Vinci: The Rise and Fall of Civilizations
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From prehistoric times through the Middle Ages, many civilizations followed one another. Through conquest, they built great empires and expanded their influence across vast areas. However, these empires would never last. As their influence and responsibility expanded, their inability to maintain control would weaken their empire. Their nation and culture would enter a period of decline. Other civilizations would move in and establish their own empires on the ruins of their predecessors. Thus humanity progressed.
Vinci invites you to become the leader of an incipient civilization. Using your civilization's different skills and attributes you attempt to build an empire. Your opponents represent the leaders of other civilizations, with skills very different from yours. You are all competing for the same resources and territory while building your empires. When your empire grows so large that your people are spread too thinly to expand the empire, you declare that empire to be entering a period of decline. Then you choose a new civilization and begin the process all over again. You earn victory points for every province that your civilizations occupy. The player who earns a predetermined number of victory points wins the game.
With easy to learn rules and beautiful game components, Vinci is a very accessible game. Each game is different from the last because the Civilization Counters offered to the players allow each civilization's characteristics to vary drastically. In order to win in the face of continually changing situations, it is necessary to be an astute strategist. Choosing the best civilization, exploiting its strengths and its weaknesses, declaring the decline of the empire at the most convenient moment are delicate decisions, and this is the challenge of Vinci. No matter what obstacles you encounter, you always remain in the race.
This game was more popular than Settlers of Catan in our Friday night group. There is less chance and more strategy involved.
Our group seems to be evenly split between wargamers and casual gamers. This game seemed to make both groups happy. I realize that it depends on the style of game you like to play, but I think this game is better than some of the reviews here indicate.
Yes, there are some ambiguities in the rules, but the clarifications available on the net and some decisions by committee seem to clear things up well enough.
I would also agree that it doesn't seem to work well with less than 3 players. But, so what? Many games don't. We usually play with 5-6 players. If someone slows down too much (some strategizing is allowed of course), we find that saying something like, 'Whose turn is it again? Oh. Of course. Go, go, go, go, go' seems to work fine. That could be peculiar to our little group, I suppose.
One of the neat things that everyone likes about the game is the ebb and flow of the different civilizations. You do get the feel of civilizations growing, expanding then dying. Most games are extremely close (at least between 2-3 leaders) with players usually having a chance to make a come back even when doing poorly.
I even got ambitious and made a Risk-like map of the world with Vinci-colored territories. This may have extended the viability of the game in the group somewhat (we played it at least once every meeting for months).
Easy mechanics, light strategy, reasonable playing time. I highly recommend this game.
Right off the bat I'll say this game gets a 95db on the Mulder Meter. My conversion would be to 4 and 1/2 stars though, not a perfect 5. More on that later.
Risk, Civilization, History of the World, Targui, and Britannia are all great games but have their problems. Risk: too much luck, Civilization: too long, HotW: over complicated, Targui: localized theme. (these statements are IMHO, and again, I'm not dissing those great games). Now Vinci comes along and ties the best features of these games together. The rules a simple (though a bit confusing), the civilization expansion theme is present, there is hardly any luck involved except for the drawing of the initial civilization tile combinations, and it has high replayablility due to the near infinite combinations of civilization tiles.
On the border of requiring two hours to play with four player, it just falls into the German boardgame style category. The mechanics are simple. Pick a civilization, take the number of armies (or people) allotted to it, and start expanding. Conquest is simple. Meet the required amount of armies based on terrain, modifiers and number of opponents present, and the territory is yours. Score points for what you occupy. When you can't expand anymore, declare that civilization in decline and pick a new one. There are great mechanisms for balancing the choice of civilizations. The board terrain and characteristics of each civ makes the strategy aspects of this game shine. Some of the greater decisions you'll be making in this game are: where to expand, when to declare your civilization in decline, and what type of civilization you will choose next. The more you expand, the less you'll have to expand with.
The only downside I found were the rules being a bit ambiguous. There's a great FAQ and rules interpretation at the Gaming Dumpster that will dispel any questions you may have. The rulings have been confirmed by the author, Philippe Keyaerts. I have posted my changes there so those not interested won't have to suffer by reading this review.
The quality of the components is right up to par, and the price for a game of this quality can't be beat. The board is a bit bland, but works for the game, making the territories easy to distinguish from each other. This game will be replacing Risk for me (at least for a while). It's a keeper and a good contender for Game of the Year. It's begging for an expansion (Advanced Vinci, maybe?).
If this type of game is your cup of tea, buy it! You won't regret it.
As noted by other reviewers, the rules are lacking the full information to know for sure how to play. The rules we played by (and are implied by the rulebook) are:
You take your set number of pawns and place them in your active pile. Then, you start 'taking' territories with the requisite number of pawns. These pawns are stuck in the attacked territory until the reorganization phase. (Thus, you can not vacuum up the entire board with a stack of pawns, nor attack more than a few territories each turn generally.) Next turn you must leave 1 pawn in each territory, but then may take the rest into the active pile for further attacks.
