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Store:  Card Games, Strategy Games
Edition:  Condottiere
Format:  Board Games, Card Games

Condottiere

earlier English language edition


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Product Awards:  
Spiel des Jahres
Nominee, 1995

Ages Play Time Players
12+ 60 minutes 2-6

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Product Awards

Spiel des Jahres
Nominee, 1995

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Dominique Ehrhard, Duccio Vitale

  • Manufacturer(s): Eurogames Descartes USA

  • Year: 1995

  • Players: 2 - 6

  • Time: 60 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 1,120 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.

Product Reviews

 
 
 
 
 

Average Rating: 4.3 in 23 reviews

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Simply one of the finest games ever developed!
January 27, 2004

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.

 
 
 
 
 
Fast, fun, strategic options - a winner
April 08, 2003

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.

 
 
 
 
 
by PJ
Sublime tactics at their finest
December 23, 2002

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.

Another Battle.

And Another.

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.

Great fun.

 
 
 
 
 
Here's how to introduce your friends to European games
December 05, 2002

This is the perfect 'Gateway' game to wean your friends off of Harley-Davidson Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit.

It's basically a card game that uses a map of Italy to strategically score each hand.

You can teach it in 5 minutes and play in 15-20.

Soon you'll have a lot more people to play Settlers of Catan!

 
 
 
 
 
by Jeff
The Game I've Been Looking For
February 11, 2002

This game rocks for so many reasons! The game is very short, 30-40 minutes, but in that time you will be forced to make a lot of tough decisions and judgment calls. What's great about the game to me is that there is not always one-best-move, like in a game like Pinnocle. [Did I spell that right?] However, you need to have a game plan, and be willing to adapt it to what's happening with the other players. You can sucker your opponents into wasting very good cards. And you can get sucked into very costly battles that you might later regret.

The artwork is very good, and there is tons of player interaction.

Everyone I've played the game with really likes it, similar to Settlers of Catan. I'm glad to have found this one!

 
 
 
 
 
by Mark W
Fun for one and all
January 16, 2002

This is a very fun game. The play is fast with bluffing and surprises. There is plenty of luck but also tactics and strategy. The combination of luck and strategy makes for plenty of tension.

It is aimed more at the hard-core crowd but we have played with more casual folks and had great fun.

 
 
 
 
 
Excellent Game!
November 24, 2001

This is a very enjoyable game, which should appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike.

The game mechanics are simple and elegant, and keep all players involved from beginning to end. There is very little downtime.

Although it's a card game at heart, and therefore has a slight luck-of-the-draw element to it, it plays like a board game. Even if you're dealt a weak hand during a round, there are usually sufficient opportunities to overcome the deficiency through strategic play, or simply playing your opponents off against one another (a little cajoling can go a long way).

This is one of the most-played games in my collection.

 
 
 
 
 
by Ynnen
Simply put -- the most requested game I own!
October 18, 2001

I love Condottiere. It gets picked more than any other game in my collection--a frequent 'lead off' game before delving into something more complicated. I really enjoy the simple card selection, and the difficult choices you need to make with them. Even someone out of the lead can play the 'spoiler' with well played cards.

PROS: very simple and clear rules, quality cards and board, plays quickly, good for 3-5 players, creative mix of types of cards leads to good decisions on how to play out your hand, high replayability.

CONS: high luck factor with the cards, little real 'cooperation' or interaction between players (other than competition for land).

VERDICT: a solid addition to virtually anyone's collection, with large appeal to a variety of gamers--and a very affordable price!

 
 
 
 
 
A highly dynamic game, the best I've seen in a while
August 23, 2001

Condottiere is a wonderfully subtle and dynamic game. The rules are utterly simple, but the style of play for each round is very different and plays quickly. Players must change their strategies with each hand of cards, and knowing when NOT to play is the key. If you get a weak hand you're still in the game, and many strong hands can be wasted if they're poorly played. It plays well with more than three people. *****

 
 
 
 
 
Fast and Fun
April 24, 2001

We played this game with 5 players for several times and everybody liked it because it was fun in the first place and it was fast in the second place, we played 5 games on one evening. More players makes the game more intresting and more strategic.

