Let me take you on an adventure. To a time and place where something peculiar, something amazing was happening. A new era with an explosion of thought and creativity. To a city on planet Earth that was a bustling hot bed, where all the movers, shakers and influencers were. The place to be. Florence Italy in the 15th century. The birthplace of the renaissance.
This travel blog will take you there with pictures and words. Games being my passion I’ll talk about some of my favorite games themed around Florence. Medici, Lorenzo il Magnifico, The Princes of Florence and Medici The Card game. There are some amazing games out there for you to discover based on the city of Florence.
Imagine yourself back in time to a place before the internet, before cars and imagine strolling down the narrow streets of Florence to the city square. During renaissance times women would be wearing a fashionable dress with ornamented sleeves and men wore tights and a hat perhaps feathered and always with a sword by their side.
Below is a picture of Piazza Della Singoria – the city square which is the heart of the city by the tower of Palazzo Vecchio. It was here that the Bonfire of the Vanities took place in 1497 when the burning of objects such as cosmetics, mirrors, books and art was ordered done. This was also the location of Michelangelo’s David.
During this time an up and coming family calls Florence their home. They are the Medici. They got their start as bankers and merchants and rose to prominence to eventually rule the city. They were patrons of great renaissance art. If you learn about their history it’s like real life Game of Thrones with intrigue, rival murders and power struggles. The renaissance had a large impact on human history and this city is a fitting inspiration for board games.
Medici Board Game Designed by Reiner Knizia
The Medici family was part of prospering merchant class in Florence and the theme of this game captures merchants competing for the best goods. This is a pure bidding game I have played countless times. You will ask yourself how much something in the game is worth. The beautiful answer that makes it a great game is “that depends”. What I love most about Medici which is only discovered with multiple plays with different playgroups is the value of things changes based on the players, how they perceive value and how they bid from game to game.
The currency in the game is your actual points toward victory that you bid with. It makes for some fun tense games. If you like bidding games this is a classic and it’s a great filler before or after a heaver game. I love to picture merchants loading ships with goods near the Ponte Vecchio while I play this game.
The Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno river famous for merchants selling their wares along the bridge. Not far from here you would have seen ships being loaded with merchant’s goods and a bustling area of commerce.
The Medici Card Game (2016) by Grail Games
The card game is similar to the board game but no bidding. Instead you flip up cards and have to take the last card you flipped. I played this several times on our trip to Florence with my wife. More than once I was behind the first turn sacrificing largest boat to set up bonus points for having 7 of the same good. If you can pull off getting into bonus points and then grab largest boat on the final turn you will have a good score. I like the tension of should I flip another card for something better. Sometimes it works out and sometimes you stop and then see the next card later and wish you would have flipped it.
The Princes of Florence (2000) Rio Grande Games
This is also a classic game. When this was first available in the US we played this often. It’s another game where the strategies of your group can evolve. Almost every game group goes through a progression of watching someone win with a Joker strategy and learning you can’t let one person keep getting them. Then your group learns counter strategies and even better ones than focusing on Jokers. My co-worker Cole Wehrle told me he once had his students write a paper on the value of a joker in this game. Wow I want to read those essays. I have not played this one in awhile but I have many fond memories.
Botticelli’s Venus commissioned by the Medici family of Florence is one of the great works of renaissance art. It certainly qualifies as an amazing work like the ones you complete in the Princes of Florence game.
Lorenzo il Magnifico (2016) by CMON
I was pleasantly surprised by Lorenzo, in fact it’s currently one of my favorite games! It’s a very different game from a CMON’s typical mini’s on a map affair. Indeed it has a classic euro feel. Another example of worker placement with a twist. The value of your workers changes based on a die roll and that limits your choices. You often get that just one resource short to pull off an amazing turn feel as you play. I’ve just scratched the surface of the strategy in this game. In my play group our scores have crept higher as we
gain more plays. The leaders add a depth to the strategy. Some of them fit well and can be the basis of your strategy and some work well together. Of course just like the cards in
Agricola some of them look great at first but in the end you never really use them. The game also has an engine building feel as you can ramp up the effects of taking the harvest or production actions.
I read one review that bashed the game saying it was a dry euro lacking theme. I disagree, they just don’t know. Thematically you are the head of a noble family in Florence during the Renaissance. You send your family members (workers) out to gain new territories, construct buildings, influence people or go on a business venture. You will want to avoid being excommunicated by the church which was really bad during this time period and you don’t want that.
Throughout my travels in Florence I was honored to walk some of the streets and go to the same locations the famous Medici family did including their home. The Pitti Palace was built in 1458 originally for Luca Pitti but was purchased by Eleonora di Toledo the Duchess of Florence for the Medici. Here I am standing in the game room now called “Room of Iliad” which was once used to play “Trucco” an ancient version of Billiards because Settlers of Catan had not been invented yet.
It has been very inspiring to see the actual locations that many of my favorite games were themed and based on. If your into board games and you travel seek out those locations that inspired games. When you visit it brings a new depth to your enjoyment and appreciation for those games. I’ve added to my bucket list to play a game of Carcassonne in Carcassonne. Where will you go and what will you play?
I can be found at game conventions passionately running
game demos. I’m the sales and event coordinator for Leder
Games and an aspiring game designer. If you see me at a
game convention say hi. I love to talk about games.
Find me on twitter: @Clay_Capra