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Subject: Is worth buying over ... ? REVIEW rss

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Bruno Macchiavello
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I have post a couple of reviews before, however I am planning to do it more regular. And the idea is to talk about the game, with my subjective opinion (as all reviews) and to compare the game to similar games in order to see if it worth buying this game over others (this of course also in my own subjective opinion). So here, we go.

The Game: The Godfather: Corleone's Empire


About the Game and Mechanics:

This game is in its core a worker placement. However, it also includes area majority and take that mechanisms. Thematically the players control Mafia Families in the late 50's in New York. The families are competing to become the most important family and to gain control over other families. The board of the game is the Map of New York city, which includes areas to deploy your workers (which are called business). The map is divided into districts or turfs:



The game is divided in four rounds referred as "Acts". Each round has 5 different phases. In some of the Atcs new workers will become available to each player. The first phase of each Act is "the opening a business phase", in this phase a new business tile will be place on the board. This means that new actions will be available. The next phase is the "family business phase" this is the most important phase of the game. Here player can use their workers to get resources or actions from the business tiles. There are two different types of workers. The thugs, which are less effective collecting resources (or making actions), and the family members, which are more powerful. The difference is that the thugs go only to one business and get the good (or the action) from that business. The family members obtain resources or actions for several businesses at the same time (thugs have square bases; family members have round bases). Resource can be certain type of good or money. During this phase players may also use resources to complete jobs. Jobs are cards that are bough at some business places. These jobs will require certain resources and after competition they will give a benefit to the player. Once all players used all their workers the phase ends.



The next phase is the area majority phase, which is called the "turf war phase". The family with more thugs in some turf and/or family members adjacent to a turf gain control of that turf and place a control marker. This control marker is places on top of previous ones. Control of a turf is important because, in the previous phase when a thug goes to a business tile within a turf, the player controlling the turf gets a bonus resource/action.




The next phase is the "bribery phase". It is basically an auction phase to acquire allies' cards. Allies are very powerful cards. The owner of that card, will have some special actions and powers. Some allies are represented by miniatures (similar to the player's workers), others are just cards.

The last phase is called "tribute to the Don". In this phase the players must discard cards. The maximum number of cards that a player can have varies depending on the Act. At this point it is important to mention that one available action in the business tiles is "laundry money". This means to put money in your suitcase (a metal tin), this money does not count as being in your hand, so it does not need to be discarded. Also money in the suitcase is translated to points for winning the game. Players also get points by color set-collection of the job cards that they were able to complete.



There is a lot more of details. But in a nutshell, that is the game. After playing one Act most players will understand the rules, even occasional gamers. That is one of the strength of this game, this game can be play by regular or occasional gamers. The rules are simple enough but there is a lot of decisions during the game. Eric Lang has once again make a game combining existing mechanism, but it a way that they work well together and the game is easy to understand and play. Having said that, the game has some issues, which we will discuss now.


Some Negative Points:

Ok. Let's start talking about a negative point, whit a positive one. This game feels very thematic as a worker placement with a mafia theme. A lot of the job cards are about hurting other players (which is very thematic for a mafia game), and the area majority part of the game, helps bring the idea of a family controlling a turf in the city. Having said that this game has ZERO Godfather theme. The only links with the godfather are: the name of the acts, the first player marker is a horse head, the turn marker is Don Corlone and narcotics can appear in the middle of the game as a new resource. Ah!!.. There is also the picture of Don Corlone everywhere in the game. Now, none of these elements are really thematic. I understand that this is subjective. But, saying that these elements make you feel in the Godfather Universe, is not ture, at least not for me. Otherwise, you can take the Don Corlone turn marker and the first player maker use it in Lord of Waterdeep and called it a Godfather game. The main reason what this game has no connection with the Godfather is because the Godfather is NOT about going to business places ask for money and them laundry that money. That is very mobster, but that is not what the Godfather is about. Not at all. In fact, is difficult to point out a scene in the movies were thug goes to a business ask for money. The Godfather is about negotiation, betrayal, younger generation talking over the family, how families are structure and the family bond between the characters. Tom Vasel's Nothing Personal carries a Godfather theme way more than this game.

