Designer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
Time: 25 minutes
Played: more than 20 plays with 2,3 and 4 players
Review by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue thanks to a review copy from the Publishers
Is it quite common before playing a new Reiner Knizia game have a doubt if we are bumping into another masterpiece or just a well designed average game. Something that is not always easy to judge from the rules or from few session.
All Knizia games have something of valuable but some are really special and some games reveal their wealth in the long distance.
Rondo is one of the typical exponent of the new abstract-strategy games, a genre that take the distance from the pure abstract, introducing some luck factor and no perfect-information, but preserving part of the classics like the materials, the absence of the theme and simple board.
The terms for comparison for this genre is Ingenious, one of the Knizia masterpieces.
Rondo is one of the games going in the direction Knizia express in my old interview “I am certainly a scientist who reduces redundancy by condensing the game into a few fundamental core principles”: few rules, a simple interaction with the map and a lot of think about.
In Rondo from 2 to 4 players fight for getting as much points as possible covering the colored spaces on the map with colored coins. If you place a coin of the right color on the map you score the amount of points printed on the space, otherwise you score nothing.
Every turn you can decide to play one or more coins and draw a new one from the bag or just draw two cons from the bag. You can have no more than 5 coins so if you have four or five you have ti play.
You can play as many coins as you wish as long as they are in a continuous chain, You can decide to cover a spce with a face down coin (if you don’t have the right color) to be allowed to place another coin in the following space. You can also place more than one coin in the same space in the same turn but you can’t place coins in spaces already covered. Finally you have always to start from an already occupied space.
This are the rules: simple, essential. Where is the game ? Alex Randolph was used to say “A games is the rule”.
What make Rondo really interesting is how this mechanic really works and that is most connected with the shape of the map.
The spaces are organized in two main circles connected by four roads. The game will start from the center of the map. In the inner circle the most valuable spaces have a 3 on it. In the outside circle there are the precious 4s and 5s. All the space in the map have a value from 1 to 5 and the color are 5.
5 colors in a map with a structure with an apparent square symmetry is the first nice idea: all the colors have the same number of spaces with the same number of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s but the final distribution of the colors and the values can’t be really symmetric.
There are 20 coins for each color in the bag and the game proceeds until no more coins are in the bag (something seldom happening) or all the special gray spaces are covered, something that usually happens when almost all the board is covered.
After really an impressive number of session (Rondo is now the game my wife ask me to play more) with 2, 3 and also 4 players, I have to admit that this is, for me, a really nice and solid game. The randomness in the bag drawing is important but usually imply only to prepare a strategy according to what you are drawing and other player playing. Of course can’t be a long time strategy but I discovered that is important to plan an high score moving with attention (high score moving is when you can play 3-4 coins of the same color on a 4 or 5 scoring 12 or more points). How the map is constructed means that when you play to occupy an high score space easily you let your opponent in the condition to play on another high valued space easily: something you have to keep in account.
In the second half of the game some colors can become less lucrative since all the high scoring of that color space are already occupied: it is time to think how best use the possibility to play face-down coins.
It is also important, sometimes, to play defensively, just occupying some space with a 4 or a 5 to prevent other players doing a good scoring.
The battle is often tight and proceed turn after turn. There is nothing secrete apart the coins a player has in his hand so the scoring is open.
Rondo is a really nice abstract-strategy game that works well with 2,3 and 4 players.
To increase the replaybility the map is two side the a different disposition of the colors but I have to admit that, after more than 20 games, I still don’t had the urgency to try the other side.
Love it: Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
Not for me: