Die Fürsten von Florenz is a very fine game from the
designers of El
Grande and El Caballero. (Kramer has also been
designer or co-designer of many other fine games, including Tikal,
Torres, Detroit-Cleveland Grand
Prix, Wildlife Adventure, and many more.)
The components, although largely cardboard, are striking. Each player
has his own small board, and there is one scoring track board for
the middle of the table. The small boards have elegant writing and
lovely illustrations, as well as an attractive plot of land to develop.
There are four decks of cards, many cardboard building and landscape
pieces, chits of various types, and a few wooden pawns.
At this point in time, the game is only published in German. This is
unfortunate for most Americans, as it's one of those games that needs a
translation of some of the cards to be truly appreciated. I have
translated two of the decks of cards (they're posted to the BoardgameGeek, where you can also find a
rules translation), and it works fine. It's well worth the bit of work
needed to print the cards in English!
The theme is both appealing and well implemented: the players are
sovereigns of principalities in Renaissance Italy vying for prestige in
sponsoring the best artists and scholars. Unlike most German games,
which have thinly pasted-on themes, the theme of Die Fürsten
von Florenz permeates the game giving it a rich atmosphere.
In order to promote the arts and scholarship, you have to provide for
your artists and scholars. You have to consider both their needs - a
building for them to work in - and also their desires. They all long
for freedoms to be implemented - freedom of religion, of ideas,
and of travel. They like beautiful landscapes to wander in (or boat
upon) for inspiration and relaxation: woods, lakes, parks. They like
entertainers, and the company of other artists and scholars. Of
course, all these things cost money, but what is mere money compared to
being recognized throughout history as the greatest patron of the arts
There are two phases of play: the auction phase and the action phase.
They are quite distinct, and have very different feels to them, making
the game play quite interesting.
The oldest player is the initial First Player, which is a slight
disadvantage. It passes from player to player during the game - there
are only seven turns in the whole game, so you don't have to be First
Player too often.
The Auction Phase
The first phase is the auction phase. There are seven things you can
bid on, and this is the only way to get any of them. They are the
three landscape types (woods, parks, lakes), two employee types
(architects and entertainers), and two types of cards (Prestige Cards
and Enticement Cards - more on these later).
So the First Player chooses something he wishes to purchase or hire,
and bids 200 Florins, the minimum bid allowed. The other players may
then bid him up or pass. If they pass, they're out of the auction on
that item. If they bid him up, the auction keeps going among all those
who bid until only one remains. The winner pays the money to the bank,
takes the item he won, and places a marker of his color on the pile of
remaining items of that type. This shows two things: that he is
ineligible to bid further this turn, and that no further items of that
type may be auctioned off this turn.
If the First Player won the auction, the player to his left then
chooses an item to bid on. If the First Player did not win the
auction, he chooses a second item to bid on. This continues until all
players have won one and only one item. The game now passes on to the
The Action Phase
The action phase is played very differently. The First Player now
simply chooses two actions, performs them, and play passes to the next
player. This continues until all players have performed two actions.
The turn marker is then advanced, and the next player becomes First
Player, and the game continues with another Auction Phase.
There are five possible actions:
The number in parentheses is the maximum times you may perform this
action in a given turn. Otherwise, you may choose two actions from
the above five choices in any order and any combination. The first
four choices cost money, the last choice earns you money (or prestige,
or some combination thereof).
- Construct a building (2)
- Hire a Personality (1)
- Institute a Freedom (1)
- Buy a Bonus Card (2)
- Publish a Work (2)
There are ten types of buildings: three large ones, five middle-sized
ones, and two small ones. Large buildings are used by three different
personality types, middle-sized by two, and small by one. Your board
lists the 21 different personalities you can hire. You start with a
hand of three Personality cards, and may hire more in the game. These
are the various artists and scholars, ranging from a Mathematician,
Physicist, Alchemist, etc., to a Poet, Playwright, or Painter. Each
personality card lists which building the scholar needs, and which
landscape and freedom appeals to him.
There are three types of freedom: travel, ideas, and religion. These
are limited to one less each than the number of players, by the way.
Bonus Cards are tied in with the Work Number concept, the only
mildly confusing part of the game to learn. In order to Publish a
Work, you must have a certain number of Work Number (WN) points. This
number changes from turn to turn, listed on the turn record track. You
only need seven WN to publish a work in the first turn, but 17 in the
seventh turn, for example.
You can think of WN as reflecting the conditions suitable for
publishing a work. An artist or scholar needs a certain environment
to work, and WN show you how well you've met those environmental needs.
You can get WN from any of the following sources:
- Personalities (each personality you hire is worth 1WN - you start with three, so you already have 3 WN to begin with)
- The appropriate Building is worth 4 WN
- The appropriate Landscape is worth 3 WN
- The appropriate Freedom is worth 3 WN
- An Entertainer is worth 2 WN
- A Bonus card is worth a variable number of WN
A sample Bonus Card might read: "Each Large Building you have is worth
2 WN," or "Every Landscape you have is worth 1 WN." When you
choose the Bonus Card action, you draw the top five cards, look through
them, choose one, and return the other four to the bottom of the deck.