Having said that, solid mechanisms are more important than theme. In my humble opinion, anyways. So, I am ok with the game not following the plots in the movie. Nevertheless, I cannot understand why characters in the movie are not allies in this game. Like, Don Corlone could be an ally in the first act since is the weeding of his daughter and we has to grant a favor to his accomplices. Lucca Brassi could be other ally, before he dies. Another, simple modification to include theme into the game is to have specific jobs that are introduce in each Act. These jobs will be related to events in the movie. For example, place the pistol in the restaurant for Michael, pickup Michael at the airport. Simple stuff, that does not affect game play and will help a lot to improve theme. As it is the only thing that reminds me that this game has something to do with the Godfather is the picture of Don Corlone everywhere.

Which leads me to the other negative point. The game is overpriced. I like the tins (which are totally unnecessary) I have no problem paying a little more for them. However, this is a MSRP of $80.00. And the cards are bad quality, the resource is basically clip art (which is unacceptable at this point), and there is very little artwork in the cards. The only new artwork, apart from Don Corlone, is in the allies' cards and it is very repetitive even there. The allies are all the same in the different Acts. There is a lot of unique artwork in the rulebook, which seems wasted. This game cost this high basically because of the IP, which is not really there, and because CMON probably is betting that it will sell anyways.



Finally, and probably more importantly for eurogamers, this game has a lot of luck. The job cards are not balance, at all. The luck of the draw can really make a difference in this game, if you draw powerful job cards and your opponents do not have the same luck, you will win, simple as that. Moreover, if the luck of the draw is balance, the game can end with kingmaking. It is actually very possible. These two things can really be a turn off to some people.


Conclusion and Is this Worth Buying over...?:

Ok. So, the two games most people compare this with are BloodRage and Lords of Waterdeep (LoW). Is "The Godfather: Corleone's Empire" worth buying over these two games? Well the short answers is NO. Basically, this game is overpriced, the other two are not. At least I do not think they are. But, let's assume that money is not an issue. Then, we first need to answer the following question, even with the negative points that I mentioned, is this a good game? And the answer is YES. It is certainly not for everyone, the "take that", luck factor and kingmaking may not be welcome in a worker placement game by all players. So, beware of that. But, if you play this game not as seriously as a traditional euro worker placement game, it can be a lot of fun. If players get in the Mafia mood, and some roll playing appears, you really can have a good time with this game. Actually, I found the gameplay better than Bloodrage. But, I need to mention that I find BloodRage overrated. And probably I will be in the minority when I said that this game is more enjoyable. So, I am pretty sure that most people will not agree with me and put BloodRage as the better game. Now, I thing that LoW is a more solid game if you want to buy a game with simple rules and lot of strategy, that you can play with regular and new gamers. I will argue that Champions of Midgard with the Valhalla expansion is a better replacement for LoW that this game.

However, in the end I actually thing that this game does not replace LoW or Bloodrage, basically because is very different from them. This game is not a direct replacemen by any means. I think, that if money is not a problem, this game can go in a collection along the other two. For now, "The Godfather: Corleone's Empire" will go into my collection. But, I am hopping that an expansion that helps brings down the luck and kingmaking and/or introduce some actual Godfather content appears soon. I am predicting that if not, this game may not stay in my collection for long. But it stays for now, it is not groundbreaking, it is not without issues, but it is FUN (Please look at the update at the end).

P.S: I will be happier if the picture on the front was of a generic mafia gang, and the game has cost me 15 bucks less. But like I said, fingers cross for that expansion....