Nice gameboard and nice large playing cards.

 
 
 
 
 
Simple but effective rules, great period flavour
July 20, 2000

My favourite games are those which manage to convey some of the 'flavour' of the period or activity (such as Britannia). Renaissance Italy breathes again in Condottiere, with scheming, double-crossing and devilish plans all game-winning stategies. Plays quickly, and plays well with any number of players, unlike many games which only play well with the maximum.

Nice components, good for all ages. My only (minor) complaint is that the cards are only designed for right-handed players.

 
 
 
 
 
Wow! This one is terrific!
April 26, 2000

WOW!! This is a great game. I bought Condottiere for Easter weekend and it was a HUGE hit. My brothers and I could not stop playing it. It plays fast (20 to 30 mins) and is extrememly easy to learn. 'Let's play again' was the constant refrain. Great game with 5 or 6 players. Feels almost like poker with much more strategy. DO NOT pay any attention to reviews written about the old version of this game. Everyone I've introduced Condottiere to loves it. Oh, and the cards are cool, too. Just let the guy with the biggest hands shuffle. No problem.

 
 
 
 
 
A suprisingly deep game of bluff, negotiating, and bidding..
March 24, 2000

The more I have played this game, the deeper it has gotten (this is from a game with a relatively simple set of rules). I really like the game and would rank it now in the top 20 games I own and have played (I own many). There is the luck element in there, but players can work together to stop someone from running away with the game. It combines many cool elements to make for one great game. If you like elements of diplomacy, bluffing, resource management, and war, this game has it. I sold two members of my wargaming group on it, and whenever I play it with new people, at least one person gets interested in buying it. Only knock, besides the overly long cards and thin cards is that it doesn't play well with 2 people (3-6 works well).

 
 
 
 
 
cheaper and better
December 26, 1999

The new edition of Condottiere is not only two times cheaper than the former overpriced one. it's also two times better, since the rules have been modified to make the game shorter and more fluent. Only three adjacent towns are reqired to win now, and you cannot attack an occupied city. The game used to last for hours, now it ends after 30 minutes, and that's just what it needs. A great and very original trick taking card game, a great and very original war game.

 
 
 
 
 
Condottiere, or, That Italian Game with the Long Cards
July 06, 2003

I'm not exactly sure how to pronounce the name but Condottiere is still a good game. Much more important then being able to pronounce it is whether my wife will play. Although we have to let her win once in a while to keep her interested, she seems to like it. (That's just a joke, dear.)

The game is a good combination of luck and skill. It is a rare game (such as Settlers of Catan) that people of different skill levels can compete and still enjoy the game.

I have only played Condottiere with three people. I can see how the game could drag on for a while with more players. I tend to think skill would be a greater factor with more players, making it less fun for weaker players, but I will defer to other reviews on this site.

 
 
 
 
 
by Micah
Pretty good game
March 09, 2003

This game is a lot of fun and involves both a modicum of skill and strategy and a little bit of luck.

It's best played with five players, since they can oppose each other and compete for the elusive key territory.

Condottiere is sort of like Connect 4, sort of like Risk, and sort of like spades. Needless to say, the combination is both flavorful and nutritious.

I recommend it highly.

