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Subject: [DriveThruRedux] #2: Famiglia Revisited rss

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Joel Eddy
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This is the second in a series of written reviews to counter balance my Video Review Series. Starting with my 50th Video Review, I will also go back and re-review a game that I originally reviewed "50 videos ago". Hopefully, I can include insights I've learned from playing the game after having reviewed it once already, as well as check back in with the game to see if it's still fresh after time has passed.



Component Quality:
There are not a lot to the components per se. It's just a deck of cards. The cards are a "funky" length, but I like the feel of them. They are easy to shuffle without being too flimsy. However, I do reccomend getting sleeves for this game. Most of the time I just sleeve Deckbuilding games where you are shuffling every five seconds. But, if you purchase the game you will play it... A LOT. So, I vote for sleeves.

The art and graphic design is done by Maura Kalusky and Fr├ęderic Bertrand, who seem to participate in every Friedemann Friese game. That's a good thing. All of the cards depict various "gangster-looking" characters in a cartoonish manner. The art is very well done and the overall design of the cards, including the iconography, is very streamlined and well thought out. Each of the four different groups of gangsters are depicted uniquely, so there is a real cohesion to the different groups.

A fun little "Easter Egg" in the game is pictured below. You can arrange all of the cards included with the game to form one gigantic image of a street scene with all of the gangsters in the game. It's a puzzle and a game! (There are several other "Easter Eggs" in the game. I will leave it to the reader to find them... or "Google" them).


(image by toob)

There are sixty cards in the game grouped into four colors. So, fifteen cards in each color. Each group of fifteen is made up of five levels of gangsters, ranging from level zero to level four. There is only one level four gangster in each color, and there are five level zero gangsters in each color. All the levels in between are scaled in such a way so that it resembles a pyramid-like structure.


(image by EndersGame)

Gameplay Impressions:
Guess what? This is a Deckbuilding game! What is the difference between this game and a traditional Deckbuilding game like Dominion... or any of them really? You have access to every card in your "deck" at all times. Player's are going to start off with the exact same hand of four cards, one level zero gangster in each of the four colors. Starting with this basic hand, player's will use the various abilities unique to each group of gangsters to acquire higher and higher levels of gangsters into their "deck". After going through the draw deck twice, the game ends and the player with the most points worth of gangsters is the winner!

Once each player has their starting hand ready, deal out six cards off the top of the main draw deck.


(image by MarcelP)

The player's now have two basic choices on their turn. They may try and acquire a card or discard a card from this row of six cards.

Acquiring Cards

To acquire a card you need two cards matching the color of the card you are trying to acquire. However! Those cards must both be one level underneath the card you are trying to acquire. For example, to acquire a level two yellow gangster card, you would need to play two level one yellow gangster cards. A level zero gangster can always be taken for "free" (without playing any cards). You will spend you first few turns only acquiring level zero gangsters until you can start to acquire level one or higher cards.

When you acquire a card, you will take it directly into your hand, but you must place one of the two cards used to acquire the new card face-up in front of you. You are still considered to own the card you place in front of you, but you can't use it for it's abilities or acquiring new cards... at least for now.

"That seems pretty simple!", I hear you say. Well, it is. But here's where the fun begins. Each of the different colors of gangster has a different ability that you can use to cheat the basic rule of acquiring cards. Well, except for the red gangsters. The red gangsters are relatively powerless in this regard. However, the red gangsters are worth more points than their counterparts. The number of points the cards are worth is shown in the bottom center of the card.

Special Gangster Abilities

***
(images by EndersGame)

Let me quickly go over each of the three different "gangster abilities" in the game.

When you use a card directly for its ability, you will place it face-up in front of you along with any cards you already have in front of you. Notice the level one and level two yellow gangsters pictured above. The icon in the upper-middle (between their level) represents their ability. All of the gangsters of a given color (except for the lazy red gangsters of course) have the same ability, just in different levels of strength and effectiveness.

