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The Palaces of Carrara» Forums » Reviews

Subject: initial 2 player review rss

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Hornless Unicorn
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And another 100GG on this
I just spent 100GG on this
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Never heard of this game until I saw it of the spiel des jahres list. I really liked the previous SdJ winners(Village and 7 Wonders) and decided to buy this. This is a quick review after playing the game several times.

"Meh"..building buildings in the 6 major cities of Carrara, the king will judge your work and the best builder wins. I really wished they would have chosen a different theme, but hey, the theme is not the selling point here.

Good quality, nice illustrations. A small complain I had was with the wooden objects. They are all in one color and it can be a little hard to find the right shape in a cluttered pile. You need to sort them.

Great 10/10. Very good rule book. Everything is clearly explained, and a lot of examples are provided. The rulebook is nicely structured and is very easy to reference. The layout reminded me of Village's rule book.

Rules and Mechanics:
This is where it gets interesting. On a player's turn he can take on of the following 3 actions:
1) Buy marble(6 types in total) from the market wheel. Before a player buys anything, he can rotate the wheel 1 sector making all marble cheaper(and some even become free). He can then buy as many marble pieces as are available from one sector of his choosing.

2) Build a building(6 types in total) in a city(again 6 different cities). In order to build the player must choose a building out of the available 9 buildings and pay as many marble pieces as it's cost. The neat part is that some cities only accept certain types of marble: you can use any marble in the "cheapest" city, while in the "richest" city you can only use 1! marble type(out of the 6 available)

3) Score a city or feature. Each player can choose to call the king to grade his work. The player may choose a city or a building type(eg: cathedral or castle) and score that many victory points, gold or objects.
Gold an victory points are scored by multiplying the building cost with the city's modifier. Example: building a 3 cost building in a x3VP multiplier city will score you 9VP while the same building in a X1$ multiplier will earn you 3$. You also get the building's object regardless of where you scored the building. You however only get the building's object if there are any remaining.
There are some additional scoring restrictions: you cannot score a city if it was already scored and you can only score 6 times total. You can however score a feature(castle, cathedral, biblioteca, arch, etc) even if your opponent scored it before.

The game ends when one player can simultaneously complete the 3 random objectives given by the scenario.

As you can see the rules are simple, and the rule book makes a way better job of explaining them

Feel of the game:
For us the game felt like a mix between Race for the Galaxy, Ticket to Ride and an auction game. The game definitely has a race game feel, as you are trying to score cities and complete the objectives before your opponent, making the best of the buildings and marble pieces on offer.

The auction twist is given by the buying action. You are constantly evaluating the value of the market sections relative to your and your opponent's needs. Lowering the prices too many times might get you the marble you need, but it will also give your opponent a bargain.

Once you stockpiled on the marble you needed, it's time to claim buildings in different cities. This part can get VERY tense, as you are trying to get the right cost buildings with the right objects in the right cities, before your opponent dose. This part is heavily influenced by what objectives were chosen for the game. Different objective combination can drastically change the game's pacing.

Weight and depth:
The game is light on the rules, comparable to Ticket to Ride, and it can be pretty deep(comparable to Race for the Galaxy)

Strategy and Tactics:
The rule book describes it as a "tactical and strategic game", and I would agree to that. You need a good strategy to win, however you might change that during the game, depending on what buildings and marble types are available.
The strategy should be tailored to the objective cards.

Luck and Skill:
There is a good dose of luck in the game, but I would say it's mostly skill. The first time I played I lost at a 50 VP distance, the second time at only a 20 VP and so on. Each game teaches you something and there are some "I should have done this instead of that, let's play again" moments.

Objective cards:
I think they deserve a special section since they have a huge impact on the game.
There are 3 end game scoring cards:
* One involving scoring of some type, or the cost of the buildings
* One involving collection of sets of objects
* One involving building certain type of building is certain cities
And 1 end game bonus card:
* Involving some sort of area majority in cities

One game we plaid had the "score 4 times", "have 3 pairs of objects" and "have 4 buildings in one city" objectives. That led to a ultra fast game(ended in 15 mins) where we both build is the "cheapest" cities, and build the cheapest buildings.
Another game we had the "have 30 coins", "collect a pair and a quadruplet of objects" and "have 6 city buildings" objectives. It was like a total different game, much more analytical and with a clear early middle and end game phase.

Replay value:

There is a simpler family variant which excludes some rules. You could easily play that with non-gamers, but the full rules leads to a much richer game.
Regarding the player count, I only played with 2 and I think it might be best with 2. The 2 player game can get very cut-throat. Might be ok with 3, but i think it will get too chaotic with 4.

Final thoughts:
The game plays fast, the mechanics are tight and the games are rewarding. You get to look at the board and have a sense of accomplishment.
I liked this game and I think I will like it more the more we play it. Repeated plays definitely lead to a better play experience as there are nuances you will discover.
Compared to the other SdJ games, I like Village the best but this is a close second and a worthy SdJ nominee.

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Tyler DeLisle
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Nice, concise review!

This game looks a little on the dull side, though the market wheel looks great. But the main things I look for in a game are, *Short rules, easy to get into, *Depth and variety of strategies, which leads to *Lots of re-playability.

You claim this game has all of these, so I'll have to keep an eye out for it. Thanks!
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Andrew Parsons
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I had the pleasure of playing this game on a few occasions with both 3 and 4 players. I should mention that the game with 3 and 4 is by no means chaotic, but the 4 player game tends to go through the buildings quicker and the competition for good buildings is tough. I think this game has the perfect weight to it; the rules are not too complicated, but the strategies you develop for winning can vary greatly. I have a love/hate relationship with the game end mechanics as I have been ready to score 30 points on a turn using a scoring action, but the player right before me ended the game by completing the objectives (and was the last player in the round). It makes the game very tense and as the OP said, the game can blast right by or take a long time (which is awesome). I would recommend this game all the way.
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Sheldon Smith
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Hello Tyler,

Definitely look out for this one! It's not dull at all... in fact, it's quite the opposite. Because the game plays quickly (and because you must keep a close eye on your opponents) this game is a tense nail-biting experience from start to finish. It has great depth to complexity ratio as well.
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