 
 
 
 
 
I had a feeling it was good... It's even better!
February 21, 2000

It took me two years to get around to buying this game, which was largely unknown in its original edition. Now that the new, mostly improved 2nd edition is out, it's more readily made a name of itself, earning an auspicious 5 stars from Bruno Faidutti, designer of the excellently-received Citadel. Boy am I drooling waiting for that to come out en englais! But back to this little gem of a wargame, Condottiere. If you enjoy the subtle finesse of poker, the competition of a good auction and the bludgeoning tactics of Risk, you will love this game. I played it with my 6-person group just a few nights ago, and man, we had a blast! I quickly conquered two cities right at the beginning, and proceeded to rest on my laurels while I experimented with different strategies and kept the peons in their place with my extra card advantage. A bad run of luck (for me) put two other players on even standing with me and then I had to start getting serious. Sometimes I felt like I was in a high stakes poker game; everyone showing some of their cards, everyone wondering what might still be hidden in their opponents' hands; I was watching for the tells--eyebrow twitch, nervous cough or repetetive earlobe tugging that would betray these brazen upstarts. It was a little like an auction, too--how bad do I want that city? How much do I want to keep a certain person from gaining it? Near the end, the two players who still didn't have any cities joined forces and quickly captured two cities as well. What a game! I didn't win, but a fun time was had by all. Incidentally, the girl who did win had never played a foreign game before. The game was close, and these two things confirmed my inital feeling that this was a well-balanced, easy to understand game.

I could go into all the neat little tricks you can use depending on the circumstances you face, but then you wouldn't find out for yourself! Hey, it's only twenty bucks, and you'll get that much enjoyment out of it the first couple of weeks you have it. Depending on how you play it, it can be a very different-feeling game.

The reason for four stars? Mostly ergonomic: I'd have liked a slightly larger board (no practical reason for that, really). The long skinny cards are very difficult to shuffle in the traditional manner (if you have small hands, forget it) and the game is not nearly as exciting with two players, simply because there isn't as much friction. But these certainly don't take away it's main worth: A solid, uncomplicated game with nice components and a fun mechanism. It isn't a must-have, but I think it comes pretty close.

 
 
 
 
 
War meets Tic Tac Toe
December 29, 1999

Not having played the previous edition of the game, I feel I can give a fresh and honest perspective of this fun game.

The idea behind the game is to capture three adjoining provinces (four in a two player game), hence my Tic Tac Toe analogy. You do this by playing cards from a starting hand of ten initial cards. The types of cards are what makes the game interesting. You have Mercenary cards of differing values, Winter cards which turn all Mercenary cards into a value of 1, the Bishop card which terminates a battle immediately in a draw, Surrender which ends the battle immediately with the strongest army winning the battle, the Scarecrow card which allows you to return a Mercenary card to your hand, and the Heroine card worth 10 battle points (but not affected by other cards like winter or the scarecrow).

Each player takes turns playing a card to up the ante in the battle (sort of like war with a deck of cards, but not). If you pass, you can't play any more cards (but may still win the battle if you have the most points). When both players pass or run out of cards, the battle for that province ends, and the winner gets the province. The winner then places the Condottiere to decide the location of the next battle. If the battle ends in a draw, the Condottiere is passed to the player on the left. The randomness is in the initial deal, but with ten cards, there's plenty of strategy as to which cards to lay down and when. Do you hold off and give up this province by staying out of the battle? This might keep good cards for the province you really need for the win. Should you play that Bishop now or wait until your opponents have expended most of their hands in vain? There are lots of subtle strategies in this game.

What makes the game interesting is you don't get to refill your hand until only one player is left with cards in their hand. Then all cards are discarded and 10 new cards dealt out with an additional two being dealt for each province you own.

The game plays well with two players and equally well with three or more. The components are excellent except for the size of the cards (which I feel are too long, making them hard to shuffle). The game also plays very quick, making it easy to get three or more games in an hour (this varies with the number of players). An excellent point to be made are the optional rules which allow you to attack conquered provinces, adding progressive point scoring systems, or increasing the number of provinces required for the win. As it stands this is a solid game with lots of strategy, some luck, and tons of replayability. It's an excellent family game or one for the game club night as well. It gets a full 90db on the Mulder Meter. A slight loss of 7db for the oversized (long) cards, and 3 db for its over simplicity, though you may consider this a plus. My conversion factor would give it 4 and 1/2 stars.

 
 
 
 
 
Lacks replayability
December 09, 2002

Our first games were a blast and yes its good for introducing player to light wargames but for me the games lacks replayability.

