Masters of Venice Review
By R&R Games and designed by Frank DiLorenzo
Please note that a review copy of this game was generously provided by the folks at R&R Games.
Masters of Venice is a game for 2-5 players ages 15+ where the players are seeking to make their fortune in the trading arena of 1400’s Venice.
When I first received delivery and had a look at Masters of Venice, I was very impressed with the high quality of the production which is very stylish. The Board, although small, is just the center of the action as your table will also take on cards representing stock shares in different resources sold in shops such as fabric, gems, lumber, etc. You also have small boards with pegs to track the current cost of resources as well as share values and orders which allow you to sell resources and build your pile of ducats.
There are lots of bits to this game and a very handy diagram and instructions for setting up the game. There is even a gondola piece for tracking each turn! You can easily feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount of bits and it took us a while to get our heads around what they all were meant to do but to be honest, it all seemed pretty logical and came together well eventually. The components are consistently very nice and all serve their purposes well.
I was quite keen to play and got stuck in. The rules, although logical, took a little while to work out in relation to the game flow. At first MOV gives the appearance of a very complex game but actually, once you work through the rules and learn the variety of functions of the various locations, as well as the impact of various roles like the Harbor Master, Guild Master, Thief, etc. it becomes clear that this is not that complex of a game.
The object of the game is to earn the most victory points by building wealth. The core flow has the players bidding for who goes first and to take on a role which lasts a few turns, and then bidding again which may mean a different turn order and role. The different roles each provide certain advantages which impacts your choices as to what resources to buy and sell, which shares you may choose to buy, where to travel in Venice to take specific actions to your benefit or perhaps to prevent other players from gaining too much wealth. R&R Games took the very wise step to provide brief player guides with a grid which lays out the various locations and impact of the actions taken in each such as impact on share value, resource price and availability. This game would be much less enjoyable without the aid.
The process all follows a very streamlined set of steps – move – take actions – collect dividends. Whilst doing this, you are adjusting prices, share values, and stock of resources. The choices get tougher as the games goes on as you need to make some hard decisions as to which role would help most. We wondered whether certain roles were more beneficial such as the Thief and Trader but more plays may even this out. Also the expansion that came out at Essen 2010 may make things even more interesting.
I’m not a big fan of economic games and at first I was concerned that there would be too much to think about and that the financial world would not interest me but the rules are reasonable and actually once I recognised that the choices are all about deciding which actions would help me to deliver on jobs for the Guilds, it all clicked. The key to the game is that winning is all about satisfying and delivering on jobs for the guilds. I got a bit caught up in trying a variety of actions and lost focus on this. But by the end of the game I could really see that when I play again, and I will, I must focus on the Guilds first, last and always and everything else is secondary.
Did it work for me?
Generally, MOV worked for me which I find surprising as I’m usually not a great fan of these types of games. It is a very tactile game with loads of things to touch and move around. It is a very interesting game and doesn’t bury you in the detail of financial trading. The level is just about right. I felt involved throughout and those player aids made a huge difference. I liked the bidding mechanism which got you to think about whether or not it was worth trying to go for the first player or not. Yes, the rules could be a bit cleaner but they are not bad. The physical and side of this game takes it up a notch for me. A visual and tactile splendour worth experiencing for sure! Not a lot of interaction between players but lots of conversation as to the various choices and understanding the value of different actions and roles. Masters of Venice is a refreshing take on the economic genre and a very creative physical game.
I must say that this is not a game for families unless they are hobby gamers. It is not light although the rules are reasonable to understand. More for the hobby gamer.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10
For more information about Masters of Venice and other games by R&R games go to – http://www.rnrgames.com/