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Alexander G.
Germany
Frankfurt Area
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“Truly I was born to be an example of misfortune, and a target at which the arrows of adversary are aimed.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
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First Impressions – Lorenzo il Magnifico

The Essen Spiel fair 2016 has provided us with some interesting surprises incl. the new game “Lorenzo il Magnifico” from three Italian designers which have already been involved for example in other Euro games like Leonardo da Vinci and Grand Austria Hotel. Therefore, you should expect some (Italian flavored) food for your brain… Let’s see how it tastes!

This review is based on first impressions resulting from 4-player games with hardened “Euro veterans”, so new players in that area may want to take the following lines with a grain of salt. I solely intend to describe my initial experiences which should allow you to decide whether you may want to get more of this flavor or not.


Background & Goals

The main theme of “Lorenzo” is based on the struggles of the players representing noble families during the Italian renaissance. As a typical Euro strategy game with a strong worker placement mechanism, each player places four family members on different areas of the board, thereby triggering actions and ultimately collecting victory points which determines the winner at the end of the game. In case you already start yawning while your eyes already get tired while reading this mechanism, I nevertheless recommend that you continue reading - the game shines on a deeper level.

As each card is only available once and most worker places can only be visited by one worker while the overall number of actions is limited by the number of family members per round for a total of six rounds (2 rounds are to be considered as one period), “Lorenzo” forces players to focus on specific strategies while acting tactically to claim the right spots at the right time or finding suitable alternatives.

You can achieve victory points by different means incl. by playing cards directly providing victory points, triggering certain card mechanisms, collecting a certain amount of card types or having a certain board position at the end of the game or changing faith into victory points. Collected money or other resources only provide a very limited amount of victory points in the end, so the music really plays around collecting cards and triggering their effects.


Game Play & Mechanics

“Lorenzo” is not a game of colorful compromises or fluffy cotton balls – this is hardcore Euro worker placement strategy in its best (and most brutal) form. Rolled dice values and offered cards are available for everybody and you have to make the best out of it. Somebody else is faster and snatches a card you desperately need so much? Well, tough luck – you could have changed the turn order last round, but no, you needed these resources so desperately and selected another action… Anyway, let’s have a look at the high level game mechanics first.

The first key mechanism of “Lorenzo” lies within the action selection by placing a family member. Each turn, three colored dice are rolled once determining the value of every player’s three family members of such color (i.e., between 1 and 6). Therefore, each player has – in principle – the same action values available. Additionally, each family has another neutral family member with the automatic value of Zero (0) which can be even placed additionally in areas usually restricted to one family member (e.g., you can otherwise only take one card type per round). Although you could trigger the one or other bonus action, the number or available family members does not change.

A lot of action locations on the board require a value of 1 only, but are also limited to the placement of one member blocking that space for everybody else. However, a key area of the board contains four towers where four cards of a specific type are placed on areas with the values 1, 3, 5 and 7. Therefore, you need to place a family member with a sufficiently high value on that location to get the respective card. In order to do so, players may also spend servants (which are a resource comparable to money, stone and wood beside the abstract values of faith and military points) to modify the value of a family member. The neutral member will actually always require at least one servant to be placed at any location due to its standard value of zero.

Cards usually have an initial cost you have to pay or another minimum requirement you need to meet first, but then you will receive an instant bonus and a permanent effect. There are basically four card types which are available in separate stacks for the three periods:

- The green-colored territory cards are your main source for basic resources providing you with additional triggers when activating the harvest action. The more military points you have, the more territories you can get. Territories may also provide victory points at the end of the game in case you have collected enough.

- The yellow-colored building cards contain a lot of mechanics allowing you to change resources, create victory points or trigger related effects when activating the production action. Buildings cost basic resources and can provide victory points as instant effect.

- The blue-colored character cards cost money, but provide nice instant effects like additional actions or permanently improving harvest or production actions, reducing card costs etc. and also provide victory points at the end of the game depending on the total amount of cards.

- The purple-colored venture cards have all kinds of rather high costs, but provide a nice instant bonus and a lot of victory points as set out on that card.