If your attack requires no pawns, you can remove any existing pawns from the space and use it as a captured territory for further expansion... to retain it you must place a pawn there during reorganization.
The game is very good, and here are some suggestions to improve it further:
It would be nice to see the original full rules explained to see what the intent was... but the way we played it was very fun and a unique gaming experience. Definitely recommended, but not perfect.
Like plenty of other people, I love nothing better than to play a vast game of Advanced Civilization. Trouble is, I rarely have the ten straight hours needed to finish a game of it. Not to mention the other three or four games in the same genre that I haven't even had a chance to play even once yet. Perhaps I'll have an opportunity when I retire.
Enter Vinci. This game gives me all the same feelings of excitement as one of those big epics, but in a game that rarely goes over two hours. What bliss! How Vinci manages to do this is largely due to what is not in the game, rather than what is. Consider Advanced Civilization, for instance: the slowest parts of that game are typically the trading, the acquiring of extra civilization traits, and the resolving of calamities. Vinci does away with them all, leaving a bare-bones game that positively flies along. The aim of the game then becomes to occupy the most valuable land for the longest, earning victory points. The more land you occupy, the more points you get. Play continues until, in a round, someone crosses some finish-line in victory points, then the player with the most points wins.
To keep the game interesting, Vinci doesn't do away with civilization traits altogether; rather, each civilization gets two of these (printed on little chits) for free, drawn blind from a bag. When you select your civilization, it gets those two traits for the duration of its life. Some can even outlast the civilization, but more on that later.
Civilization chits come in several flavours; there are some that give you extra points for occupying a certain kind of terrain, there are some that give you a military advantage, and there are some whose exact benefit is hard to see at first, but which become clear on a couple of playings. The fact that each civilization gets two chits means that there are many, many combinations, providing for good variety and replay value.
One very clever feature about the civilization chits is the balancing mechanism built into them. Your civilization has a maximum population, which in turn determines how far it can expand, which in turn determines how many victory points it can earn from land occupation. The powerful civilization chits give your civilization a small population, and the weaker chits give you a larger population. As if this weren't enough--and sometimes it isn't, because different playings warrant different strategies--the civilization-selection method balances things even more, by granting you extra victory points for the chit pairs that have been largely ignored, and penalizing you for going for a powerful combination that has only just been drawn. A pathetic combination can suddenly look quite enticing if there are eight free victory points attached to it.
Eventually, your civilization reaches its potential and can't expand any more; or perhaps is has suffered some attrition at the hands of attacks by other players. With some games, there is nothing to do but promise to do better next time; with Vinci, 'next time' is only a turn away. In History of the World style, you can voluntarily send your civilization into decline and start a new one somewhere else on the board, drawing a new pair of civilization chits for your new empire. The great thing about this is that not only will you score for your new civilization, but your declining one still brings in points for the land it occupies (even if its special traits disappeared when it started declining). Actually, some traits still carry on for declining civilizations, scoring you extra points.
The presentation of the game is pretty good, and just what we expect out of Europe these days: a solidly-constructed board with wooden playing pieces. The board has been criticized for being a little garish, but it is still extremely functional. It would have been nice to see the players' pawns have the declining-empire symbol on one side, rather than having to deal with the little squares of card that perform that job now.
Even though I am deeply impressed by this game, a couple of caveats are nonetheless in order. First, while the game advertises (and supplies the parts) for up to six players, I recommend going to no more than four if at all possible. Otherwise you will be waiting too long between your moves. Likewise, consider three players a probable minimum. The game doesn't really work well for two or one, using the solitaire rules included in the rule booklet. (My partner and I have achieved a somewhat playable two-player solution where each of us plays two colours and score the sum of our sides' victory points at the end of the game.) Another problem isn't with the game as such, but needs to be mentioned. The rules as printed are riddled with errata and poorly translated. The author has clarified these matters, and the results are on the Vinci Errata web page (follow the link at the bottom of this review page). Make sure you fetch this file before you try to play a game.
Vinci is a game that manages to please several crowds at once. It has a bit for wargamers and a bit for the grand epic buffs, and it certainly can be played by casual gamers too. This game is destined to be a classic.
One important note up front: If you have the English language edition of this game, get the errata & clarifications (see the links section of this web page for the URL). The English production has some serious rule omissions and minor printing errors, so without these clarifications there are many potential points for confusion on how the game mechanics work.
Now, on with the review.
Overall, I think this is an excellent 'lite' conquest style game. The play is fairly fast, and the rules are extremely simple and elegant. I've found it's something even non-wargamers can enjoy.