The yellow gangsters are considered the Brutes in the world of Famiglia. They will use direct violence (a baseball bat apparently) to influence other gangsters to join your crew. When you play a yellow gangster, you announce, as your target, one of the gangsters in the center row of cards. That gangster's level is then decreased by the amount shown on the card you played. You can then play gangsters like you would normally to acquire the gangster you "smashed", but X number of levels lower than you would have if you had not whacked them over the head with a baseball bat. If you reduce a gangster's level to zero, you can just take it for "free"!

Green gangsters are considered the Mercenaries. The designer of the game is quoted as saying, "They will do anything for money!" These cards basically act as a wild card. The icon in the middle of their card shows what level(s) they can be substituted for. For example, a level two green gangster can be used when acquiring a level zero OR a level one gangster of ANY color. However, you can't use two green gangsters as wilds to acquire a new card. You still need at least one legitimate card of the matching color to use along with the "wild" green gangster.

Finally, the blue gangsters are known as the Accountants. Their power is a bit trickier but one that needs to be used in an optimal manner if players want to win a game of Famiglia. When you play a blue gangster for its power, you may discard cards up to the number depicted in the center icon of the card (that little finger thingy). By discard, I mean place in front of you along with any other gangsters you may have played earlier. You may then bring BACK into your hand any number of cards equal to the number of cards you discarded. This is vital to reusing powers that were used earlier in the game.

So, here's where the fun kicks in! You can play each of these actions once before acquiring a card in the center row. You first have the opportunity to play a blue gangster to retrieve already spent cards. Then you may play a yellow card to knock a gangster down a couple of notches. Finally, you can send along one of your green Mercenaries to help out on the acquisition!

Discarding Cards ("Burning")

If a player chooses to discard a card from the row of cards, they simply discard it and then draw cards out equal to the level of the discarded card. So, if you discard a level four gangster, you would then draw out four cards and place them with the rest of the face-up cards. There is no limit to the amount of cards that can be available in the center row. You may only choose to discard a gangster card if there are no level zero cards present on the table. If there is a level zero card face-up you MUST acquire a card. You don't have to take the level zero. If you can legally take another card, all the better for you. However, those level zero gangsters are the foundation of a solid deck, so don't ignore them.

The are a couple of things that a player will need to consider when discarding cards. What types of cards have already been acquired by both themselves and their opponent? Has your opponent been raking in the yellow gangsters? It's probably a good idea to discard that level three yellow then! Do you want to reveal a ton of cards to give yourself more options to choose from? Be careful, as that will also reveal more options for your opponent! The first time through the draw deck, a player may discard cards as many times on their turn as they wish... as long as there are no level zeroes in play. Once a player acquires a new gangster (or passes) then their turn is over. The second time through the draw deck you are only allowed to discard a gangster once per turn, after which you must acquire a gangster or pass.

Passing (for strategy?)

There is actually a third option on your turn. And, that is is to pass. Big deal right? Every game has this! Well, if both players pass in a row, then the game ends immediately! This gives you a bit of fun at the end of the game, and makes it feasible to try and set your opponent up to pass, and then if you think you have the upper hand on points, you may pass as well, ending the game. This does not come into play very often, but it's there. And, it's an aspect of the game that I appreciate.

Was It Fun?
This game was a wonder to me the first several times I played it. It's fun to discover little tricks you can do to beat the basic constraints of the rules. However, this game can be unforgiving, and I love it for that. If you neglect the blue gangsters, you will be especially hurt later in the game, as you won't have the cards available to acquire new gangsters. This happened to me a lot when I first started playing. And, you might also be tempted to skip up levels and get gangsters before you should truthfully be worried about acquiring them. Well, don't do it! This is another way that you can get yourself locked out from acquiring gangsters at a steady pace.

The game has a wonderful sense of timing that rises out of the simple game play. A good player will usually always beat an inexperienced player at this game. A good player will know when to discard, what to discard, what to acquire, and when to acquire it.

Is It Still Fun?
This game is still extremely fun every time I play it. It's a quick game that can easily be finished in twenty minutes by experienced players. However, this game does not seem to go over with non-gamers very well at all. I don't think that's necessarily a fault of the game. It's just a fact of life. Every non-gamer I tried this with was a bit flat on the whole experience. I think that one needs to have some experience with Deckbuilding or other "combo-rific" card games before trying this one. Some people just didn't seem to get it. Such is life I guess.

