Preview by Emanuele Ornella himself with some useless comment by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
Some info from the publisher
Before starting with the real preview some interesting news I got directly from the designer, Emanuele Ornella, about the game:
It will be released in a limited number of copies in Essen 2012 by Mind the Move, Hall 7 booth 213.
There will be a Lottery on Saturday at noon on the booth (7-213). Because the copies in the limited edition are numbered there will be an extraction of 2 numbers. If you have bought your copy (before the fair or during the fair) and you have that numbers you will have:
– Money back for the price of the game
– Money back for the price of the game + a 2 liters bottle for French beer (Beer is one of the resources in the game)
Asking about La Loire Emanuele says me a lot of things som actually, instead of posting my preview I prefer to post what the designer himslef wrote be … much more better than the usual logorroioc flux of Liga’s thoghts!
La Loire preview
The initial idea came from a very simple mechanism which was supposed to be an idea for a simple dice game. I was thinking to a simple family game that could appeal the new line of dice game for Amigo. Material should be dice and cards. The idea was to have a die moving on the cards based on the value displayed. Before each movement the player would have the possibility to reduce the value in order to land in the desired card. I quitted the simple game idea, but not the mechanism which was the point of start to design La Loire.
In La Loire each players own two pawns (Merchant and Messenger) moving on locations on the board: these are not any more dice, but just pawn on top of a stack of “horses”. These horses are holding what was the value of the die in the initial idea. Horses can be dropped on the current location, or added to the stack. In this way the player can decide to reduce or increase the movement and at the same time the supply of horses on the board and the disposition changes during the game.
At the very beginning of the design process, the action of dropping a horse would give 1 money to the player and vice versa, taking a new horse would cost 1 money. But this was too much handling in an operation that, in average, was just zero. Some good advice from a play tester became the new rule: drop as many horses you want, take just 1 more. In this way there was still a good dilemma: do I drop all my horses just to move in the next location, but slowing down my journey? Or skipping the next location and head to the big city faster to sell what I already have?
La Loire is not just movements; it’s also resource management in a buy-sell mechanism. The cost of the resources depends on the current market status. Each location has a colored shield (which is randomly determined at the start of the game) and the market has some mobile tiles which makes a correspondence between the shield and the money. Each location has a fix resource that can be bought, so the relationship is: location’s resource -> shield -> market shield -> cost.
The cost is changing at each acquisition: the tile is moved at the right end of the line where the cost is the maximum (4). At the same time each other tile is shifted to the left reducing the price. Well, not always as there are some positions in the market with the same price, but in the long run each shield will have a reduction in average.
At an early stage of the design, I had a similar mechanism on the selling price. There was another parallel market where shields indicate the selling price instead of the acquire cost. But this was really too much to chaos and too much handling. So I decided to have a fix selling price for the resources. Of course the wood is the cheapest (and also the most frequent on the board), while the Wine is the most profitable. So when a player is buying something he knows what he’s buying and if buying for 3 a wood is really not a good idea (as the selling price is 2), buying a cheese for 3 can be not so bad (selling price of 5), even if not the best option.
But there is more in La Loire. The Merchant pawn is the one who is running between Nantés and Orelans, the two big cities, to buy and to sell. But making money is not the final goal of the game. It’s just a way to do other things. It’s possible to transform money in victory point on the cities, but this is just a minor mechanism (well, can be a major one following some specific strategies that involves making a lot of money).
The main way to make points is using the Messenger and delivering messages from one place to another one. Messages are divided in 4 categories and following one or another strategy leads to the use of one or more of these categories. For example building castles will help the player to buy more messages in the same location (in the castle indeed), while building a monastery will allow buying the Abbey’s messages. Of course messages are costing money and this is why you want to make money with the merchant. The Messenger is using a pick and delivery mechanism in the game, which blends together with the rest of the resource and movement management.
But it is not yet everything. Money can be used to build buildings (castle and monastery, but also farms and palaces) and to hire characters.
Characters can be hired only in the Circus, indicated by a token on the board. Only being in the same location with the Messenger or the Merchant will allow the player to hire a character. Of course the Circus, as all circuses, is moving from time to time. The market tile movements is also triggering the circus movement, giving the active player a good option for the new location where the show will be held.
Character cards are available to all players from the beginning of the game, similarly to the buildings in Puerto Rico, but of course in a limited number (so that not all players can have the same card). There are 29 different characters: all of them with power abilities that let you to “break” some rules. For example the Merchant, as general rule, can only carry one resource per type: only 1 grain for example, with the only exception of the wood which is the cheaper but can be in an unlimited quantity. The grain farmer will let the player to carry more than one grain for the rest of the game.
All characters are powerful and the choice is not easy at all, mainly during the first game where you do not know well all of the special actions. And of course there are different ways to build a strategy focusing on specific characters.
Is it better to become an excellent merchant and have a lot of cash? Or is it better to focus on the message management? Or still improve the way to move both messenger and merchant? Is it better to build a lot of farms, or go for a castle as soon as possible? There is no a unique answer: you can try different strategy in different games, even because you cannot achieve to have all the characters during the same game.
The game can be played in a family version without the cards, and can also be played with a solitaire version, with cards this time, and a limited number of turns where the goal is, as usual, making as much points as possible.
Wow! Emanuele told a lot. Does it will work ? Reading the rules it looks really interesting and, as usual in Emanuele designs, you have many road to the victory. Since I’m used really happy about Ornella’s games I think Le Loire will be in my to buy list!