List Price: $36.00
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(Worth 3,240 Funagain Points!)
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As the proud owner of a northern Italian trading company, you must dispatch carts and wagons to find new customers for your goods. But times are hard and competition is fierce.
Establish new markets by creating unique routes that bypass your competitors. Naturally, the larger towns are more lucrative, but profits will be greatest where you can keep the market to yourself.
Competition will only hurt sales, so even a small village can be a valuable destination. A monopoly, however modest, is still sweet.
Find the best way to reach your goals and bar your opponents from success by building a trade network across the variable board. Your opponents will quickly claim their routes, so plan your strategy with care! Creating the best network and taking the greatest share of the gold is the road to victory in La Strada!
All I want to do is rave about La Strada. Seriously. I have played games by Martin Wallace before, and none of them really worked for me: they tend to be long drawn out historically themed games with luck in lots of odd places. But La Strada is so light and simple, so unlike all of his other games, I can scarcely believe that he’s the one who designed it! Easy to teach, quick to play, and a heck of a lot of fun, La Strada is one of the best games I have played this year. The game is essentially an advanced game of connect the dots, except that everyone is competing to connect those dots, and once connected, no one really wants anyone else to connect to those dots and will try and prevent easy access. That’s the game all summed up, but how this is all executed is what makes the game so delicious!
Players are given a handful of small cubes in their color, and an assortment of hexagon tiles in their color. The tiles you have depict a road of your color going through one of the three terrains in the game: plains, forest, and hills. On one side of the tile, is a straight road; on the other side of the tile is an “elbow” that takes a 60 degree bend. So when a player places a tile, it will either continue straight on or make a slight bend to one side of the hexagon. These tiles are going to be placed on a modular board constructed before the game begins. The game board consist of 6 cardboard pieces randomly mixed and turned then fit together inside a template. The board depicts hamlets, villages, cities, and capitals, dotted throughout the countryside, with different terrain features throughout. The map is divided into small hexagons that players will place their tiles into attempting to connect cities.
Each player gets to choose a starting position on the board where they will place their warehouse. Your warehouse is your starting “dot” from which you will draw your first path. Once players have chosen their starting positions, the first player takes his turn. A turn is very simple. Players get 6 action points per turn, and use those “APs” to place tiles down. The rules for placing tiles boil down to this:
1) When placing tiles, you must start from
either your warehouse, or somewhere where
you have already connected to;
2) When placing a tile, you must build on an empty space, and you must match the tile you place to the terrain your are building over (a plains tile costs 2 APs; forest costs 3 APs; hill costs 4 APs);
3) And the rule is that you may only build if you can build a complete route – a route that starts in one warehouse, and ends in a different city (no half completed roads need apply.) In other words, you must be able to “connect a dot” or you may not start the route.
Players don’t have to use all their APs on one turn; they are allowed to save up to 4 APs till the next turn, allowing a player to have up to 10 APs to use on any given turn of the game.
When a player connects to a city, he gets to place one of his cubes there which will not only score him points at the end of the game, but will allow him to build out of that city on future turns. So new cities mean more building option.
The game ends when one player has a turn where he can not possibly connect to a new town. Then points are scored: The cities are one of four sizes, with big cities being worth more points. But cities also score less points when more people have a presence their, so a monopoly in a hamlet can be worth more points than 3 players in a village. So a capital to yourself is a whopping 4 points, with oneless point for ever other person who connects there. Whoever has the most points wins.
As you can imagine, since players can’t build through other players roads, the game quickly becomes a game of keeping your options open and trying to limit the options of your opponents. Since each city has 6 sides, and you can connect into one side, and out of another, player will often plan their new paths in such a way as to help themselves and cut off access to the city from other players. Sometimes getting into a hamlet is important, not for the points, but for the expansion options. If the game sounded dull, you find in practice that it isn’t. Tough decisions must be made since 6 APs doesn’t last long. Sometimes you need a key connection quickly before getting shut out of a side of the board. Other times you’ll need to carefully save your APs so that you can make a devastating 3 city connection. But wait too long and you might be the one devastated. Carefully laid roads can force your opponents to build through more expensive terrain too. The game comes together amazingly well, with offense and defense important considerations, and the game requiring a nice balance of light tactics and quick gameplay.
