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PRINCES OF FLORENCE

EXCERPTS FROM THE FALL 2000 GA REPORT

 

FROM “POINT OF VIEW”:

 

THE PRINCES OF FLORENCE (Alea/Rio Grande Games; about $45)

 

Die Fursten von Florenz (The Princes of Florence) is the newest game from Alea… Thus far, the numbered Alea series has brought forth Ra…Chinatown… and Taj Mahal…meaning The Princes of Florence has a very tough act to follow. In my view, it succeeds brilliantly.PrincesFlorence

The game is attractively packaged, as are all Alea games. The bits are graphically appealing and, although there isn’t much in the way of wood to play with, there are cardboard “pentominoes” at the heart of the game and they are really fun.

Your palazzo lies in the bottommost left of your princely 7×7 estate depicted on a separate color coded board for each player. There is a main scoring board… and this board keeps track of Victory Points (VPs) and “werke points” (WPs) which are scored when your “worker” has satisfied certain minimum requirements and can “display” his work for all to see.

What do these 21 artisans and scientists… need? Tastes vary and a busy and proper prince must please those who will make their patron look good. So, some prefer a lake on the property, some prefer parks…several different types of buildings are required to house their work… Individual tastes do not stop there. All of these characteristics and more are found on the 21 cards that represent the 21 Personalities. As the game opens, the players take four of these cards and attempt to find any three with the most factors in common. Then the fun starts.

In Phase A of each turn, the players bid on one of seven different items: a lake, a forest, a park, a Baumeister (architect), a Jester, a Prestige (Victory Point) card and a “Companion” card… the player on turn decides which of the seven… is auctioned…. Whoever wins the auction marks the stack of the card or piece with his color marker. The auction winner and the auctioned piece are out of all subsequent auctions for that turn. So, in a five player game, everybody gets to win one of the five auctions in which five of the seven pieces will be chosen…. In Phase B…, players get to build a building or two for their artisans, buy them the freedoms they require, buy bonus score cards and, if satisfied that they meet minimum requirements for the round, they may “display” the artisan…. In Phase B, you have only two actions, meaning if you buy a freedom and a building, you don’t even get to display a person. There is so much that has to be done and so few actions to do it all!…

There are seven rounds of play and the minimum requirement for display rises with 7, 10, 12, 14, 154, 16 and 17 points required as the rounds progress. For instance, the proper building is worth four points, the right landscape is worth four, the right freedom three. Each Jester…brings another two…Each “personality” or companion – including the one displayed – adds one point… When the player displays, he adds the points together and then marks the “werke” score on the same track as the VPs. The best single display at the end of the turn scores three VPs…The buildings? There are three of each kind and nine types in all. Two are large (seven spaces), five are medium (five spaces) and two are small (three spaces). When erected, they must be arranged in the estate without touching each other (diagonal is okay) although landscapes are allowed to touch…. and they are expensive at 700 florins each. With a Baumeister, things are much more manageable at 300 florins each. A second Baumeister allows buildings to abut right up against one another and scores three VPs. A third allows players to erect buildings for FREE and scores another three VPs…. did I mention there are only six available for the entire game?!

There is so much in The Princes of Florence that is novel that it begs for repeated play. Although there has been some commentary about a very limited amount of interaction, the complaint is handled easily. First, the auction ensures that each player has a good shot at something useful. The game is clearly not solitaire for four because of the fierce competition for the Princes to display the artisans at their happiest. Given the rarity of certain items (six Baumeisters, seven Jesters, three of each buildings), there is an extreme amount of tension that builds up and players feel very involved with each other. Second, given the required juggling and management of resources, a heavy dose of interactive involvement might slow the pace to a crawl and that is not a desirable outcome.

At this point, it it still too soon to say whether The Princes of Florence is the favorite to win Germany’s Spiel des Jahres although I certainly expect it to be nominated. The game is really a lot of fun to play and, like all of the Alea games that precede it, is what I call a “rich” gaming experience. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Al Newman


 

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