Publishing a Work
So if you still have an action left, and can meet the minimum WN for
the turn, you can publish a work. Choose a Personality card from your
hand, lay it face up on the table, and calculate the WN. Place your
marker on the scoring track at the appropriate WN - there is a bonus to
whoever produces the work with the highest WN in a given turn. Of
course, if you don't meet the minimum WN, you have to take the
personality back into your hand.
So publishing a work might sound like this:
"My painter is publishing a work. I have built a Studio,
so that's 4 WN. I have a lake, so that's 3 WN. I don't have freedom
of travel, so nothing there. I have one Entertainer, so that's 2 WN,
giving me a total of 9 WN so far. I have four personalities, bringing
me to 13 WN, and I'm playing this Bonus Card which gives 2 WN for each
architect - I have two, for a grand total of 17 WN. Since this is turn
four, the minimum necessary is 14 WN, so my work is indeed
The player would then place his marker on the 17 space. At the end of
the round, whoever published the best work gets 3 Prestige Points
Prestige Points are victory points in this game: whoever has the most
PP at the end of the game wins. When you publish a work, you may
collect either cash, PP, or some combination. You get 100 florins for
each WN of the published work. At that time, you may turn in 200
florins for 1 PP, and do that as many times as you wish. So for the 17
WN work published in my example above, you could collect 1700 Florins,
or take 100 Florins and eight PP, or some variation in between those
There are other ways to get PP during the game: each Building you
construct earns you 3 PP, for example, while every landscape of the
same type after the first earns you 3 PP. The second and third
Architect you hire earns you 3 PP. (One Architect reduces the cost of
building from 700 to 300 Florins, by the way, and the second Architect
allows you to place your buildings adjacent to each other in your grid.
A third Architect means you can erect buildings for free.)
The only other way to get PP is through Prestige Cards, which you can
win in the Auction Phase. Each card shows a condition you must meet at
the end of the game; if you meet the condition, you get the stated PP,
ranging from 3-8. The conditions range from having the most buildings
to all three freedoms to the fewest empty spaces showing at the end of
the game (that is, you've built the maximum combination of landscapes
and buildings, which cover up your initial territory most
These are also briefly confusing, and of limited value, in my opinion.
An Enticement card allows you to entice a published artist or scholar
of one of your opponents to join your establishment. You can then
publish a work with that personality if you wish. But you leave the
Enticement card in its place, which counts as a Personality card for
all purposes, so you can't hurt your opponent using one. You may not
even be able to help yourself using one - it's not always easy to
publish. However, they do count as a Personality card for WN
purposes, so they have some benefit, even if you buy them but
never use them.
Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?
Well, it's a tad complex for a German game. Not as bad as some, but it
lacks the simple elegance we've come to expect from German games. Once
you grasp Work Numbers and Enticement cards, though, it's easy to
understand - there's just an initial "hump" you have to get over.
Also, I find the game doesn't work well with three players. The only
thing you limit is the number of Freedoms - all other pieces are
available for the game. Thus the auction phase is a bit lackluster
- with seven choices and only three bidders, there's not a lot of
competition, except near the end when everyone wants a Prestige Card.
I'm tempted to institute a special auction restriction for three players:
only one landscape type may be built each turn. That is, instead of
opening an auction with, "I'll bid 200 Florins on a Park," you
would instead open with "I'll bid 200 Florins on a Landscape."
Whoever won the bid would take their choice of Landscapes (woods, lake,
or park), but no one else could put in any Landscape this turn.
This would bring the number of items for auction down to five:
Landscape, Entertainer, Architect, Prestige Card, Enticement Card -
this is similar in feel to the current five-player set-up, in which five
players bid for seven items. I haven't tried this yet, and it may not
work, but I don't like the three-player game as is, so I might give it
a whirl sometime.
While the auction phase is more interesting with five players, it's
also a longer game, of course. This can be especially true in the
second phase of each turn, if you have slow, calculating thinkers,
trying to maximize their two actions. You only get 14 actions over the
whole game, so you can't really blame someone for wanting to make the
best choices each turn. But it can slow the game down, and make
this game feel like "multi-player solitaire." Fortunately, I play with
fairly quick players, so this doesn't bother me at all, but your group
may be different.
The flaws are minor to me, though I don't care to play the three-player
game. The theme is wonderful, and largely well implemented, with only
a few illogical things thrown in. (Hiring three architects gives you a
free building? Ha! In the real world, the more architects you hire, the
more expensive a building is ... But that's minor; I can live with it.)
There are lots of interesting decisions to make, and the luck of the
game is minimized. (For example, whenever you draw a card, you draw
five and choose one.)
Overall, I enjoy this game very much and recommend it highly. I hope it
comes out in English eventually, but in the meantime, I think it's worth
buying the German version. The only cards that you really need in English
are the Bonus and Prestige cards, and I've translated them for you on
BoardgameGeek. The other German components aren't a problem, honest.
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