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The Princes of Florence
#4 ALBS, English language edition of Die Fürsten von Florenz
List Price: $39.95
Your Price: $31.99
(Worth 3,199 Funagain Points!)
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Experience the golden age of the Renaissance! Assume the role of the head of an Italian Aristocratic dynasty and lead your family like the Medici or Borgia. Build magnificent buildings, cultivate beautiful parks, and invite famous artists and scholars to live and work in your court. The players support the builders, artists, and scholars so that their completed works bring them fame and prestige. As the patrons of such great works, players multiply their reputations, but only one will become the most prestigious prince of Florence!
Over seven rounds, players build Buildings, cultivate Landscapes, and invite artists and scholars to their Palazzi where they provide them with the facilities which inspire such people to produce great Works. All this is done by the players in their Principalities to earn Prestige Points, which are recorded on the fame track.
The more impressive a Work -- that is, the higher its Work Value, the more money and Prestige the player in whose Principality the Work is created is able to earn. Money is important to acquire more Buildings and Landscapes. Also, the Builders and Jesters, which provide valuable services, expect to be paid. Players will also find that Prestige and Bonus cards have great value in building their reputations and fame.
The player who has earned the most Prestige by the end of the seventh round is the winner!
Players: 3 - 5
Time: 75 - 100 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 1,360 grams
All-Time Sales Rank: #55
Customer Favorites Rank: #25
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
- 1 game board
- 5 player boards
- 30 Buildings
- 18 Landscapes
- 12 Freedom tiles
- 6 Builders
- 7 Jesters
- 60 cards:
- 21 Profession cards
- 14 Prestige cards
- 20 Bonus cards
- 5 Recruiting cards
- 5 scoring markers
- 1 starting player figure
- 5 player markers
- 1 round marker
Average Rating: 4.6 in 50 reviews
The thing I really like about this game is that there are so many strategies you can follow in order to win.
It's a MUST have!
With the exception of the card draw, there is very little luck involved, and even the luck in a draw of the cards is minimized by allowing you to draw five and pick the best one. Each turn is divided into an auction phase and an action phase. While good play in both phases is important to winning the game, good play in the auction phase is a must if you want to win the game. Some say that this game is like playing group solitaire, but the auction phase is very competitive and intense.
One of the beauties of the auction phase is that it is naturally self balancing. In our gaming group, we quickly noticed that jesters were very powerful. Suddenly, jesters starting getting bid up to $1200 or $1300 each. The high cost reduced the overall value of the jester, and players began to find other ways to win. Every time we play it is a slightly different game!
This game will challenge you to think hard and plan ahead. It has become the favorite amongst the more serious gamers in our crowd.
The Princes of Florence is very luck involved, requires careful planning and realization by the players that they only have 14 actions in total. So whoever can play the most profession cards (8, 9 or even 10?) without duplicating the need for freedoms, or building too much, wins.
Keys to success are:
- buy jesters and recruiting cards at the aution, especially at the beginnig when they are relatively cheap;
- play the cards that require buildings or landscapes that one will not acquire early on, before the "threshold" for work value becomes too high;
- try to play as many professions as possible in pairs, i.e. using your two actions, in order to aim for the extra three victory points awarded to the most vork value earned in a round.
I have never won with a "builders" strategy, nor have prestige or bonus cards ever really helped me.
The good thing about this game is that one can do a lot of planning very early on, in fact it's almost required. Good management of the money (called florins) is also important, as it can provide a strong bargaining position to acquire the much- needed jesters or recruitment cards during the auction phase. Finally, on a different note, the game board materials are very high quality, with beautiful designs!
I was not overly impressed with this game when it first out, but I've grown increasingly fond of it after several recent playings. Perhaps my first impressions can be attributed to the fact that I began playing Puerto Rico at about the same time, and felt then (as now) that PR is a better game.
While it is true that there is not much player interaction besides the auction, the variety of strategies I've observed and begun to experiment with make this an intriguing game. It's not as good Puerto Rico, but few games are, and Princes of Florence is an very challenging strategy game in its own right.
While I prefer games such as Taj Mahal, Puerto Rico, and Die Siedler von Nurnberg, Princes of Florence has recently risen to reside among favorite strategy games at my palazzo, and I now look forward to each playing.
Serious strategy gamers owe it to themselves to take a crack at this. I highly recommend it.
i looked through the reviews of this game and would like to address some of the points made by those who made negative comments.
several people mentioned that there is only one 'winning strategy', and thus there isn't as much diversity of options as one would initially think. what winning strategy do you mean? the builder strategy, the jester strategy, the recruit strategy, the PC strategy....??
admittedly, this game is not as diverse as PR, which is the main reason it is not as good; but let me assure you, much of the talk of there only being one 'winning strategy' comes from group think. i noticed one person who claimed that there was only one winning strategy; he also mentioned later in the article that the normal price for a jester is 700. that's absurd... if you calculate the return value of a jester purchased anytime before the 6th round, the value of a jester is usually around 1000-1300. with jesters going at 700, i'd just pay 800 for the two first jesters and then sit on best work forever... obviously i'd win. with jesters going for what they're really worth, it becomes a much more plausible option to either go for a builder strategy (which yes, involves getting 3 builders), or jinxing those who got jesters by hogging 3-4 recruits and rendering their jesters half as useful because they have only 5-6 works to play. there are many paths to victory in this game, and what paths are more successdul depends on a constant evaluation of where the groupthink of the particular set of players is.
i do agree with one criticism of this game however. those that go more for 'fun' games, filled with interaction and laughter, this is NOT the game for you. Princes of Florence is one of those games where all players are typically silent for most of the game and are very absorbed in their own plan, not to say that this game is multiplayer solitaire, because as beforementioned victory or defeat comes down to the auctions which require much paying attention to what the other players are doing.
This is one of the rare games where you continue to think about your strategy after the game is over, wondering how you can do better next time.
This game is a 'must buy' for any serious strategy gamer - it is not expensive, well balanced, with very good replay value, no obvious 'best' strategy for winning, and only a minimal element of luck.(the random cards at the beginning), but apart from that it is just a matter of thinking...serious thinking.
In our forst game the 'Jester' strategy worked well for the winner, with the result that in the second game several players overbid on the Jesters, and a different strategy ensured victory that time.
This is one of the best 'thinking persons' games out there.
Our family has more than a dozen games and this is our favorite. The concept is easy to grasp and you'd think it could possibly become dull, but it hasn't ever done that for us!
The satisfying part of the game is having your own gameboard (palazzo) to design in whatever way you need to. There are many tough choices during the auction and later in the building phase of each turn, and picking the right time to exercise those choices is key to winning.
If you're not having luck getting the 'best work', you can choose to draw prestige and bonus cards and gain vicory points at the end for a good use of space on your board, for example.
Others have already commented on the way the game plays, so I won't waste your time restating it. Suffice to say that Princes of Florence is an extremely deep and enjoyable game.
With no dice involved luck is largely removed from the equation with only the randomness in the decks of cards possibly foiling you, and even that is extremely rare because of the draw 5 pick 1 mechanism.
Reading the reviews so far I can see that a lot of people attach high values to certain things in the auction phase, but I've found through repeated playing that the most important skill when playing Princes is to simply be flexible.
I've won games with 1 Jester, and I've won with 4 Jesters. I've thought I was in an insurmountable lead, and then ended up narrowly winning only by having more florins at the end when one of my opponents gained 13 prestige from a pair of prestige cards. In short, all the auction items are possible roads to victory, the key is to know when they're the right price, when you can or need to push the issue, and when you can attempt to screw your opponents by bidding the price up even when you don't really want the item in question.
The number of players also dramatically alters the dynamics of the game. In the smallest possible games with 3 players auctions are much more relaxed with only Jesters being the subject of real bidding wars, but in 4 or 5 player games bidding can be absolutely cut throat with 3 players driving up the prices of things to the point where a savvy player can take advantage of his or her cash strapped opponents.
The only caveat I have is that the game doesn't feature a lot of interaction with your opponents. Some people like this, others don't; but beyond the auction phase it's largely a game of solitaire with you trying to make your strategy work, your buildings fit, and your works publish for high values.
