Reviewed by Herb Levy

STROZZI (Abacusspiele/Rio Grande Games, 3-6 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes; $34.95)


Some games work so well that they set a higher standard. When it comes to auction games, Reiner Knizia takes second place to no one in his adept use of this game technique. Perhaps his greatest auction game is Medici (featured in the Fall 1998 GA REPORT) where auctions are used to perfection as players gather cargo in the holds of their ships. So it’s no surprise that Knizia has worked to extend its impact. He did this in Medici vs. Strozzi (Winter 2007 GA REPORT), essentially two player Medici. Now, this theme is revisited in the third game of this trilogy: Strozzi.strozzi

Strozzi comes with 29 ship cards, flag counters, 36 promotion tiles, 24 player markers, coins and a game board representing 15th Century Italy, in particular, four centers of trade: Rome, Naples, Venice and Florence.

Each player begins with 3 flags and 4 markers in his chosen color. Promotion tiles are shuffled and stacked with three of them placed face up by the board. The ship cards are shuffled and, as in Medici, some are removed from play (depending on the number of players). Remaining ship cards form a draw deck.

On his turn, a player reveals a ship card. All ship cards share certain characteristics: a sail number (from 1 to 8) and possibly one or more wares. And that’s where those flags come in.

Each player has 3 flag counters. One displays a pirate flag, one a +1 and the third icons of the various wares. If the active player wishes to claim the revealed ship, he places his pirate flag on it and the ship is his. If he chooses to claim the ship using either the +1 or wares flag, the next player in clockwise order may steal the ship from him by claiming it with HIS pirate flag. Should that player pass, then the next player has the same choice; HE may claim it with his pirate flag and so on until either someone has used his pirate flag to claim the ship OR the ship returns to the claiming player and, uncontested, is his. (If no one wants the ship, that ship is simply discarded and the next ship from the deck revealed.)

Once claimed, that player decides in which city that ship will dock and the ship (with its flag) is placed alongside the track of that city. Ships are placed, from top to bottom, in the order of their speed (as indicated by the number on that ship’s sail). If that ship was claimed with a +1 flag, then +1 is added to the speed of the ship. In addition, wares displayed on the card that MATCH the wares being sold at that particular port advance that player’s token up the scoring path the number of spaces equal to the wares shown. If the ship was claimed with a wares flag, then that player advances one additional space along that track.

Beside wares, some ship cards may also display scrolls and/or blue squares. Scrolls act like wares in a port except they advance a player’s token up the scoring path in Florence exclusively. Player position in Florence can also serve as tie-breakers as needed. A blue square on a ship allows the claiming player to choose from among the three promotion tiles on display. These tiles have a number value of 1 or 2 which comes into play during the final scoring phase of the game. The lower valued tiles also depict one of the wares in the game. A player choosing such a tile immediately advances his piece up the scoring path of the depicted ware no matter where the ship has docked. And docking is important. Only ONE ship from each player may be docked in a port each round so be sure to maximize the cargo of a ship (or its speed) because you’ll only have one chance each round to make the most of it.

A round ends when either all players have claimed three ships OR the deck of ship cards has run out. At that point, we score.

The player with the fastest ship in each port scores scores 15 points with second place worth 10 and third place worth 5. Goods are scored in similar fashion as players with the most, second most and third most goods in each city will score 15-10-5 as well. Players score 15-10-5 in Florence as well. Managing to make it towards the top of the scoring paths can earn you an additional 15, 10 or 5 points as a bonus. Unlike many games, no scoring track is used. Points scored are tracked by giving players coins.

After the third round (and the third scoring), the promotion tiles become a source for additional scoring. There are three types of promotion tiles and the player with the highest score in each type earns 30 more points with second place worth 20 and third worth 10. The player with the largest fortune is the victor!

Strozzi adds another dimension of play to the basic game of Medici. Rather than just filling up a ship’s hold with cargo (and scoring for both type of cargo and ship weight), players here must consider along with cargo, the effects of speed as well as a third point generating opportunity: those valuable end-game scoring promotion tiles. It’s nice to see the three bonus spaces on the each ware’s scoring track. The third space was a variant used with Medici that was an excellent addition to the original and works well here. (This was a missing graphic element in previous Medici productions, only appearing in the latest Medici edition.) With no scoring track to chart players’ scores (money is kept secret), the end result can be difficult to judge and this keeps the game engaging. The extra layer of scoring can slightly lengthen the time of play as players can agonize over the multiple scoring opportunities to consider. Fortunately, familiarity with the basic game mechanisms (and familiarity comes quickly as the game play is very clear and straightforward) brings the play time down to the promised length (provided that your group has analysis-paralysis players under control). A few graphic and minor quibbles though. The colors used on the flags should be more distinctive (telling red from orange can be difficult) and the symbols used a bit larger. Also, there simply aren’t enough of the smaller denominations of coins (particularly of the 5 coins) available to make doling out coins during scoring as easy as it should be.

In the Medici trilogy, Strozzi brings a fresh twist with its multiple scoring opportunities. If you like Medici, you’ll definitely enjoy Strozzi. If you haven’t played Medici, you will certainly find Strozzi to be a challenging and fun foray into trade and profits. – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.

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