UPDATE (Edit 8/28/2017): After some more plays. I partially agree with the comments that mentioned that I this game is not as lucky as my review indicates. Once ALL players know well the job cards. You can guess the jobs they have based on the resources they are getting. The luck comes down a little bit, and more tactical decisions appears. It also important to mention that the public jobs help to bring down the luck factor as well. However, the luck of the draw is still there. The job cards, IMHO, are not balanced even between jobs that need the same amount of resources. So the game play does improve with time, the tactical play improves, but the luck is still there. So, I still think that this is a good mid-light game and not a highly strategic one. On the other hand, the more plays the more I become aware about the lack of Godfather theme. So, is still a "stay in my collection FOR NOW".
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Joshua Schutte
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Thanks for the honest review, you've replaced lust with logic in my brain!
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Jack Francisco
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I think that if the game was by a no-name designer and had a generic crime theme, it wouldn't be as highly-regarded as it is. The mechanics are meh and the game can get super-swingy. The graphic design is a bit lazy for me - I can understand the same pic for the card backs, of course, but for the faces? It's even sillier when you consider that they used their own in-house artist.
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Remus Rhymus
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Thanks for the review. I do agree the game is overpriced. I like the quality of the tins and minis, but still think it's about $10 over-priced for the quality it is. Also, I understand many peoples complaints that there is zero Godfather theme in the game. I agree the theme of the game is much more generic mobster than Godfather. Players are not characters from the Godfather, the allies aren't characters, the five families aren't the same family names as from the films. Your ideas about making characters from the film allies instead of the generic allies is a good idea and would go a long way in bringing the theme in more. That said, IMO, the game is still lots of fun and between the narcotics, the setting, the horsehead, the marionette look on the cards, etc., there is some Godfather flavor in the game that comes through. I don't agree that the resource cards are just clip art. While there are things from a graphic design perspective that could be improved, I think the resource cards are functional and look fine. My biggest complaint from an art/graphic design perspective is that they could've added more unique art to the Job cards instead of the same image of Don Corleone on every job card. The art on the Ally cards and in the rulebook is fantastic and they could've put more unique art from this artist on each different type of job card.

Some gameplay counterpoints: I disagree that luck plays as much of a role in the game as you claim. It is not as simple as "If you draw the more powerful job cards, you will win". On the first play, it might seem that way. The more powerful job cards cost more resources to play. Every job in the game that seems over-powered has a strategic counter; once you are familar with the cards in the game, that becomes apparent. When I teach the game to new players, I point out certain job cards ahead of time so they can consider them on the first play. Playing the smaller, less powerful jobs cost less resources and are easier to complete, so you have more of a chance of getting a bunch of end-game bonuses for completing the most jobs in each color.

There are several strategic avenues to explore in this game, they're all potentially viable winning strategies. The "take that" in this game isn't as simple as drawing a card and playing it. You need to get the right resources at the right times to play the bigger "take that" jobs. With the hand limits at the end of the act, it's not always simple to do. Timing is crucial in this game. One of my first plays was with Gord Hamilton (Designer of Santorini). He said he is not a fan of "take that", but after our play of TG:CE he said "It's 'take that' done right". I agree with him. The take that elements are fitting in a gangster themed game, but there is planning and thought that needs to go into it, it's not just about playing a nasty card that wins you the game. When you are able to take advantage of cards like "car bomb", it's fun, it shakes up the area control opportunities for the round, but it doesn't devastate the other players. They get their figures back for the next round.

TG:CE is simple to learn and understand, Eric Lang has integrated tried and true mechanics together in a fresh and interesting way, there is quite a bit of strategic depth to this game that becomes more apparent with repeat plays.
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Bruno Macchiavello
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Crikrunner wrote:
Thanks for the honest review, you've replaced lust with logic in my brain!


Thanks for the comment
 
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Bruno Macchiavello
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remus wrote:
Thanks for the review. I do agree the game is overpriced. I like the quality of the tins and minis, but still think it's about $10 over-priced for the quality it is. Also, I understand many peoples complaints that there is zero Godfather theme in the game. I agree the theme of the game is much more generic mobster than Godfather. Players are not characters from the Godfather, the allies aren't characters, the five families aren't the same family names as from the films. Your ideas about making characters from the film allies instead of the generic allies is a good idea and would go a long way in bringing the theme in more. That said, IMO, the game is still lots of fun and between the narcotics, the setting, the horsehead, the marionette look on the cards, etc., there is some Godfather flavor in the game that comes through. I don't agree that the resource cards are just clip art. While there are things from a graphic design perspective that could be improved, I think the resource cards are functional and look fine. My biggest complaint from an art/graphic design perspective is that they could've added more unique art to the Job cards instead of the same image of Don Corleone on every job card. The art on the Ally cards and in the rulebook is fantastic and they could've put more unique art from this artist on each different type of job card.

