If you’re looking to make your already noble family even more powerful, you’re going to have to rely on the strength of your individual family members. In Lorenzo il Magnifico, players take control of their family and look to conquer territories, construct buildings, make powerful allies, and complete exciting ventures. During the Renaissance period in Florence, prestige is important, but to be successful, you’ll also have to pay tribute to the church.
Each family is made up of three different coloured pawns, and a plain wood pawn. Over the course of six rounds, the power of the family members is determined by rolling dice of corresponding colours. The wood pawn always has a value of zero.
The board represents different areas of Florence that you can send your family members to. At the start of each round the coloured dice are rolled by the start player to determine the strength of the three coloured pawns in each family. Then, one at a time you can place your family members in the different areas of the town, acquiring cards, resources, military strength, or privileges.
Florence is dominated by four towers, with four floors each. The towers get filled at the start of each round with cards representing territories, buildings, people, and ventures. The higher a card is in the tower, the more powerful a family member you’ll need to acquire it. The top floor actually requires a family member with a value of seven to claim it.
Now you might be thinking that since a six-sided dice determines the value of the family members each round, you’d never be able to get cards from the top floor, but every noble family has to rely on the help of their servants from time to time. Servants are a resource in the game, and for each one spent, you can increase the strength of a family member by one. In fact, because your plain coloured family member (your black sheep, if you will) always has a value of zero, you’ll have to spend servants on them every round. Each space on the board requires at least a value of one to place a family member there.
Territories and Buildings usually have an instant benefit when you acquire the cards and an activation benefit when you visit the Harvest or Production areas of the board. The first person to place a family member there gets them at their full strength, and activates all their Territory or Building cards of equal or lower value. Subsequent players must place their family members at minus three to their power, making them much less effective…unless of course they are aided by some servants.
The Market area of the board contains four different locations where players can go to get instant benefits, like servants, coins, or military power.
Finally, there is the Council Palace. At the Palace, players receive a coin and a privilege, which might be coins, servants, resources, or piety for the church. However, the order players visit the Palace also determines the turn order for the next round, which can be critically important.
While you’re out improving your family’s standing in the city the church represents an ever-present threat. At the start of the game, three Excommunication tiles are randomly chosen. They represent some penalty that you will suffer if you don’t pay the proper tribute to the church. Throughout the game you’ll have the chance to earn piety points and move along the piety track. At the end of the second, fourth, and sixth round, your piety is assessed and if you haven’t reached a certain level or don’t want to cash in your piety points, you’ll be excommunicated and receive a particular punishment. This can mean that cards require you to use more powerful family members to attain them, or you might get fewer resources when you take an action to get them, or you might not even be able to go to certain areas of the board. You can plan to meet the requirements of the church each round and never suffer the penalty, or you can choose to build your strategy in a way that allows you to ignore the church for some or all of the rounds. Because the Excommunication tiles come out at the start of the game, you have some time to make the decision.
There is a real push and pull tension of Lorenzo il Magnifico. During the game, it has that feeling that you never quite have enough of the things you need, and where you play in turn order can make a huge difference. Once someone has played in one of the towers, other players can go there, but they have to pay three coins to the bank. The first two territories you conquer are free, but if you want to expand your empire further, you have to add to your military strength.
One of the really interesting aspects of the game, is how the family members’ power is determined each round. Good dice rolls expand your options, but do the same for everyone else. Bad dice rolls make all of the resources (especially the servants) more valuable. Either way, you have to respond to the situation that all the players are facing.
After your first play of Lorenzo il Magnifico, you can add in the advanced rules, which give players a slightly different personal player board, and add Leaders. There are 20 different Leaders in the game ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Pico della Mirandola to Lorenzo himself. Four Leaders are dealt out to each player at the start of the game and they’re drafted one at a time. Leaders provide a once per round or permanent bonus when they’re played. They each have a requirement to play out, but not a cost. So for example, Sandro Botticelli requires that you have ten wood to play him out, but you don’t have to spend that wood.
The Leaders and unique bonuses on the player boards, give players something to work towards in the game and can create a bit more of a dynamic strategy.
Lorenzo il Magnifico is an excellent worker placement Euro-style game. It can feel a bit overwhelming on your first play through. There are a lot of rules and iconography to learn, but at the end of your first game, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. It’s well worth the investment. Lorenzo is a game with tons of interesting decisions to make and a lot of replayability. Definitely give it a shot! You and your family have nothing to lose.