Dale Yu: Review of Masters of Renaissance

Masters of Renaissance (Lorenzo il Magnifico: The Card Game)

  • Designers: Simone Luciani and Nestore Mangone
  • Publisher: Cranio  Creations
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Asmodee NA

I was really excited prior to SPIEL 2019 when I learned that Cranio was releasing a game that they were  calling Lorenzo il Magnifico: The Card Game. The original Lorenzo il Magnifico was a well received strategy game here (as was its expansion — though not so much in its digital form), but it’s a fairly complex game, and one which hadn’t made it to the table in awhile in part due to its 120-150min length.  I was surprised to see that when I got my demo of the game that the game involved player boards, a marble tray and a bunch of other components. While I was initially disappointed that it wasn’t a small card game, I was pleased to find that there was a great looking light strategy game in the box, and one which has a bad subtitle.  It would be better to be called Lorenzo Il Magnifico: Lite…

The game was sold out at the Cranio booth by the time that I had my meeting, but I was glad to find out that the game was to be distributed back home by Asmodee NA – and a copy of the game has just arrived on my doorstep, and it was quick to make it to the table.

The centerpiece of the game is a plastic marble tray which has a 4×3 array of different colored marbles along with a thirteenth marble which floats free in the surrounding gutter.   This is placed in the middle of the table at setup. A display of Development cards is also arranged; 12 total stacks. There will be three levels of stacks in four different colors, with each stack having 4 cards.

In this game, each player gets their own player board which has a Faith scoring track at the top, and then space for goods and cards on the bottom.  Each player will be dealt 4 Leader cards, and chooses to keep 2 of them. A starting player is chosen and all players later in turn order are given increasing levels of compensation for their depth into the starting order.  Play is taken clockwise around the table until the game end condition is met; then the current round of play is completed and the game is scored.

On each individual turn, the active player must take one of three action choices (and optionally do Leader Actions):

1] Take Resources from the market.  The active player chooses any row or column in the array and then takes resources or faith points corresponding to the colors of the marbles in said row or column.  All resources must be stored in the storage depot on the left of the player board. If any goods are collected which cannot be stored, it is discarded and each opponent gains a Faith point.  There are three different storage depots; each must hold a different type of good. Then, the loose marble is inserted at the end of the row/column which was chosen to alter the composition of the marble array.

2] Activate production – Each player board has four bays for production.  The leftmost one is quite narrow and has a pre-printed ability in it. The other three slots are spaces for development cards; and if there is a development card in a slot, it can make stuff.  When you produce things, you take goods from your storage depot area and then convert them through the visible actions in your four production spots. Any output from the production actions is placed in your stronghold; a chest found in the bottom left corner of the player board.  Each Production action can only be done once a turn, and only resources from your storage depots can be used to power a Production action. This is really the only way to move resources from your storage depots to your Stronghold. If your production actions generate Faith points, you simply move your marker ahead on your Faith track.

Resources on the left
Resources picked up and placed on the action cards
Now, we have a bunch of rocks. Good thing our leader gives us a discount on Rocks

3] Buy a development card – using resources in either your storage Depot or your Stronghold, you can buy cards from the Development card array on the table.  Again, there are three different levels of cards. A Level 1 card can be bought at any time and can be placed in any of the three card slots on your board. A Level 2 card can only be bought if it can be placed ON TOP of a Level 1 card previously played to your board.  Likewise, a Level 3 card can only be bought if it can be placed on top of a Level 2 card on your board. As you choose where to place your newly purchased cards, pay attention to where you place them because when you choose the Activate Production action, you only use the actions on the topmost card in each slot.  So, you will always affect your Production engine when you buy a card. Make sure that you can still make the things that you want to make.

*] Leader Actions – At any point in any of your turns, you can play a Leader card from your hand if your current board state meets the criteria listed on the Leader card – usually based on your resource situation or the number/type of Development cards.  Once played, you can optionally use the action on each Leader card once per turn. They may give you a discount on buying a Development card, may provide extra resources from the marble tray or they may give you an enhanced Production action. You can also choose to permanently discard a Leader card from your hand at any time to gain a Faith point (this often is handy when a Vatican Report happens suddenly – see the next paragraph).

Once you have completed your main action, and any optional Leader actions, your turn generally ends.  The only other thing to look out for is the Vatican Report. If you look at the Faith track, there are three T shaped areas with candy cane bordering.  At any point in the game, if a player is the first player in the game to reach the last space of any Vatican report areas, all players immediately check their own boards.  If their marker has reached at least the first space of that particular Vatican report area, they flip over the Pope Favor bonus token associated with that area; they will score a VP bonus at the end of the game.  If the player’s faith marker has not yet reached that area, the bonus token for that area is discarded. 

The game end is triggered when one of two conditions is met – a player buys his seventh Development card OR a player reaches the end of the faith track on his board.  When this happens, the current round is finished so that all players have the same number of turns and then the game is scored.

Players score points for

  •  – VPs on development cards
  •  – VPs based on Faith track Progress
  •  – VPs for face up Pope’s Favor tokens
  •  – VPs for played Leader cards
  •  – 1VP per 5 resources left unused on your board at the end of the game

The player with the most points is the winner. Ties are broken in favor of the player with the most resources left over.

My thoughts on the game

Well, if it wasn’t clear from the intro to the review, I am fairly impressed with this game, and this quick and tactical engine builder is a pretty big hit around here. I’ll admit that I don’t know if I really see the influence of the theme here, but it’s a solid Euro game that uses many of the same mechanics of Lorenzo il Magnifico without getting bogged down in a lot of intricate maneuvering.   There is plenty of room for planning and strategy, but the turns come quick here, and the total game lasts only 30-45 minutes.

