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Subject: Renaissance Mayor of Paris rss

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Tiffany Smith
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In Notre Dame, you are essentially the Renaissance Mayor of a borough in Paris. You try to influence sectors of your borough to increase your prestige. The most prestigious person is the winner!

The bits in the box

Most of the components are pretty standard euro fair: cubes made of wood and cards. My favorite aspect of the components is the really cool modular board that varies based on the number of players. With five players it looks like a really neat starfish. The art is attractive, pleasant and fits the theme.

The cards and the board use an intuitive system of icons. There aren’t too many icons and they make a lot of sense, but if you are someone who doesn’t like icons, you may have to refer back to the rulebook a lot for the first few plays, which could be frustrating for people who find icons frustrating. I prefer icons to squinting at a bunch of text, so I like the icons, but I know that some people don’t like icons.

How does it play?

Notre Dame is divided into three eras; each era is divided into three turns. The turns begin when players draw three cards from their own personal decks and choose one that represents an action that they would like to take. They pass the cards they don’t want to the next player who will chose one and pass the final card to the next player (in a two player game they will pass the one that they don’t want back to the player who originally had it). Once each player has a hand of action cards, they pick two actions in turn that they would like to do in turn and put influence markers in the sectors of their district that allow the players to take those actions. Actions vary from getting more influence markers that can be sent out into your city in later turns, to reducing city plague, to taking prestige, or to getting money from the bank. The unique and rather neat aspect of placing these influence cubes is that for most sectors you will get N reward where N is the number of influence cubes you have in the sector. If you take the prestige point action by putting a cube into the residence when you already have two cubes there, you will get three points instead of just one. This leads to an interesting strategic choice between getting a lot of benefit out of one or two sectors while ignore other very important sectors or having a little investment in each sector. Deciding which sectors to ignore can be painful but fun.

One of the available action cards lets you influence Notre Dame, and it takes money to influence the church. At the end of each era, the people who influenced Notre Dame will split a victory point bonus amongst themselves. This is an important action because the bonus can be significant, especially if a lot of other players neglected to donate to the church.

After you play action cards and put influence markers into the various sectors, you will have the opportunity to buy one of three minions to help your borough flourish. (These are unimaginatively called person cards in the rules.) Two will appear again in later eras, but one is era specific, so you will only see it once in the game. Each minion will be seen either three times, once per era or one time during its specific era. In this way there is limited randomness. You know you will see all of the assistants, but you don’t know when to plan for them. After each person has had the opportunity to buy one, and only one assistant, the rats are scored. When you accumulate nine rat points, you are plagued which forces you to reduce the population in your borough and to return to prestige points.

Why do I rate this game a ten?

The multiple paths to victory and the ability to specialize in one or two areas of the city keeps the game diverse enough for many and repeated plays. While I do not play Notre Dame as much as I did when I first started gaming, I still find the varied victory paths satisfying to play. I also find the interaction in the hand drafting stage very enjoyable. It’s kind of like trying to guess which phases your opponent will select in Race for the Galaxy.

I also love games that ask you to make the most of limited options. At the beginning of the game, you might have a strategy that you wish to pursue, but based on the order that you draw your cards, that strategy might not be viable. Adapting a strategy out of limited options is so satisfying.

Because I’ve mostly played with two players, recently in a five player game I seriously under estimated the value of doing what your opponents aren’t doing. With two players, it’s often advantageous to do what the other player wants to be doing because by taking that action yourself, you are stopping your opponent from having the ability to take that action. But in a many player game, if you construct your strategy from the scraps and hand-me-downs of the other players, you can have a winning strategy. That’s another aspect of Notre Dame that I love. I have probably played at least fifty games and I can still be surprised by it.
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Dave Martin
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Still love it too, still my favourite game, we've probably played close to 125 times now. The best depth to playing time ratio of any game I know, IMHO.

I have to admit, though, that I now usually play much the same strategy now, just change the timing based on when the cards come. The player to your right can really only hold back 3 of 9 cards, thus leaving you enough options to complete your objectives (combined with the end of turn character cards).
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Tim Roberts
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Colwyn Bay
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Thanks for such a well constructed and succinct review Tiffany - it's one of the best I've read on this website for a while (please keep them coming).

I've been toying with purchasing this game for some time. You've definitely convinced me that getting it would be a good idea - I've always thought I'd make a good renaissance mayor.

Looking forward to more reviews.

Tim.
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Tiffany Smith
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Thanks for your kind words, Tim. This was my first review (I've since posted a couple more), so it's encouraging to hear that my review was useful.

As you can tell from the review, I highly recommend Notre Dame, and even though it was one of the first Euros I purchased, I still get a lot of value out of playing it. Just buy it.
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Michelle
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An excellent review. Thanks Tiffany.
I've gone back and forth over this game. You've made up my mind.
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Tiffany Smith
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Good! I do highly recommend Notre Dame because it's really a great game. It's the only game from my early Euro gaming days that I still play about once a month. I think the special abilities of the different minions you can purchase helps with the replayability as well as the passing of the cards between players. I love games where you have to work with what you've got.
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