Designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling
Published by Game Brewer and others
Initial Impressions (after 2 plays) by Simmy Peerutin
This ‘initial impressions’ review assumes the reader has either read the rules or watched a video explanation of the basics.
Welcome to Paris in the first decade of the 20th century.
Players take the roles of wealthy real estate investors whose task is to purchase buildings in 6 Parisian districts as well as develop and maintain landmarks, and by doing so earn victory points. These points are earned by dominating districts, matching prestige tokens to landmarks you develop and by fulfilling bonus tile conditions.
Here is a game whose basic rules and mechanics can be explained in 10 minutes but in order to play it with a modicum of skill and strategy you will need to study the board and understand the relationship between the buildings, the landmarks, the districts and especially the bonus tiles. I start with this statement because in the last game I played, a good friend and an experienced gamer leapt into the game after the initial rules explanation and proceeded to play with little understanding of the abovementioned relationships and consequently did not enjoy the game. So, with that caution aside, let’s describe the experience.
First off, the board, which depicts the 6 districts, the Arc de Triomphe centerpiece and the bonus tile track, is gorgeous and, while I have only played it on Tabletopia, I can imagine the physical impression the 3D model of the Arc de Triomphe makes. Having said that, I suspect it will be removed after the initial setup as it may obscure parts of some districts for some players.
After drawing a building tile from a choice of two stacks the main player action involves placing a key on the Arc de Triomphe in the center or a bank in a district. In a later turn one can move the key onto a building in that district and purchase that building. So far so good; but then one can move a key off a building onto a higher value building in the same district or onto a landmark (which can be chosen from a set of 8) and then placed into the district. When one moves the key from a lower value building one only pays the difference in cost between the lower value and the higher value. And the building from which the key moved is available to everyone again.
Only 1 key can occupy your slot at the Arc de Triomphe or a bank in a district. The choice of whether to put a key in one or the other is difficult and multi layered. Firstly, putting it in the Arc de Triomphe allows you to subsequently move it to any district, thereby granting a high degree of flexibility. However, you get no bonus there, whereas at each bank in a district there is a different monetary bonus, and some are much better than others. Then, you must consider the available buildings in a district and whether they will give you the bonus-money or resources – you need. Only 1 key at a time can occupy a building or landmark so the ones you want may be occupied. And placing your keys on a bank signals strongly where you intend to develop as you cannot move keys out of a district ever! You get 10 keys in a 2-player game and only 7 in a 4-player game, so choose wisely.
Once 4 keys have been placed on buildings and landmarks in a district the active player chooses one of the Victory Point tiles that will score the end of the game and assigns it to any district that doesn’t already have one. So of course, being the player to put that 4th key down is quite important as you can select a high scoring tile (if your buildings have the highest sum total in the district) or a low scoring tile if you are not in the top 3 of the chosen district.
But the trickiest part of the game is the Bonus tiles. There are 30 in all, running around the edge of the game board. Every time you occupy a building of value 1,2 or 3 in a district you get to claim any bonus tile you want, but there is a catch; the bonus tiles are laid out as a track and once you progress down the track you cannot go backwards (with 1 exception). So, you are welcome to jump straight to tile 22 for example and claim it if you really want but that means tiles 1-21 are no longer available to you. Realizing early on that you will only have access to a small number of these bonus tiles is the first important insight, but the key to playing competitively is to read and understand ALL of the 30 tiles before you start. This may be a barrier to entry for However, you cannot really plan a complete strategy around specific tiles as most have only 1 instance in the track and your opponents may take them before you get there. Having said that, one should almost certainly focus on some of the point scoring tiles. For example, tiles 6,11,15,18,26 and 28 all score points for each of the buildings indicated on the tile.
My plays of the game ended quite abruptly even though one has plenty of warning that the end is approaching. When the building tiles run out players have a choice to either move or place a key, or choose from a stack of end game tiles that award resources, prestige tokens or victory points. When the last end game tile is taken the round is completed and a final round is taken. Only Bonus tile 27 has an end game scoring condition and only the district Victory Point tiles are scored. The player with the most points wins.
I enjoyed my first game so much I immediately bought a copy that is waiting for me in London, due to the pandemic. My second game reinforced my first impression, but I cannot say the same for one of my fellow gamers, described above. I cannot wait to play the physical copy and will gladly play online with anyone who cares to join me.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dale Y: played thrice with review copy provided by publisher – I normally find the collaborative efforts of Kramer and Kiesling to my liking, so I was definitely looking forward to this new release. If there had been a SPIEL fair for 2020, I would have definitely been at the Game Brewer stand to look at the game (and likely to partake of a fine beer to quench my thirst). The game is gorgeous, and I really like the art direction on the cover and the components. For me, the game is one of two phases – the “setup” phase where tiles are drawn and the buildings are seeded into the neighborhoods, and then the “end” phase where the keys are maneuvered about and the variable endgame happens. The pacing of the game is slow at first as the game really just feels like setup – sure, you do get some movement on the bonus track, but the payoff for this first part of the game seems low. However, once all the buildings are placed, the game gets a lot more interesting. There is a lot of tactical movement, blocking and competition once everything is in place. I had initially thought that it would be mandatory to get a bonus tile that allowed you to get an extra key, but this was disproven in my most recent game where I was soundly beaten by a player who did not ever get an additional key.
Though certainly prone to group think in your particular game, some bonus tiles may be perceived to be better than others, leading to competition for those. Apparently our group is like Simmy’s and the bonus tiles which allow for building scoring were in hot demand. This leads to some interesting decisions as players jockey for the ability to move on the bonus track, and then once able, decisions on how far to move ahead. Sometimes you have to make a big leap to get a particularly coveted bonus tile, but when doing that, the opportunity cost of the passed over tiles must be considered. As you can never go back (well, one bonus tile lets you go back…) – players will have to make their decisions carefully.
Overall, I have enjoyed my first few games. I have certainly not explored the full depth of the game at this point, though now that I’ve seen all the bonus tiles and how they work, I do feel like I have a better chance of both predicting what other people might want to take as well as being able to pivot quickly if my most desired bonus tile is taken. I am definitely still looking forward to more plays of this K+K.
Dan Blum (1 play): I like a number of Kramer & Kiesling’s co-designs (and plenty of their individual designs), but this fell flat for me. It feels underdeveloped – the early game is very loosey-goosey with no strong reason to play in particular places until some buildings show up (except of course in the larger banks to get money, which is obvious), and the end-game tiles later on really feel tacked-on. It all works but it was not very engaging.
I note that a number of variants are given in the rules, some of which aren’t going to change the basic nature of the game but simply provide more replay value (e.g. randomizing the bonus tiles), but there is a variant for building placement which seems as if it would be very different. Maybe that’s better, but if so it should have been the standard rule. (Kramer has been putting lots of variant rules in his games for years, and I don’t love it – I don’t want to have to figure out the best set of rules to play a game with.)
Lorna: I’m a huge fan of Kramer and Kiesling so I was really hoping this would be another hit for me. At first glance it reminded me of Porta Nigra (which I apparently like more than most people) because of the circular shape. I played one multiplayer game on line and one 2 player game F2F. The game lacks tension until the end and the end game with the tile draws vs actions feels wonky.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Simmy
- I like it. Dale Y, Craig M., John , Alan H
- Neutral. Dan Blum (I’d play a second time, will be “Not for me” after that if it doesn’t improve), Lorna
- Not for me… James Nathan