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Princes of the Renaissance
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Store:  Strategy Games
Genre:  Negotiation & Diplomacy
Format:  Board Games

Princes of the Renaissance

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
13+ 120-180 minutes 3-6

Designer(s): Martin Wallace

Manufacturer(s): Warfrog

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Product Description

In Renaissance Italy, each player takes on the role of one of the minor condottiere princes, such as the Gonzagas or d'Estes. Then there are the big five major cities, Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, and Naples. These are not controlled by individual players but players will gain 'interests' in them as the game progresses. Each city has six tiles, most of which represent a famous character such as Lucrezia Borgia or Lorenzo Medici. Each tile has its own special properties which are linked to the character on the tile. Thus Cesare Borgia will help you to become more treacherous, while a Venetian merchant will increase your income. These tiles are also worth victory points, depending on the status of the city at the end of the game.

A city's status will change as a result of war. When two cities fight they will each need a condottiere to fight for them. Players bid, using influence points, to decide who will represent each city. The outcome of the war will depend on a little luck and the size of each player's army. Each player also gets paid for fighting, no matter what the outcome of the war is. Thus players can turn influence into gold, which in turn can be used to buy more City tiles.

No game on the Italian Renaissance would be complete with an element of treachery. Players can be openly treacherous by buying Treachery tiles, which will allow them to do nasty things like steal influence, bribe troops, or knock players out of an auction. However, the game allows players to be devious in other ways, that still remain legal. Making sure that a war goes the way you want it to is an important part of the game, and it is not always the player with the best army that ends up fighting. Want a city to lose, well become Condottiere for them and make sure you have a really bad army, or use Treachery tiles to bribe your own troops not to fight. At some point some player will become the Pope, which means they can form a Holy League, (i.e. join one side in a battle). Want to make sure the Pope is on the 'right' side, well why not bribe him. What player negotiate over is up to them. The game does not force negotiation and works perfectly well without it but it remains an avenue for players to explore.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Advanced Strategy Game Nominee, 2005
International Gamers Awards
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2004

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Martin Wallace

  • Manufacturer(s): Warfrog

  • Artist(s): Peter Dennis

  • Year: 2003

  • Players: 3 - 6

  • Time: 120 - 180 minutes

  • Ages: 13 and up

  • Weight: 992 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are printed in multiple languages, including English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English).


  • 1 game board
  • 6 family tiles
  • 24 troop tiles
  • 12 event tiles
  • 30 city tiles
  • 20 treachery tiles
  • 1 pope tile
  • 5 city tokens
  • 2 war tokens
  • 1 'wars fought' pawn
  • influence counters
  • gold counters
  • victory counters
  • 2 six-sided dice

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.4 in 5 reviews

Experience proves it a great game.
May 11, 2004

Although a bit surprised by the less than enthusiastic reception given this game in some previous reviews, I understand now that to appreciate the game requires a certain level of experience. Now having passed the novice stage as a 'Renaissance' player, I can honestly admire this game for what it is: a tense contest with a subtle and devious nature that is not easily recognizable in its first few playings. This is a game that grows on you; one that will have you re-thinking moves days after you have made them. Indeed, experience is the only way you can fully appreciate the many subtle strategies that exist therein.

The game is comparable to 'Puerto Rico' in that there are many alternate ways of winning and scoring. For a more comprehensive description of strategies, see the articles on These will give you a much better appreciation for how the game should be played and should be considered a must know.

For now, I'd like to address some of the issues mentioned in previous reviews. Firstly, there are some issues with the rule book and several typos on some cards; those can be easily remedied; there is an errata on this page as well as clarifications on other web-sites (see The good news: they are all free.

A previous review mentioned the difficulty in knowing where you stand. This is simply a matter of experience; understanding your position and those of your opponents will become more apparent with more and more playings.

Another review classified the game as essentially 'an auction game'. That it is not. While bidding is an element of the game, it is not the heart of the game. The strategies that one employs before and after bidding are the essential aspects of the game. You must setup the auction to your advantage in order to succeed. Bidding is simply a tool that is used to extend your strategy. Again, this becomes apparent with more playing time.

Another point previously mentioned was the use of a die roll to determine the victor in combat. More experienced players will recognize that the die-roll should simply be a formality; when wars are properly chosen, the act of winning or losing becomes secondary. Earning gold for fighting is the more important objective.