The game balance is quite good once everyone has an understanding of all the different Civilizations' capabilities. If someone chooses a good combination of Civ counters, they can expect everyone else to be teaming up to prevent them from making a good run up the scoring track. This leads to some interesting deal making and the potential for backstabbing and seizing the appropriate opportunity to make a run at a better score yourself.
The idea of having everyone in the game until the very end is another big plus. If your current civilization is thinned out too much or you feel you made a bad decision with your civilization, just declare it in decline and introduce a fresh new one on your next turn. You don't have to worry about being eliminated from the game early, which can often happen in a more traditional territory conquest game. I think this is perhaps another reason why I've found non-wargamers interested in playing this game. Since you are never forcing someone else out of the game, less competitive people are more inclined to be a bit more aggressive than usual, which I feel leads to a more interesting and challenging game.
The method of civilization selection is clever and helps provide additional game balance. You are presented with six pairs of counters, representing six potential civilizations. Each counter provides a special ability. If you choose the first pair, you get it for free. However, if you want one further down the line, you have to pay in victory points. The further down the line, the more you pay. The points you pay get distributed to all the civ pairs you skipped over. So, when someone else finally selects a pair no one else wanted, they'll receive bonus victory points just for picking the runt of the litter. In close games, these bonus points can help achieve a victory.
Overall, I enjoy this game quite a bit. It satisfies my craving for a game of conquest and conflict when I don't have the time or the willing players for an in-depth wargame.
VINCI strives to simulate the rise and fall of nameless civilizations in its 2 hour playing time. Combining elements of RISK, ADVANCED CIVILIZATION, and HISTORY OF THE WORLD, this game is lite fare, but by no means devoid of strategy.
The heart of the game is a variety of Civilization tokens representing abilities like Shipbuilding, Livestock Breeding, Astronomy, Militia, Fortifications, Medicine, and the like. During the course of the contest, players will have options to pick random sets of these tokens, then try to use the combined generic armies and intrinsic special abilities to score victory points. For example, a Mining token will give you +2 VP's for each resource space (indicated by a pick axe on the map) that your active empire controls. There are several dozen different types of Civ tokens, so you can see that a plethora of combinations are possible.
When you decide that your empire cannot/will not profit from further expansion, you may declare it in Decline, and then select a new pair of Civ tokens for next turn. You lose your current Civ tokens (some special ones do remain), but the Declining areas you control can still earn basic VP's for you each turn until conquered or until they fade away (you cannot have two of your empires in Decline at the same time). The decision to whether go into Decline, or try to hold on for one more turn, is one of the major challenges in the game.
Combat is a simple addition process, and the attacker wins every time as long as he allocates enough pawns (armies) to the area. The important decisions for expansion are what provinces are best to conquer, and this may depend on your positioning on the board relative to the other players, and of course, the current victory point level ('get the leader!').
The mapboard is a colorful quilt of Europe, Asia and surrounding land masses. You can easily tell the difference between a Mountain province and a Forest province, and some areas are marked with large anchors (ports) and axes (mines). Unfortunately, the map is not marked with any province names or flavor text, so while it's certainly functional, I found it a bit bland despite the bright colors.
The rules and text for the Civ tokens are sometimes opaque, as situations arise where different players may have different interpretations of a rule; use mutual common sense here until an official Q & A is gathered.
There are no set amount of turns--the game ends when a player accumulates a certain number of points, depending on the number of players.
VINCI is what I call a 'no-headache' game. Easy mechanics (once you get used to them), good strategy options, and a very reasonable playing time. It's also one of the few multi-player (3 to 6) Euro's (this is a French design) that plays well solitaire (with special rules for 2-player, as well). The everchanging mix of Civ tokens guarantees a fresh game every time.
I liked VINCI quite a bit. It's not going to be the breakthrough design of the year, but it sure is a lot of fun... and what more could we really ask for?
If you like Risk, but hate losing early and playing Yahtzee by yourself while everyone else conquers the world, then Vinci might be for you.
The game is described in many reviews below, so I'll just mention my likes and dislikes. First of all, the game says there are rules for 1 and 2 players games--forget that, it's misrepresenting. You will hate the one and two player version. That said, it is an okay game for 3-5 players (6 takes way too long).
I find that my friends (who are more American in their gaming tastes, while I tend to more German in mine) like this game a lot more than I do. They would be inclined to give it a 4 or 4.5 star rating. Me? Well, I've played more games than they have and I find Vinci a bit repetitive.
Even my friends who are enamored with the game have commented that it's too bad that the map can't be changed, or that there wasn't a bigger map (a la Risk) to play on. Europe is boring after a few plays. (Oh yea, and in case you didn't hear it before, the board is very hard on the eyes.) One other small point--my brown chits look too much like the white chits under medium to low lighting (and really, who plays games under bright lighting?)
