lindsay Scholle
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Just saw this in the flesh tonight and was really impressed with the production. Top quality thick cardboard box and components. Loved the box size too - a real shelf space saver. I wish I'd Kickstarted it. Going to have to buy a copy now. Really nice!
 
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David B
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therealbuserian wrote:
We didn't find "start your tokens in the gold wheel" at all problematic, but did find that all the "other tokens" did was make scoring more fiddly, and gave up using them very quickly. Still, if they work for you, they're worth having.

Other than that I'd say you're spot on. This is a gorgeous edition, very high quality, and my copy arrived in perfect nick, even the box.

Cheers,
Graham


I would agree it is not bad enough to be problematic. The tokens do fit on the wheel. I would rather have had an extra step, though. The wheel just does not look like a place that was designed for tokens to be placed.

As far as the extra tokens, I have been known to forget which commodities have been scored in a round. Placing the goods markers as you score them helps me not to make that mistake.
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Patrick C.
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Sorry, can't join this choir.

This past Saturday a woman at game night brought a copy and she was saying how unhappy she was with the board and how the commodity colors weren't distinguishable. She seemed to actually loathe the board. I told her I had the French edition and she wanted to buy it from me right there. I told her no. Then I asked to see the board. "It can't be that bad," I said.

Then I looked at the board. I can't say I hated it as much as her, but I know I didn't like it. Yes, overall the colors are gorgeous. But it is baffling that they would make the colors so close together in shade. It screams for correction.

Just looked again at my French edition. Yeah, it has its own issues, but I'm fine with that. The only way I would've backed this game is if they had knocked it out of the ballpark and corrected all the problems of previous editions. IMO they didn't. And I don't understand why.
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Eric Brosius
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travvller wrote:
And I don't understand why.

The Red Sox curse lasted 86 years. The Medici curse has only lasted 21 years so far.

"What would we do with Jeff Bagwell?"

-- Red Sox management



"What would we do with clear, functional graphics?"

-- Medici publishers
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Graham Robinson
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pfctsqr wrote:
As far as the extra tokens, I have been known to forget which commodities have been scored in a round. Placing the goods markers as you score them helps me not to make that mistake.


As I said, great that it works for you, and worth including them for people who it does work for.

What we ended up almost instinctively doing was score the ships first, then removing the cards from the ships as you score each commodity.

Good that we have options!

Cheers,
Graham
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David B
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travvller wrote:
Sorry, can't join this choir.

This past Saturday a woman at game night brought a copy and she was saying how unhappy she was with the board and how the commodity colors weren't distinguishable. She seemed to actually loathe the board. I told her I had the French edition and she wanted to buy it from me right there. I told her no. Then I asked to see the board. "It can't be that bad," I said.

Then I looked at the board. I can't say I hated it as much as her, but I know I didn't like it. Yes, overall the colors are gorgeous. But it is baffling that they would make the colors so close together in shade. It screams for correction.

Just looked again at my French edition. Yeah, it has its own issues, but I'm fine with that. The only way I would've backed this game is if they had knocked it out of the ballpark and corrected all the problems of previous editions. IMO they didn't. And I don't understand why.


Well, with the RGG edition, they were ALL grey and so you couldn't tell any of them apart. So it is a definite step up from that. But yeah, it's weird that basic colors like a muted green or a red were not used and/or considered.

But one thing in favor of the RGG version was that the artwork on the tiles matched the artwork on the wheel. And the bonus steps on each track were indeed colored to match the commodity and the colors were more distinguishable. I still prefer the Grail Games edition, though.
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Vita Est Certamine
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Just played this last night. This is my first go at Medici. Always wanted to play, never had. That being said...

I found the overall production value of this game to be far, far above par. Most games you buy today, even ones with "above standard" components, can't come close to the Grail Games release of Medici. In fact, the screen printed wooden tokens seem like a true waste of production costs to me as it's overproduced and completely unnecessary. As mentioned, the box itself is also overproduced. Very sturdy. My copy of Caverna has five pounds of components in it and he box is nowhere near as durable as the overproduced Medidci box.

With respect the the "extra" tokens, the large yellow bidder token, the scoring tokens for each good, the turn tokens...why? These are senseless and unnecessary. They add to the cost of a game and yet are not needed.

What this does mean is the customer received far, far more than was necessary to be considered to have great components. All these upgrades might not make the game better, but they sure do enhance the overall feel/look of the game as it's being played. And let's face it...when it's on a table...passers by will judge a book by it's cover. Put the tombstone-graphics of the early edition on a table and people will pass by with barely notice. But if this colorful piece is on a table with the higher end components...people will stop and look. people will play. And they will find the game is as good as the components as well.

To say the game is a let down because the cards don't match the artwork of the board verbatim seems like a bit of a stretch to me. I think a lot of games have similar card/board graphic design. ...Myself, as a new player to the game, I will admit it took me a couple plays to match up the pictures...but after two games I was completely fine. The iconography of the goods helped. And essentially I did not find the cards/artwork to be unusually difficult. In fact I'm surprised anyone would say this is a flaw. Yet, each to their own.

All in all I agree with the reviewers comments. Almost point for point. And like the reviewer, the Grail Game's release of Medici - taken on it's own...is truly a masterpiece of production. This reminds me of the Tiny Epic series of games where the components are needlessly overproduced simply to give the customer a great final product. Medici could have come with plastic colored pawns, no other special markers (bidder/turs/good scoring), thinner card stock for the ships, and a normal thickness box and it still would have been a home run for me. The fact that all of these things are added anyway just pushes the game into the "fantastic production" for me.

