Review – Rio De La Plata from Giochix.it

Review – Rio De La Plata from Giochix.it, designed by Michele Quondam, art by Lamberto Azzariti

note – Giochix.it has kindly provided a copy of this game for review

What is that song by Andrew Lloyd Webber from the musical, Evita? Ah yes… “Don’t cry for me Argentina“. Rio de la Plata is a game for for 3-5 players aged 13+ based on the history of the founding of Buenos Aires, the capitol of Argentina and it puts the players in the roles of heads of Spanish families as they struggle to establish the Argentinian capitol city. The city must be built by the settlers over 20 years (turns) and at the same time, there is the danger of attacks from warring indigenous peoples and/or pirates!

So this isn’t just your run of the mill worker placement/resource management/city building Euro game. Yes, a large part of the game includes these mechanics but there is also a “game within a game” that is the simple war gaming element which adds a lot of stress as you try and fight off the attackers to minimize the destruction of what you’ve built.

The game components are pretty typical Euro game fare, with resource cubes, chits representing money, buildings etc. Its the game board itself that is interesting. In muted browns and tans, you have a period looking map of the region where Buenos Aires was built, along with requisite charts for tracking building and resourcing actions. Taking up most of the center of the board is sizeable rectangle with a grid for building the city. At first pass , it all looks a bit bleak and dry but actually, the board is based on an early city plan for Buenos Aires which has pretty much a rectangle with, you guessed it, a square grid where all the buildings were plotted out to be built. Very regimented, very neat and tidy.

So unlike many other Euro’s you don’t just get a pasted on theme and its just all about the mechanics but with Rio de la Plata the historical context is built into all of the choices you have to make as to where to spend your resources, where to build, etc. In fact, the board is evocative, works very well and looks rather good.

Gameplay

Be advised, this is what is know as a game for “gamers” in other words, its not for newbies and those looking for some light, relatively quick fun. At a minimum of 90 minutes for 3 players (I would say that this is only if you are VERY experienced, otherwise it will be more like 2-3 hours) as you go through 20 turns, this is an interesting but challenging game and will more likely interest those gamers who are prepared their sleeves up and work at it.

There are three phases per turn –

Worker Placement

Effects of the Workers

End of turn checks and war

During Worker Placement, you will make choices to place workers to get specific benefits. For instance, you can place workers to build inside the city map beginning at the starting zone and and expanding around the Plaza Mayor by placing discs representing your workers. You can build minor buildings including Huts, Houses, Squares, Monuments, Gardens, Stonecutters, Carpenters, Markets, Corporations, Barracks and Churches. These are all placed on the board during the turn you place the workers. You can also cooperate with other players to place workers on grids located around the board over a number of turns (i.e. as many turns as it takes) build Major Buildings with the player who places the last worker in the grid applicable to a specific Major Building getting the opportunity to place it on the board. Victory points are allocated according to how many workers you contributed to building the Major Building.

Each type of building has its own costs and brings its own benefits so there is a good deal of thought and planning involved to manage your resources and place your workers for maximum benefit. Somewhat time consuming and thsi will challenge your brain for sure.

You can also do things like gather mine for stone, collect wood, wend workers to work in the fields, do artisan work and ship goods from the harbor to cash in on your hard work. There are also Public Offices that you can purchase which bring benefits to help you earn victory points.

During Effects of Workers the payoffs or “effects” from the placements you have made are collected.

Now this all sounds like a lot of similar Euro style games and if this was all there was, Rio de la Plata would be pretty much indistinguishable from the rest. But…

The End of Turn Checks and War phase is where things hot up.

You see, during this phase you may find the city under attack from indigenous peoples or pirates, or both! And let me tell you, they have no hesitation in tearing down all those lovely buildings you’ve carefully placed on the board. The mechanics for the wars are simple and abstract, pretty much a case of high numbers of attackers or defenders wins.  Each player plays the attackers in turn and the others work together to defend. Significant victory points can be gained according to how well you attack or defend. Its really easy to lose what you’ve built. And when this happens, it dawns on you…

Good grief, we should have worked cooperatively to to build defenses as a high priority and set up our buildings defensively. This IS a deep game!

All in all, the mechanics worked reasonably well but I did need to go to Boardgamegeek.com to get clarification on a number of issues. Part of the problem is the translation from Italian which is not as clear as it needs to be in a game of this complexity.

Did it work for me?

I think that Rio de la Plata is a very interesting game and certainly a nice change from Euro style games with similar mechanics.  The game within a game war game aspect works very well and can be devastating. The historical context works and makes sense of the many choices of activities you have to do. However, I think that it is somewhat overwhelming with quite a few choices and at 20 turns, needs a real commitment to play. I would have preferred that the game was split into a basic and shorter version and an advanced version. A basic game covering the first 5-6 years might be really good to help you come to grips with how the choices all come together and realizing that you need to think defensively with the impending attacks that surely to come. 

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6.5 out of 10

Family friendly?

Not this one. This is a game aimed squarely at experienced Euro Gamers who will enjoy the challenge.

For more information about Giochix.it go to – http://www.giochix.it/

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