So will you like it? It's cool. If you can't figure out why anybody would play Tikal or Aladdin's Dragons, but you think Risk and Monolpoly are the greatest games ever, you will probably like Vinci quite a bit. As for me, I think it is slightly better than average, but since my friends like it so much, it gets played a lot which is more than I can say for Aladdin's Dragons (one of my personal faves.)
I like it better than Risk, if that means anything. =)
Vinci is a great idea whose potential has, unfortunately, been garbled during the writing and subsequent printing of the rules. Having a technical writing backround, I could tell that the rules are definitely not written by a technical writer (or if they were, they ignored some of the basic guidelines). What's the big deal with 'technical' writing, you say? Well, good and bad technical writing can mean the difference between knowing how to press play and rewind on a VCR but little else, and the ability to preprogram the VCR to catch a show two weeks from now while you are away on vacation. Every set of instructions you ever read for anything is a piece of technical writing, whether the writer knew it or not. We all know the baffling vocabulary displayed inside of an instruction manual for a Korean-made stereo. Just because someone made the stereo doesn't mean they explain how to use it best (English as a second language only compounds the problem, as we well know from all the German translations out there). Similarly, knowing the rules for a game does not automatically make one qualified to write them, a fact which is abundantly clear when reading the rules for Vinci.
Every group I have played Vinci with has shown uncertainty and frustration with the interpretation of the rules for this game; three separate groups came up with three entirely different ways of playing, and none of them were obviously better than the others. The only way I knew which one was correct is that I played with someone who had played it with the publishers at Essen. Two of these three times, there was an errata sheet present which answered many questions, but not all, and even raised a couple of new ones. Although I knew the correct rules, the last time I played I did not correct the group I played with. It was interesting to see what variants people unwittingly came up with in their grappling with the rule book. Unfortunately, this also becomes the weakness of the game, greatly detracting from its playability and fun-factor. Half the time we were playing this game, everyone was discussing the rules and their interpretation, even the Essen-goer. I felt like I was play-testing the thing! I can just imagine people playing this game slightly differently all over the country. Most confusion seemed to revolve around pawn movement and conflict resolution. Of course, the rest of it is quite good. Excellent mechanism, original idea, attractive and well-made components with good strategy in a reasonable time-frame. But if you're a casual gamer that doesn't know someone who has been to Essen--well, I'm sure you'll figure it out... eventually. It's only a matter of time before an exhaustive rule summary is written, but that doesn't change my review. The Cardinal Rule of technical writing, whether an instruction manual, a report to Congress or the results of a scientific experiment, is: nothing should be left open to interpretation. The goal is to have a simple, concise and clearly written document that leaves no room for misunderstanding.
A true game lover hates to speak badly of any game, being able to imagine the difficulties in designing a game, since we all fantasize about it. It's even worse when the game is obviously such a good one. Unfortunately I can't give this game the 4 stars it deserves. The number two criterion for winning the Spiel des Jahres is (and I quote): 'Design of Rules: Organization, Clarity & Understandability'. I would say that if this is true, then Vinci doesn't have a chance. It's too bad: There's a great game in there somewhere, but good luck finding it. Once you do, I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun.
The game is simple. The only luck/changing factor is the different civilization tile you choose which follows you at least 1/4 to 1/3 of the game. While the game lasts usually about 1.5 hours **, the tiles you choose and the strategy that 'stapled' with them will keep you doing similar things over and over for about half an hour. (then you repeat the process for 3 to 4 times)
The rules of choosing also limits you to choose the first few choices you got because you won't want to get behind too much (rule: if you choose tiles beyond the first choice, you have to 'sacrifice' victory point) since it is not that easy to gain the lost points back. I also don't like the fact that a completely useless civilization-tile-pair exists. This leads to my next point: lacking of player interaction.
A player in this game has too few power to either influence other players or affact the game play dramatically. This really kills the board game.
P.S. The no-surprise solid-colored board is not too attractive either...
** All the time you spent will go to thinking. That makes the game boring. (not that I don't like thinking, I just don't like WAITING!) If you play with six people, you will have to wait five turn (for other players' turn) while you have completely nothing to do except watching. I find the game really not that exciting. Especially, when a player is close to winning while all others have been doing bad, the game is set.
It you're the kind of person who'd love to spend every weekend conquering Europe, Vinci is for you. The game involves some calculation for nearly every action you take, but this aspect makes for more flexibility and a sensitive response to varying conditions. Everyone starts by picking two Civilization Tiles from a menu, which offer various benefits. Use your pawns to conquer, maintain, and expand your land holdings on the board. Your active empire must be one connected group, but an interesting option allows you to place your empire in decline and establish a new one elsewhere. At the end of your turn, take your victory points for occupying provinces. Victory goes to the first person to reach 100 to 150 points, depending on the number of players. Veni, Vidi, Vinci.