These certain subtleties and strategies will only become apparent with multiple playings. Learning about the various strategies (from the web) will open up your appreciation of the game. You will find yourself exporing these techniques in future games, trying them out and enjoying them. And enjoyment will also come in trying to counter them, when they are played against you.

Strong on theme --- strong on fun!
February 29, 2004

Princes of the Renaissance (PotR) is the latest game released from Warfrog, and it may be that company's best design to date. Classifying the game may be trickier than assessing on its value.

Bascially, each player represents a condittiere family in Renaissance Italy, building professional & specialized armies, acquiring wealth and influence, buying off powerful political and Church figures in various cities, and interfering in others' affairs through the timely use of bribes and treachery. The components are quite attractive and functional, and the artwork is excellent.

Is it a strategy game?. Yes --- and more. PotR is teeming with player interaction and strategic options, plus some clever tactics. All of these make for a very challenging strategy game, in which a player's fortunes can change quite suddenly if he/she isn't careful. But, unlike so many European designs, this game isn't just a couple of pages of rules with a theme loosely applied. PotR actually offers a rich flavor of power and treachery in the Renaissance, right down to the historical characters on the pieces. It takes a bit longer to play than most strategy designs, but it's worth the time.

Is it a simulation? Perhaps not in the strictest sense. For one thing, the rules are much simpler than games that claim to be simulations, and while it takes a bit longer to play than most strategy games (2-4 hours), it plays far more quickly than most simulations. The richness of the theme in this game raises the game above standard strategy gaming toward the 'simulation' side, without inhibiting play with a lot of special rules or cases.

Is it a wargame? No, certainly not in the traditional sense. The building of armies and the warring between players would tend to push PotR into that category, were it not for the fact that the warring in this game is not about conquest, but about glory and profit. It's true that winning wars earns victory wreaths, and those wreaths add up to Victory Points at the end of the game. But players bid for the opportunity to fight for either of two warring cities, and warring players are paid by their respective cities regardless of who wins. Furthermore, in keeping with the period flavor, specialized troops are never lost, reducing that risk in going to war. The opportunity to raise or lower a city's status and/or earn cash may be more a driver of a player's participation than the victory itself. A player need not be a frequent or successful warrior to win this game, as there are alternative non-military strategies to earn VPs.

So, in the end, just what is Princes of the Renaissance? I would describe it as a serious strategy game with enough period flavor to appeal to simulation and wargame enthusiasts.

It's tremendous fun to play, especially with 5 players, and I highly recommend it.

Wait for a second edition, or corrected rules to be posted.
April 13, 2004

What can I say about Princes of the Renaissance? For one, I was really looking forward to playing it. For another, the rule book is poorly written with many missing and unclear rules. One needs to go on line to determine the starting position of each city, this is not an oversight of an obscure rule, this is a major publishing error.

Another rule states 'Arrange all the City tiles into columns of the same colour, face up by the side of the map so that each tile can be clearly seen.' Should it read 'so that each top tile can be clearly seen?' If tiles are arranged into columns how could any but the top be seen? One member of the group thought this clearly meant that each tile should be seen; others thought this meant that only the top tile was exposed.

The 'Steal Influence' treachery tiles have a misprint in the English (all the tiles are written in both German and English). They state 'Steal influence' at the top of the tile but say 'stop a player from increasing their bid' at the bottom of the tile. Stopping the bidding is the function of the 'Freeze bid' treachery tile, 'steal influence' should allow a player to steal influence points. These are the big three errors that caused our group trouble, we caught other errors in the rules before they became a factor in the game.

One that we didn't catch I just noticed as I logged on to this web-site to write my review. I see errata posted that a player may not have more than one of each type of military unit. This would have made a difference (perhaps minor) in the games I have played.

Other than the rule, and misprint problems how did I like Princes of the Renaissance? I can definitively say that I am not sure. It was not as good as I had anticipated, nor was it as bad as I had feared after reading the rules. Although there are multiple strategies to employ it seems as though only a military strategy will lead to victory. Win or lose, being involved in a war is the best way to get money into your hands and money is tight. Victory points scored by winning a war did seem like a secondary benefit in the games we played.

I have a bad feeling that we made other errors in the games played.

Bottom line: I will state that I doubt my rating would go lower on subsequent plays, I do expect it to go up, possibly to 4 or 4 1/2 stars. However, I don't think this one will hit the table again until I find some cleaned up rules on the internet.

Show all 5 reviews >

Other Resources for Princes of the Renaissance:

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