Reviewed by: Marty Goldberger
(Rio Grande Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, 100+ minutes; $64.95)
It is said that “All roads lead to Rome”. In Concordia, the latest design from Mac Gerdts (creator of such gems as Imperial and Navegedor), the roads lead FROM Rome. In this game, an excellent melding of deck-building and production/territory acquisition, players are vying to score the most Victory Points and have a plethora of strategies open to them. Starting with the same set of cards, all players will add cards to these and control their own deck.
The Game Board is double-sided with most of each side taken up by a map with a scoring track along the outer edges of each board. Unusually, the two sides are not number-of-players exclusive. The “Italy” side may be used by 2-4 players. It has twenty-five ready to be colonized Cities (+ Roma) distributed among eleven Provinces while the “Roman Empire” side handles 3-5 players with its thirty ready to be colonized Cities (+ Roma) distributed among twelve Provinces. (Provinces are numbered.)
The board also has two active sections: Production on the left and a Display area on the right. Finally, there is a “Pantheon” chart listing the maximum number of cards that a player might acquire during the game (depending upon the number of players) associated with each of the four gods of major scoring importance in the game.
During the initial set-up, each City is randomly assigned a “Goods” token from among the set designated for that City. There are five types of Goods. In order from cheapest and most common to most rare and expensive, they are Brick, Food, Tools, Wine and Cloth.
After Goods tokens have been assigned to the Cities, Bonus markers are placed (Goods side face up) in each Province in the Production section of the board. These indicate the most valuable type of Good available in each Province.
Set-up continues with the seven slots in the Display area filled with Personality cards available for purchase. All slots are filled regardless of the number of players. The thirty purchasable Personality cards are separated into their appropriate decks by the Roman Numerals (I through V) on the backs. Cards with a numeral greater than the number of players are removed from the game. Each numbered group is shuffled separately and stacked to make a “Sale” deck with the largest number on the bottom and the I on top. Seven cards are then dealt left-to-right (least extra cost to most additional cost) into the slots in the Display area. Remaining cards in the Sale deck are stacked near the Display.
Each player chooses a color, taking all pieces of that color (wooden meeples representing colonists and ships), a “Storehouse”, their initial seven Personality cards, and a Concordia card (one side summarizing scoring, the other the cost to build a City). Scoring markers begin on the “Zero” VP value of the scoring track (and ignore them, you won’t need them again until game end). On Roma, one wooden Land (“meeple”) and one wooden Sea Colonist (“ship”) are placed.
Across the top of each personal Storehouse board, there is a “conversion chart” showing the value and cost of the five types of Goods. (“Cost” is the cost to buy any Good; the amount of money received from selling a Good never changes.) Each Storehouse has twelve storage spaces available. Players place their remaining two Land and two Sea Colonist pieces into four of those spaces. Six more spaces are filled with the players’ starting supply of two Food and one each of the Brick, Tools, Wine and Cloth Goods. This initial distribution leaves a player with just two empty storage spaces.
The Start player is randomly determined. Players then receive funds with the Start player getting five coins and the other players each receiving one more “sestertii” than the previous person. The “Praefectus Magnus” card is given to the person last in turn order. And now, the game proper begins.
Game flow is simple: Play one card from your hand onto the top of your personal discard stack (so only that top card is visible) and execute the related action(s). The nine types of Personality cards (counting the five Specialists as one type) are the heart of the game.
Each Personality card has four fields. From top to bottom, they are: Title, Action(s) available when played, Basic cost (blank on your initial seven cards), and Victory Points generated at final scoring (aka “god association”).
All players start with the same deck of seven Personality cards. (You may own multiples of the same Personality.) All cards are available to be used but once a card is played, that card remains unavailable for use by that player until it has been “recovered”. The player’s initial Personality cards are:
- “Tribune” – Take one sestertii from the bank for each card (whether from your initial deck or acquired later) over three in your played Personality cards stack. Then take all of those cards back into your hand. In addition, you may build one Colonist (Land or Sea) for one Food & one Tools. Place that new Colonist piece on Roma.
- “Mercator” – The player receives three sestertii from the bank. The player may then trade in up to two types of Goods. That is, you might buy 3 Bricks and sell 2 Cloth. (Mercator Personality cards purchased from the Display award a player five sestertii but are still limited to trades in just two types of Good.)
