Reviewed by Herb Levy
PARIS (Game Brewer, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; $49.99)
Unquestionably, one of the great cities of the world is Paris. Known as “The City of Light”, its beauty is striking. But Paris was not always this way. In the wake of the 1889 World’s Fair with the construction of the Eiffel Tower, the city underwent a transformation into what it became. Players, as wealthy real estate investors in this Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling design, strive to benefit from this transformation by buying and investing in building and landmarks that make this great city Paris!
The board to Paris needs to be assembled. The center of the playing area is the Arc de Triomphe and spreading out from that hub are the six districts of the city, each divided into six segments with costs of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8. Each district is seeded with either prestige markers (in bronze, silver or gold) or goods (wood, marble or gold). There are tiles for all 36 city segments and these tiles are shuffled, three randomly removed, with the rest stacked into three, approximately even, stacks. Around those city districts is a Bonus Tile track (and everyone starts with a scoring disc and “Bonus Meeple” at 0) which serves as both a scoring track and track to hold Bonus tiles that players can claim on their journey around the circuit.
Each player begins with their own Player Screen to keep money and resources hidden and “keys” (the amount based on the number of players) which will be placed in the districts. All start with 3 francs.
On a turn, a player must first draw a a tile and place it on the board in its matching space. Then, ONE action must be performed from a menu of three: Place a key on a Bank or on the Arc de Triomphe, Move a key to purchase a building OR Take an End Game tile (an option only available when no tiles are available to be drawn).
Keys may be placed on the “Bank” space in any district, collecting for that player the specified number of francs. Keys already in a district may be moved from the Bank (or a numbered tile) to a numbered tile in that district with the following caveat: the tile to which the key is moved MUST be of a higher value. (A key placed at the Arc de Triomphe has the advantage of being able to move to ANY district but this flexibility comes with a cost: a key at the Arc generates NO income!) When moving the key from the Bank to a tile, the full value of the tile must be paid to supply. If moving from one tile to another, only the DIFFERENCE in value must be paid. Any prestige or goods token at that tile is collected and held by the player. If the tile is valued at 1 or 2 (or if the player is on a 3 tile and decides to pay an additional 2 francs), the player may advance his Bonus Meeple on the Bonus Track.
Bonus tiles provide a host of benefits: more money, additional resources and ways to garner Victory Points, from occupying various tiles on the board to converting money to VPs and more. Some tiles may be used immediately, some may be used at your discretion and some can be saved for the end of the game. As your journey along the Bonus Track, however, be aware that, unless you claim a tile that allows you to, you can NOT go back and pick up tiles you skipped!
As play continues, players will be better able to buy Landmarks. Landmarks are the more expensive “buildings” and cost a variety of resources – and francs – to build. Building them, however, increases your influence in a district AND allows you to convert up to 3 specified prestige tokens into Victory Points. At some point, some districts will find themselves with four keys within them. The player who placed the fourth key (IN the district and NOT counting any in the Bank) can choose a VP tile to be placed in that district. At the end of the game, VP tiles award Victory Points to the players with the most, second most and third most “influence” in that district.
Once all building tiles have been placed, turn actions are slightly modified. Now players may either place or move a key OR take one of the End Game tiles. End Game tiles offer VPs, money and resources. (This is NOT a blind draw. A player may look through the tiles and choose the one preferred.) Once all the End Game tiles are gone, that round is finished, a final full round played and then VPs are totaled.
Whoever holds Bonus Tile 27 now converts any cash on hand to Victory Points on a 1 to 1 basis. All districts with a VP tile are scored. Players total up their influence in each district (the value of occupied Buildings and Landmarks) with VPs given out accordingly. The player with the highest total wins! Tie? Then the player occupying the highest value of Buildings and Landmarks gets the victory. Still tied? Then victory is shared!
Be forewarned: set up takes a bit of time in Paris as pieces need to be assembled rather than a board unfolded. But the resulting effect, including a 3D Arc de Triomphe in the center of the playing area, is quite impressive and the soft blue color palette very pleasing to the eye. (However, we suggest putting it all together, enjoying the view and then taking down the Arc as it tends to block your sightline to the other side of the board.) Having an appendix to explain all the Bonus Tiles at a glance on the back of the complete and well written rulebook is very welcome.
Although two player play is fine, the game excels with three and four players as there is more varied competition for influence across the six districts. Deciding where and when to place your keys IS key. For example, if you feel you have a commanding presence in an area, you want to be sure to place the fourth key there so you can assign a top scoring VP tile to that district. On the other hand, if your presence is dwarfed by others, your placement of the fourth key there can assure that a lesser (much lesser) VP tile is assigned to that district, minimizing your disadvantage. So timing – and a bit of “brinksmanship” – is involved. There is a good balance between the lower and higher valued buildings too. Purchasing the lesser 1 and 2 (and 3) buildings gives you access to the valuable Bonus tiles. Buying value 8 buildings, although costing a resource, grant you an immediate 2 VPs and, if you are the first there, a gold. Gold is one of the required elements in constructing landmarks which adds to your influence in a district.
Paris is a well designed game – which is what you would expect when Kramer and Kiesling team up. The game is not a heavy Euro. Rather, it proceeds at a slow and steady pace, as buildings get bought, landmarks built and players cherry pick along the Bonus Tile track while still managing to present lots of choices and many decisions to hold and maintain interest in a beautifully designed package. – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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