Some gameplay counterpoints: I disagree that luck plays as much of a role in the game as you claim. It is not as simple as "If you draw the more powerful job cards, you will win". On the first play, it might seem that way. The more powerful job cards cost more resources to play. Every job in the game that seems over-powered has a strategic counter; once you are familar with the cards in the game, that becomes apparent. When I teach the game to new players, I point out certain job cards ahead of time so they can consider them on the first play. Playing the smaller, less powerful jobs cost less resources and are easier to complete, so you have more of a chance of getting a bunch of end-game bonuses for completing the most jobs in each color.

There are several strategic avenues to explore in this game, they're all potentially viable winning strategies. The "take that" in this game isn't as simple as drawing a card and playing it. You need to get the right resources at the right times to play the bigger "take that" jobs. With the hand limits at the end of the act, it's not always simple to do. Timing is crucial in this game. One of my first plays was with Gord Hamilton (Designer of Santorini). He said he is not a fan of "take that", but after our play of TG:CE he said "It's 'take that' done right". I agree with him. The take that elements are fitting in a gangster themed game, but there is planning and thought that needs to go into it, it's not just about playing a nasty card that wins you the game. When you are able to take advantage of cards like "car bomb", it's fun, it shakes up the area control opportunities for the round, but it doesn't devastate the other players. They get their figures back for the next round.

TG:CE is simple to learn and understand, Eric Lang has integrated tried and true mechanics together in a fresh and interesting way, there is quite a bit of strategic depth to this game that becomes more apparent with repeat plays.


Hi. I will certainly take what you said into consideration for my next play. And I actually hope you are right, about the luck factor. The fact that they cost more reaources having been and issue. What I mean is that players eventually get the resources they need (in my experience). But each "big job card" having a counter strategy is a interesting point. Will think about that. I do agree that the game is fun, like I said specially if your group roll plays the mafia them
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Mitch Lavender
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Appreciated the opinions shared, here, and I agree that the art design is lazy and particularly evident on the cards.

I don't think the game is not as luck-driven as you claim. For us, players who had played before did play better than first-timers because they understood the strategies involved. Understanding the rules is not the same thing as knowing how to play the game well.

The players in our group likened it to a cross between Tammany Hall and Blood Rage. I think that's a reasonable assessment and we liked it very much.

I found this interview with Eric Lang enlightening and might help others appreciate the subtle strategies that might not be recognized in an initial play or two:

https://boardgamegeek.com/video/143259/godfather-corleones-e...




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Remus Rhymus
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back_spacer wrote:

Hi. I will certainly take what you said into consideration for my next play. And I actually hope you are right, about the luck factor. The fact that they cost more reaources having been and issue. What I mean is that players eventually get the resources they need (in my experience). But each "big job card" having a counter strategy is a interesting point. Will think about that. I do agree that the game is fun, like I said specially if your group roll plays the mafia them


I'm glad you're having fun with the game. It might take a few plays with the right group to truly start recognizing the depth. Since the business tiles are random each game, some games have more resources available, other game are tighter (at least for certain resource types).

Keeping an eye on which types of resources each player seem to be going for, gives you an idea of which big job they might play and help you to prepare for. If someone is going for booze, they may have extortion, so suitcase some one dollar bills to counter. Someone going for lots of guns, they may be going for a car bomb, so spread your guys out to more turfs or stay out of highly contested hot-spots and try to gain control of lesser contested areas. Use neutral ally figures to help maintain turf advantages. There are all kinds of fun things to consider and do in the game.
 
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remus wrote:


I'm glad you're having fun with the game. It might take a few plays with the right group to truly start recognizing the depth. Since the business tiles are random each game, some games have more resources available, other game are tighter (at least for certain resource types).


Our group recognized this too. The starting tile in Wall Street for our first game was a suitcase tile. So, throughout the game, with Wall Street being so popular to stick family members around, stashing bills wasn't much of a consideration. We really focused on Jobs jobs jobs.

Our second game though? OMG. Starting tile in Wall Street and the 2nd district were resources/cash. I played the same way and focused on jobs. Geez - I ended up with a hand of 10 cards after the first round and had to discard down. Slap in the face - had to learn the hard way that hand management is important! The tiles changing definitely creates a different atmosphere each time we play.

remus wrote:

Keeping an eye on which types of resources each player seem to be going for, gives you an idea of which big job they might play and help you to prepare for. If someone is going for booze, they may have extortion, so suitcase some one dollar bills to counter. Someone going for lots of guns, they may be going for a car bomb, so spread your guys out to more turfs or stay out of highly contested hot-spots and try to gain control of lesser contested areas. Use neutral ally figures to help maintain turf advantages. There are all kinds of fun things to consider and do in the game.


