Firenze (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Andreas Steding
  • Artists: Michael Menzel & Andreas Resch
  • Publishers: Quined Games & Pegasus Spiele
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 60 Minutes
  • Times Played: 8

From the dust, another reprint arises. Firenze had been out of print for a good while, but like most games that publishers think that they can bring back and sell, it’s back. Well deservingly back, I might add.

Firenze was released into the world in 2010 from designer Andreas Steding. I didn’t discover it until late in 2013. I played Firenze seven times leading up to a fateful auction last year, when I let Firenze go because of an offer that I couldn’t refuse — out of print games can sell for a lot of money. Even though I parted with Firenze at that time, I had vowed to pick it back up again, hopefully when an inevitable reprint showed up, and Quined Games has come through. Welcome back home, Firenze.

Fellow Opinionated Gamer Doug Garrett, took a look at Firenze back in 2011, and you can find his review here. When I review a game, especially a game I know pretty well, I try to avoid looking at other reviews, so hopefully I’m not just repeating what Doug said eight years ago, verbatim.

In Firenze, you are nobles, vying to build towers that properly showcase just how important your family is. The most important family will, of course, be the person with the most victory points at the end of the game.

The game is played over several rounds. In each round, players take turns that will consist of six steps (Only three of which are mandatory):

  1. Choose a Card: When it is your turn, you will choose exactly one face up action card from the card offering. The action card to the far left of the offering is free, everything to it’s right has a cost of one brick per card to its left. You pay these costs from your brick storehouse. These cards have different effects that can happen, there are instant action cards that happen as soon as the card is drafted. There are personnel cards that go to your hand, and you can either play them immediately or on any of your turns thereafter. There are building cards which will give you an advantage, or a discount, for the rest of the game. Celebration cards are held in your hand until the end of the game, usually they grant points. Church cards go on a Church space on the game board and usually have something that affects everyone.
  2. Exchange Bricks (Optional): To swap a brick, you may exchange three bricks from your storehouse for one brick from the card offering on the board. You see, each card comes into the game with four bricks already on it, and more can be added in the future. You may, at most, do this once per turn.
  3. Build Towers (Optional): At this point it’s time to use the bricks in your storehouse to build these beautiful towers. There are a few rules for tower building. Each tower you build must be of a single color, and must be built on your construction site, which is your player board. You may build new towers as well as start new towers, and you can build as many towers at one time as you like and can afford. You may never decrease the size of a tower and, at most, you may build six bricks in a single turn. Two bricks are free to build with, but after that, there are costs involved. To pay the costs, you must discard the proper amount of bricks from your storehouse. For example, in order to build three bricks, you need to discard one brick from your storehouse before placing the three bricks on towers, or starting new towers. Four would cost you three, five would cost you six, and six bricks would cost you ten. It doesn’t matter how many towers you are building on, or how tall the towers are, it only matters how many bricks are used.
  4. Tear Down Abandoned Towers: If you have any towers on your construction site that were not built on this turn, at this point they are considered abandoned, and must be destroyed. When this happens, you discard half the bricks from the destroyed tower to the brick bag, rounded up, and move the remaining bricks to your storehouse.
  5. Fulfill Commissions (Optional): There are six different colored bricks in Firenze and hence, six different tower tracks on the main board. Each of these tower tracks starts at a commission of three and works up to eight. So if you have a Yellow tower that is six high, you may complete that commission. To do so, you take one of your seals — you have different amounts depending on player count — and you cover up the yellow six and gain the appropriate victory points noted on the tower track. Discard all the bricks from that tower to the brick bag and fulfill another if you can, or if you want. At the beginning of the game, there are four random tiles placed on the tower tracks that can make certain levels worth more than normal. You must fulfill these in order, they will be numbered one to four. So if no one has fulfilled the first one, you cannot fulfill the second one, and so on. Also at the beginning of the game, five levels are randomly blocked off, no one can build towers of that level and color. There are also level bonuses that can be earned for being the first player to fulfill levels of that number.
  6. Check Limits: At this point in your turn you can’t have more than five cards in your hand, or ten bricks in your warehouse. You will discard Building and Personnel cards from your hand to get to your limit and bricks from your warehouse as needed.

The game ends when a player places their final seal on the tower tracks. The first player to do so will also grab five bonus points. Every other player then gets one more turn before the game ends.

End game scoring is pretty simple. Each tower track has a majority bonus that goes to the player with the most seals on that specific tower. If there is a tie, the player who built the tallest tower in that color wins the points. Then, score any celebration cards you collected during the game and gain points accordingly, but beware, some may be negative. Who ever has the most victory points at this point, is the winner.

The economy of bricks in Firenze is the most important aspect of the game. The rarity of certain brick colors may drive you to pay more to attain those bricks, even sometimes taking cards that may not be of benefit to you, or even hurt you. Yes, there are cards that have some negative consequences, and even encourage a bit of interactivity in a negative way among the players. Sabotage, for instance, allows you to remove a brick from an opponent’s tower that they are working on. Used at the right time, this can be a really useful card — like when racing to fulfill a specific commission before an opponent. The Church cards add some interesting choices. Most are positive influences, but there is Church card that people like to complain about, The Campanile. When The Campanile is chosen, everyone must complete a level three white tower before they can complete any other commissions. It can be crippling, but just like anything else in Firenze, you can see it coming in that card offering row. So you can plan for these things, and in Firenze, it’s all about careful planning and timing. I’ve seen people who swear by playing without these “negative” cards, but that takes a bit of the cutthroat competitiveness out of the game and makes into something that Firenze is not, multiplayer solitaire. Yes, you are building personally on your own board and what you do on a turn most of the time does not affect your opponents, but you always have to be aware of what they are building, especially if they are building in the same color towers as you.

The pricing of the cards in the offering, a la Small World or Century Spice Road, adds to the decision pool. Getting cards further down the row can really help you, but by placing more bricks on other lesser cards, you are making them more valuable for your opponents. The fact that towers have to be torn down if they are not built on during a turn makes bricks more valuable at different times. The exchange ability is important to remember, but once again, doing that just adds more bricks to a specific card that your opponents may want, or need. You have to do it from time to time, though, in order to save a tower from being destroyed, or even to fulfill a commission. While you are limited in what you can choose based on what is available in the offer, you do have some flexibility, both in actions and in Personnel cards and Building cards that can make things a bit easier on you.

Firenze is a beautiful game. Very fitting for its Italian Renaissance setting. Michael Menzel has done a wonderful job illustrating everything from the cards, to the board, to the box, which shows surprisingly happy Euro people. The cards in the new edition use icons instead of the text that was used in the first edition. I liked the text on the cards. What each card did was spelled out for you on that card, and there was very little need to check your player aides. This new edition will have you checking the aide quite often until you are used to the icons, which are well done, but plentiful.

I’m a sucker for actually building things in games, and the bricks that stack in order to build your towers on your construction site are a wonderful, tactile addition to the game. The card offer and refilling can be a bit clunky because of these bricks, and that can present an issue for some, but that’s just one of those things with a game like this, delegate refilling duties and you should be just fine.

All in all, I don’t think my attraction to Firenze has waned over the years. It’s a wonderful, strategic Euro that can teach gamers the importance of planning ahead, as well as timing. There is a decision space to be worked in here, but not so deep as to overwhelm. You really only have six choices of which card to pick, and that decision space is made even smaller if you know which bricks you absolutely want, or need. This allows the game to move at a relatively brisk sixty minute pace, which is the perfect time frame for its weight.

Would I have bought this new edition if I still had my old Pegasus Spiele copy sitting on my shelves? No, I probably wouldn’t. The editions are nearly identical and I have a slight preference to the cards with text on them versus using icons, but I think that Quined has brought back a wonderful game that should be enjoyed by anyone who considers themselves a fan of those sixty to ninety minute, medium/light weight Euros.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:

Dale Y – I remember liking this one way back when, but I’ll admit I probably haven’t played it since way back when either.  Though I think I’m in the minority, I really do like most of Steding’s designs. They can be a bit dry, but they reward careful planning.  The brick manipulation here is a nice puzzle that I will have to revisit with this reprint.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it. Brandon Kempf

I like it. James Nathan, Dale Y, John P

Neutral.

Not for me…

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2 Responses to Firenze (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  1. Jacob Lee says:

    If Firenze first came out in 2010, then it is a game I have been intrigued by it for nine years. I’ve always wanted to try it but couldn’t prioritize it over every other shiny new game that came along. These days there are too many games coming out to keep track of, too many games with plastic miniatures (a turnoff for me), too many derivatives of existing classics. I am at a point where I want to discover good games from the past that I might have missed. I did not know about the reprint so this is perfect. Although I wonder if acquiring a well kept used copy would be better.

    Thanks for your review and also for linking Doug’s!

    • Jacob, the fact that it went out of print for a couple years and was never the easiest to find in North America, even when in print, may have had something to do with prioritizing others above it.

      As for the old copy vs new, I personally prefer the text on cards, but I know that the iconography used on the new edition will be easy to grasp for most. So I’d say it just comes down to personal preference on that front, as everything else seems exactly the same to me.

      It’s a wonderful game, I hope you get the chance to enjoy it!

      Thanks for reading.

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