VINCI - Reviewed by Mike
I had been reading some encouraging reports on this one, both in the magazine and on various websites so I decided that it was a 'must' purchase. I echo Stuart's comments about the board design but that didn't detract from our enjoyment too much.
Of greater concern is the number of errata and clarifications that have arisen since the game was published, which, for those of you with Internet Access, can be obtained by visiting the Funagain.com website and clicking on the Vinci errata link under "More Information". This highlights the fact that not only are the rules ambiguous in several cases but that the characteristics of some of the Civilization counters are wrong, the most serious being that there should be 3 Barbarian counters and 1 Specialization counter, not 2 of each.
Armed with a printout of the errata we have played this game twice, with 3 players then 4 and, notwithstanding the extra hassle of constantly referring to the errata, we have managed to reach a conclusion of the game in just over 2 hours, so at least they have got that right.
We found the game did meet our expectations and provided good entertainment and as it progressed we began to realise the nuances of the different combinations of Civilization counters. One that caused me particular aggravation was the use of "Diplomacy", which someone used effectively against me to prevent me attacking them, which as I had Barbarians at the time was really frustrating.
A situation arose in the same game whereby my declining empire appeared to form a 'shield' between my active empire and the declining empire of an opponent that I wished to attack. This was our interpretation of the rule that a player's active empire cannot be adjacent to his declining empire without the Heritage counter being in his possession. However the errata list contains the following :
"You are allowed to enter a province with your Active empire that is adjacent to a province occupied by your Declining empire, no matter what. However, if the Active empire does not have Heritage, the Declining empire's province is immediately emptied."
This means that I could have moved adjacent to my declining empire and emptied the province and then re-organised my forces to commence an attack on the opponent's declining empire. He was scoring 11 points per turn for this empire and that effectively won the game for him, so it was an important omission on our part. I have since re-read the rule on this and to be fair to the publisher it does state that the pawns are removed from the declining empire so we'll put that down to a learning experience of the way I had read the Heritage counter attributes.
The game has many positive features and we particularly liked the method by which you selected your new empire, having to weigh the cost of purchasing a good one further down the civilization menu against the likely yield from that empire in the longer term. It also provides the opportunity to take the short-term strategy of taking a cheap empire and running with it for a couple of turns and using it to have a pop at the current leader. This method meant that players who were lagging behind in the Victory Points chart had a chance to catch up.
I'm sure that with the many various combinations of civilization tokens that can be formed that the game offers high replay value, and that it will require several more games to realise their potential. As an example I passed over an empire with a Currency counter due to its zero pawn count on the first turn but an opponent scored steadily with it as it earns victory points for mountain provinces each turn, whilst my mountain provinces scored nothing. There's obviously more here than one might initially think.
Despite all the problems mentioned above I would still recommend this game to other readers providing they are prepared to view it as a light-hearted conquest game that is playable to a finish within 2 hours.