Dale Yu: Review of Liguria

 

Liguria

  • Designer: Alessandro Zucchini
  • Publisher: Queen Games
  • Players: 3-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Queen Games

liguria box

In Liguria, players act as merchants sailing around the Ligurian sea, attempting to collect the best assortment of paints for their respective bishops in order to have the best painted cathedral in the region.

The game is set up with each player taking a player board which is laid out in front of a player screen (that represents that player’s home city).  Two or three small islands are placed in between each home city; each of these islands has a VP marker randomly placed on it.  A small game board is placed in the middle of the table – the variety tiles and ship cards will be laid out here at the start of each round.

The game is played over a number of rounds (8 with 4p, 9 with 3p) and a final movement phase.  Each of the rounds follows the same five phases: preparing the game board, placing buyers, choosing tiles, taking cards, moving their ships.

To prepare the board, tiles are drawn from the bag (15 in 4p, 12 in 3p) and placed on the top row of the board. There are 7 different types of tiles, and they are simply laid out left to right as they are drawn from the bag.  Additionally, one ship card per player is drawn and placed below the tiles.  At the top of these cards are green positive numbers or red negative numbers.  There must be at least one positive and one negative number amongst the drawn cards.

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In the second phase, players place their buyers.  There is a turn order chart with a market street just above it.  In reverse turn order (i.e. the player on the highest number chooses first), each player places his buyer on any empty space in the market street.  The icons on the market street spaces tell you how many tiles you are allowed to choose and how many coins you get as well for choosing that space.

In the third phase, players choose tiles.  Starting with the buyer closest to the left end of the track, players choose the indicated number of tiles from the row at the top of the board.  As long as all of the chosen tiles are adjacent, there is no cost.  However, if the player wishes to skip over an adjacent tile or tiles to choose a different one, there is a cost of one gold per skipped tile.  All chosen tiles are put in the appropriate location (ships, merchants, buildings and monks are placed on the player board, all other tiles are placed behind the screen).  Finally, the active player compresses all the tiles on the board so that they are all in a single row with no gaps and moves his buyer to the lowest number on the turn order track.  The next player on the Market street (furthest to the left) now gets a turn, and this continues until all have chosen tiles.

Tile types:

  • Ship wheel – determines how far your ship can move
  • Merchants – determines how many paint cubes you can load onto your ship at a time
  • Buildings – worth 1vp initially, can be converted to 5VP
  • Monks – worth 1 “positive point” initially, can be converted to 2 VP and 2 “positive points”
  • Diplomats – can be used to place a meeple at other player’s harbors
  • Knights – used to conquer the smaller islands which provides some paint cubes as well as VPs at the end of the game
  • Contract cards – can be worth 4-7 VPs at the end of the game if you have the matching paint cubes

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Next, players (in turn order – from lowest number to highest) choose a ship card from the board.  Any paint cubes shown on that card are taken from the supply and placed in front of their screen.  Then, the active player may choose to flip over any ONE tile for each brown arrow on the chosen card.  The flipped over tile will now be worth more victory points, but it will lose its previous ability.

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Finally, again in turn order, players move their ship.  You must move at least one space, and you may move up to the total number of ship icons seen on your chosen card and on ship tiles in your harbor board.  In general, you must go in the direction that your ship is currently pointing.  If you have a u-turn icon on your ship card, you may change your direction at either the start or end of your movement.  If you have an anchor on your card, you may make a stop in the middle of your movement to do things, but note that you cannot change the direction of your movement on that pitstop!

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When you ship stops (at either then end of movement or due to a pitstop from an anchor icon on your card), you can do something depending on where you are…

If you stop at a small island, you could conquer it or collect paint.  If there are no knights on it at all, you can place as many knight tiles as you want on it, thus conquering it.  Place one of your meeples on the stack to show you own the island.  Then, for every knight TILE you have on the island, you get one paint cube of the color shown on the island itself.  If you arrive at an island that you currently control, you can simply take a single paint cube of the color shown on the island.  In addition, for every one sword tile you have on that island, you can also take a cube of any color.  Finally, if the island is controlled by an opponent, you could choose to take it over, but you will need to place knight tiles that have a higher total number of swords shown on them as the current owner.  If you conquer it, you will then collect a number of matching cubes equal to the number of tiles that you just placed.

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If you stop at your own harbor, you can unload paint cubes from your ship and place them behind your screen.  You will then be able to use these cubes to fulfill contract tiles that you have collected.

If you stop at someone else’s harbor, you may load as many paint cubes that are on offer as your loading capacity allows (the number of sack icons seen on the tiles on your own player board).  You could also choose to deploy a diplomat.  The first player to place a diplomat at a particular port must spend at least 1 scroll.  The second player to place there must spent at least 2, the third at least 3…  Mark one of the rows of that player board with one of your diplomat figures.  This will score points at the end of the game.

