earlier English language edition
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Condottiere is my favorite boardgame for good reason. It captures the feel of Machiavellian Italy. It is a strategy game with a bit of chance thrown in. What makes it particularly interesting is that it is a completely different experience depending on the number of players. If you have only played a two player game, you havent really played the game at all. With two players, the game is mostly luck with little strategy. But add in a third or more players and the games subtlety shines. The more players, the more Machiavellian it becomes. Players must manage their cards as well as maintaining the balance with other players. You cant allow any one player to get too far ahead... or behind. You have to know when you can afford to play your cards. Play too many and you will not be able to defend your provinces from attack. Play too few and you may end up not being able to play them at all that hand. Use your scarecrows to return army cards into your hand to make your opponent think you arent really interested, then play the same army card again. One of the neatest features is that the player that controls the province being attacked can chose not to participate in the early part of the battle by waiting to see how things develop. However, they risk having an opponent play a 'Surrender' card and loosing the province to the largest force with no chance to defend it. Or they may allow the other players to run out numerous army cards then play the 'Peace' card and send everyones committed armies to the discard pile. And now for the truly brilliant part. A three player game is different than a four player game, which is different than a five player game, which is different than a six player game. The mechanics stay the same, but the strategy changes. You can manipulate the other players into attacking provinces that have no strategic interest for them because they cant allow another player to take it. You can pit player A against B this round only to force them to work together the next. The weaker players will naturally band together to thwart the stronger until one of them becomes a threat. Truly Machiavellian.
Condottiere is rapidly becoming one of my favorite games. I've played it three times now, all were four player games, the the variety and tension produced by the game are great. The competition is high, but conflict is somewhat indirect, so it should have a wide appeal. The map is lovely and the cards and counters are excellent. Some people have complained about the tall cards, but our group has no problem shuffling them and we line they way they look. I highly recommend this game.
You take on the role of a Condottiere; a mercenary in the glory days of Renaissance Italy.
This game is full of subtle tactics. It rewards sharp card play, making the best of a poor hand, bluffing, timely execution of cards, the ability to think and react quickly, know when to press home an attack or when to draw a player out for a massacre on the next Round. It is not a highly strategic game, more it is a game of very refined, subtle tactics. If this makes sense to you, then you will grasp what this game is about. It is a gem.
The game is comprised of a serious of battles (1 revolution around the game table = 1 battle). The net result of these battles completes a Round. The Round may allow the player to gain control of a City for the balance of the game. Or, the contested City may be saved by the Church and is not taken by any of the players. Yet.
Other power cards can alter the strength or ability of your hand. The cards can open numerous tactical possibilities. There is an ebb and flow to the strategic actions that may unfold, at anytime, during the battles. This makes the game as delicious as tiramisu.
Ive played this game with 3-5 people and have found the game very captivating (no pun intended), sweeping, grand and nail biting. The game can be very immersive- if you have the right mindset.
Yes, this is a niche title. It will not appeal to everyone. But if the rules are carefully explained (they are straight forward but the English translation does require a some editing) and if a mock first hand is played face up, newbies will understand fast enough. Use this method to describe the cards and their powers and the lights will come on and your guests will soon be slicing up Italy with massive power struggles.
My games have, so far, averaged a bit over an hour. But what an hour!
Here is a sample from the last turn of a recent game:
Three Condottiere fight for control of Frienze. All are evenly balanced- 3 Cities are under each of our control. However, Players 1 and 3 have just received reinforcements (new cards). Player 2 holds three mercenary cards. His forces were decimated in the last conflict for distant Napoli. That round was intentionally drawn out by Player 1, (me). Napoli, its outer walls crumbling under the weight of battle, had been mysteriously saved by the Church at the crucial moment. Since I brought the Bishop to the Battle which ended the Round, I was the token carrying Condottiere. I moved the fight to the doorsteps of Frienze. Bringing out the Bishop to Napoli had depleted my former, very weak hand. Now I reaped the benefits: a new hand of 16 cards.
But first, I selected the City to be contested, crossed my fingers then drew my cards. The Gods smiled at me that day.
You see, my overall victory sat on the edge of a knife. Win this Round, and Italy would be mine. Loose, and the game would then become a victory for Player 3. This was going to be a massive, all for nothing battle.
Reinforcements arrive. Moans from player 3. I study my hand. Player two is still reeling from his situation: 3 cards and fighting for the most crucial city in Italy. Strains of Arrivederci Roma play in his head.
I lay down a mid-value mercenary card. All match its value.
Player 2 surrenders- his hand is empty. Reinforcements are his- if Players 1 and 3 play this out this decisive Round in his favor and the Church should interveneWe listen but no church bells toll.
I stand on a hill, the wind blowing through my hair. My forces are below me, lingering, hovering one then two points above my opponent.
She plays a drummer card. The moral of her army soars. She leads by two-fold. She looks across the battlefield, smug.
I counter with my own drummer. Im ahead one point.
Her face falls. She curses, in Italian.
She plays Winter.
The air grows colder. Dark clouds billow from the East. Snow covers the troops. They complain and request more wine and pasta. Soon boys, soon.
A Hero appears on my Western flank. My forces rally.
She plays a scarecrow card, her strongest mercenary retreats. A desperate measure or foreshadowing what may yet be?
I go for the kill. I play a 1 pt mercenary.
She plays her last card: a 1 pt mercenary card.
I hold my last card. She never knows that it was a Bishop.
They still sing in the streets of Vienza over my victory.