Collected territories and buildings will be placed on the player board which already contains a basic resource output with a dice symbol of 1 and each placed card provides another output or option with a dice symbol between 1 and 6. When a player triggers the harvest or production action with a family member, all cards of that type are activated to the extent that the family member value reaches the respective dice symbol and produce the shown resources or offer other options like trading resources. In order to increase the pressure, these standard actions are only available to one player per turn with the standard value. All other players are only able trigger a similar, but much less valuable action which automatically reduces the family member value by -3, so these two little areas can be of most criticality…

Further action locations for the family members allow everybody to change the turn order and get some resources (Council Palace) or to claim one of four limited areas to get specific amounts or combinations of resources (Market).

Another key mechanism of the game is based on a faith point tracker as each player must choose every second round, i.e., at the end of each phase, to make the church happy by spending enough faith points thereby getting victory points or otherwise facing excommunication in the form of a permanent game penalty like lower production or limitation of available action locations. Faith points are not only rather difficult to get, you also lose all acquired points when you pay the church which is tough in view of the increasing amount of faith points required and the temptation to get more victory points in case of a later exchange.

Advanced players can also optionally add leader cards which are drafted at the beginning of the game so that every player has four of them during the course of the game. Leader cards have an individual (very high) prerequisite like owning 5 purple cards or 10 wood, but then you can permanently activate that card and it provides you additional actions or other benefits for the remaining turns. Irrelevant or too expensive leader cards can be discarded for a little resource bonus.

After exactly 6 rounds you count all accumulated victory points including collected cards and other end game bonuses to determine the winner.


Strategy & Difficulty

Based on first experiences, it seems to be critical to focus on resource creation and cost reduction mechanisms in the first part of the game in order to set up robust card effect engines in line with the chosen focus. On the one hand, cards get more and more expensive while, on the other hand, victory point rewards also increase significantly. Therefore, victory point-creating cards like venture cards should be selected with care at the beginning of the game and it may also not be the best idea to end a round without enough resources to grab interesting cards coming around next turn.

There are a lot of long term strategies for your focus including the collection of territories or character cards or climbing up the faith point tracker (at the right time) together with purchasing cards with victory points especially during the second half of the game.

Don’t be fooled by the rather pleasant play mechanics and the nice, elegant and clean design of “Lorenzo” – it has a dark soul and your fellow patron players will eat you alive in case you do not focus on your strategy and prioritize your actions. Equally distributing your attention to all different areas by purchasing cards without any clear goal will seal your fate in the end game when the other players trigger their card combos and purchase one expensive card after the other while you still struggle to grab resources via basic actions.

Although the cards available for purchase a placed on random spaces, values of family members are decided by dice and the excommunication tiles can be different each game, this game provides equal opportunities for all players without any individual randomness. This means in a nutshell, that any failing strategy is caused by the player and not by Fortuna… Sorry, I know – it’s hard to face this fact, so if you like to blame the dice or card draw for your lost game, this game may not be the right one for you.


Presentation & Rule Book

The presentation and art work of “Lorenzo” is very well done. The box cover is pleasing the eye thanks to its stylish ornaments and is definitely one of the noteworthy art works of 2016. The pictures indicate the typical style of Klemens Franz, an Austrian artist also well known for Agricola or Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King.

The board is also designed in an efficient way and not overloaded by too many areas or other bells and whistles and the cards and symbols are easily accessible. Even the less clear excommunication consequences and leader cards have a separate explanatory sheet allowing a quick look to understand the symbols in case of any uncertainty. All in all, it’s a good, classic production with some wooden workers and resources and a nicely pasted historic theme on it without any (good or bad) surprises.

There are also no complaints concerning the rule book which is clearly structured, well written and easily understandable, although the one or other sentence could use another proof-reading by a native speaker. After reading the instructions upfront and for the set-up, the manual was required only once even during the first game (yes, the faith track will be completely reset when paying the church) which is a good indicator concerning clean rules and smooth game flow.


My Opinion

Let me be very clear: If a worker placement Euro game is not your cup of tea, forget about “Lorenzo”, because this is its heart and soul. Everybody else can enjoy a solid and well-designed board game based on a combination of classic mechanisms like purchasing cards for your own production chains with some elegant twists like the changing family member values and the faith mechanism. To be fully transparent, this game is surely no revolution and should be considered as a more traditional design maybe to be considered in the same league as Signorie or slightly below Mombasa.

It’s also not a light-weight requiring some crunchy decisions and a long term strategy, otherwise you stay a slow donkey cart on the victory track breathing only the dust of the other players racing away on newly built chariots during the second half of the game. Don’t fool yourself by getting the first place on the victory point tracker in the first half of the game where you may reach about 20 to 30 points as you make much more points at the end of the game and can then easily reach 80 points or more.