For me, the big eye catching piece is the marble tray.  It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it’s one that works well and provides an interesting method to get resources.  It reminds me a lot of the system in Ulm, but the plastic tray and marbles is a lot more ergonomically satisfying than the tiles in Ulm.  The rest of the components are solidly done, and the artwork (done by Klemens Franz) is typically clean and easy to read as you would expect from his design house.

The game is quite easy to grasp, and each of the three possible actions are easy to teach and understand.  Thus far, I have taught it three times, and it has not taken me more than ten minutes to get a game started.  There does seem to be a bit of a learning curve to the game – likely related to knowledge of how the different level Development cards work – and I would say that players in their first or second game will be at a disadvantage to players who have played before.  But, to me, that’s a nice sign of room for exploration of the interactions between the different cards.

You are working on creating an ever-changing engine; working to produce the right goods to get you to your next waypoint (development card or Leader card); then it’s time to take that new action provided to move to the next point.  It moves along quickly, and has the right amount of tactical reaction vs planning that I like to see in a game.

I still don’t see why it’s called Lorenzo Il Magnifico: The Card Game though. I think it fails on both sides of the statement.  Other than sharing a faith track and a resource conversion conceit, the overall mechanisms in the games are fairly different. Sure it shares artwork and the same historical setting, but there really isn’t much of a story told in this game, so it’s hard to really feel like it’s related to Lorenzo il Magnifico.  And then… to call it a card game is a complete mystery to me. Sure, there are development cards and Leader cards in the game, but they are really only part of the game. When someone tells me we’re playing XXX:the card game, I’m honestly expecting the cards to be the centerpiece of the game; and here, they are just a component.  Also, interestingly, there are only 64 cards total in this box (48 development + 16 leader) while there are 116 cards total in Lorenzo il Magnifico. One could say that Lorenzo il Magnifico should maybe itself be called Masters of Renaissance: The Card Game!

But, all semantics aside, Masters of Renaissance is a very good game.   Games that often come with two Italian designer names on the box are often too convoluted for my tastes, but Masters of Renaissance is a nicely streamlined game which has been a lot of fun to play, and one I look forward to playing a bit more in the future.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Larry (1 play):  This is a solid middleweight game co-created by one of my favorite designers, Simone Luciani.  The action selection system is nice, I like having to deal with the storage requirements, and the decisions are meaty ones for a game of this length.  Figuring out how to use the powers of the development cards and leaders is a good puzzle and very typical of Luciani’s games. The one negative to me is that the game contains a good amount of chaos.  The unpredictability of the marbles doesn’t bother me; there’s almost always a good option available to you. But I am a bit put off by having a development card that you were saving for bought out from under your nose, particularly since you have no idea what the cost of the card underneath it will be.  It wasn’t uncommon in our game to find the resources you were carefully hoarding suddenly worthless and taking up precious storage space. I understand why they only display the top card of each stack–with 12 stacks, even showing two cards per stack would represent true information overload. The variant I’ve been kicking around to provide players with a bit more info would be to allow a player, once a turn, to publicly reveal the second card of one of the stacks.  That additional data might help things a lot. Even with that objection, this is still a good game and one I’d happily play as an opener and a closer. It’s nowhere as good as Lorenzo is, but there’s nothing wrong with being that excellent game’s little brother!

Dan Blum (2 plays): I would have liked to have seen a card game that actually distilled the better elements of Lorenzo into a shorter game; I think Lorenzo is fine but rather long for what it is. However, as Dale notes this doesn’t really have much in common with Lorenzo. Considered as its own thing, it’s… also fine. The main issue I have with it is that it’s too fast; someone who gets a good faith engine going or happens to get the right goods to purchase cards quickly will end the game before other players really get things working. I certainly don’t mind that it’s short, but I suspect that this will end up as a neutral rating for me because it will end up being too dominated by luck.

Doug G: Shelley and I played this as a 2-player and didn’t like it at all, even though we really wanted to love it. Its marble mechanism is the best part of the game, but the churning of resources and the luck of the cards played a BIG role in our dislike. It seemed rather random that a person could luck into a card combo that allowed them to just churn resources, while the other person floundered. Not for us….

Patrick Brennan: Ah, this was close to an 8, but such a stupid title. Firstly, it provides a clever means of earning resources. The game gets more interesting as it develops, and there comes a point where you gain strategic clarity which feels nice. The downsides? It can slow down because the last change to the marble grid forces a re-think, and if someone takes the card you were building towards (they’re all public contracts), more re-thinking and possibly a complete change in direction may be required. You’re at the mercy of what other players leave you just a tad too much, and it’s just a tad slow, but it’s otherwise an excellent abridgement of the Lorenzo system.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Steph H
  • I like it. Dale Y, John P, Larry, Dan Blum (for now), Patrick Brennan, Lorna
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…Doug G.

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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3 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Masters of Renaissance

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  3. will sargent says:

    Another superb overview by Larry there. Your contributions to this site are much appreciated, as you summarise the feel and motion of a game, as well as its ups and downs, in a couple of tight paragraphs. Bravo! This marble system is a pure bred corker. Check out a tiny old game from Ravensburger called ‘Off the the Tower’ for one of the first ‘pop down’ turn based systems from way back in the ’80s. I do enjoy unusual gadgets in games like this, such as cube towers and shove-penny slides to select colours or resources or turns. Surprised we don’t see more like this and Camel Up etc.

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