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Subject: Social climbing in the 14th Century rss

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Ziegreich
New Zealand
Auckland
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Siena has become something of a cause for me. So when there were five of us last night and only two games available that would take five players (Antike and Siena) and with us having played Antike at our last get-together, I took the opportunity to not-so-subtly suggest we try Siena.

I normally introduce this game with a number of caveats, but the more I play it, the less appropriate they seem. Yes, Siena isn’t very highly rated on BGG and yes, it has some less than elegant aspects, but actually gameplay is quite quick, easy to grasp once you see it in action, and very engrossing.

Only two of us had played before, so the explanation took some time. I’ve found it best to leave the descriptions for non-production cards to when they actually appear in the game.

The start to this game is always rocky, as nobody knows what anything is worth during the opening auction. This auction really is just a mechanism for getting people to have different wealth levels, so after a few quick purchases, one can safely shuffle the remaining cards back into the deck to be bought later.

Alistair, who had played before and knows that there are lots of points to be earned as a Merchant, got off to a flying start, moving up to Merchant status on turn two or three already. He made hay while the sun shone, collecting florins and points by himself. (It's always good to be the only Peasant or Merchant in this game, as others help produce goods only you can sell.) Garth followed Alistair after a few turns.

This left Anaise, Alyona and myself fighting over the Peasant reserves, with the interesting dilemma that the only way to leave this bunfight was to join the one among the Merchants, who’d then have three players competing. I was the one who budged first. This made things tight among the Merchants, but both Alistair and I managed to pick up Senesi cards fairly regularly.

As a Peasant, Alyona use the Via Francigena card very effectively, earning over 60 florins in one particular turn. She then joined the Merchants too, leaving Anaise to rake in big bucks as the only remaining Peasant. There were so many goods, she couldn’t sell them all. Using the Mule, Anaise was also earning more than 60 florins on some turns, raising her total wealth to over 300 florins.

While all this was going on, the Inn was getting pretty crowded with pretty, professional girls - nine of them. So we were all scared of becoming the first Banker, eyeing the remaining turns nervously. (We were playing the version limited to 20 turns, which works very well.)

Finally Anaise, who was stinking rich, took the plunge. She skipped quickly through the Merchant stage and announced she’d become a Banker. I joined her a turn later, confident that Anaise would always be at least one step in front of me and thus will have to take care of the Courtesans before I get to the Inn... Well, lo and behold, she pulls out the Girlfriends card and walks blithely past the Inn, leaving me to pick up the tab for 90 florins! (ButI guess I'd at least had a good, though exhausting, time.)

With the Inn cleared, everyone else became Bankers within two or three turns. Still, Anaise managed to gain her two Senesi cards by donating to the Church and build the first two levels of the Tower before anyone else. She and Garth got into a titanic Artist auction. Only they knew who the Artist was, but it was clearly a goodie (7 points, it turned out). Anaise ended up paying over 100 florins for it, putting an end to her excessive wealth.

Garth got his revenge very late in the game, pulling such a disappointed face when he revealed the Artist he was auctioning that we all fell for it, and he managed to pick up the 6-point Artist for next to nothing.

By turn 20, the game had run its course. There were only two Senesi cards left, both low-value previously discarded cards and the Tower was on its sixth level. Alistair, Garth and I had done all we could by this stage. Anaise had one last dirty trick up her sleeve, sending the Beggar to accost Alistair in the Church, making him fork out 20 florins and reducing him to the poorest player.

Alyona, who was now the richest by far, made a perfectly timed late run, building the last two levels of the tower on two consecutive turns by speeding around the town using the otherwise rather useless Guards card for its 8 movement points.

The game should’ve ended immediately the Tower was finished, but we forgot the rule and had one more player go, which netted Alyona an extra Artist. Though this only gave her one point, it was enough to place her equal first, and as ties go to the person who has built the highest level of the Tower, Alyona won the game.

If we had played the rules correctly, there would’ve been another winner, but I doubt anyone cared much, as it was such good fun anyway.

Besides, it was a very close run thing. Alistair was the poorest, losing him 2 points, but had collected 22 VP, so ended up on 48. (If you wonder how -2 + 22 = 48, ask the designer why scoring starts at 28 rather than 0 or 2.) Alyona was the richest, gaining her 2 points, but only had 18 other points, so also ended on 48. Garth and I both had 20 points, taking us from 28 to 48 too! Anaise had 19 points, taking her to 47. So... four players on 48 and one on 47. How much closer can a game be?

I have declared my bias upfront, so take this with a pinch of salt if you like, but I had pure unmitigated fun playing this game. When do we play again?
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nathan hayden
United States
Littleton
Colorado
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I love Siena. Great to see others do too. One of my favs. I think this game will probably be more appreciated in the future. There is no other game like it, it's very thematic, a heavier economic game and not really a euro. Sometimes in the gaming world, games can resemble other games, but if players are looking for a unique experience and like the theme, they're sure to enjoy Siena. I think this will always have it's own little cult following.
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Alyona Katkova
New Zealand
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I think the game was great! laugh especially taking into consideration that I won, by some mirracle.whistle
 
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Ron Lacer
United States
Cobalt
Connecticut
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Great session report! I've only played Siena twice so far, two players each time, but already like it quite a bit. I look forward to trying it with more players, sounds like it'll be even better
 
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