Great game that was in dire need of a face lift. This game, for all it's fans, still seems vastly underrated for some reason. Great detailed and thoughtful review sir! I agree with it all.
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Gabriel Soto
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I've never played this, but regarding the placement of players' tokens on the golden ring, wouldn't it make better sense to leave the tokens out of the board altogether? That way they won't clutter it when a player isn't even competing for a good.

Thanks for the write-up, by the way!
 
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gso7o wrote:
I've never played this, but regarding the placement of players' tokens on the golden ring, wouldn't it make better sense to leave the tokens out of the board altogether? That way they won't clutter it when a player isn't even competing for a good.

Thanks for the write-up, by the way!


You could do that, but for me that would look/be worse than simply leaving them on the outer ring. Personally I never considered it an issue or even odd the few times I played. I've played a lot of games with much more wonky setup.
 
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I am waiting for my copy to arrive. So, the KS version looks almost perfect. But why did they decide to use colors that are so similar? I even asked the publisher before the game got released. Why not use red and green???? Yes, you will get used to it. And you can tell them apart. But to me, and especially new players, it is annoying. And totally unnecessary.
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Eric Brosius
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Many people have colorblindness that makes it difficult for them to distinguish red from green. Maybe that's their reason. (I note that my original copy of Settlers came with the player colors red, green, yellow and blue, but the modern versions use a different (and more color-blind friendly) palette.)

But I agree that the colors used in the new Medici seem unnecessarily hard to distinguish for me.
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A J
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Many people have colorblindness that makes it difficult for them to distinguish red from green. Maybe that's their reason. (I note that my original copy of Settlers came with the player colors red, green, yellow and blue, but the modern versions use a different (and more color-blind friendly) palette.)

But I agree that the colors used in the new Medici seem unnecessarily hard to distinguish for me.


Can't call blue and purple used together as a colorblind-friendly palette! At least they did use symbols, so that's nice.
 
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Anthony Rubbo
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Xaykev wrote:
I am waiting for my copy to arrive. So, the KS version looks almost perfect. But why did they decide to use colors that are so similar? I even asked the publisher before the game got released. Why not use red and green???? Yes, you will get used to it. And you can tell them apart. But to me, and especially new players, it is annoying. And totally unnecessary.


I did the same thing, asked beforehand, and was assured the colors were optimal. To me, choosing brown and off-brown as two commodity colors was rather suspicious if the goal was to finally make a version both practical and aesthetically pleasing.
 
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Luckily, as mentioned before, the tokens also have unique imprints on each color. Even if all the tokens were white the imprinted nature of them would still serve to distinguish them. I didn't find the token color to be anything unusual compared to other games. In fact I thought the screen printed tokens were overkill, but it seems they are necessary for a some.

Though I think the player tokens are far and away above par for most game's player pieces, they can still be substituted for anything at all you have six of. Meeples of different color as well as shape, ordinary pawns, you could even use lego markers.
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Christopher Dearlove
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Xaykev wrote:
I am waiting for my copy to arrive. So, the KS version looks almost perfect. But why did they decide to use colors that are so similar? I even asked the publisher before the game got released. Why not use red and green???? Yes, you will get used to it. And you can tell them apart. But to me, and especially new players, it is annoying. And totally unnecessary.


You want red and green, when one of the, if not the, commonest forms of colour blindness is red/green?

(I'm not colour blind, though I know people who are. Actually I'd probably never know, except playing games highlights it. The best solution is when you can manage a second cue at the same time. But not always possible.)

I haven't opened my copy of the new edition yet.
 
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David B
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After a couple of plays under my belt, it is not hard to distinguish the goods at all. Even though the graphic on the cards is not exactly like the graphic on the commodity wheel, we found it quite easy to associate the cards with the respective portions of the wheel. And keeping markers off the board until you have purchased at least one of a commodity works very well.

If you don't have a copy of Medici and you are interested in picking it up, do not hesitate to buy this version. It's stellar and has quickly become one of the games I am most proud to own.
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pfctsqr wrote:
Medici, for some reason, is a cursed board game as no publisher can seem to come up with a graphic design that is both pleasing to the eye and functional.

Worse yet, each publisher comes up with a new way to screw up the user interface. They aren't content with the tried and true ways to screw up making tracks on a board, they always come up with some innovative dysfunction.
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Barticus88 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Medici, for some reason, is a cursed board game as no publisher can seem to come up with a graphic design that is both pleasing to the eye and functional.

Worse yet, each publisher comes up with a new way to screw up the user interface. They aren't content with the tried and true ways to screw up making tracks on a board, they always come up with some innovative dysfunction.


Do you really think the board is that screwed up? I find it both simple and intuitive. In fact I find the current Medici board (not much different than other iterations save for the look) to be excellent.
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Barticus88 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Medici, for some reason, is a cursed board game as no publisher can seem to come up with a graphic design that is both pleasing to the eye and functional.

Worse yet, each publisher comes up with a new way to screw up the user interface. They aren't content with the tried and true ways to screw up making tracks on a board, they always come up with some innovative dysfunction.


Certainly we used to complain about the Amigo version until Rio Grande (in a rare, do their own artwork, attempt) showed us that the Amigo version actually wasn't that bad.

And just played Medici the Card Game with basically Amigo artwork and no one had any problems. I didn't look closely enough to see if the 3/5 could be more distinct issue has been tweaked.

(Medici Card Game is actually well worth a look. Obviously it's not Medici, but quite good. I think in lighter games from that family Strozzi has the edge, but it's easier to explain MCG.)
 
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