Princes also isn't something that would be suitable for casual gamers. Once you understand the game it has a very fast flow, but the initial explanation takes at least a good 20 minutes, and it's usually a few games before people start to understand some of the different winning strategies. If your group of players are experienced gamers you should have no problems, but this isn't something I'd try to play with Mum and Da.
In short, if you're used to games like Settlers where the entire basis of the game is on interaction, and where the rules and strategies are fairly straight forward you might find yourself not liking Princes as much; but if you're looking for a deep strategy game with many possible winning strategies, and that has very little luck involved, I highly recommend Princes.
WOW! I am sorry to say this game is the best board game ever!!!
I stay up in my bed after playing trying to figure out how to do better next time what I did wrong or what I did right but most of all trying to think of a new Princes of Florence Strategy to blow all the others away!
I'd like to preface this review by noting that I had certain biases against this game before playing it. My tastes tend to run towards Sid Sackson-style games with fewer variables, in which a simple principle is played out (Acquire, Sleuth, Buried Treasure.) A game such as this, with a lot of parts and pieces and concepts, and seemingly arbitrary point accumulation, will not appeal to me at first glance.
But I have been totally won over by this fascinating, subtle, addictive game.
Others here have described the basic tenets of the game. There are seven rounds, and in each of them there is a bidding round during which each player generally gets one item (and no two players can get the same one), and then in the Action phase, each player gets two actions, meaning that each player gets fourteen actions per game. The main, though not the only, way to get victory points is to publish works. These works, in turn, are worth more points to you if they are of higher quality, which in turn depends on other actions you have taken, such as establishing freedoms, building buildings, buying landscapes, and others.
The first thing I will praise about this game is that the role of luck is very small. When the game ends, a player rarely feels that he lost because he was unlucky.
But despite that, each game is very different from the last. I have found that a pre-set strategy cannot win. You have to adapt to the way each game plays out. Perhaps your preference is to publish six works, but for whatever reason, you wind up going well into the game without a recruiting card. You'd better change tracks and try to publish five very valuable works.
I find that each of the elements of this game require different things to be done well, and with discipline. You have 14 actions in the whole game. Suppose you're on track to publish 6 works. That's 6 actions right there. And maybe you've bought two profession cards instead of using two recruiting cards. So that's 2 more (8 actions gone). To publish 6 works you'll undoubtely need 3 buildings (if not four), so that's 11 of your actions gone (or 12). You'll need at least two freedoms -- well, that's 13 (or 14) actions. You really can't afford to waste a move.
The auctions are where the game is really cut-throat -- at the end, the game can turn on whether something a player desperately needs is bid up to a very high price. You have to have a plan, but you have to be flexible and not stick with it in spite of unforeseen trends in the bidding. And what happens in the auction in turn will determine how you need to play the action phases.
What I really love about this game is the way that after you play it for a while, the characters and pieces start to develop personalities in your mind, like characters in a novel. I may think that the builder is worth more than you do. We may agree that the jester is worth more, but you may be more willing than I am to pay a real high price for it. I have a friend who disagrees with me on when the prestige cards should be bought; he likes them early so that he can 'play to the prestige card.' I tend to believe that I can't control the course of the game, so I like to get them late and just pick the one that best suits what I've done.
As you play this game, the value of things will rise and fall in your mind. Each time you play, you adjust for the recalibrated values you attach to various items.
But after all that, you still have to play tactically. You have to seize an opportunity when it comes. You may not have played to get jesters early, but if a couple of them fall into your lap fairly cheap, you've got to take them (or someone else will.) And that in turn changes your broader strategy.
I was a longtime holdout vis-a-vis the games of Wolfgang Kramer until I finally 'got' this one, and it's opened my eyes to the subtlety and cleverness of his creations. For those of you who, like me, tend to be drawn to seemingly simpler designs, play this one a few times; I think you'll get as hooked as I am.
I'm not sure why this one didn't take a 1st place award in the Deutscher Spiele Preis category as well as Games 100 for 2001. Princes has auctioning and bluffing components in line with the game Adel Verpflichtet (1990 1st place), but more, much more. Adel took 1990 by storm and I must agree with this award, but surely Princes deserves more praise than what it's been rated at. This game combines excellent balance like 'Settlers of Catan' (1995 1st place), but it takes complexity and strategic possibilities to a whole new level. I can't think of a thing about this game that I don't like. One of my top 3 favorite games.
Princes of Florence is one of the best games I have played in years. I cannot recommend it highly enough to those who enjoy strategy games with minimal luck involved.
Each time I have played the outcome has been unpredictable and exciting. Though Jesters are useful I have personally won with only one Jester and have seen others lose who have had three Jesters. It really does require balancing all the elements and maximizing the individual potential of the particular Works you end up with.
I like the cleverness of how the theme is seamlessly integrated with excellent play dynamics. Play is fairly rapid--not much dallying over choices, though there are lots of important choices to be made. Also there is decent interactivity with the auctions.
I have heard people say that Jesters are the only way to win this game. While Jesters are worth the most of all the items in the auction phase, you still need to know their worth so as not to over bid on them. The same is true with every item. When a group of players starts to over bid on Jesters, there are still several ways to get over 60 points. Remember that every 200 less you pay during the bidding round will turn into 1 extra point at the end of the game. A Jester that goes for 800 must make up an extra 3 points minimum over a landscape and another 3 points if a duplicate of that landscape becomes acquired during the game. The early landscape will also earn Work Value points and possibly another 3 for the best work during a round. That's a lot of possible points that have to be regained by that Jester. Playing 5 works after the purchase of a Jester will make up only 5 points which is not quite good enough. Winning another 3 points for a best work on one round is probably sufficient to strike even and playing just one work that was otherwise dead could turn into 10+ points.
Anyhow, suffice it to say that Jesters / Recruit cards are a very strong strategy but that other strategies must be used when these items are over-bid. 3 early builders, lots of buildings, and only four works is also a strong strategy. I have even won by simply taking my choice from what was left behind by overly aggressive bidders. The key, is to learn what each item is worth and to bid appropriately for them.
While the worth of items for each person changes during each round, here is a general rule of thumb that I go by at the start of the game modified slightly by my starting cards:
Recruit 500 - 600
Builders 400 - 600
Prestige 300 - 400
Also keep in mind that the value of these items are generally lower for each player as the game goes on because there is not as much use to be gotten from them (such as Jesters and Recruit cards once you have already played some of your Profession Cards or Builders once you have already built some buildings). This is counter balanced by the fact that players are willing to pay much more for specific items when it is the difference between being able to play a Profession Card and not play it, or the difference between making a Prestige Card or not making it. For these reasons, the price that items go for are more constant at the beginning of the game and more volatile by the end of the game. I've seen two players rightfully bid a landscape to over 1000 in the last round so be wary of absolutely needing something on the last round.
~ Roll dice to determine which 4 out of the seven items will go up for auction each round. No repeats during the same round.
~ Each player gets to buy two items during the auction phase of each round.
~ Players can buy more than 3 builders in order to keep their opponent from getting one and still recieve the 3 Prestige Points.
~ Play with as many of each freedoms as players. No limit on how many freedoms or professions cards can be purchased each round.
~ Trade in Work Value points for Prestige Points at 5 for 1 instead of 2 for 1.
This version of the game makes it difficult to receive many Prestige Points simply by creating works but since money is more important, works are absolutely essential. Prestige cards are more powerful because they are easier to fulfill but this works fine since they are bought during the auction phase. Space management is often an issue which is nice and the value of each item in the auction changes dramatically depending on what else is up for auction. This makes it difficult to determine the value of items and keeps the game fresh. I like this version even more than the original but I would love to hear what other people think about these changes. Feel free to e-mail me with your opinions or ideas.
I've had this game for several months now and both gaming groups I participate in still seem interestd in playing this challenging game. I won't dwell on mechanics since the game is well described in previous reviews. This game will fit a more sophisticated gamer who likes a challenge. I have seen various strategies win and most games are close. I also feel that the number of players affects the game strategy as well. Prized items go cheap with 3 but get quite pricey with 5! Overall, I rate this game highly due to its interest, challenge, and fun factor several months after the newness has worn off.
