Designers: Virginio Gigli and Flaminia Brasini with Simone Luciani
Publisher: Cranio Creations
Digital Edition: Studio Clangore
Played: 8.2 hours with a review copy
Lorenzo il Magnifico is one of my favorite heavier euro games from the last few years. Dale reviewed it previously here, so I won’t go into too extensive of a “how to play”. Here’s how I enjoyed my first game of it.
Yeah, that table had a strip of LED lights. This was at BGG.CON in 2016. The drawer on my side had a remote where you could adjust settings on the lights. We played Captain Sonar on the table later and set it to a slow red strobe.
It’s a worker placement game, and one I’ve listed as my 4th favorite in that category for an upcoming feature on our top picks in that category (though I’ll spend most of my time attempting to defend my 3rd choice as being a worker placement game without shredding the underlying ontological game mechanism framework).
Certain actions require certain values of workers, and each turn, three dice determine the value of each players black, white, and orange pawns. Each player also has a colorless pawn, that will be value 0, but can be used in certain situations where you’ve already taken a type of action.
There are two types of engines to build. There are also permanent abilities to gain. There are large one-time bonuses to gain. There are a few stray resources to scramble for. There is intertwining of needing A to do B, but then needing C first before you can do B, but you’d love to have A done first before you have to do C.
Plus there are other players engaged in the game with you, kicking dirt all over your plans by taking the actions you wanted. You neeeeeeded.
There are a few “tracks”: a military track, a “pope” track. I’m typically not a fan of tracks that you push up in games and occasionally get something from them, and inevitably, whomever is furthest along will get some points. There’s probably a top location that only one person can occupy. You know those games. Well, here, I sorta like it. Because now the game is the adversary, just plotting ruthlessly against you. If you’re not at a certain point along the pope track by the end of 2 rounds/8 actions, you are “excommunicated”, and will suffer crippling penalties the rest of the game: each time you earn resource X, earn 1 less. Leftover resources are worth negative points at the end of the game. Permanent penalties to your die values. Yes, you can plan ahead (“Oh, I don’t want to reach that point on the track by that point in the game, but if I plan a strategy that doesn’t involve blue cards, I can safely ignore it.”). But did I mention it happens three times?
If you pay your indulgences at the end of the first period, well, your marker resets to 0. You now have 2 rounds/8 actions to reach _further_ on the track to avoid the next excommunication penalty. That all happens again at the end of the second period when you’ll need to reach further to avoid the third excommunication.
Something about the twist of places on the track exacting penalties rather than granting bonuses (no matter how much of the difference is simply a point of view), makes me relish the mechanism.
Anyway, I find the game delightfully filled with angsty decisions, so when a review copy of the digital version was offered, I jumped on it.
It looks like this (tada!).
I’ll say that the game isn’t released yet, but should by in the coming weeks, as I understand it. Without getting too much into how the sausage is made, that means the “review” release that I’ve been playing over the last month is the same one that is still being debugged, and, so, well, there are some issues with crashes and game states that won’t proceed and whatnot, that I suppose we’ll have to trust will be fixed eventually. (Unfortunately, that also means that the programmers time is more focused on addressing these issues than some of the more cosmetic interface issues that I might have.)
Having now conspicuously set the gun on the nightstand, let’s proceed.
The game is great! I mean, it’s Lorenzo. Now, when I find myself with my laptop and a few minutes to kill, I can enjoy that experience in a small fraction of the time the physical game takes, against AI opponents (my preference), without needing to handle setting up the decks or putting a game away.
It delivers on the basics I want out of a digital implementation: get the same tactical and strategic decisions, in a fraction of the time, whether or not your friends are available, whether or not there is a table and a copy of the game around, just you and your device.
Where it falls short, is one of the places the physical game shines: heuristics. I love knowing that Klemens is doing the art for a game, as it implies that there will be symbols for card affects and what not, and that there will be subtle clues in the graphic design and art direction that help me understand the rules and, perhaps more importantly, not misunderstand the rules. The digital implementation makes some changes: gaining military points is now pictured as a blue resource when you gain it, but is shown differently when you would pay it to purchase certain cards. Faith points are now a red resource (the blue and the red may or not be “cubes”, but as best I can tell they are), though that is different than how it is shown on the leader cards, for instance. Oddly, the leader cards have kept the original iconography, rather than showing the new resource symbols. (The stone and wood are both now the same shape, and in earlier builds their colors were sufficiently close that it was difficult to determine what something cost, but to their credit, the color differentiation is much better in the most recent build.)
I have bigger issues with the strict limits on where I can click. For whichever location I choose to go, the intended use pattern is: I click the location, then click the family member, add any “assistants” (which increase the die value), and tell it to go, (and then tell it to end my turn. There’s currently no undo button, and I don’t know if one is planned.)
But what if you change your mind? If you click to buy card A, and then realize you want to buy card B or do another action, you can’t click on the new thing and have it adjust. You move to the left side of the screen and hit a specific red “x” to cancel the first action. Steam says I’ve played the game for 8.2 hours and I cannot defeat my instinct to either click on what I want to do, or click in dead space as a way to cancel what I’ve selected.
But what if you wanted to check something? I click buy card A, I click the family member to choose, I don’t need assistants, I click go. “Wait, I can get resource X that I need from doing a harvest action next turn, right?” Uh, no. Right now that crashes the game. You needed to have hit End Turn first.
(I didn’t do well in my college programming course, so maybe there are considerations I’m overlooking, but from a game play perspective, things are frustrating.)
You might be thrown off by me playing red in the above screenshot, as my default colors are yellow, then black, then something else, but that’s not an option…yet?
There are a few subscreens. For those familiar with the game, you’ll notice that in the interface above, you can’t see my harvest cards or my production cards. You can click on the green or yellow books to see those _one at a time_ or you can click on the harvest building and a small gondola floats onto the screen showing your harvest run (but, of course, don’t click on something else once finished reviewing it, you must move up to the red “x”.)
In order to buy a certain number of green cards, I need a certain number of blue…cubes (military points), and next to the green books it shows if you have room. Or does it? The books represent how many of that card I have, but they are shown at an oblique side angle in such a way that the dark cover of one book looks like it is taking up the next place, and makes you think you have the prerequisites for the next card, when, well, you don’t.
There’s more, but, well, you get the point.
This is a lot of game to fit on the screen, the implementation of which is ambitious and difficult.
Do I get to play Lorenzo with the convenience of a digital version: Yes (when it doesn’t crash.)
Can the interface be frustrating: Yes.
Wait, but I still get to play Lorenzo, right?: Yes.