MEDICI - Reviewed by Mike
Category/Format: Business/Board Game
Absorbing auction game by Reiner Knizia based upon filling warehouses from a choice of 5 different wares, with the objective of having the majority holding when scoring occurs. Rewards can be even greater if you reach monopoly status in one or more of the wares but this is not readily achieved without spending a great deal of your wealth so the amounts bid at auction will have a great influence on the eventual outcome.
The game is played over 3 rounds with the wealthiest player at the end being declared the winner. The time taken for each round will vary according to the number of players and their experience of the game; beginners will take 20-30 minutes, this will be halved once they have grasped the mechanics of the game, so a complete game can be completed in under an hour. Produced by Amigo to a reasonable standard, it can accomodate 3-6 players.
1) Board on which are depicted the 5 wares in the game with an 'account' for each one made up of 8 spaces . The top 2 spaces of each such table indicate bonus points of 20 and 10 for gaining a monopoly. Around the outside is a scoring track to denote each players wealth at any time.
2) 36 cards, 7 for each of the 5 wares, which are 1 each of the values 0-4 and 2 of value 5. There is one card only which is a value of 10 but this is neutral and belongs to no ware(more of which later).
3) 36 wooden counters, 6 each of 6 colours.
Players receive the 6 wooden counters of their colour and place one of them on the bottom space of each 'account'. The remaining counter is placed upon the starting space on the wealth track(varies according to the number of players). The card deck is shuffled and a number of cards(varies according to the number of players) are dealt face down next to the board. Remaining cards(if any) are placed face down out of the game.
Each round consists of a series of player turns until one of 2 conditions is met, these being that A) all players have filled their warehouses with the maximum allowance of 5 cards or B) the card deck becomes exhausted. On reaching the end of a round scoring takes place in 2 phases as follows : -
Players add together the value of their 5 cards and points are distributed for every place except the last place (again varies according to the number of players). These are recorded on the wealth track.
Players then move their counter in the 'account' of the appropriate ware up one space for each card they hold in that ware. When all players have done this each ware is scored scored, with 10 points awarded for the leading player and 5 points for the second player. The rules describe the procedure for ties. The bonus points for monopoly position, if applicable, are added to the players score.The points are recorded on the wealth track
All the cards are gathered together, including any omitted during the round, shuffled together and the play for rounds 2 & 3 follows that of round 1 but with the poorest player starting the round on each occasion.
Armed with the knowledge of the scoring system you can see how the designer has set us a problem and this is the beauty of this game. When a lot is put up for auction we have to consider what is its value for the first scoring phase against the types of wares that make up the lot. If we are hoping to gain a major holding in a particular ware it may be worth taking a lot that contains say 2 of those wares but which doesn't have a very high value. But there is the added restriction that you can only have 5 cards in your hand in a Round so if you bid for this lot you may be excluded from the bidding in subsequent rounds if you have not got the capacity to store them ! As if that wasn't enough you have only one chance to make your bid so you had better pitch it right...too low and other players will outbid you, too high and a winning bid and you won't have much to bid with next time.
So how does the lot for auction come about ? Again this is a bit of a poser. On a players turn they firstly turn over 1 of the face down cards for all to see. If they wish they can declare that card to be the lot for auction. However if they don't like what they see they can turn over a 2nd card and the lot becomes the 2 cards combined. And if they wish they can add a 3rd card to make it even bigger, but that's the limit. Starting on the player's left other players then make a bid for the lot or pass and the player whose turn it is has the last bid. If nobody bids the cards are removed for this round.
Because of the maximum capacity allowance of 5 cards certain players will not be able to bid on some lots as the number of cards in the lot would make them exceed the limit. By studying players holdings the active player can exclude a rival from the bidding but may end up with a card which does suit his own needs !
Let's just look at one example to illustrate the decision-making. Suppose you already have 1 card in your warehouse face up showing value of 4 in the ware of Spices and it's your turn. You turn over the first card and it's a 3 in Porcelain. Not much use to you but 3 points might be handy. Another player already has 4 cards down( say 2,3,3,5 and he's interested in Porcelain so you don't want him to get it so you turn over a 2nd card to 'shut him out'. You're lucky, it's a 5 in Spices and the lot now has a value of 8. Do you stop there and offer that in the auction and how much are you going to bid for it ? What if someone bids more than you were prepared to do so. If you pass then a valuable Spices card has gone to an opponent, plus 8 points in value.
So you take a chance and turn over a 3rd card....bad luck, it's a value 1 in Metal. So whose going to bid for 3 cards, value 9, with one card in 3 separate wares. If nobody bids you could take it for 1, a cheap price but then you would have 4 cards in your warehouse, value 13, and you could only bid on a lot containing 1 card and you can bet that won't be in Spices !. So do you pass and let the cards go out of the game this round ? Decisions, Decisions..
Sometimes the lot can include the neutral 10 card. This will almost certainly guarantee someone a good return in the phase 1 scoring but is achieved at the expense of making progress within the 'account' tables of the wares, so the player taking this card will need to weigh up the options very carefully.
Hopefully you can imagine the different scenarios that can crop up and players have to constantly try and balance what they are trying to achieve compared with their opponents needs. You will always have rivals in the same wares as yourself so you want to see what their wealth is and make a bid that pushes them to the limit if they want the card(s). But of course sometimes you will make a token bid to stop a subsequent player getting a lot cheap and then end up with it yourself !. This is very annoying to say the least !
Players more cerebral than myself could no doubt explain the mechanics and nuances better than I have done here. All I can add is that I have yet to encounter anyone who has not enjoyed playing the game. Full of thought, frustration, and fun, all at the same time. Highly recommended.