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Take on the role of merchants trading with wealthy families for the best profits. Purchase various buildings to impress the families. Earn the most money to win the game.
Italy in the Middle Ages is a rich subject for board game design. It was, indeed, a fascinating time period, and it seems to provide an enticing background that designers simply cannot resist. Lungarno, by designer Michele Mura, continues this tradition, with 14th century Pisa being the setting of choice for this endeavor. Merchant houses compete with each other for prominence, constructing fabulous buildings and making deals with the city's wealthy families.
Lungarno is a tile-laying game. Players will construct buildings (place tiles) in the eight districts of Lungarno in Pisa. Merchants can be placed onto the buildings, earning profits based on the prestige of the families located in that district. Players attempt to construct as many buildings in a district matching the family linked to the building upon which the player has placed his merchant. Players may also construct buildings that enhance their own buildings, or devalue those of their opponents.
The board will form as players place tiles into the eight districts, four on each side of the River Arno. On each side of the river, the districts are divided by three cross streets. Face-down privilege tokens are placed next to each district. Each player receives five merchants, fourteen Florins and two tiles. Three tiles are revealed and placed in a drafting row.
Tiles are at the heart of the game. Each tile depicts a type of building, with most tiles depicting one or two family crests. Special buildings do not depict any family crests, as they are not aligned with a particular family. These special buildings will generally affect other buildings located in their district or along the same street.
A player's turn consists of choosing one of the following two actions:
•Buy a Tile. The player may purchase one of the tiles from the drafting row. The cost ranges from zero-to-two, depending upon how far the tile is from the draw stack. The tile furthest from the stack is free, while the tile closest to the stack costs two Florins. After purchasing a tile, remaining tiles shift to the right and a new tile is revealed.
• Play a Tile. A tile may be placed in any district, but it must be placed adjacent to the river or another tile. The player may place one of his merchants on one of the family crests on the tile, but only if there are no other merchants on the same crest anywhere in the district. In other words, as soon as a player places a merchant on a particular crest, no other player may place a merchant on a matching crest in that district.
If a player does place a merchant, he may peek at the face-down privilege token. These tokens depict three family crests and will increase the number of the matching crests present in the district. This is important when scoring the district. After performing one action, the player may pay one Florin to perform a second action. Two actions per turn is the limit, however.
When the sixth tile is placed in a district, it is closed and a scoring is conducted. Each player who has a merchant on a crest in that district will receive revenues. A player will earn one Florin for each crest within the district that matches the crest upon which a player has a merchant, including any matching crests on that district's privilege token. Thus, the idea is to place tiles into a district that depict crests matching the one upon which you have a merchant. Being able to peek at the privilege token when placing a merchant is helpful, as it will allow the player to adjust his future plays in order to optimize revenue.
Many of the special tiles affect the scoring. For example, graveyards in a district are not desirable, so they recue the revenue of every merchant in the district by one Florin. Shops, on the other hand, increase the revenue of any merchants located adjacent to a shop.
Other special buildings do not score until the end of the game. Towers give revenue based on all other buildings with matching crests located along the same street, while the valuable plazas earn revenue for every building bearing a matching crest in the same row of buildings, no matter the district in which it is located. This can be up to a staggering twelve buildings. There are four plazas in the game, so players must be on guard against one player acquiring multiple plazas.
After scoring a district, players recover their merchants located within that district, except for any located on those buildings which score at the end of the game. Players must be mindful of their limited supply of merchants, so should try to quickly close districts wherein they have placed their merchants. Having all of your merchants stuck in districts that have not been closed is not beneficial.
The game concludes once the eighth district is closed and scored. Tower houses and plazas are scored as described above, and players tally their Florins. The player with the most money rises to prominence in Pisa and wins the game. A typical game plays to completion in about an hour or so.
Lungarno is a very straight-forward tile-laying game that does not seem to offer much latitude in terms of strategy or variance. The goal is pretty much the same: select and play tiles that increase the number of crests matching those on buildings that you occupy with a merchant, or play tiles that increase the value of your buildings or decrease the value of the buildings occupied by your opponents. There are few clever moves a player can make, and strategies and tactics are very basic.
The privilege tokens are a bit luck-based. A player may not peek at one until after placing a merchant into that district. Get lucky, and the privilege token will match a crest upon which you have placed a merchant. Since each privilege tile only depicts two different crests, it is even odds that the crests will not match where you have placed your merchant. Thus, the player must either ignore the privilege token, or hopefully place another tile into the district whose crest matches one on the privilege token and place a merchant upon that crest. This, of course, requires that no other player already has a merchant on that crest. My main concern with Lugarno is that is simply fails to excite me. There is nothing special about the game, nothing exciting. As my good friend and veteran gamer Jim McDanold would say, "It's fine." In Jim's lexicon, this means that a game is perfectly average; nothing terribly wrong with it, but nothing terribly exciting about it either. That is an apt description of Lungarno. It is merely average. In today's world where several hundred games are released each year, average simply does not make the cut. Folks not immersed in the gaming hobby may find the game entertaining. Veteran gamers will likely want to skip this destination.