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Subject: Will you make it on the Road to La Strada? rss

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Jim McMahon
United States
West Springfield
Massachusetts
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La Strada, by Martin Wallace, is a somewhat light boardgame where each player owns a northern Italian trading company. There are only so many cities that can provide income to the traders, so you will have to plan accordingly.

La Strada has a simple enough premise. Players set up their Workshop and build routes to various settlements and they get to share in the wealth of the settlement. The board consists of six pieces which form a large hex-shaped area. It is filled with smaller hexes which take the form of plains, forests, ot hills. The four types of settlements are distributed to pre-set locations. After setting up the board and the settlements (which is random, and should be different every time), the players take turns placing their workshop. They are then given only six resources each turn to use in placing roads. Placing a road on a Plains hex costs two resources, a forest costs three resources, and hills cost four. Any unused resources are carried over to the next turn, maxing out at ten. However, the roads placed in a turn must connect with another settlement that they have not already visited; building partial roads is not permitted. Roads also cannot cross over an already existing road, so strategic placing can cut off an opponent from accessing parts of the board. Once a road connects to a settlement, a colored merchant cube is placed on it. At the end of the game the cubes are totaled up according to the types of settlement and points are awarded.

This is a quick playing game. There is no luck involved beyond the random placement of the setup phase; everything else is decided by the players. Smaller settlements have fewer opportunities for a trader, so if one trader sets up in a small town, he will get all the money (2 gold). If two traders set up in that same town, they will share the gold (one each). If three or more traders set up on that small town, nobody gets anything. The larger the settlement, the more gold it has to offer. A city will give five gold to a single trader, four gold (each)to two traders, three gold (each) to three traders, and so on. Settlements with fewer traders on them will bring in more gold to those on them, so it becomes necessary to sometimes try to block off convenient access to the other players. This isn't always easy to do because when placing roads they must connect to another settlement. And spending too much time blocking off access to a good city will result in more of the other areas of the board becoming unavailable. There is a balance that must be considered.

La Strada does, at first glance, come across at Catan Lite because you are building roads on hexes with forests and mountains and settlements. I think that the similarity is only superficial. I never got that feeling while playing. This had a different strategic sense to it. The lack of dice means that you have to make the important decisions. Nothing can be blamed on rolling poorly.

The board and pieces are very nicely made and illustrated, though being a bit color blind I found that if different colors had been chosen, or more vibrantly painted or printed, that would have been easier. The colors used are black, gray, brown, and yellow, which aren't always easily distinguishable my my eyes. But that is really the only complaint I have about it. The game plays well and doesn't take forever to play. It is designed for two to four players (though a slightly different rules set is used for only two players) and a game is typically 30 to 45 minutes.

(Expanded from my original review at gatheringgamers.com here.)

Jim

Edit: Punctuation
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Guy Riessen
United States
Sebastopol
California
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Defintely not Catan light! This game is great and is one of the deeper fast-playing games around. For 3 players, it generally takes us just under 30 minutes to knock out a game--we get two finished in a lunch hour. And every placement is an excercise in painful choices--but you're always on the lookout for a route which benefits you and blocks your opponents. It must do both though, because there simply aren't enough moves until the very end game to waste any time solely blocking as that simply hands the game to the other player.

One of the most underrated games on the 'geek. I don't know what they naysayers are playing (unless it's just the as-written two-player game which is mostly broken) but it's not what we play!
 
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