- “Architect” – You may move any or all of your Colonist pieces. The total number of movement points is equal to the total number of Colonist pieces you have on the board. (Minimum 2, maximum 6.) Once a Colonist is moved off its starting City, it must be moved along an appropriate path (Land or Sea). A Colonist being moved from its initial placement expends 1 movement point by being placed on an adjacent path (where it may stop movement). All further movement by that piece is through Cities and ending on an appropriate path. A Colonist may move along a path occupied by another Colonist piece (your own or another player’s) but may not end movement on that path. After a player has completed all movement, Houses may be built in Cities adjacent to any of her/his Colonists (regardless of whether or not that piece was moved). Players may not build more than one of their Houses in each City and may never build in Roma. A house costs one or two Goods plus coins. (Specifically, a house costs only one Food in a Brick City while, for the other four types, the cost is 1 Brick plus one of that good type.) The cost in coins is a multiple of the number of Houses that will now occupy that City.
- “Prefect” (Each players starts with two of this Personality card.) – This card affects the status of the Bonus markers in the Production section. The player must select either Cash or Goods. If Cash, total the coins shown on the backs of all Bonus markers (one coin if the opposite side is a ‘Cloth’, two coins if the opposite side is any other Good) and take that amount from the bank, flipping all of those Bonus markers to their Goods side. (Ownership of the “Praefectus Magnus” card has no effect if taking cash.) If Goods, name a specific Province in the Production section with a Bonus marker displaying a Good. Take one Good of the type displayed. If the player owns the “Praefectus Magnus” card, he/she can take a second Good of thattype and then pass the card to the player on the right. Flip that Bonus marker to its Coin(s) side. The two or three Cities in that Province now produce. Every player with a House in that Province receives one Good of the appropriate type(s). Because City tokens are assigned randomly, a Province may produce up three different types of Goods or produce the same Good in all of its (2 or 3) Cities. It is possible (especially in the early part of the game) the player that played the Prefect will receive no additional Goods from Production while another player receives 3 Goods.
- “Senator” – You may purchase up to two Personality cards from the Display area. The cost is the Good(s) indicated in the red field of the card (just above the associated god) plus the Good(s) depicted beneath that slot. A question mark (“?”) means the player may use any Good from his/her Storehouse. (Cards are cheapest at the left of the row, increasing in cost as you move to the right.) Place the card(s) into your hand and NOT onto your played stack. (These cards are available for use at your next turn.) After a purchase, Personality cards in the Display are shifted to the left to fill empty slots. Then empty slots on the right (6th first) are filled with cards from the purchase stack. (Note: There is a typo on the Diplomat card in Deck IV in the first edition of the game. The basic cost of that card is Tools, correctly depicted in the symbol on its red stripe, not the text “Food” printed on the stripe.)
- “Diplomat” – The most flexible Personality card in your hand. It duplicates the top (face up) card (except for another Diplomat or a Tribune) in any OTHER player’s discard pile.
The following three Personalities appear only in the Sale deck:
- “Colonist” – The player selects money or adds new Colonists. If money, take 5 coins plus 1 coin for each of your Colonists (Land or Sea) on the board. If adding Colonists, then for each new piece pay one Food & one Tool and place on Roma or any City in which you have a house.
- “Consul” – You may purchase one Personality card from the Display area, the cost is just that of the Good(s) indicated in the red field of the card. (Ignore the Goods depicted below that slot.) As with the Senator, place the card into your hand, NOT onto your played stack. After the purchase, slide Personality cards in the Display to the left to fill empty slots and refill the Display.
- “Specialists” – There is one each of Mason, Farmer, Smith, Vintner and Weaver Personality cards. All of that player’s houses produce one unit of the related type of Good (Brick, Food, Tools, Wine, Cloth). Other players do not receive anything, even if in the same City.
The game ends when a player’s 15th house is placed or the last Personality card is purchased. That player is awarded the 7 VP bonus “Concordia” card and all other players execute their final card play. Then Victory points are tallied.
All Personality cards return into your hand. Each player determines his/her base Victory Point score for a god, then multiply by the number of Personality cards owned that are associated with that god. (Read your VP stripes carefully. Do not presume that all cards of a personality type are linked to the same god!) And the gods are:
- “Vesta” – Your initial Senator card is the only instance a player will have of this god. Sell any remaining Goods in your storehouse for cash, adding that money to the coins you already had on hand. Score 1 Victory Point for every ten sestterii (rounded down).
