Rococo is set during the time of Louis XV’s reign in France. You play a master dressmaker and the wealthy and influential are flocking to request your services in anticipation of the upcoming ball. Appearance is everything and with a beautiful gown or jacket sewn by a talent such as yourself they are sure to impress. The title, Rococo, refers to a late baroque art movement where everything is more elegant, more extravagant, more lavish, just more!
Now, that theme alone is going to be enough to turn off some hard core gamers. For some reason the idea of making dresses is less appealing than trading spices. I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant at first to give this one a shot, but I’m sure glad I did. Very quickly I became charmed by the mechanics and the theme is actually pretty easy to get into. You will be taking needles, threads and fabric from the market and designing elegant formal wear to be worn at a ball for victory points or sold to support your growing business. There is even a bit of area control. As dresses get made you have to decide in what hall of the baroque palace your gown will be displayed. Points will be awarded to the person with the majority of outfits in any hall as well as having representation in every hall of the palace.
Mechanically, Rococo is hand/deck building. You start off with five Employee cards and will choose your best hand of three cards from there. During each of the seven rounds you will get a chance to hire new Employees or fire ones that have exhausted their usefulness. Each Employee is either a Master, Apprentice or Journeyman. On your turn you’ll play an Employee for one major action (there are six of those, but we’ll get to them) and the minor action (if any) pictured on their card. As your deck grows, so does your pool of workers and the abilities you can do over the course of a round. Once you’ve used an Employee they are discarded until you’ve gone through them all, but from your unused cards you can select the staff that will be most beneficial to you for the coming round. Planning out your upcoming actions is the real meat of Rococo.
So, what’s a major action? Employees can be sent to market to gain resources (needles, thread and fabric), summon the Queen which gives you five bucks and the start player token, place an influence token that can gain points and win tie breaks, sew a dress, hire a new Employee or finally they can be fired themselves. Firing Employees earns you cash and works to thin your deck. Many actions can only be performed by Masters or Apprentices, but the Journeymen often have better minor actions associated with their cards, especially early in the game. Minor actions depend on the card and can vary between an extra visit to the market to end game scoring points.
The castle is made up of five different halls. Being represented in each can be worth points. The top two will get rewards. Each hall has its own entertainer (Louis knows how to throw a party). An influence token on the performer can give you the tie break advantage for control of a hall.
Rounds consist of the players choosing a hand of three Employees from their unused pool and playing them out in order to trigger their major and minor actions. Typically you get to play three Employees in a round, but new hires go directly into your hand to be used in the current round.
The art in Rococo is quite nice. It’s fitting to the ornate theme of the game. The palace itself has a lot of beautiful details to it and as it fills with guests in their elegant nightwear you really get the sense that a lavish ball is taking place. If I have a complaint about the components it’s minor. I wish the jackets and gowns you can sew were different colours than the player pieces. If you’re not paying attention you can mistake a yellow dress to belong to the yellow player. This can lead to mistakes with scoring. Just something to look out for.
The scoring for Rococo is a bit of a process. End game scoring cards get resolved, points are awarded for dresses in the palace and hall majorities and there are also some bonuses. It plays in one to two hours tops and it’s pretty accessible. To me it feels a lot like a throw back Euro. I like it a lot. I think Matthias Cramer and Louis and Stefan Malz have a great game of their hands. This one is definitely worth checking out.