Posted by: gschloesser | August 10, 2011

Quo Vadis?

Design by:  Reiner Knizia
Published by:  Hans im Gluck
2 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

Quo Vadis? is another of German Games from Reiner Knizia that Mayfair Games has imported and released here in the United States.  Like most Knizia games, this one is fast, easy and fun.  However, typical of Knizia, it does have some nice elements of strategy and is exceptionally heavy on the negotiation and deal-making side (which is not usual for Knizia).

In Quo Vadis?, players must progress their six senators through various committees and along the path to the Senate.  The ultimate goal is to promote at least one of your senators to the Senate AND collect the most laurels along the way.  The game does not end until all five available Senate positions are filled.

Sounds easy?  Well, it is.  However, one must be skilled in the fine art of negotiation and deal-making in order to accomplish these goals.  There are various committees that players must pass through along their way to the Senate.  These committees have a capacity of either one, three or five senators.  In order to be promoted out of a committee and onto the next higher committee, a player must have the majority vote of all of the existing committee’s slots … even if they are vacant.  Thus, in a five-slot committee, a player must accumulate three ‘Yes’ votes in order to promote his senator to the next committee.  That means deals must be cut with other players.  What kind of deals are we talking about?

Before answering that question, let’s first look at some of the game’s mechanics.  Players have three options on each of their turns:

  • Place a senator in one of the five committees in available slots (if any) along the bottom edge of the playing board;
  • Promote a senator to the next higher committee if able to secure the majority vote in the current committee AND there is an available slot in the new committee; or
  • Move the Caesar piece.

There are several different paths that players can take, all ultimately leading to the Senate.  As they progress from one committee to the next, they usually pass over a space containing a ‘laurel’, which ranges in value from one to six.  Once obtained, these laurels are kept face-down by the player and a new laurel from the ‘deck’ is placed on its spot, available for other players to collect when they pass through that space.  It is these laurels that ultimately determine the victor, for he who has the most laurels AND has at least one senator in the Senate will win the game.  Moving the Caesar onto one of these laurel spaces allows a player to leave a committee without voting, but prevents that player from collecting the laurel Caesar covers.

As mentioned, in order to move out of one committee and on to a higher level committee, a player must secure a majority of the votes of the members of his current committee.  Each player who votes ‘YES’ gets one free laurel.  There is a limited supply of these ‘one’ laurel markers, so voting ‘yes’ early in the game will usually reward a player with a laurel, while later in the game the supply may be exhausted.

So, we ask the question again:  What kind of deals can be made?  Well, the usual deals involve some of the following tactics:

  • The ‘I’ll vote for you now if you vote for me later’ tactic.  Self explanatory.
  • ‘I’ll vote for you if you move along that path, and I’ll take that path’.  Self explanatory.
  • Laurels are placed face-up on the board, so players know how many they’ll collect if they take a certain path.  Thus, laurels frequently become the subject of negotiation:  ‘I’ll vote for you if you give me 2 of that 4-value laurel you’re going to collect’.  Change can be made only from a player’s personal stack of laurels.  Hard-nosed negotiators can hold out for ALL of the laurels collected!

In the basic rules, deals are binding for one complete round.  After that, ‘Caveat Emptor’.  A variant in the rules allow for any deals to be at the risk of the players and no deals are binding.  I like that one!

As it should be obvious, negotiation is the key to this game.  Players must keep an eye on the laurels that will be collected by moving along certain paths, as well as the committee slots which will open-up via these promotions.  Since accumulated laurels are kept secret, memory is also important.  No sense to continue to reward those players who have already accumulated impressive amounts of laurels.  Sometimes, however, this must be done to prevent being stuck in a low-level committee.

The game does not end until all five slots in the Senate are filled.  At that point, laurels are totaled and the player with the highest total wins … provided he has at least one senator in the Senate.  If not, that player cannot win no matter how many laurels he collected.  Sometimes, good strategy dictates filling the Senate quickly if a player knows he has the most laurels, or blocking all promotions to the Senate if a player feels he is behind on the laurel count. 

The game is fun and quick … very quick.  Our matches took only 20 – 30 minutes to complete.  Thus, you wouldn’t want to center an evening’s gaming around Quo Vadis?, but it does make an excellent ‘filler’ when the evening’s premier game has finished early.  I’ll give the game a 6.

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