There is a nice amount of interaction between players for such a game as you always hope that the other player doesn’t grab a card you like or blocks a production area critical for your next action. On the other hand, it might be worthwhile for you to actually jump on a specific area as you know that the other player would then have to spend much more resources to trigger his own production chain.

The indicated game length of around 120 min for four players is reasonable. You always have the feeling that you don’t have enough actions and resources with too many options and valuable cards to be grabbed while the turns are sooner over than hoped for, so the game has a solid length and never overstays its welcome. It should be mentioned, however, that it’s still a classic turn order and player with sudden brain freeze may actually delay the game flow a bit. This is usually still tolerable as you have to place only one family member at any time and the different values in combination with your needs usually indicate a limited amount of options.

My game group and I have really enjoyed “Lorenzo” as a well-designed Euro and, although I have been destroyed in my first play thanks to some lack of focus, I would have been prepared to play another round immediately thereafter because I was made perfectly aware about my wrong decisions later in the game. You will find typical engine-building mechanisms in this game which simply feel very rewarding when you are actually able to trigger your own production chains, flooding you with the necessary resources to purchase the expensive victory point cards. The amount of limited randomness (values of the family members and location of cards) together with the drafted leader cards should ensure long-term motivation and replayability as well.

A classic and well-tasting Italian Euro dinner... Molto ben fatto, il signor Lorenzo, grazie!
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Heike Pohl
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I like Lorenzo a lot. It is nice playable with all numbers of player. Played it so far 4 times and everybody liked it. Sure, there is luck behause of the dice, but this is a part it that game, which I like a lot. You Must bei flexible each turn. Easy rules and easy to beginn, but lot of possibilities and depth.
For me a hit of 2016 Essen.
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raist anient
Singapore
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"should be considered as a more traditional design maybe to be considered in the same league as Signorie or slightly below Mombasa."

I like both Signorie and Mombasa. What do you mean by "in the same league", you mean in terms of innovation of mechanics?
 
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Alexander G.
Germany
Frankfurt Area
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“Truly I was born to be an example of misfortune, and a target at which the arrows of adversary are aimed.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
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The comparison with Signorie and Mombasa should just indicate the level of complexity in comparison to related Euro game mechanisms.

In the meantime, I have been able to play other Euro games published at Essen 2016 and on that basis, Lorenzo has probably one of the most challenging (and rewarding) game mechanisms, but is also a brain cracker with a hint of "take that" simply due to its brutal mechanisms, especially "one worker per area" and "3 gold if I'm the second in a tower".

So from that angle, for example Ulm is - in comparison - a pleasant river & sightseeing trip, Great Western Trail keeps softly rollin' thanks to more tactical (optimization-driven) decisions while going down the trail and finally Lorenzo appears to be the "most original" Euro game 2016 with the toughest and most unforgiving decisions to make.
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Michael Frost

Iowa
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Finally had the chance to play this and...sadly ended up rather unimpressed overall. I really wanted to like this game but it left me cold.

My initial impression: they made Lords of Waterdeep into a brutal, heavy Euro. Too much just collect the right stuff to get/buy the right card to activate your "engine" and get your special card(s) drafted at the beginning into play to improve your "engine". Always keeping in mind the screw-you-over nature of being the 3rd or 4th player on a round as the spots you needed were taken or you had to pay the extra 3 money to get the right color card you have to have.

But the theme seems mostly pasted on. I never felt like I was doing anything other than existing within the strict confines of the board game's mechanics to collect the resources to get the cards to activate my cards & play the drafted specials.

So for me feels all about just doing stuff to do stuff. Not much fun. A lot of angst unrelated to the theme, tied to the brutal nature of the game play and whether you can get your special drafted cards out early to maximize your engine.

But I will say I was pleasantly surprised at the speed of the play. In our 4-player game with myself and another player unfamiliar with the rules, 1 player who'd read the rules but never played, and the game owner who'd read the rules and played once, we set up, taught, played, and took down in about 2 hours.

Much prefer Signorie. Where both the game play is more interesting and the play works so much better with the theme. There I feel like I'm doing more than doing stuff to do stuff, I'm actually in the period with my family members of both sexes doing what I need to in order to advance my family.

And the slighter lighter, less mean, Ulm is a lot more fun.
 
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