- “Jupiter” (all Architect and Consul cards and your initial Diplomat card) – 1 VP for each house in a non-Brick City with a maximum 15 VP/card. (For example, a player has seven houses in non-Brick cities, one Architect card and two Consul cards. That player scores 21 VPs for Jupiter.)
- “Saturnas” (all Prefect and two Diplomat cards) – 1 VP for each Province with a house in any of its Cities. (Maximum of 11 or 12 VP/card, depending on which game board in play.)
- “Mercurius” (all Mercator and one Diplomat cards) – 2 VP for each type of Goods produced by the Cities you have houses in. (Maximum 10 VP/card.)
- “Mars” (all Colonist cards, your initial Tribune card and one of the Diplomat cards) – 2 VP for each Colonist on the board (maximum 12 VP/card.)
- “Minerva” (the five Specialist cards) – For each house in a City producing that type of Good, score the VPs listed on the Specialist card. (3 for Mason, Farmer and Smith, 4 for Vintner and 5 for Weaver. The maximum VP for each Specialist depends on which map is in play.)
The player who has amassed the highest combined total of Victory Points is the winner!
Playing a card in tempo is a courtesy to the others in the game. Repeated analysis paralysis resulting in “Big Paws” when it is your turn really slows the game. As a corollary, trying to quickly analyze your position can lead to unfortunate mistakes. A player is almost certain to kick him/herself at some point during a game for having carefully planned out a sequence of actions and then found that (s)he has to trade THREE types of Goods with a Mercator card when only two are allowed. Also, remember to pay attention to the map, especially when placing new colonists. For example, do not place a Ship in the City of Napoca as it does not have any Sea routes connected to it. I believe that Mulligans (plural) are a politeness to a player new to the game. If a card was played and its action couldn’t be used, let the owner take it back and play something useful rather than waste a turn. (For example, the player intended to use the Senator to buy two Personalities, only to realize that there was insufficient Goods to pay the total price.)
If everyone is paying attention to managing their Goods and unplaced Colonists, perhaps once per game, one player will receive Production Goods that exceed their Storehouse storage capability. Too bad. You must discard from those incoming Goods; you may NOT empty filled spaces in order to hang onto the newly produced items. Specialists are very useful for the Goods they produce for you alone. However, you probably shouldn’t acquire more than two. You only have 15 houses. You just can’t max out many types. While Colonist movement is dependent upon your total pieces on the board, I have not been in a game where anyone was hindered once they had placed their 4th piece. Worry about getting all six pieces on the board only if you have bulked up on “Mars”. As players have different strategies, expect wild swings in player position to occur during the scoring.
I found it is far more important for players to try to keep track of who has acquired a lot of cards of a particular god. The scoring attributes of the god associations become very important from middle-game on. Do NOT let any player corner the market and acquire all (or virtually all) purchasable cards associated with a specific god. That player can then concentrate on just that type of “expansion”. The value of the gods are very close together. If the cards are spread throughout the players, the normal small differences of 1 or 2 VPs among players are not critical. On the other hand, if someone plunks down eight “Saturnas” cards and gets full score for each, then the other players are going to notice a non-catchable leap into first place. A nice attribute is that, unlike some games, Concordia does not give a big edge to experienced players over newbies.
I give the Art department high marks for many aspects of this game. For example, Provinces are numbered in a consistent top-to-bottom and left-to-right sequence. (Province 1 is at the top left of a map and the highest numbered Province is at the map’s bottom right.) Components are of very good quality as well.
Rules are well written (and include an errata notice of a misprint on a card in the Sale deck). A very good job has been done of making discernable the situation and options on the game board, the readability of the information on the cards (even if on the game board) and the status of the players’ individual boards (even those across the table from you). However, I have two minor kvetches about Concordia:
At your first rules reading, the Personality cards section can be confusing. Personalities are neither presented in alphabetical order nor with the six initial Personalities (two are duplicates) and then the (only available through purchase) Personalities. Second, the Personality cards are perhaps 1/16″ too long to fit in “standard” plastic game boxes. I emptied two poker deck boxes and the seventy-two cards store nicely in those.
In my humble opinion, this new creation by veteran game designer Mac Gerdts is a winner. Gods, I love this game! And readers, I believe you will be in accord with my love for Concordia.
Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.
Other Fall 2014 GA Reports