This game has a very few negatives that I must mention. Some people complain about the colors, that they are too similar to each other – brown, yellow, grey, white. It’s true that a player may have a bit of trouble with the colors on his first playing, but you will quickly get used to them, and a good thing too, since this game has a very nice look to it. The biggest problem though is with the player range. With 2 players, La Strada is downright boring and will leave you feeling a little unfulfilled. 4 players is still fun and challenging, but is downright crowded. Players may find themselves suddenly cut off from a third of the board between turns. If the board could have scaled bigger for 4 players (a la Einfach Genial) then it might have worked, but as it is, 4 players will find the game cramping up quickly. (That doesn’t mean the game is not fun, but it makes it tougher to win consistently.) That leaves 3 players. And this game is one of the best 3 player filler games I have ever played.
La Strada keeps you on your toes, and plays fairly quickly, so any bad turn of events in one game could be reversed with “just one more game”. And that’s what I find myself saying when I play this: “Let’s play one more game.” How many short 3- player board games do you know of that are short and really worth playing over and over again? Ticket to Ride and Hansa come to mind, and after that the list gets rather short. Well, add La Strada to that list – it deserves a place there. I’m shooting straight with you here: La Strada is a little overpriced, and true, it plays best with 3 players, but this game is a great game to get casual players into. Think of it as the next step up from Ticket to Ride: just enough to keep the competitive juices flowing, but not enough to burn your brain. Clocking in a 30 minutes, La Strada holds a nice place as a quality filler board game. The knocks on price and player range are the ONLY things that bring this game down to a 4 star rating, but are significant enough to knock that star off. If 3 is a good number for you, and the price is in your range, add the extra star, and enjoy it as much as I do.
First of all, forget the 2 player version. It's really not the same game. Consider that a 'bonus' to what is esentially a 3 or 4 player game.
That said, this is really a clever little game. Unlike, say, Settlers, there aren't tons of options, but that's not what this game is about. This game is about building a trade network, blocking others from entering it, and trying to penetrate someone else's. That's what's clever here...you can potentially 'infect' someone else's network, spreading kind of like a cancer.
The rules are very simple, and they're all about just that.
Meanwhile, the artwork on the pieces is beautiful, better than Carcasonne, and not 'corny'. When the pieces are laid out it looks kind of like art.
My only TINY 'criticism' of the artwork is that it's kind of hard to tell what the workshops are...they look a lot like the towns/etc...they should give them a brighter background that matches the color of that player.
Oh, and like some other 'semi-abstract' games, it does kind o hint at a historic theme, and captures the essence of it. It's really a nice little game, and at the very least would make a wonderful gift.
La Strada is a connection game with an interesting twist in that your network decreases in value the more your opponents connect up to it. It is a light game in the sense that there are only a few rules to learn and there isnt a lot of strategy involved. Turns consist mostly of tactical decisions that can be made fairly quickly. These decisions are not trivial though, and the moves that your opponents make have a direct bearing on what can do during your next turn so you stay engaged throughout the game. I enjoy playing La Strada very much. The components are attractive, the decisions you make are meaningful, and the game moves at a very nice pace a game lasts about 30 minutes with a full complement of 4 players, less with fewer players. I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of connection games or is looking for a good, non-trivial filler game.
The game board is constructed by randomly placing six hex-filled tiles into a cardboard frame. The hexes contain one of three different types of terrain: plains, forest, or hills. The settlement tiles (which indicate one of four different types of settlements) are shuffled and randomly placed on the locations indicated on the board. A starting player is chosen and he/she places their workshop (the place from which they will start building their network) onto any plains hex on the board. The remaining players do the same in clockwise order.
