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Subject: La Strada: a review rss

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Ed Sherman
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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I picked up La Strada a while back, expecting it to be something of a "pick up and deliver" game, but it was something more...and less.

First of all, I can't review La Strada without commenting on the board: it is one of the more interesting boards I've seen. There is a central frame, and then several triangular pieces that fit into it, making a giant hexagon of little hexagons. Cities and geographical features are placed randomly on the parts, so that by placing the triangles or rotating them in different orientations, you could make countless board configurations. (I really like the ability to change boards around to every game is different.)

I've referred to this before as "Blokus with a theme" and that's a pretty close approximation. Everyone picks starting villages and gets a pool of action points to build roads that connect villages into a sort of trade network. Points are resolved at the end of the game by who is in what village -- the bigger the village, the more points. Also, and here's the trick: the more players in a village, the fewer points it's worth to each.

This means two things: first, a small village that you are the only presence in may give more points than a large town that everybody is connected to and second, not only does connecting to a village give you more points, it takes points away from others. Interesting, huh?

Anyway, the unique things La Strada brings to the table is marred by three things: first of all, the two-player game is terrible. I mean, "how did they let this get out with 2-4 written on the side of the box" terrible. I am always disappointed when that happens, because we play 2-player games a lot here and this is really only a 3-4 player game.

The second thing is the huge advantage the starting player gets. Yes, you can try to box the starting player in, but you're always playing catch-up to the first player. The only way we were able to work around that (aside from rule tweaking) was to play several times in a sitting and let everyone start once. Of course, you might not be interested in playing 3-4 times in a sitting...

Third, I found the game very fiddly. The boards are cool and I like those, but the individual player roads, the cubes, and the scoring for each town made it seem like we spent as much time with administrative duties as we did actually playing. (A minor associated complaint is the choices for player colors: they tried to make the roads natural colors, but that means the player colors are black, gray, brown, and white. That made things a little difficult to tell things apart from time to time. Red, yellow, blue, and green wouldn't have been as "realistic," but it would have been more playable."

In summary, I thought La Strada was an interesting connection game that had a workable theme and was very customizable, but I felt that it had too many strikes to be a really top-tier game. (My rating: 5)
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Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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edosan wrote:
Anyway, the unique things La Strada brings to the table is marred by three things: first of all, the two-player game is terrible.

My thoughts EXACTLY. I played a four-player game for the first time the other night and was very entertained. So I ordered the game and was practically salivating to play it with my wife when it arrived. So, I opened the box and quickly turned to the last page of rulebook to look at the two-player variation. My first thought when I read them was, Huh? Only one player allowed to occupy a city? Am I reading this right? Did they send me the wrong game?

Anyway, I cautiously decided to give it a try anyway and so we played. It was over in five minutes, and I don't think the word "terrible" is a strong enough adjective for me. I don't know what word to use. It was shockingly awful, not the least bit enjoyable. I really cannot imagine that any of their play-testers would have endorsed it.

edosan wrote:
I mean, "how did they let this get out with 2-4 written on the side of the box" terrible. I am always disappointed when that happens, because we play 2-player games a lot here and this is really only a 3-4 player game.

I assume the "single occupancy" rule was introduced because with two players it would be much easier for "all" players to make roads into the same cities, which would have made scoring those cities pointless. Also less opportunity to cut your opponent off than in the four-player game.

In the end, I think perhaps it came down to economics - Mayfair Games wanted to sell more units. angry

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