I enjoy this game quite a bit, and think it's one of the top 5 'thinking' games in my collection.
I know some people say it feels like solitaire with other people in the room. At times, I agree. In fact, the game is actually quite playable solo (representing several princes by yourself). But bidding gets fierce and competitive, and seeing another player make the most of their lot, etc. provides ample opportunity for interaction.
I don't feel there is a 'one way to win' trick to this game as other reviews have expressed. I've won (and lost) through a variety of different tactics--although producing a few solid works seems important, regardless of secondary strategies.
PROS: wonderful concept and components, fairly clear rules, variety of ways to approach game, lots of tough decisions to make, very high initial replay value to try all different paths.
CONS: deep thought game--could be very challenging for casual or younger gamers. While I didn't feel this way, several gamers felt after a few rounds of bad choices you could be 'out of it'.
LUCK FACTOR: medium-low. There are random cards handed out at the beginning that could help give some players a clearer path, but when you draw cards during the game, you look at the top 5 and select the one you want, allowing you to maximize card potential.
SKILL FACTOR: high. Bidding, what to spend actions on, what sort of buildings to build, etc. require planning and creative thinking.
Other reviews mention the mechanics, so I won't touch on those. The Saturday group gave this one a try and pronounced it very interesting. Once we realized everything that went into calculating the Work Value of a card, things changed for the better. The guys in the play group were playing for the Prestige cards starting on round 5. The lone female was still trying to balance money versus works into the later rounds. As with so many other games, it is all a question of timing. I think that you need to have 2 builders by round 3 or things get a little harder to place. The question of how much to bid during the auction phase constitutes the bulk of the issue for the first few rounds. After that, recruiting and professions become king as you try to complete more works for money and prestige.
The luck element in seeing which professions you begin with is fine. The 'take the top 5, choose 1, and put the rest on the bottom of the deck in any order' rule when going for cards makes it much less a luck decision, which garners big points in the eyes of the group. It's only a matter of time before this one gets more requests than the other thinking games we play. Highly recommended for the serious gamer. A thinking person's game if there ever was one.
We've played this game quite a few times at work, and it's been well received by everyone. (Pretty good right there.) It plays at a fairly brisk pace, which is good. It's hard to explain, which isn't; but if you've been exposed to the bidding mechanism in other games, it's not bad.
Part of the mystery in The Princes of Florence is the wonderment of what you should be going for at any time: more prestige cards, more bonus cards, more... what? There's a wealth of stuff to choose from, and not enough rounds to see a beautiful strategy come to fruition. Most times, you leave the game with that 'if I only had' or 'I was that close' feeling. A couple of times it will click, but you're not sure if it's due to you or your opponents picking less successful strategies.
The game is actually easy to play--very hard to master. I guess that's what makes it still a crowd favourite. And you get a pile of stuff for the money, unlike (for example) [page scan/se=0042/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Modern Art (which plays extremely well and is also liked a lot, but has almost nothing in the box and costs about the same).
I love this game, but my friends and I think it may have one small flaw. After 4 games, it seems to me that the Recruitment cards may be too powerful. I would like to know if anybody else thinks that. Perhaps the card should be moved to the action phase and cost from 300 to 700 florins. Otherwise, this is my group's favorite game.
I can say that as of June 2001, Princes of Florence is the best game I have ever played. Before I played this game, I had a great many games that I thought were great, and I could never really pick just one as my favorite, but having played this one several times, this one is far and away my favorite. It has great artwork, high replayability, maybe 20+ tactical approaches, constant reevaluation of strategy during the course of the game, a good and wholesome theme that works well, and brilliant mechanisms. It has bidding, a Tetris-like building grid, card management, caluculated long-term risks to try and nail down bonuses, and careful tile placement. Part Tetris, part King of the Elves, part [page scan/se=0042/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Modern Art, part who knows what else... but all the components of gameplay work so well together you will walk away just shaking your head realizing how deep it is. The game is all about future planning and rewards those who plan ahead.
I must emphasize one thing here: I write reviews with families in mind, and review them with that slant. This game is not going to be something you pull out and play with your 8 year old. I feel it could be a good family game for 'older' families (like kids 14 years and older) or perhaps by grown famlies (the grandparents and parents), but this is not a family game, strictly speaking. But don't let that dissuade you either. This game really is that good. My faves have been [page scan/se=0908/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Entdecker, [page scan/se=0908/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Big City, Aladdin's Dragons, Tikal (also a bit 'heavier'), [page scan/se=0630/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Through The Desert, Elfenland, [page scan/se=0027/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Bohnanza, and others, but Princes of Florence is the best game I've ever played.
Wow. I haven't visited for a few months and finally see this game getting the praise it deserves. In my mind this handily outstrips Kramer and Ulrich's earlier collaboration El Grande (though that castillo is a beautiful mechanic), as well as anything either man has touched outside the partnership. Glorious and beguiling.
Yes, believe all the praise this game has received. This is a great game for serious gamers who are trying to get their not-so-serious gaming friends to try something with a little more meat than say Rage or Bohnanza. This game seems to have a little bit of everything I enjoy in a game: auctions (for those who like games such as Medici), limited number of actions (for those who like games such as Tigris & Euphrates), resource management (for those who like games such as Hare and Tortoise), and even tile placement for Tetris fans. Other positives include a strong theme, plenty of strategic options, and high replay value.
I have to say after playing this game just twice, this game takes the cake as far as I am concerned. I will admit I love Tigris and Euphrates, and Taj Mahal just as much and in T&E's case I love the game better. The problem is getting non-gamers to sit through the rules curve and the initial frustration is next to impossible. The Princes of Florence is the kind of game where explaining the rules is 2x as complicated as just playing the game. I have played this game with six non-gamers now, and all of them after getting through the first or second round not only caught onto the game, but liked the game. Usually the only game I can get anyone to play is Acquire or Elfenland, but in this case all of them were ready to play Princes of Florence again. In my book any game that is this good, that my friends will not only play, but can also be very competive makes this game a winner. So while T&E sits on my shelf (I know, it's unfortunate) Princes of Florence becomes a new favorite.
Well, I have to say I am more than happy with this purchase. I was rather wary at first as I dislike El Grande and find its play quite bland and the downtime between turns excessively long. (Yeah, that's right--that's my review that brought El Grande down from five stars...)
Anyway, this game surprised me! For the past couple of months I have considered Taj Mahal the most most elegant game design I've ever encountered. It was my current favourite, beating out four years of Cosmic Encounter being tops. Well, only two months later Knizia has to give it up. This game is lightning quick to play, lightning quick to learn (don't explain the rules--just start playing, even the dog will catch on), loads of fun, and unbelievably strategic on spatial, resource and card playing levels. Every person who has played this has wanted to play again. It has quickly become one of my most popular games. Oh, and to the people who think the graphics drab, forget it, it has that Carcassonne feel of creating an area right before with lakes trees etc. which in itself gives a great amount of satisfaction. It even has that great German game mechanic of small rewards (making works of art) that make you feel like you're winning even when you are not.
Easily the most brilliant piece of art in game mechanics and play quality to come along in years, I am officially a fan. (I still won't play El Grande, though!)
This game is a true classic. There are many strategic possibilities and you need to plan ahead very carefully and weigh your options. Due to the random distribution of the various cards, each game will be different and no single strategy will work each time. As a bonus, the graphics are splendid, and you really get a feel that you are constructing something special as you watch your principality grow and your works accumulate.
I will not drag on about the mechanics of the game; they have already been covered by Greg's review below. I will tell you that although I have only played one game (four-player), halfway through the first game I was already plotting my strategy for the next game. Now I'm itching to play it again....
Also, I certainly thought I would have the strategy down pat (studying the rules and the mechanics of the game as such). Turns out that you have to be flexible enough to players' different styles of play in The Princes of Florence. Seems as though there are a myriad of different strategic possibilities; however, since you're so limited with your actions, don't try to combine a couple of different strategies, or it might backfire on you and neither one will be accomplished effectively.
