A wonderful card game disguised as a board game where your goal is to conquer cities, unite them and create the most powerful kingdom in Italy. The first player to conquer a set number of adjoining regions is the winner. To do this, you build up an invading army using Mercenary Cards with various values from 1 to 10. The player with the highest valued army, wins the city. Simple huh? Not so fast. Read on.

The board shows central and northern Italy more or less as it was during the Renaissance. Each of the 17 major cities represents its own region. Construction of the board is top notch, its sturdy, the artwork is nice, if not a bit plain, but it works well to set the mood of the game.

For some reason, the Germans love little wooden blocks of all shapes, sizes and colors. Which is a good thing. I think it gives there games an old world kinda feeling plus, I prefer them to their American plastic counterparts. Which are a sometimes hard to replace and a pain to step on. Anyway, each player is supplied with 10 wooden markers to denote their conquered cities. There is also a large wooden block (about the size of a fat zippo lighter) to represent the Condottiere (the player that gets to choose the site of the next battle).

Now to the bread and butter of the game, the cards. The artwork is beautiful, stylized like the old wooden block cut illustrations of Medieval Europe. The card stock is a little thin but the lamination is pretty good, they should hold up for quite a long time. My only real gripe is their shape. Shuffling can be a pain, but in its defense, holding them in your hand is a lot easier. Guess you can’t have everything.

Initially, each player is dealt 10 cards and the Condottiere chooses the site for the first battle.

Each turn, the player does one of the following;

  1. Play a card in front of himself (thus building his invading army)
  2. Pass the turn and not play a card. (Once this is done, the player may not place any more cards into play)

The battle continues until all players say “I pass” or a Surrender Card is played. At that time all of the players add up the values of the mercenary cards they played, taking into account any modifications caused by Special Cards. The player with the highest number has amassed the strongest army and conquers the city. The Condottiere piece then passes to the winner of that city, who chooses the next battle site and the round continues.

The round is completed when there is only one player left with cards in his hand. All the cards are then collected and 10 more cards are dealt out to each player plus 2 extra cards are given out to each player for every city he now controls. i.e. If you control Roma, Milano,and Torino you would receive 6 extra cards, for a total of 16.

By now, you may have asked… ‘But what are these special cards you speak of?

Well I’m glad you asked. So far the game play is quite straightforward, I play higher valued cards than you do and I win, but what if I had a card that changed all of your high cards to a 1? Or if I had a card that said ‘I don’t care who’s army is stronger… NOBODY wins.‘ Now life gets interesting. And that is the high point of this game… where strategy overcomes dumb luck.

Overall, this is a great light game that I highly recommend. The bluffing aspect is high and the strategies of the Special Cards make each turn a challenge. If you like poker, you’ll love this.

Complexity: 2         Strategy: 5         Luck: 3         Overall: 4


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