- Designers: Marcel Suesselbeck and Marco Ruskowski
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 45 min
- Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Asmodee
I have always felt that Fresko was an under-appreciated game – which is an odd thing to say as it is the 2010 DSP winner and a nominee for the 2010 Spiel des Jahres. Despite these awards, the game didn’t seem to get a lot of buzz around here, and it’s a game that I don’t see getting played any more at conventions, etc. However, I’ve always admired the game, and it is a game that remains in the game collection here after 6 years. Up until now though, Fresco was a “one-hit wonder” as it was the first (and only) design of Suesselbeck and Ruskowski. Thus, when Parfum was announced as the second design from this team, I was immediately interested in the game.
In this game, players act as master perfumers, collecting ingredients from the market and then creating perfumes to sell to the demanding public. The board shows a French town, possibly Grasse in Provence, with spaces for perfume buyers at the top. Each of these buyers has a favorite ingredient that is shown at his/her feet. The middle of the board is dominated by the ingredient market – this is seeded with 6 ingredient tiles drawn at random from a bag. The bottom of the board shows a courtyard which holds the aroma dice, the water well and the town clock. There is a score track around the edge of the board which shows how many coins (victory points) that players have collected.
In each round, players first decide when they will “wake up” – which determines player order for this turn. Players choose clock markers in reverse order of current score (i.e. the player currently in last place on the score track gets to choose first). In a 4p game, the different markers give players 3, 4, 5, or 6 actions for that turn – however, the earlier you go in turn order, the fewer actions you’ll get that turn. Once the order has been set for the turn, the player with the earliest turn order takes his turn.
Actions can be used to:
- Take an aroma die from the board. There are three dice for each of the 5 possible perfume components
- Draw an ingredient tile from the bag and fill an empty spot in the market
- Take a water well token
When all the available actions have been taken, then the player gets a chance to distill some fragrance notes. The player rolls all of the dice that he has collected earlier on his turn. Each of the dice has icons for successful distillation (a flask) and failed attempts (a fly). The blue, green and red dice are slightly easier to succeed with – these dice have 4 successes and 2 failures. The black and purple dice have 3 of each icon.
The dice are rolled and then results are noted. The player can then try to modify the dice roll by discarding water well tokens:
- Spend 1 token to re-roll all flies of a single color
- Spend 1 token to re-roll all dice (both flies and flasks)
- Spend 2 tokens to simply convert any one fly into a flask
The water well tokens may have coins on the backside of them (0, 1, 2 or 3 coins), and players will have to weigh their options carefully as any coins on saved tokens at the end of the game will go towards their final score.
The player now may collect as many ingredient tiles as he can using the successful die results. Each tile has a number (1 to 3) of flasks depicted on them. Matching dice are discarded as the player collects the ingredients. The player immediately scores a number of points as shown on the coin in the upper left of the tile. The player then takes the tile and places it next to his perfumery.
There are two sides on the perfumery – the left for small perfume bottles (2 pieces: top, bottom) and the right for larger bottles (3 pieces: top, middle, bottom). Once a tile is placed, it cannot be moved. It is possible to be working on multiple different perfumes at once. If a perfume is completed, you take wooden bottles from the supply (2 for a small, 3 for a large) and place them on top of the finished bottle.
Once the player has finished placing his tiles (and possibly collecting bottles for a finished perfume), his turn is over, and the next turn in player order then gets a chance to use his actions.
After all players have had a chance to make perfume, then it is time to sell finished perfumes. In this phase, selling is done in the current turn order (based on the wake up tokens) over two rounds. In each round, players will get a chance to sell a bottle of perfume or pass. Players would ideally like to sell their perfume to one of the rich customers at the top of the board. Each of the customers has a favorite ingredient or set of ingredients. They will only buy a perfume that contains all of the desired components (and could have additional ingredients as well). If there is a match, a player discards one of the wooden bottles over the matching perfume and then collects a number of coins equal to that shown on the customer. The customer token is discarded from the board. If there is no customer looking for your perfume, you can still sell a bottle at a discount price of 2 coins for a small perfume or 3 coins for a large perfume. A wooden bottle of the sold perfume is discarded. Finally, if the bottle sold was the last one of that particular type, the player collects two water well tokens as a reward for selling out of that particular perfume.
After the two rounds of sales, the game round ends. The clocks are returned to the board. Players discard down to a maximum of 4 water well tokens. The customers in the street are refilled from the supply. If the “end of game” customer is revealed, this signals that there will be one further turn in the game. Then, market spaces are refilled from the bag. If the market cannot be completely refilled, then the game ends immediately at this point.
At the end of the game, there is a small amount of final scoring. Players reveal the backsides of any water well tokens they are currently holding on to (again, a maximum of four tokens) and collect coins that are shown on those tokens. The winner is the player with the most coins!
My thoughts on the game
Well, thus far, the design team of Suesselbeck and Ruskowski is two for two in creating games in my wheelhouse. Parfum is a well designed game that is easy to learn, but it gives gamers some meaty decisions to consider over the course of the game.
The decision at the beginning of the round for turn order is neat. Players that go earlier in the round have the advantage of having better choices on the board when collecting ingredients or when selling perfumes; however, they have fewer actions each turn to balance that out. Players later in turn order have some advantage in that they will already know what other players have accomplished by the time they go, and knowing which perfumes will be available for sale may help influence what ingredients that you might go for. Players later in turn order also have more actions at their disposal which could help them obtain some of the more complex ingredients.
It’s hard to predict what will happen over the course of a whole turn, but you really need to take a minute and look at the board – both the available customers as well as the starting offerings in the market to try to figure out where you want to be in turn order. As turn order is determined by your current standing on the scoring track, you may even choose to withhold scoring in an earlier round in order to improve your turn order choices in a later turn. You should be careful when doing this though, as the end of the game is somewhat unpredictable and you could lose out on some chances to sell perfumes if you wait too long to sell. This same risk is also present if you choose to pass on selling a perfume at a bargain price because you are waiting for a more valuable customer to come along to sell that perfume to.
The game is easy to absorb, and I’ve not had any issues teaching it to anyone. While only one player is active at a time, turns move along quickly, and there is not really any feeling of downtime while playing. Our games are now coming in around 35 to 40 minutes which is nice for this type of game. This is a solid Eurogame that will work well with families or for a lighter game with the regular group.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Alan How: More pleasant games from Queen. It is well done and does not trouble the brain. All the components are good and it is easy to get into the game. For me, it is so light I would rather play other games that hit the same level of depth.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Neutral. Alan H
- Not for me…
I played it once: it made me wish I were playing Fresco instead! Not that this is bad … it’s just a lot like Fresco-lite. I was annoyed by the randomness of the dice rolls and sequence in which orders happened to appear. And it’s not that I hate dice — not at all! — but in a game this quick I don’t think there are enough dice rolls to mitigate the random factor.
Play more Fresco!
Played this for the first time recently and once the rules were clear, I found myself just having a good time. There are some neat decisions to be made and a little bit of planning ahead. It definitely is on the family weight side, but I found myself wanting to play ahain as the first game wrapped up. Just a good, easy-going time with family and friends with room for thoughtful play. Worth your time!