That said, I will share that my wife won the first game, as she had a clear-cut strategy that she followed through (five out of the seven rounds she produced the best work; yet she only had two buildings and three landscapes in her Palazzo at the end of the game). My brother and I had a good idea of what we wanted to accomplish, but we weren't focused enough (we competed for second place and he beat me out by a point). My future sister-in-law had no definable strategy and it showed in the final score. So a general word of strategy advice: if you know how to play, pick a strategy beforehand and stick with it (unless of course, you see everyone else attempting the same strategy).
I can go on and on (and just with that one game under my belt). However, I'll just close with this: The Princes of Florence is firmly embedded on my Top Ten list, and shall be for years to come. I absolutely love this game!
Die Frsten von Florenz is the best game I've bought for years. The game brings in a lot of new things. I never thought I should see a boardgame which makes me think of Tetris.
Ok, let's have the good/bad things:
- Some faults in the design. It would have been so nice if the cards were a bit more different on the backs. It's hard to see how many Prestige cards a person has, and I don't like to ask, because it could get people to suddenly remember Prestige cards, and suddenly they are too expensive. The architects suffer from being absolutely invisible if placed in the boxes made therefor.
- A little 'miss' in the rules: Can I use an Enticement card on a person that was stolen from me, and thereby play the same person two times?
- Like a lot other games, the game is suffering from what I call: '1 strike and out'. One big mistake and the game is lost.
- Nice layout and good materials.
- Very good theme, the feeling of the game is good. You actually feel like a prince of Florenz.
- Lots of things to do, and lots of ways of winning.
- Nice game mechanics--I love the auction rules where you only can buy one thing per turn, and each thing can only be bought once per turn.
- Lots of skill, little luck.
This game gets to be amongst my top ten games ever.
Many people seem to refer to this game as the 'best since Euphrat & Tigris.' That gives short-shrift to this fine game. In fact, with the possible exception of Aladdin's Dragons, this is the best game since Premiere, and before that, Die Macher. Better than Settlers of Catan. Better than Tikal. Better, even, than Union Pacific.
There are plenty of other postings to describe how the game works, but suffice it to say that the game offers lots of options, none of which are terribly complicated. However, the sheer number of items with which you must be concerned does mean that it takes a good 20 minutes to effectively explain the game to newcomers. But once they expend the learning-curve time, they'll be addicted to this gem.
One easily fixable problem does seem to arise with all the groups we've played with. The incremental Prestige Points earned for extra builders, duplicate landscapes, and each building are often forgotten, causing people to constantly ask 'did you remember to give me the 3 points credit for...?' Indeed, this does make for a cumbersome scoring situation, as all other in-game point allocations are awarded in response to very obvious actions (cashing in works or having the best work for a turn).
Thus, we've experimented (quite positively) with tallying all those 3-point bonuses at the end of the game, rather than incrementally during the game. This places all those tallies at the end, rather than having them strewn about during Phase A (purchasing builders--but only sometimes, or purchasing landscapes--again only sometimes) and during Phase B (when each building is purchased).
It's already a very, very good game. But altering the timing of the three-point bonuses turns it into an exceptional game--possibly one of the top 10 of all time. As this game gains exposure, desert island lists will soon have to be modified.
I've been eager to play this game for some time after reading the series of rave reviews it's been getting, and I have to say that it lives up to the hype. Other reviews have covered the game mechanics very well, so I'll just add a few comments here and there.
The components are great--a little drab color-wise perhaps, but very attractively illustrated and of good quality. Adding to this is one of the best player summary cards I've seen--EVERYTHING you need to know is on these cards, along with your individual game board and spaces for all the counters you'll buy during the game. The English rules are sometimes guilty of over-explaining simple concepts, but that's far better than the alternative.
One interesting bit I noticed was that the larger a given building is, the more types of artisans can make use of it. The smallest buildings (which are thus the easiest to fit into a crowded palazzo) will only give their benefits to a single artist, while the largest (and most awkward) buildings will give bonuses to three different artisans. The same applies to landscape features, with the largest type (forests) helping more artisans than the smallest (parks). Just another subtle but well-conceived touch.
And finally, the most telling clue of all: I played this game with three other fairly jaded gamers, and all of us knew well before the end of the game that we wanted to play again, and soon. By midway through the first game we had a good handle on strategy, and I think we all have plans for how we're going to approach the game next time.
This one is a keeper!
Frankly, I don't know whether Mr. Kramer is a genius, or whether he merely excels at finding good design partners. His cooperative ventures with Mr. Kiesling and Mr. Ulrich have produced some of the best games of recent memory. This game, with Mr. Ulrich, is amoung his very best.
Princes of Florence is certainly the least approachable of the three from a casual gamer's perspective. The pieces are nice, but lack the satisfaction of a big board and cool 'bits.' There is nothing here to equate to El Grande's castillo or the big chunky wagons of Die Handler. What we get are a bunch of oddly shaped buildings, separate boards for each player, and a decidedly ugly scoreboard.
In terms of gameplay, it is certainly the equal or superior of the other designs. Each turn is a mind-wracking exercise of trying to take advantage of minimal resources. The same seven items are up for auction each of the seven game turns, but a player will want and need most of them. Only one can be purchased each turn, and getting into a bidding war for a needed element can be harrowing as well as costly.
The other commodities are not auctioned, but are in distressingly short supply. A player only has two optional actions each turn to buy these, and each item purchased means one less action spent in scoring points. Brain strain can be significant.
While not for all tastes, I give this one an easy 5 stars because it is such a beautiful design for a game, one that incorporates its theme and its execution so wonderfully. This ranks with Modern Art as one of the greatest 'gamer's games' of all time.
The Princes of Florence is stunning, brilliant, a masterpiece of game design. In my opinion, it's the best game published since Euphrat & Tigris, and maybe even better than that one. The designers have integrated several ingenious mechanisms very smoothly, and the game offers one tough decision after another for its participants.
I see that several other reviewers have gone into detail about the game's mechanics, so I won't. But I just wanted to post my praise of this wonderful game, and add my own recommendation. This is a game which belongs in every gamer's collection. The Princes of Florence will become a classic and will see much action for years to come.
This game lives up to its highly touted reviews.
From the start, I must say that I have only played this game once (5 player game). However, I'm itching to play again.
The mechanics of game play have been covered by other reviews, so I won't include that here.
This game is a classic 'so many things to do, but so little time'. Players constantly make decisions between alternatives that are ALL attractive, often agonizing over the decision.
That leads to my only negative comment about this classic game. Some players may take too long making decisions, i.e. they agonize. I guess that is what this game is all about. However, the game mechanics are otherwise so superb, that I would still rate this game a SOLID 5.
If I ever had any doubt, this game has sealed it. Kramer is by far my favorite game designer. His list of games that I find outstanding is getting longer and longer... El Grande, Torres, Tikal, El Caballero, Auf Achse. Now, I can add Die Fursten von Florenz to that ever-expanding list.
The game is set in the lively world of renaissance Italy. Each player represents a wealthy noble who is endeavoring to build a nice, attractive community around his private palazzo. In doing so, he hopes to attract and employ a variety of artisans, educators, mathematicians, musicians, etc. (I'll call them 'craftsmen'). However, each of these craftsmen have their own personal quirks and peculiarities, demanding certain types of facilities in order to be employed. Some may desire nice parks or seas, others may prefer a laboratory or opera house, while others demand education or travel. Providing the correct combination of buildings, freedoms and natural landscaping is one of the major tasks facing each player.
The game is separated into two major phases: the auction phase and the action phase. During the auction phase, the 'start' player (which rotates each of the seven rounds) places an item up for bid. The eligible items include woods, lakes and parks (which help attract certain craftsmen and artisans), entertainers (which makes it easier to employ a craftsman), architects (which decreases the price of purchasing buildings and also allows a player to construct buildings adjacent to each other, but only if you have more than one architect in your employment), prestige cards (which award victory points if certain goals to met by the end of the game) and Enticement cards (which enables a player to lure a craftsman away from an opponent). ALL of these items are of use to every player, so the bidding can be quite lively and competitive. It also forces a player to make some extremely tough decisions. Since the game only last seven rounds, a player will only acquire a total of seven of these items. Choosing which ones to acquire is a vital decision, but often means you will have to spend precious money in a bidding war to acquire the item you desire.
If a landscape item is purchased (woods, lake or park), the player must then position the item on his private board, which depicts the area of his town. This aspect of the game has a puzzle feel, sort of like 'Tetris', as players have limited space in which to place the items and must follow certain placement rules. Correctly positioning these landscapes and buildings is VITAL. I've seen many players--including myself--lose the game in the final rounds because they couldn't properly fit a desired purchase.
The second major phase of the game is the action round. Each player has two actions he can perform. These actions include:
- Purchasing a building (which also awards 3 victory points)
- Purchasing a freedom (travel, religion or education)
- Purchasing a Bonus card (which provide points towards the employment of a craftsman IF the conditions of the card are fulfilled)
- Employing a craftsman (which can only be done if a player has the proper amount of points, which increases with each passing round)
- Purchase a new craftsman card
Again, a player usually wants to do so much more than the two actions allow. I've made it no secret that I absolutely LOVE this mechanic and Kramer tends to use it to full effect. The proper types of buildings (which come in various sizes) and freedoms are needed in order to employ craftsmen, but space is limited in your village, so you usually cannot purchase or fit all of the buildings and landscapes you desire. So, you must make your purchases carefully. Plus, the number of buildings, landscapes and freedoms is limited, so if you wait too long to make a purchase, the item you desire may be gone!
The ultimate goal of the game is to employ craftsmen. In order to do so, however, you must accumulate a required number of points. Each craftsman prefers a certain type of building, freedom and landscape. For instance, the Theologian prefers a University, Park and Religion. If these are present in a village, they contribute a total of 10 points (4, 3 and 3 respectively) to meeting the requirement to employ him. Further, each entertainer present in the town contributes 2 points, while each other craftsman who is present (whether they've been employed or are still in the player's hand) contributes 1 point. Bonus cards may also contribute more points IF the conditions of the card(s) are met.
If a player has enough points (as required by the current turn) to employ a craftsman, he may do so. The more points he has the better as the player who has the most points in employing a craftsman that turn will receive a 3 victory point bonus. Further, every player receives cash equal to the number of points he tallied for employing a caftsman. This is the ONLY source of money during a game, so players ust employ craftsmen on a regular basis. A player may also elect to forego some (or all) of the cash in return for victory points. Each 200 dollars a player forfeits results in 1 victory point. This is a CRITICAL decision as money is worthless at game's end (except as a tie-breaker), yet one must keep a healthy supply in his treasury in order to compete in the auction round.
The game continues for seven rounds, with the number required to employ a craftsman steadily increasing each round. In later rounds, it is almost essential that a player have one or more bonus cards to help reach this lofty number. Players must also resist the temptation to employ craftsmen every turn, especially if they are just equaling the employment number. The wise player will time his employment so he will produce the greatest 'work' that round, thereby earning the 3 victory points and more money (or victory points). This is especially critical in the final rounds when most players will be forfeiting the cash in return for victory points.
The game, in my opinion, is nothing short of brilliant. It is another masterpiece from Kramer, who has again teamed with Ulrich. Some folks have complained that the game lacks player interaction. I will concede that there isn't much direct interaction in terms of even cards, conflict, thefts, etc., but the auction round is usually quite lively and does involve quite a bit of interaction. The game is much more on the order of Tikal or Torres, where you must perform at your peak, with shrewd timing, decision making and beating your opponent to the punch. It's a game I don't think I'll ever tire of playing.
After only playing this game once, I am breaking my normal rule and writing a review before playing it a few more times. This is partly because The Princes is a game whose mechanism of play and strategies for winning are so clear halfway through your first game that you're already planning what you'll do differently the next time. Despite this, it is by no means an obvious or simple game. The game works on so many different levels that the group I played this with was composed of a game developer, a hardcore gaming enthusiast whose collection numbers in the hundreds, his 12 year old son, and a couple of casual gamers (that would be me), and the 12 year-old scored the highest anyone had ever seen (over 60) by the end, thoroughly trouncing us all. There was a little coaching from his dad, but there's no doubt that he understood the game and played very well. So don't be put off, you that are groaning inwardly at the thought of another super-complex German game! The rules took 20 minutes, but the game played quickly once it started. This is one of those games where there's just enough time to figure out what you want to do next and maybe comment about how cool it all is before it's your turn again. On a scale of 1-10 I'd give it a solid 9, with one point off for a lot of German text that made the quick-reference cards next to useless. Let's hope that Rio Grande picks this one up!
The game is staged in the ever-popular setting of renaissance Italy, with each player representing one of the powerful families of Florence, the most historically significant of whom were the famous Medici. Each player is given a small placemat-sized board with an overhead of a terracotta-roofed palazzo and the surrounding grounds overlaid with a grid, like a landscaping blueprint. Beautiful tiles of different building types and landscape elements will soon fill in the empty space as you develop your property into an estate worthy of a prince.
The object is to offer your palazzo and its grounds as a place where various distinguished people can come to do their work--from Philosophers to Composers, Goldsmiths to Playwrights, you try to encourage their productivity by offering the landscape, buildings and freedom that will inspire them to do great works. It is these works which gain you, a Prince of Florence, prestige among your peers. Each player is dealt five personality cards at the start, of which three are selected as a starting hand. These cards each have a profession listed (there are 21 different professions, with no duplicates) and the landscape element, building and type of freedom that is needed to do their best work. These different elements are then bought by the players and built into the estate. For example, a Philosopher might do his best work in a University, with a Wood in which to perambulate while he cogitates, with the freedom of Religion to be able to express his ideas without getting skewered. Get the idea?
Landscape elements (Parks, Lakes and Woods) are available in the first phase of the game where items are held for auction, including Jesters who, ostensibly, entertain your personalities and give you an extra two points when you score--and Architects, who reduce buildings' costs and increase the freedom of where they are built, depending on how many Architects you have. Also for auction are Prestige Point bonus cards and cards which allow you to swap a profession card that someone has discarded (very handy later in the game when there is no more room to develop your landscape, you just grab the professions that are like those you already have). I'm not a fan of auctions; they just don't toot my horn. But the mechanism in Princes was different enough that my usual nonchalance evaporated. In phase B, everyone may buy two of the following options: a building, a point bonus card (different from prestige bonus card) a freedom, a switcheroo using the above-mentioned card, or playing a personality card. THIS IS WHEN YOU SCORE POINTS.
The personality card is scored according to how many of the work-inspiring elements you have at your estate and any other bonuses you may have such as a Jester, a bonus card or whether you built a building this turn. Each time a personality card is played, the player's piece is advanced on the scoring track. The player then decides how many points to convert into money, and how many to convert into prestige points (victory points). Confused? Don't be. Your Composer (personality) cranks out a stunning Opera (work), thanks to the wonderful Opera house, parks and freedom you gave him. You get 16 works points to allot towards gold and Prestige. You decide to cash in 6 works points at a ratio of 1:100, adding 600 gold to your coffers. You then decide to turn the rest in for fame and glory at a 2:1 ratio, netting you 5 victory points. You move your VP score marker up its track and remove your works score marker until the next time you produce a work.
I think that's enough to wet your whistle. Just let me tell you that the competition is great, designing your own estate is fun, and the options in both A and B phases are enough to keep the brain cogs clicking, but not so much that it feels like Tumble Dry, Medium. Beautiful text, colors and components all please. The bits are either hardwood or 1/32" cardboard, like Vinci or El Caballero as opposed to a more hefty 1/16" like Tikal or Stephenson's Rocket. No complaints, however. Worth every penny. This is not a typical family game, but it's not beyond an average gamer, I'd say. You'll understand it by the 4th round, and by the sixth, you'll probably even think you have a good chance of winning. Not if that kid's playing, though.
In this game you take the role of a medieval prince trying to strengthen the power and prestige of your court. In order to achieve this goal you have to take care of your court in a lot of meanings (buildings, landscape, civil rights,...) to attract as many people and artists as possible to live there.