Play with the 2nd edition rules which reduces considerably the games playing time.

The components are of very good quality.

I will try Tilsit Joan of Arc which seems to be an 'advanced' version of this game with more depth optional and historical rules.

 
 
 
 
 
Nice components, okay gameplay
March 18, 2001

I picked up this title as my prize at a local games gathering (Unity Games II), and my wife picked up a copy of Clash of the Lightsabers card game later in the day as her prize. I was struck at how similar the two games are in their mechanics. At heart, they are both glorified versions of the card game War, with enough special cards added to make it interesting and give some tactical choices.

Were it not for the special cards (Drum, Heroine, Surrender, Church, Scarecrow, and Winter) there wouldn't really be much of a game here. The luck of the draw can wreak havoc on a player who must endure several battles before having a chance to 'reload.' Having a hand of low-numbered mercenaries and no specials is almost a sure sign of losing the game, or at the very least, the round.

As a variant, I would like to propose that the mercenaries and specials be shuffled separately, and each player can choose their hand split any way they want between draws from the 2 decks. This way a player could be assured of at least one special if he chooses from that stack. Sometimes that one card can make all the difference....

4 or 5 would probably be the ideal number of players for this title. Enough to keep it interesting and not too many to bog it down. Recommended, but not without minor caveats.

 
 
 
 
 
Intriguing but mighty slow
July 20, 2000

I like this game, but I have to say that with 5-6 players it takes a good solid 90 minutes to finish. While personally I'd be willing to spend the 90 minutes at it now and then, I'm not getting the chance because the rest of my regular group refuses to play it again.

I frankly can't imagine how anybody gets through a Condotierre game in 20 minutes unless defensive play is completely ignored. We (when I could get people to play the game at all) typically spent 5-10 minutes on each battle and saw each player win two or three cities before the game was over. That's a sure 90 minutes, and unfortunately it's a pretty slow 90 minutes, as there's a lot of down time for the player who has dropped out of a battle early and has to wait for it to be finished--and this is a game where it's important to choose your battles carefully.

I do find the way the card play works to be quite interesting and original. Condotierre is not a trick-taking game, contrary to what some have said, and speaking as someone who has played a reasonable amount of poker, it is not at all like poker, either. Once engaged in a battle, your goal is to contrive the least possible expenditure of your cards while forcing others to spend theirs--and some of those battles, of course, you have to win. There are several cards with special powers (Drummer, Heroine, Winter, Scarecrow, etc.) that are very cleverly conceived and fun to see come into play, and the composition of your original hand of 10 cards must be analyzed carefully in light of the long series of battles that will be decided before anyone has the opportunity to replenish.

At some point I hope to raise my rating of this game to a 4, because I'm quite intrigued by it. But before that can happen, I've got to find people who will play it with me!

 
 
 
 
 
by Yapma
if you like 'war', you will like this game
December 21, 2002

i only played the game with two people. the box states it can be played with 2 people, but as a two person game, it is frankly lousy and at least 75% luck.

it plays like the children's card game war, except you get to choose the order in which you play the cards, and the face cards are endowed with special 'powers'. the strategy involved in the 'risk' aspect (line up four conquered cities in a row) is negligible.

my advice would be pass, unless you plan on playing it with more than one other person, in which case, it may or may not be an enjoyable game.

 
 
 
 
 
A wargame that runs a might too long
December 13, 2000

If you really enjoy wargames, or play with a group of converted wargamers, this game is probably a good choice. Because that's exactly what this card game is. It's cutthroat war and well executed for what it is.

However, if you play by the original rules (preferred by wargamers almost universally), the game will run for well over an hour, with territories constantly changing hands. Sometimes, though, the cards will fall just right and a person can win on the second deal of the game, within half an hour. And that's really the biggest flaw with the game--whether you play for 90 minutes or 10, it usually comes down to someone being dealt a killer hand and 'running the table' to claim victory.

Not my cup of tea.

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