The first player then takes their first turn. Each turn a player receives six resources (action points) with which to build their network. They place a road tile onto the board so that it leads out from either their workshop or a settlement that they have previously connected to. Roads can only be placed on vacant hexes and can be built either straight-through the hex or at a 60 bend to the right or left. It costs two resources to build a road onto a plains hex, three resources for a forest hex, and four resources for a hills hex. Roads must be built so that they end at a settlement (all in one turn no partial building) and that settlement must be one that the player has not already connected to. Once the connection is made, the player places one of their market cubes onto the settlement. The player can end his turn at any time. Any unused resources are carried over to their next turn, but a player can never have more than 10 resources (any extra are lost).
There are four different kinds of settlements: cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. Cities are the most lucrative settlements to build a market in, while hamlets are the least. The value of the markets in a settlement decreases as the number of markets increases: so having a monopoly in a settlement (only 1 player has a market there) is worth the most, a duopoly (a market from each of 2 players) is worth a little less, and so on. Cities and towns will always be worth something, even if all four players manage to build a market there. Villages, however, are worthless if all four players build a market there and hamlets are worthless if three or four players build a market there.
Players continue taking turns until one player is unable to make a connection at the beginning of their turn. This can happen because they either a) have run out of market cubes, b) do not have enough resources to reach any new settlements, or c) do not have the right road tiles remaining to make a connection. Once this occurs, the game is immediately over. Players then score points for all of the markets they have built and the person with the most points wins. Remaining resources are used as a tie-breaker.
I like the play of La Strada a lot. There is a nice tension between needing to connect to the cities and towns in order to score the most points and also needing to make sure that you do not compromise your board position. If you get corralled into a section of the board you can quickly run out of good scoring opportunities and end up spending a lot more resources than the other players in order to work around and through their networks. This isnt obvious the first few times you play, but it really comes out strong after several games.
There is also an interesting tension between making efficient connections (using the least amount of resources) and making blocking moves where you are deliberately inefficient but are making an attempt to keep other players from reaching your more lucrative settlements. In my experience, the only blocking that has proved to be valuable is to be the first to build a cheap route from one of your settlements, even if it means you are building into a hamlet. If you do not, somebody else will build into that hamlet and then use that cheap route to build into your city, reducing your points and forcing you to take a more expensive route. I have seen a few players build convoluted roads to block off one of their cities. This is only really possible if the city is on the edge of the map and even then Im not sure that they gain as many points from doing this as if they had instead built into an extra settlement (or two) somewhere else on the map.
A final aspect of game play that is interesting is trying to force the end of the game. If you think you are in the lead, and you can see that one player is boxed in, you can try to build roads that eliminate that player's possible moves thereby forcing the game to end. It can be tricky because the other players might overtake you if you spend too many resources blocking out moves that aren't worth many points to you, but it can be very effective.
A minor concern I have is that there may be a slight advantage to being the first player. You have your pick of where to put your workshop on the board and you can take your first turn without there being anything on the board to block you, so you can put your workshop in a position to guarantee certain connections. This isn't significant in a four player game, but seems to be a slight factor in a three player game and is definitely a factor in a two-player game.
I'm not impressed with the two-player game of La Strada. Only one market is built per settlement, so the first player to reach the settlement gets it. The optimal moves become much more straightforward because you have only one opponent to concern yourself with and thus much fewer opposing road segments. The first player to place tiles seems to have a distinct advantage in the two-player game.
La Strada is an excellent game for 3 or 4 players: quick, simple and very engaging! I highly recommend La Strada if you like connection-style games or meaty fillers. It is of comparable complexity to Ticket to Ride but much shorter. If you thought TransAmerica was a nice idea but missing something, definitely check out La Strada!
A nice light network-building game that will likely be the first introduction for many gamers to the excellent designs by Martin Wallace, whose work is more commonly either less widely available, more expensive, more complex -- or all three. This is a typical Wallace game, with straightforward rules that seem disjointed when read, but which come together nicely in play. Two issues however detract from the game: First, the two-player rules are significantly different from those for more than two players, which will be a frustration to those who frequently switch between 2 and 3 player games. Second, the production, though somewhat above Mayfair's usual level, is still not up to the level of most European publishers (the modular board, in particular, is not fully successful).
Overall: A nice light network game and a worthy introduction to Martin Wallace for those who have yet to experience his designs.