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Leonardo da Vinci

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Last December I found a large number of heavily discounted games at my flgs, and I came home with a lighter wallet and a large stack of games. I’ve played some of them many times, some are still in shrinkwrap, and some, like Leonardo da Vinci, have been played several times but have never really grabbed us.

Leonardo was one of the games I was most excited about when I got home. I had heard about it, had read about it, and I had thought it would be a game my wife and I might enjoy. The theme didn’t do much for me, but I’ve never been too hung up about theme, so that wasn’t a problem. S and I played it a couple times right away, then set it aside, thinking it was a little too fussy for our tastes.

Fast forward to about a month ago. The same flgs was having a 20% off sale, so I picked up Stone Age, a game I had had my eye on for some time, and brought it home. The components were impressive, the rules were well-written, and the game was an instant hit. Everything just works in Stone Age, everything feels intuitive, it doesn’t feel fussy, and motivations are clear. It feels natural, somehow, and everything works the way you feel it should work. Sure, the “love shack” is a little strange (S asked why two tribes weren’t allowed to inter-breed), and kids are required to work at an awfully young age, but these are minor issues. We found ourselves referring to the one-use tools as “Thor-hammers,” discovered that the cards can have a huge impact on the final scoring, and realized we were enjoying ourselves quite a lot.

Since Stone Age shares some of its basic mechanics with Leonardo (they’re both worker-placement games), we decided to give Leonardo another try. Sometimes, we reasoned, you need a kind of gateway into a game to more readily understand it. Maybe Leonardo had just been too heavy for us the first time around, maybe with a few games of Stone Age under our belts we’d find it easier to get into.

It felt, however, as obscure as ever. Granted, in many ways I think it’s a better game, certainly a more complex one. The choices are more subtle, and having to devote meeple resources to completing inventions is an interesting twist. Also, it helps that the inventions can be shared, and that gathering resources isn’t an all-or-nothing affair. It feels more sophisticated, maybe, more refined. But not more fun.

It might just be that’s it’s not our cup of tea. It might be that the rules are inordinately difficult to understand. It might be that the theme is fairly abstract. Whatever it is, it still doesn’t work for us. We found ourselves having to refer to the rule book often during the game, either to make sure we were playing correctly or to clarify some obscure detail. I was amazed both by the number of situations we had to try to clarify and by the number of times we were unsuccessful.

While I think there’s a good game in there, something about the final package just hasn’t clicked for us. My plan is to go through the rules with a fine-toothed comb, go through the FAQ, go through the players’ aids on BoardGameGeek, and try to compile a streamlined version of the rules for two players. Then we’ll give it another go and see how it fares.

  1. October 30, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    I am glad you enjoyed Stone Age. You dd a very nice job articulating why its such a great game.

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