Posted by: gschloesser | August 5, 2011

Lucca Citta

Designer:  Alessandro Zucchini
Publisher:  daVinci Games and Mayfair Games
3 – 5 Players, 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser  

DaVinci Games and their American partner Mayfair Games have been releasing a steady stream of card games, threatening to fill one’s gaming shelf faster than Elizabeth Taylor goes through husbands.  One of the more recent releases is Lucca Citta from Italian designer Alessandro Zucchini

It is yet another building competition for those palace-crazed, 17th Century Italians.  Players compete to construct palaces, with more prestige being earned for multiple windows and for the correct color coordination.  Players can also contribute to the building of the city walls and towers, all in an effort to rise to a position of prominence in the town.  

Cards depict a variety of palaces in six different colors.  These palace cards depict from 0 – 3 windows and/or support shields, as well as a street number which is used to break ties.  Players will attempt to construct palaces consisting of like-colored cards, and then open them at the proper time to earn even more points.

Each player begins with a “quarter” card, which indicates the location for the placing of palaces under construction, completed palaces, and open palaces.  Players begin with two cards in their “under construction” section. 

Each turn, sets of three cards (one more than the number of players) are revealed and players take turns drafting one set.  The turn order is based on the number of support shields depicted on the cards each player has in their under construction section.  The more shields, the better.  Choosing early in the turn order gives a player a wider selection of cards, so keeping shields in one’s under construction area can be important. 

When selecting a set, players have several choices in distributing the cards: 

1)      Begin a new palace.  Cards placed in the under construction area must be segregated by color.  So, if a player does not already have a palace of a particular color under construction, the player must begin a new palace with that card. 

2)      Add a card to an existing palace under construction.  When a palace reaches the required number of cards, which varies from 3 – 5 depending upon the number of players, it is completed and moved to the “completed” section, earning points for the number of windows in the palace. 

3)      Build a city wall.  A card can be placed face-down directly into the completed section of one’s quarter.  These cards MAY earn victory points at game’s end – provided they are supported by support shields.  

4)      Build a tower.  There are four towers in the deck, and these are placed directly into one’s completed section.  They earn points as well, but only if one’s city walls are supported. 

5)      Discard the card.  

Before selecting cards each turn, a player must decide whether he desires to open any of his palaces that are in his completed section.  This is a simple matter of moving the appropriate cards to the open side of one’s quarter card, and tallying the appropriate number of points.  Points are earned based on the cards one’s opponents have in their under construction and completed areas.  One point is earned for each same color card opponents have in their under construction area, while two points are earned for each matching card in opponents’ completed area.  The idea here is to delay opening a palace until there are numerous cards of the same color in the appropriate sections of opponent’s quarters.  This does require a quick check of each player’s quarter before making the decision to open a palace, but fortunately, this does not take much time. 

After each player has opened palaces and distributed his selected cards, new sets are revealed and the cycle continues for 5 – 7 turns, again, dependent upon the number of players.  After the specified number of turns, players have one final chance to open any completed palaces.  Final points are then earned for city walls and towers.  Each city wall must be supported by shields depicted on cards in a player’s under construction area:  two shields per city wall card.  If they are unsupported, no points are earned.  Ouch!  Finally, the player with the lowest visible street number in his under construction area surrenders three victory points to the player with the greatest street value. 

The game sounds as though it will be intriguing, with lots of choices and decisions.  In reality, however, it simply isn’t.  The decisions are mostly obvious, with the only real decision being which cards to leave behind as support shields.  Most other decisions are clear:  grab cards with multiple windows and colors that will allow you to complete valuable palaces, keep some cards with support shields in your under construction area, open palaces when opponents have numerous matching cards.  Plus, the game plays too quickly, so there is not much time to delay the construction or opening of palaces.  Build ‘em quickly, and open ‘em when profitable.  There is no use in delaying.  

Some have compared the game to Reiner Knizia’s Palazzo.  There are definite similarities, particularly in the construction of palaces and scoring mechanism.  However, the decisions players must make in Palazzo are much richer, and the gaming experience much more satisfying.  Lucca Citta plays fast and isn’t painful, but it just isn’t terribly exciting or challenging.

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