Seeing as there are only a few other reviews out so far, I figured I’d note down my impressions after a couple of plays with the House of Renaissance expansion.
Prior to the expansion, I have played 7 games of Lorenzo - so while I am no expert, I feel like I know my way around the base game.
Lorenzo Il Magnifico is a great game! When I first played it, it immediately found a place in my top 10. Repeated plays has not diminished my admiration for the game, though I suspect the green cards to suffer from some minor balancing issues. It seems like green cards is the only viable strategy if you want to specialise in one specific type of card. Yellow is too dependant on other cards. This could of course be a result to group think, nonetheless it was an issue I was hoping would be addressed before my first play.
Introducing: House of Renaissance - bringer of fun!
The Fifth Tower
One of the general complaints I encountered when playing Lorenzo Il Magnifico was the lack of replayability. Every card would show up in each game, and the game would therefore appear to be very samey and predictable. I personally never saw much of an issue here, and would even argue that this predictability is one of the strengths of the game.
Complains regarding lack of replayability are addressed with the introduction of the new fifth tower. The new deck of special cards for the fifth tower consists of the existing four card types, but with an excess amount so that each game will see different cards. To ensure that the tightness from the base game is maintained when using the fifth tower, a new overlay modifier tile is added to a regular tower that will make every card more expensive. The modified prices have a surprisingly huge impact and force you to reconsider just how much you need certain cards.
The new cards are generally slightly stronger than those found in the regular towers and that makes them a lot of fun! The new bonuses on the cards offer something for any imaginable strategy. Whether you invest into a green/yellow engine or are looking for some cool blue or purple cards, they will have something for you! Most importantly, even though they are stronger than the regular cards they never feel overpowered or out-of-place. Their power level is better, but, perhaps, require the right circumstances to reach full potential. As a result, the fifth tower doesn't become overly contested, leaving the regular towers to dust - surprisingly, despite the stronger cards, the fifth tower never felt imbalanced or required to win.
One of the things that made the base game excellent was the cool stuff you could get from leaders. In the expansion, leaders are even more present due to certain cards that allow you to draw more leaders or grant you rewards when playing leaders. I especially like the few cards that allow you to freely play a leader regardless of requirements. While these cards are powerful, you're never sure that they will actually appear in the game.
The new cards allow for some totally new combos and strategies that weren't possible in the base game! Furthermore, because the fifth tower doesn’t introduce a new type of card, but only offer existing card types, it feels more like an extension to the regular towers than an expansion intruding the feel from the base game. It adds variation to the game without diminishing the predictability.
My biggest fear before diving into the House of Renaissance was the new special tokens. They are tokens with random rewards ranging from extra resources and religion to enabling you to grab a card from a specific row (with the power of 0). They are often very helpful to reach certain requirements for leaders. This randomness seemed unnecessary to me - and to an extent, perhaps, still do - but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. If you want to ignore them that is totally possible and not necessarily a bad strategy. Oppositely, they can become a key part of your strategy if you wish to. Outside their immediate reward they can also be kept and used to pay for certain actions (reducing the chance of getting one without being able to use it at all). While they are arguably the most random aspect of the expansion, the randomness is negligible and doesn’t disrupt the otherwise ‘in-put randomness’ experience in the game.
The new leaders are also a nice addition, doubling the total amount of leaders. They are interesting and have new cool effects and requirements - most notably the “have at most X of a certain type of card/money/servants”-requirement.
It’s a fun twist and definitely forces you to plan carefully in order to play some of the leaders. The expansion does more than just add leaders, though - the leaders have more of a presence in the game. In part because some of them will reward you with new actions, but they generally seem to make a bigger impact. Likely because it on average seems like there are more leaders played per game. It’s a nice change.
The only complaint I have is that the leader reference sheet still isn’t sorted alphabetically - I just don’t understand the logic behind it.
Finally, perhaps the most impactful new feature is the family abilities. During setup, each player bids for a family, each with their own unique ability. Some of them drastically change what you can do on your turn while others provide certain bonuses when you meet specific requirements - and they are all very fun (at least the 6 that saw play in our games). They, too, enables new combos and ways to play the game.
During the auction you'll be bidding with starting resources, resulting in radically different starts for each player (which in turn also forces players to prioritise differently from the start). Very quickly you’ll learn if you overpaid for a family, because you'll soon realise how detrimental it is to be lacking some key resources early on in the game.
All in all everything in this expansion is great - it elegantly integrates with the base game without adding much (if any) complexity. I will never not use the expansion regardless of whether I’m playing new or experienced players.
The expansion not only offers some neat new tricks, but it completely changes how you can play the game. Green is still a great strategy to pursue, but because of everything in here, the doors have been blown right open. I am still just a novice with this expansion and I very much look forward to experimenting with all the new possibilities.
Great expansions are often referred to as "must haves" or even necessary in order to appreciate the base game. This expansion is not that - not because the expansion doesn't deliver, but because the base game is an excellent game on its own. An outstanding expansion for an already great game!
HOWEVER, if you're a fan of Lorenzo Il Magnifico, or even just someone who has been wanting slightly more than what was offered in the base game, you owe it to yourself to get this expansion. It is definitely one of the best expansions I have played.