The box comes fully packed with a lot of material of high quality, both the different boards (scoring board and the boards for the players) and the other gaming material (buildings and landscape tiles, cards and markers) is manufactured really well. In the version published by Pro Ludo also two expansions to the basic game are part of the package.
The game lasts for seven rounds, whereas each round is divided into two phases (Auction and Action). After the last round the game ends immediatly and the winner is the player with the most prestige points. In the first phase of each round (Auction) each player bids for some specific tiles (landscapes and builders, but also prestige cards) he needs to extend his palazzo on his playing board. In the second phase (Action) you can buy (and place) buildings, get certain bonus cards and most important, get professionists to complete some "works" at your court. Depending on the building- and landscape tiles on your playing board, as well as some other influences, this brings different (and overall most of the) prestige points necessary to win the game.
The game is great. It is easy to learn, medium complex and the rules are quite clear. It is very well balanced which makes every decision really hard, but also gives you the chance to plan ahead and work on a strategy which might lead to victory. The influence of luck is kept quite low and even if there is not too much interacting between the players, there are also some mechanism integrated in gameplay taking care of this matter - and so the game overall plays really fluently and is exciting. Beside that it has a manageable amount of playing time (and just a little downtime for each player) ensuring that it will be played quite often - believe me.
(initially published on http://artofshopping.blogspot.com * a blog on boardgames, comics, books and music)
I love this game and waited for it to be released in english after playing the German version a few times. It's not exactly for everyone, like Puerto Rico. But I wage that Puerto Rico took a lot of its ideas from this game... It does take a game or 2 to get used to the 7 rounds of the game. Strategic planning is a must in this game and planning out your course of action a few turns ahead of time is a must... but the bidding can go very high for your plan, so you better be prepared with a backup plan. Great game and it has a flavor of strategically testing yourself along with competing with the rest of the players.
In the never ending quest for the holy grail of games, I stumbled upon this one and was very pleased. This game was not one-dimensional but allows for a number of different strategies to win the game. It also offers so much to be thinking about all at once, but I love that in a game. It is truly a game of balance, patience and requires high cognitive attention.
For the next level of gaming, try Princes and you will not be disappointed.
This game can be played in an hour and a half once your group is familiar with it which is great for a game of this type. The strategies are varied though I think the game puts a little too much emphasis on completing works. The one thing I dont like is how the game breaks down with fewer players, with 3 the auctions are boring and theres no real fighting going on, but with 5 players the game is much more riveting with bidding wars and the lack of profession cards. Also as many have stated the game has very little direct player interaction outside of the auction phase, though you can be sure that other players will change their plan based on what you are doing. So get this game if you can get 5 players regularly and it will surely be a blast.
There are so many possible ways to win this game. As soon as you're done playing, you think of some other way to play that would work better. This makes for excellent replay value. You never get to do what you want, but there are so many options that you don't mind.
Another great game.
Things I love about this game are how many choices you have--there is almost TOO much to do--but after a few plays you lock into a strategy. A word to the wise, the games rules are daunting--but after getting started this game is sooo simple, but deceptively hard. There is NO LUCK. Drive up the bids, so you can get what you want. I don't see the need for three builders, though.
There are also things I don't like. I think the recruiting cards and prestige cards are too powerful. I spent one game just getting prestige cards and I won by a huge margin. This can be avoided, though, as the other players have to stop me, by bidding to prevent me from getting prestige cards.
There are a lot of complaints about the game feeling like solitaire. I find this ridiculous. You aren't bidding right, then--there is constant player interaction.
I've only played the game a few times, but I really like it. I think it requires you to do a lot of advanced planning. You can't just play from turn to turn and expect to have a real shot at winning. Of course, there are times that come up where you can't do what you want, but that's expected. Overall, I enjoy the game.
When I play, I find it necessary to produce an early work to get money for later auctions. It seems to me that you need to publish at least one work to have money. Also, producing works around 10-12 points is not a viable strategy. As the turns go by, it becomes more difficult to publish. At least that is my understanding. Each year the value needed to actually publish a work increases. Therefore, you can't aim at just works worth 10-12 points. Anyway, I like the game and just thought those were points worth mentioning.
When I read the reviews the game was getting, I wondered whether it would live up to them...
Okay, when I first saw and played it, I, too, was very impressed, and after four or five games, I thought it was living up to the hooplah. However, after having played it a few more times, I became a little less impressed--it appeared to me as if Princes of Florence were a 'one best way' game. There was seemingly a rich variety of options and approaches to the game, and initially all seemed rather well balanced. However, after a little analysis of the game, it seemed that this initial picture was not really that accurate. After scratching the game's surface and starting to come to grips with its inner workings, it seems that builders are a resource trap. While one builder is arguably worth getting early on, I can't see that having three builders is ever a good idea, and having two is probably only attractive as a recovery strategy when you get your first-choice strategy wrong.
To me, it seems that you should spend the first couple of turns positioning yourself. I think that 6 is the optimal number of profession cards and that you should try to publish no fewer than six works, aiming to average 10 - 12 prestige points per work. (You might not bank 10 - 12 prestige points for completing a work, but counting the points for buildings, second landscapes, etc., plus your banked prestige points per work, you should be aiming at no fewer than 10 -12 points per work. That is, you need 60 - 72 points in total to have a shot at winning.)
The range of varieties in Princes of Florence actually becomes a flaw to me, in that it means that the 'one best way' is actually quite a wide path. Thus, if you try to achieve it one way and are thwarted, you just fall back to an alternative approach to the order in which you amass the components you need to publish 6 works at an average of 10 - 12 points per work.
You get 14 actions in the game (2 actions per turn), so if you are to publish 6 works, that leaves 8 other actions. If you are lucky in your profession card deal and collection, you'll only need to build two buildings, but you'll probably need 3--or, if you are unlucky, 4. If you only need 2 buildings, chances are you'll need all 3 freedoms, so that's 5 actions... if you need 3 buildings, you might only need 2 freedoms... still 5 actions, possibly 6 (if you still need all three freedoms). That leaves two non-committed actions (3 if you are lucky) which are needed for obtaining profession cards.
Typically that means an approach of:
turn 1: buy a profession card and a freedom,
turn 2: buy a profession card and a freedom,
turn 3: buy (either a sixth profession card or a third freedom) and build a building,
turn 4: build a building and publish,
turn 5: publish and build a building,
turn 6: publish and publish,
turn 7: publish and publish;
with your auction targets being (often):
1 recruiting card (allows one of the buy profession cards to be replaced by buy a bonus card),
1 prestige card.
So from games 6 - 12, I started to be a little disillusioned with Princes of Florence. I'd looked at it from a number of different angles and couldn't see other viable approaches which could yield as great a score consistently. Some can OCCASIONALLY yield a score that would compete, but the path you have to tread when pursuing those approaches is a lot less flexible. Your lower margin of error means that (in percentage terms) they are going to fall short more often, so better to stay with the tried and true method that allows maximum flexibility--it works even when three players are following the same approach.
That's when things got a bit more interesting and my opinion of Princes of Florence began to rise again. Just when I was starting to think it was a game for which the initial burst of enthusiasm was going to wear off and see it consigned to the 'play occasionally' shelf, I played a few more games with players who had all played before. They had all decided the approach above was clearly the best one and the game got its second wind. Now, with all 4 or 5 players trying to implement that strategy, the auctions became a LOT more interesting, and the chances of being pushed off the 'one best path' were a lot higher.
Well, so much has been said about this fine game that I will just point out that this is not a game for everyone. Why? Because Princes of Florence (PoF) is mainly a solo game where each player plans and executes actions on their own (even on their own board), without much interference from the other players. Yes, you have the auction phase, but in our games this phase is done in a few minutes. After that, each player folds back to their own board and does their calculations trying to gain as many points as possible. And if Tikal and other games have a downtime problem, well...?
It is not a big thing for me, I enjoy games that are quite complex with some serious calculation. But obviously others don't. The biggest complaint I have heard from fellow players is that PoF is quite low on the fun-factor. It all becomes a bit too serious.