This is all true - if you pay attention to what others are doing and what they see as important, you can really take advantage.

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senorcoo wrote:
I think that if the game was by a no-name designer and had a generic crime theme, it wouldn't be as highly-regarded as it is.


I disagree. I think probably the opposite and it would be more highly-regarded. One of the biggest complaints/disappointments from folks about the game is that it has zero Godfather theme. If it was a generic crime game, that takes care of one of the biggest complaints.

The fact that it was designed by a well-known designer puts a lot of attention on the game at release and expectations are high. If expectations aren't met on the first play, people are going to chime in with negative opinions. If it was a no-name designer, it wouldn't have gotten nearly as much attention. The attention it would get would be from people who are truly interested in it's mechanics and theme. It would be lesser known, probably not in the BGG hotness, but of the people who actually seek it out and play it, a higher percentage of them would probably regard it highly.

senorcoo wrote:
The mechanics are meh and the game can get super-swingy.


I see you played the game once (according to your logged plays). I can understand you judging the game this way after one play. Once all the players have a few plays under their belt and understand the nuances, the scores will be tighter, not so swingy.
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Jack Francisco
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Yup. Played it once. Didn't do anything for me and judging by its mechanics, it isn't going to do anything for me going forward. Meh. Rarely have I played a game that I didn't like multiple times where it's gotten better for me. Same the other way too. Usually, when I like it, I like it going forward too. This was like a different flavor of Blood Rage ice cream.
 
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Anthony Faber
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I completely agree on the production/price - too much for too little.

Having played it, the actual game is quite excellent in my opinion, and not as luck driven, in my view, as the OP claims. There's only a limited amount of modularity with the locations and allies, and there's few jobs and they're the same each game, so I'm not sure about the replayability. But it's a very good game.
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maxlongstreet wrote:
I completely agree on the production/price - too much for too little.

Having played it, the actual game is quite excellent in my opinion, and not as luck driven, in my view, as the OP claims. There's only a limited amount of modularity with the locations and allies, and there's few jobs and they're the same each game, so I'm not sure about the replayability. But it's a very good game.


I will certainly play this more. Maybe I am wrong about the luck factor. My opinion is based on experience so far. It may change. But I really find this discussion very hepfull for me. As a veteran gamer and as a new reviewer.
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Nicely written review. I kind of agree with your comments though I enjoyed the game; if the miniatures were replaced by tokens, my appreciation of it would certainly be lower.

I wonder if trying to stick to the theme robbed it of some other design aspects. I'd have liked an alternate map, for example, possibly set in Chicago or LA to change things up a bit. I think the game won't have my replayability.

The randomness of jobs made me wonder if letting a player do ANY job as long as he had the right cards would help it.

Wouldn't mind a few more plays, but don't see this game having a lot of replayability.
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Appreciate the review. I had a chance to play this at the weekly boardgame meetup last night. I really enjoyed the game but I thought there was a lot of down-time. We had four players and it clocked in at about 2.5 hours. There were a lot of reasons to like the game but it was just too much sitting for me.
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senorcoo wrote:
I think that if the game was by a no-name designer and had a generic crime theme, it wouldn't be as highly-regarded as it is.


Possibly, but I wasn't a huge fan of the movies and still liked the game.

Quote:
The mechanics are meh and the game can get super-swingy.


While I respect your opinions, I have to strongly disagree on this one.

My group enjoyed the blend of the mechanics. Personally I hate a game where someone gets an early lead due - in part - to good card draw, and runs away with the game before it reaches the half-way mark (and the rest of the players wait for the game to end). In our game, someone threatened to do that (and they still won) but, with a combination of the others trying to prevent this, some good play and luck on my part, we made it close.

That's not "super-swingy" IMHO - that's a game which isn't horribly unbalanced on the basis of very early fortune and good play completely negating later fortune good play.
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