Leo Colovini, who was born and currently living in Venice, again takes us to his home town with this beautiful game of his own. He even names his game company(which he co-founded with the maestro Alex Randolph) "Venice Connection". He loves Venice I think. Once I asked him whether he tries to incoporate something Italian in his games. His rely was : "No, I do not purposely do that. But Venice is truely a magical city, and one cannot but fall in love with the city once he visits". There is something special about Venice.
Unfolded, the board shows a map of Venice with antique feel. It makes a good comparison with another beautiful game about Venice, "San Marco" - each has it's own feel. San Marco has this warm, fairytale-like atmosphere while the graphics of Doge feels more aged and solemn. The wooden houses with pointy roof reminds me of the old italian architectures.
Doge is a name of position in renaissance era Venice : Venice was a republic on its own, and doge was its president. Until Napoleon conquered Venice after a long time, doge and a cabinet comprised of several advisors. Doge was elected from advisors, so every historic families in Venice wanted to have doge or advisors in their houses. Doge was already introduced to us in San Marco : perhaps you're already familiar with him.
In the game, players elect advisors in each districts and use them to build a grand villa, and then upgrade it to a palace. If you succeed in building a fixed number of palaces first, you are elected as the next doge. The election is represented as secretely bidding vote markers with number of votes on them, so this is essentially an auction game in disguise. But it's not that simple.
You vote by placing your vote markers in the districts you want them to be used in. In the first phase of the game, players secretly decide the districts in which they vote, and the number of the votes. After that, players reveal the districts they are voting for, but not the number of votes. Once you finish adding all the vote markers to the appropriate districts, you flip the vote markers and process the election in the second phase. There are vote markers with number 0, so you must be ready for bluffing. Also, the sequence of districts for election process changes every turn(somewhat similar to Wallenstein).
Players who got the first and second place in election get some previleges. You can make the advisor from that district your side(an advisor is counted as one vote in election, and you can even move your new advisor to another district after winning a district - thus the importance of the election sequence), you can move your villas or you can build a new villa. After your number of villas has reached a certain number, you can upgrade your villas into a palace. But once a palace is built, the you need more villas to make a palace.
Doge successfully combines closed bidding mechanism with election theme. Considering that Leo Colovini has not made many bidding games, this game is very unique. But there still exists the Colovini-flavor : suspecting each other heavily. It's interesting to observe that a round of bidding(election) does not end completely, but effects other biddings consequently. Doge got some mediocre responce when it was released. I guess that it was perhaps because the size of goldsieber BIG box caused too much expectation. But the game is great. And while some people think the bits look a little odd, I strongly believe that some of you will appreciate the rich historic feel of the components as I do. Go win the elections.