PoF is great for people who enjoy deep and serious strategy games, but for those who prefer more interaction and games which generate more laughs, take this as a warning.
I'd concur with all those below. This is a very, very fun game. I have some quibbles with it, but Kramer nailed the intangibles. Something about the game gives me a little electric rush every time I play it. The cutthroat bidding and the tricky choices and the neck and neck finishes. It is a blast.
Previous reviewers have been lax when discussing its weaker points (and there are serious issues here).
The playing options are not as great as they seem. Everyone is going to need landscapes, buildings and freedoms. Succesful players must produce at least four works. Bonus cards are generally necessary to snag the vital "best work bonuses" each round. So, many requisite actions--coupled with a short, seven-round playing time--can make a gamer's freedom to craft original strategy very cramped indeed. This necessary narrowing of focus isn't all bad. Just understand that the objective of players is to make small steps outside of the routine path to pick up an extra point or two that will put them over the top. Games are close, and nitty-gritty attention to detail wins the day. But this game passes this off as well as any on the market.
Equally serious is the dearth of player interaction. What I'm saying is tricky, so listen: the game is certainly won or lost in the intra-player bidding rounds. The bidding phase is the most dramatic and important part of the game, and you cannot do well in the game--no matter how well you manage your court and professionals--if you can't out-bid your opponents. However, players only spend a fraction of the time actually bidding. Half the game is occupied by the second round of each turn when a player is making independent choices which neither affect the the other players nor are affected by them. You don't interfere with their strategy, you just push your own agenda forward.
In conclusion, this is a beatiful and enjoyable game, but your options are limited, and players spend half the game playing against themselves.
Not much interaction between the players, but otherwise lots of fun. What seems to happen is that two players who have built the same stuff spend several turns recruiting the same artist back and forth, racking up points without having to build anything new. The recruiting card seems too powerful, since it not only gets you a profession card without having to spend an action, it gets you a high scoring one.
Die Fursten von Florenz is a game of constructing buildings and landscapes to fulfill contracts. Whoever is most successful at building the right combinations of structures will get the most points for his contracts and win the game. It's a game that rewards careful planning, and knowing how much to bid and spend along the way.
The game's systems work very well together, with some serious choices to be made between building, getting new contracts, acquiring architects and jesters, placing parks, lakes, and forests, getting construction bonuses, and end of game bonuses. Everything is valuable, and you don't have the money or available actions to do it all. This makes for a very tense game.
There is a lot to do in this game, and always a new strategy to try the next time you play. This makes it a very entertaining game for me and most of the people I game with, although a more casual gamer may find it a bit long and complex. I found it fascinating and it left me wanting to play again.
Yes, that was a back-handed compliment. I do enjoy this game quite a bit at times, but at other times it feels like I am simply doing math in my head at the same table where other people are doing math in their head. What a weird thing to do for entertainment. THere are also a bunch of rules that just seem to be added to help complicate the matter (like a bunch of different ways to score a few points here and there) At the same time, certain aspects of this game are beautiful and elegant.
In the end, I gave this game a 3 because there are aspects that deserve a 5 and other aspects that deserve a 2. In the end, I think there are a few more 2s than 5s which is why I did not give the game a 4 (it was close though).
I really wanted to give this game a good review, I really did! But there are just too many problems. The good stuff first. This is a beautifully produced game, great bits and artwork. It plays in the stated time and is simple enough for many non-gamers to learn. The system is elegant and the theme fits perfectly.
What's the problem then?
There are many. First and foremost, there is virtually no player interaction. The bidding phase is important, but with experienced players it will have almost no effect on gameplay. This will contribute to a short shelf life. I've played five or six games, and I feel that even with a new group there is nothing new I could see or do. This is the primary reason for giving the game three stars, in a year I don't believe anyone will be playing Princes of Florence.
Perhaps even more important is that there seems to be only one viable strategy that will win the day. I have only played with the maximum five players, so perhaps this is not true for other numbers. For all the options that are presented, the only route to victory is works. You must buy additional works and try to get as many of the cards that allow you to re-use works as possible. The problem becomes that this gives an advantage to the first two players in turn order. They will have the chance to get these cards before anyone else. Each player's starting cards are also important, because the player that has matching works (for example, three works which all need a forest and the religion freedom) will have a significant advantage. That said, games still tend to be close because of the Prestige cards at the end. But I think it will be the exception that these can win the game against an 'all works' strategy. It seems to me then that the game is broken, unless the point of the game is to solve the mathematical puzzle of its system. I would love to hear if anyone else has noticed this after multiple games, or conversely if there is a fix or some other strategy that can win regularly.
After saying all this, I still had fun playing the first couple of times. Great fun. But I write reviews with the long term value of a game in mind, and with so many games in my closet it is hard to recommend one which comes out so little.
I'm quite honestly shocked at the positive review scores this game has received. We played it a handful of times, but quickly gave it away. We simply found it boring relative to other games on our shelf. Perhaps we didn't "get" it, but with other great games out there (Settlers, Wildlife, Puerto Rico, and Tigris and Euphrates being just a few), if the game doesn't shine in the first few playings, we're on to something else.
Rio Grande's welcome translation of last year's Best Advanced Strategy game has been recognized with an award from the Strategy Gaming Society (October 2001 GAMES). You, a Florentine prince, vie to develop the most cultured court. Bid for and install suitable buildings, create pleasing landscapes, and hire some entertainers. Artists and scholars, attracted by these efforts, create works that earn you money and prestige points in proportion to how well you've treated them. Your estate is of limited size, so be careful how you fill it. You may also obtain prestige cards, giving you a goal whose achievement will bring more points. Victory goes to the player with the most prestige points at game's end.
Compete with other Florentine princes to be the ultimate cultural connoisseur by creating an environment that will attract scholars and artists and inspire them to produce great works. Each of these masters favors a unique combination of landscape (park, forest, or lake), freedom (religion, expression, or travel) and building (10 types, from small chapel to large university). The value of their works depends on how many of these conditions you fulfill. When a round starts, you bid to obtain one of seven objects: parks, forests, lakes, entertainers (to add value to works), architects (to lower building costs), prestige cards (to give you a chance to earn extra points at game's end), and enticement cards (to lure an artist/scholar away from someone else). Afterward, you can perform two actions, such as producing a work, buying a building, bringing a person to court (either from a deck or by enticement), buying a freedom, or picking a bonus card (adding value to one work under certain conditions). The seven rounds require works of progressively higher value. The works are compensated by prestige points and/or money. This is a noble and beautiful game, rich with detail, substance, and intricate decisions.
The authors have a good track record, any connoisseur of recent German games will associate their names with quality and in my opinion this is one of the best games to be released in the last few years. The topic is intriguing--the Renaissance, patronage and prestige conjure up a game that fits well in the imagination. And the components are good--lots of them and high quality, as you would expect from the Alea line. There are many aspects of the game that appeal--the auction, the pieces, the combinations, the placement of buildings, the scoring mechanics, the options and the choices--but in the end, it is the interaction of these elements and the way they provide a stimulating set of decisions that set this game apart from others.
The initial auction is not straightforward, as players can play tactically, opening the bidding on an object that isn't the one they really want in the hope of drawing other players in, getting them to spend their money and reducing the competition for the object that is really sought after. Of course, if no one tops your opening bid, this will fail and you will end up with something which is not the ideal object. Consequently, if you are going to try this, you should pick an item you'd like. Then, if nobody rises to the bait, you can at least console yourself with the thought that you got something you wanted and you got it cheaply.
The auction system is also clever in the way that as it proceeds, there are fewer items to choose from, but also fewer competitors. When you get down to two people, there is often the notion floating in the air that "you need this and I need that, so let's not waste time bidding up prices". Money is tight, so the level the auction has reached can also dictate whether to leave or continue. I have often changed my mind about something when the price got too high.
The objects themselves are also intriguing. The landscapes take up precious space on your board, whereas the entertainers, the architects and the cards do not. So if you go for landscapes, it might upset your placement of the buildings demanded by the personalities. On the other hand, the personalities also demand landscapes. Fortunately, the rules for placing landscapes are less strict than the ones for buildings and early on at least the problems of fitting things in aren't too great. However, you do need to plan ahead.