Once all players have moved their ship, the ship card used this round is moved behind their screen.  Any unchosen variety tiles are discarded.  The game moves to the next round and the main board is again prepared.

The game continues until the end of the 8th or 9th round, depending on the number of players – in the 4p version, it’s easy to know as all of the tiles will be used up.  Before moving into the final scoring, there is a final movement round where players are allowed to move their ship one final time – a number of spaces equal to the ship wheel icons seen on their player board.  The only action that you are allowed to do on this final phase is to unload cubes at your harbor.

Then, there is a final scoring.  First, the players who control any of the islands pick up the small purple octagonal tile on them which is worth VPs as shown on it.  Then, players sum up all the purple VP numbers seen on the tiles on their player board and add those to their total.

Next, players must reconcile their positive and negative points – there are the numbers with green (positive) and red (negative) backgrounds that are found on the ship cards and some of the tiles.  If a player’s overall total here is positive, that is good and nothing happens.  If a player’s total is negative though, he must pay a penalty of 5VP for each negative point in the final total!  (It is not stated in the rules, but it seems that you cannot get a negative score after the penalty – you would simply move your marker back to zero if you did not have enough VPs at this point to cover your penalty.)

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Each player then completes as many contract cards as he can with delivered paint cubes and adds those points to his total.  Any remaining cubes are then placed into sets, and each full set (red/yellow/blue) is worth 3 VPs.  All other paint cubes are worthless.

Finally, each player looks at the rows on his opponent’s boards where he has a diplomat.  You score 2V for each tile in a row that your diplomat has claimed.

The player with the most victory points is the winner.

My thoughts on the game

Liguria packs a lot of decision in a small time frame.  I generally like games that have a constricted and finite number of actions, and in this game, you must make the most of your 8 or 9 action card selections.  However, the game is not as simple as just choosing the best ship card – you must also balance the need to collect the variety tiles that you want/need as well as figuring out when you want to go in turn order to get the most of the things that you want.

When I first read thru the rules, I thought that the changing turn order situation would be confusing, but in actuality, it isn’t a problem at all.  In the first instance, when you use reverse turn order to place your buyer on the street – it is good to have the first option here.  You have the full set of options in front of you, and you might be able to dictate where you opponents then choose to place their pieces.  The further left that you go, you will get fewer tiles, but you will be able to choose earlier in order, and therefore you will more likely get the specific tiles that you want.  Additionally, you will also get an earlier choice on the ship cards, and if there is a specific ship card that you want, you may be forced to choose a space on the market further to the left that you would normally want in order to try to get that turn order advantage.

You can try to read the intentions of your opponents to guess what tiles they are going for.  If those tiles are not in competition with your own plans, you can then possibly place your marker to the right of them on the market in order to get more tiles and/or coins.  Having coins can be really helpful because then you don’t have to take tiles all in a row from the market.

The game seems to play well with both 4p and 3p.  In the 4p game, you get fewer actions, but there are fewer island tiles between harbors – the actual size of the board remains the same though (12 total stops). The only thing about the scaling that doesn’t make sense is why the 3p game doesn’t go for 10 rounds.  If it went that long, the bag of tiles would also be fully exhausted in this scenario – making it super easy in either situation to know when the game ends.  It would also keep the total number of turns in the game close (32 in 4p vs 30 in 3p).  Our first 3p game accidentally went an extra round because I had accidentally thought that the bag would be fully exhausted as it was in the 4p game – and the extra round did not seem to hurt the game at all.

Component quality is the typical high level that I expect from Queen. The cardboard chits are on thick stock and the sprues are double punched so that the bits pop out nicely.  The rulebook has plenty of helpful illustrations, and in our first few games, there was only one question that we could not find in the rulebook (what happens if your negative point penalty is greater than your VPs gained to that point).

Make sure to keep a close eye on your location in the final round or two of the game – I have seen people make the mistake of not being able to return to their harbor in the final movement phase, and as they weren’t able to deliver the remaining cubes on their ship – they missed out on filling some contracts which obviously leads to missing VP scoring.

Our games are coming in around 45 minutes now (for either 4p or 3p), and that feels just right for the complexity of the game. As you only get 8 movement cards (with the possibility of a few anchor pitstops on those cards), you can realistically expect to get around 10-11 actions at harbors or islands.  This is why you have to make each one count!  For me, this is on the slightly more complex range for a family game, but still one that most gamers should be able to grok easily.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

 

Chris W. (1 Play):  Dale’s review is spot on.  This is a well-produced Eurogame that does pack several decisions into a short timeframe.  It has the usual marks of the high quality Queen Games is known for.  I border between “I like it.” and neutral: I enjoyed my one play, but I just don’t know that I’ll ever seek a second one.  This past year has seen some exceptional releases, and Liguria didn’t do anything to stand above the crowd.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. Chris W
  • Not for me…

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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