I think one reason that newer players haven't liked it is because the flow of the game is very subtle. The start of the game can almost feel automatic, and it is to some extent. New players are usually just focused on grabbing every card that's higher than the cards they already have. It's not as exciting to just grab a level zero card every time they come up. But that's not the key to setting up a winning strategy early on. They key is discarding all of the stuff that's going to help your opponent, while still nabbing some cards for yourself to use later on! Get that stuff out of there!

This game can be very confrontational, and that's one of the aspects that makes it stand out for me. A lot of the two-player "little box" card games are very tame affairs. This one is not. But, it's also not just a "Haha, I screwed you over!" type of game either. Everything needs to be done in a calculating manner. But, I don't think it's a huge brain burner either. It hits just the right spot for an intense, head-to-head, twenty minute battle! Superb!


(image by MarcelP)

Conclusion & Rating: (9.0/10.0)
I rate this game very highly! It's one of the most interesting and replayable two-player card games in print today! This is one of those awesomely tactical games that still retains a fair amount of depth after multiple plays. I've seen some "complaints" that certain cards are overpowered. I say that all of the cards are overpowered! Each game plays out slightly differently. I've seen someone just wreck an opponent (me) through gobbling up all the yellow cards, after I foolishly ignored them all together. Find yourself someone you can play this with so that both of you can get good at the game, and you will truly find a gem of a game here.

"Dominion Killer":
I originally sub-titled the Video Review as "Dominion Killer". Why? Plain and simple. This is a Deckbuilding game, but without the shuffling and overwrought card abilities! Obviously, I don't honestly think the two games compete in any sense. However, I think the two games can inform each other. With Famiglia you have a real sense of direct conflict, while retaining the very best aspect of a good Deckbuilding game: Building fun combos! But, through discarding the center row, you can directly affect your opponent's ability to have access to those combos! Which is something that is missing from several (but not all) of your traditional Deckbuilding games. This game gives me a proximity to that same "Deckbuilding" experience while skipping out on the infinite expansion bandwagon!


If you enjoyed this written review, please feel free to check out the Video Review counterpart.

For other revisit/reviews check out my Geeklist of written reviews.
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Mark Johnston
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Great review! I had my eye on this one a while ago then kind of just forgot about it. This is back on my wish list now though. I have been loving court of the medici (which I also bought due to your review). Keep up the great work!
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Simon Worger
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Really enjoy watching and reading your reviews, keep up the good work thumbsup Only trouble is I keep buying games afer watching them

Have you sleeved your copy ? what size sleeves have you used ?

Thanks.
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Aaron Cinzori
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Nice review.

I believe you made one small error in your description of the green cards. You say, "For example, a level two green gangster can be used when acquiring a level zero OR a level one gangster of ANY color." Instead, I think you should say, "For example, a level two green gangster can be used as a level zero OR a level one gangster of ANY color."
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Andy Andersen
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Excellent thumbsup. In addition to buying the games you review on video I now have to pay good money for the ink and paper I need to print this off for reference.
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Joel Eddy
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s1mon wrote:
Really enjoy watching and reading your reviews, keep up the good work thumbsup Only trouble is I keep buying games afer watching them

Have you sleeved your copy ? what size sleeves have you used ?

Thanks.


Here's a discussion on sleeving this game... http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6970412#6970412
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Simon Skov
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I really liked this game to begin with, but now that my girlfriend and I have grown more competent at it, a lot of our plays ended up being very unfulfilling. Whoever got momentum at the start would viciously discard cards, denying the other player opportunities, and leaving them with few, if any, decisions to make.
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Joel Eddy
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nom_ wrote:
I really liked this game to begin with, but now that my girlfriend and I have grown more competent at it, a lot of our plays ended up being very unfulfilling. Whoever got momentum at the start would viciously discard cards, denying the other player opportunities, and leaving them with few, if any, decisions to make.


Mmm... I've had a few games like that but very little. Just depends on how the zeroes fall out. Both players should have opportunity to deny cards though. Especially early on.

I think you can still see large victories on occasion, just not that often.
 
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