One option is an 'architect strategy'. Buy two, or better still three, and erect as many buildings as possible. The architects mean that you can fit more buildings into your estate and can build them more cheaply. This brings in points and leaves you with more cash to use in auctions. However, others may block your purchase of the valuable third architect,
So far I have found that the 'entertainer strategy' is not good enough to win. While the points earned from entertainers are helpful, they are not as valuable as getting the right combination of freedoms, buildings and landscapes to improve the lot of many of your people. Whether there should be a further bonus for (say) 3 entertainers is unclear to me. I have found more success by ignoring entertainers and concentrating on the development of works.
Since it is good to have as many personalities as possible, I try to get the substitute cards that allow you to re-use a personality from another player. This helps towards the end of the game, when it is essential to score as often as you can. Another strategy that I have employed to good effect (just!) is to ignore the prestige bonus cards. While each player can choose one card from five (another good rule), they make you try for this particular target and I have always been concerned that this might conflict with the selection of personalities and objects. My chosen way of winning has been to try and gain a lead and hope that this is sufficient for me to be far enough ahead of the players who have opted to go for the end of game prestige bonuses. However, this is a finely judged position and one of the beauties of this game is that there are so many options that not only will each game be different, but there is no guarantee of success.
The second half of the game brings further challenges with the placement of buildings. Trying to get all the ones you need into positions where they will fit together is a problem that is intriguing and fun. When you start trying to deal with the different shapes and sizes and the fact that each type is in limited supply, you have an aspect of the game that is a game in itself. The number of actions at your disposal is always too small, so even choosing which actions to take can be difficult. However, the game does proceed well, and none of the options will present you with a bad situation unless you cannot plan at all and I have never felt that the game is going slowing for all the decisions that each player must make. Indeed, this is part of its fascination for me.
So, summing up, this game presents a myriad of options, but they are not too mind-boggling to ponder; player interaction, but not of a brutal kind; lots of ways of winning and perhaps best of all, a chance for everyone to win from seemingly impossible positions. If this game ever comes second in awards over the coming year, the winner will be astounding. Superb game and entertainment. To quote from my game group, "it doesn't get any better than that." 10/10.
Wolfgang Kramer had a long and distinguished career as a solo designer, but, good as they were, the games he produced during that time have been largely overshadowed by what he has achieved since he stopped working alone and began working in partnership: El Grande, Tycoon, El Caballero, Tikal, Die Hndler, Torres and now this one, which could well be the best of the lot.
The idea is that you are a Renaissance prince whose prestige comes not just from your wealth but from the way that you use it as a patron of learning and the arts. You seek to attract painters, scholars and so on to your court and you provide the conditions under which they will produce great works, works which will then reflect glory on to yourself and your family.
Each player has a board which shows their estate in the form of a rectangle, with their palace as a block in one corner. On the rest of the land they will put up the buildings that their protgs need and create the landscapes which will inspire them. It sounds straightforward. It also, it must be said, sounds like one of those ideas that in the wrong hands could turn out to be both pretentious and twee. Fortunately, we are not in the wrong hands and the result is a game where you have lots of options but neither the time nor the space to do more than a fraction of the things you would like to do. "Too much to do and too little time" often makes for a good game and the screw has never been tightened harder than it is here.
The game lasts seven turns and each turn has two phases. In the first phase you buy an object from a menu of seven. Each of the seven can be chosen at most once in a round, which means an auction when more than one player wants the same thing. In the second phase you perform two actions.
At the heart of all this is the idea of your people producing works. These works have a value and how high that is will depend on your having provided the conditions under which genius can give of its best. There are 21 of these people in the game, all different and each with a different set of three demands: the right building to work in; the right landscape to inspire them; the right type of intellectual freedom. The more ticks you can put alongside a character's list of demands, the more valuable will be the work that he produces and the more prestige you will gain.
There are three types of landscape--woods, lakes and parks--and they make up three of the items on the menu in phase A. The other four are two subsidiary characters, in the form of architects and entertainers, and two types of card. Architects reduce the costs of the buildings you erect and also enable you to put them closer together, thereby fitting more on to your estate. The more architects you have (up to a maximum of three), the more benefits you get.
It is also a case of 'more is better' with entertainers. These people, by making your palace a more congenial place to be, help inspire your protgs to greater achievements, raising the value of the work they produce. This, as you would expect, boosts the number of 'prestige points' that you receive, but the benefit goes further than that. Works produced have to be worth more than a certain value in order to be worth anything at all, and this minimum increases round by round. What was enough to impress the Medici last year isn't going to be enough to impress them this. These minimum values that you have to meet are quite challenging and whether you succeed can often be dependent on how many entertainers you have. The increases brought are also often critical in deciding who gets the 'most valuable work produced this year' bonus that is on offer each turn.
The other two Phase A items are cards: Prestige Cards and Enticement Cards. The Prestige Cards give valuable end of game bonuses provided you succeed in meeting the conditions written on them. The procedure is that, if you have bought the right to such a card, you take the top five from the deck, select the one that best suits your plans and return the other four. This is a neat selection mechanism, striking a good balance between 'luck of the draw' and a time consuming 'total free choice'. The sort of demands made by the cards are 'greatest number of these', 'one of each of those', and so on.
The Enticement Cards enable you to lure an artist, scholar or craftsman from another player's court. Each creative character has a card which stays in its owner's hand until the character produces his masterpiece. After that the card is placed face up in front of the player. Once here, the character gives a boost to work produced by other scholars and craftsman, but he will produce no more work himself unless he moves to another court. The Enticement Cards are the mechanism for getting him to move.
All of these items are well worth having and in an ideal world you'd have a couple of architects, two or three entertainers, at least one of each type of landscape, a couple of Prestige Cards and at least one Enticement Card. The trouble is that comes to a lot more than seven.
The choices in Phase B are a little easier, but not a lot: 2 from 8 rather than 1 from 7. The options are 'produce a work', 'erect a building', 'acquire a bonus card', 'take a new personality card' and 'introduce a new freedom'. The first three may be taken twice in a player turn; the other two only once. The first is the basic points scorer and also your only real source of income. You take from your hand the card of the character who is producing the work, place it in front of you, compute the value of the work and decide whether you want to take the value in cash, prestige points or a mixture of the two. Take care when you are doing this as a misjudgement at this point could cost you the game. You need cash to keep your operation ticking over, but it is prestige points that will determine the winner and once you have taken the money you can't convert it back into points.
Erecting a building is fairly straightforward. They come in three sizes and various shapes: ten different buildings in all. You simply select the one that is on the 'want list' of one of your characters and put it on your grid. The only problem is fitting it in. Unless you have at least two architects on the payroll, the closest two buildings can be is touching at a corner. By the time you get to your fourth or fifth building, this can be enough to make life somewhere between very difficult and impossible.
There are three freedoms: religion, freedom to travel and freedom of expression. Each of your characters will want one of them and because it affects the value of his work, you will want him to have it. The problem is that there aren't quite enough for every player to have one of each.
The two card decks operate like the Prestige Cards in Phase A in that you draw five, choose one and return the others. A Personality Card brings a new character to your court. This is an option you will need to take several times: you begin the game with three characters, you will have to produce more than three works during the game and, other than with an Enticement Card, this is the only way to get hold of new people. Holding extra Personality Cards also increases the value of work produced at your court and so, like the entertainers, is a help both in meeting the 'minimum value' targets and in edging your rivals in the contest for the turn's most prestigious work. The Bonus Cards also boost the value of work produced, usually by rather more, but they are 'one use only'.
So we have an original and appealing theme, lots of interesting ideas, which fit nicely both with the theme and with each other, and a requirement to make hard choices. All that is needed to complete the package is a good scoring system and the game has that too, with the main one--that for producing works--being backed up with a lot of well-balanced subsidiaries to open up a range of strategic options. For me this is not only the best game of the past twelve months, it is the best since Euphrat & Tigris.