What I played on Saturday...
You're in renaissance Italy, trying to make money in the city, which is made up of an 8x8 grid, with buildings taking at least two squares. How you move round it isn't terribly thematic - the person whose copy it was described it as all being on the same tour bus - but the idea is that there's a tower of five pieces which starts somewhere (usually a random square) and then the person whose turn it is can move up to four places (road squares or buildings).
At each one, someone can do an action. Some buildings supply goods, some issue tasks (small and large deliveries of goods, or messages), the cathedral enables you to own buildings (huh? but you get 10 ducats every time someone else uses the building and at the end of the game), villas let you secretly own buildings on the outside of the board in a different way (huh? but you get a variable number of ducats depending on how many adjacent buildings you have at the end), and six of them give you special powers (exchange something you have for something else, do the action for a building you own, pick the starting point of the tour bus, and have more than one action in a turn).
That last power is because of the central mechanic: normally you can only do one action per move, so up to four other people are going to get to do things in your turn, if you want to let them. Obviously, you ordinarily wouldn't, but they can make you offers (bribes) and these are usually accepted.
As well as the building action, the tour bus route may be that of a message (the person with the message card gets 30 ducats), or - for the player doing the action there - the destination of a delivery (40 for small one item deliveries, 100 plus a special power tile for large three item deliveries), Particularly towards the end, this can lead to some large bribes being necessary: the person with lots of goods may well be making large deliveries.
I worked out that large deliveries would be rare (I think five players managed three between us) and traded my initial card to someone as a bribe. Small deliveries are easier, but with four players wanting goods and then having to get to the right place, that would be an issue too. I might have done one. What was left was messages which provided a regular income as people moved as I wanted, taking bribes, and owning buildings. Only two of us were interested in the cathedral method, and I got more and better ones. Only two of us were really interested in the villa method, and the other one was much more interested...
I won this one :) via that strategy, being lucky about the two villa ownerships I got (they broke up what would otherwise have been long chains for him) and deliberately shortening the game (if the starting point of the tour bus is in the central market - otherwise completely unused - then the game is one turn shorter). I didn't know how much I would make in later turns, but I knew it wouldn't be as much as someone making large deliveries, so why have them? :)
It was good to play it, but I'd be reluctant to play it again and certainly won't be buying it. It's not like Colonia where there's one mechanism too many, but rather at least three: there's too much going on and you don't have enough control over most of it. The theme doesn't quite work either. Hmm.
An area control game (everyone places something in a number of areas, with points won according to who has most in particular area) nominally set in Venice. Actually, any arrangement of six areas would do.
In a turn, you can, depending on what cards you have, build a bridge between two areas; add to one area (or, if you have a bridge between them, an adjacent area); swap one of someone's blocks for one of yours; remove a random number of blocks from an area (possibly including yours, if you roll too high); or move the Doge and score that area.
There are also bad cards. These have a number and once someone's reached ten points of them, everyone else has a turn without you, points if they still have less than ten penalty points, and someone may get a free 'banish'.
What makes this good is the central mechanism: one player gets a mix of good and bad cards, divides them into two or three hands and offers them to one or two other players. They then get to pick which they have, with the 'offerer' getting what's left. Classic cake cutting method, basically, and the mix of cards means that you can give someone a choice between particularly good cards but a high number of penalty points or a cheap 'so so' hand.
I came third out of four: it was my copy, and I'd forgotten just how valuable the scoring cards are. Oops.
Tower defence on a board. There's a castle in the middle and monsters come from six directions trying to destroy it. Depending on the cards you have, you can damage or kill them. If the castle falls, you all lose, but if you survive, whoever has killed the most monsters wins a bit more than the rest of you. So there's an incentive not to do your very best to protect the castle (you'd like to kill monsters, not wound them and make it easier for someone else to kill them).
I came about fifth out of six. Yawn. Too simple with almost no decision making, too much luck, better as a video game. Apparently, an expansion adds some interest.
Another co-operative game. You're landing in Normandy in World War Two, facing a variety of problems. Your success or failure depends on the throw of six dice in three colours. Symbols on them give you more men (as they're dying like flies, you need these), equipment (sometimes necessary), bravery (needed to move up the beach), specialists (sometimes necessary) or cancel out other dice (oops). Get the same symbol in three different colours and you get a bonus.
We won, but I am not going to play it again. There's plenty of co-operation (you can swap dice to get better results or give each other more men etc) but basically you're throwing dice, pushing your luck, and there are much better such games. There are also vastly more realistic wargames, including on the Normandy landings.
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