Hello! Welcome to this Deranged Review.
Last Essen I helped out the designer of this game for a bit at his stand, and had some fun (and Chinese food) along the way ^^. I've explained it to many people since then.
After demoing again at the Spellenspektakel in Eindhoven, I gots me a signed copy ^^.
I'll be giving grades on several aspects of the game, such as discussed here.
For ART, I look at the big picture, and how that picture looks. EASE covers ease of play and learning curve, FLEXIBILITY covers the amount of free will you have and is therefore linked to replayability. FUN might be deceptive, as it's a gut thang, but I'll try and specify in the text, and COMPONENTS should be self-explanatory. I'll not say a lot about rules and specifics - you can find those out for yourself.
The Game Itself: A 2D Symphony
Buy instruments, play some music, (a) gather minutes! First to 60 wins! (b) gather points! Most points wins!
-I really like the visual design of this game. It's a bit aux naturelle, toned down, with mostly pastels and flat surfaces with only the outlines to see the difference between the instruments.
I've heard people say the design is too old-fashioned, but I really do not agree, or care. It's a game about classical music; it'd be wrong to illustrate it in any other way.
-The Ensemble game really isn't too difficult, and the Symphony uses the same basic rules but will need a lot more focus, as there are some important decisions to be made. Will I buy the Cello to play this piece or the Tuba for points later? On the other hand, not even the hard version is really difficult to play, although it's certainly more difficult to win.
-Some tough choices without clear answers, that's a nice basis for replayability. There aren't really all too many ways to victory, but you can take the same route in different vehicles, so to speak.
There are a few things to consider during the game. First, there's the amount of money you don't have. Coinage is really tight in this game, untill that golden moment where you can suddenly buy ALL the things. Second, there's the frequency of the instruments. At least in the easy version, you can see how often the various instruments are available, making it possible to make decisions based on that. Third, there's a bit of a point in not giving the guy who's streets ahead the advantage of renting all his equipment.
So, choices... but never too many to cause AP, at least not in the Ensemble version. Even the Symphony version is relatively AP-proof, but there are always those who'll take five minutes per turn anyway.
-This is another game which favours just relaxed play. There's a clear line between start and finish, and enough ways to interact that it's not multiplayer solitaire.
Maestro is pleasant to play - once again not hilarious, but pleasant nonetheless. The one-action-per-turn means rounds go rather quickly so there's not all that much downtime, and as you can usually plan a few actions in advance the game goes by rather quick.
-The components are all just splendid. The paper banknotes work really well, and all the other components are just fine.
Theme fits like a glove.
Not too thrilling.
I've played quite a few games of Ensemble now, and if I did not like it I'd not have demoed it. Ensemble is a fine game, with many, MANY little links all over it. The colours of the instruments match with the banknotes required to buy them, the amount of instruments on the board is equal to the amount in the deck and the frequency of instruments appearing in the symphonies, the amount of time the symphonies score you and the amount of time the actual song lasts, the fact that nearly everything in the game is divisible by four...
The only flaw in the execution of this game (and it's a minor one at that) is that the amount of notes received for playing a song does not relate to the effort put into it - and even that is an artifact from its top-down design, because musicians don't always get equal pay for equal work.
The Symphony side of the board ups the ante, and this is where the game will really get into it's own. Not only are there many more instruments, there are solists that count as the instrument they are depicted playing as well, thus increasing their worth. For instance, a pianist (#1), which you'll need for some of the more difficult parts, will function as a piano. Additionally, you'll need to keep an eye out for the endgame, as you get bonus points for having several different instruments, playing songs by several different composers and so on. So it's no longer a horserace - it's a concours hippique, and whoever is the most well-rounded maestro wins the game.
Seeing the enormous amount of effort and love the designer put into this game, I'm looking forward to his next game in anticipation. Because if Maestro is any indication of what is to come, the next games will be glorious.
As usual, please give your opinion in the comments .
Oh, by the way, I am Deranged. I like to have fun with (and around) boardgames, and have played many of them over the years. I've been furniture in my FLGS for years ^^. I tend to like old games; well, I tend to like good games, most of which have been around for bit ^^. I've written 86 reviews as of yet, which you can access here, and a handful of random topics discussed here. If you want me to write a review for you or recommend me a game, there's this neat little envelop near my avatar!
#1: 12 inches or otherwise.