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How To Play Mille Fiori

Mille Fiori

Have you ever found yourself looking at your day-to-day life and wondering, what if you had made different decisions? Instead of getting that job, or doing that course, what if you had invited a time machine and gone back to Renaissance era Italy to become a glass merchant? Well, that’s a very specific fantasy, but we have good news for you! Mille Fiori is a charming game where players take on the role of glass makers and merchants, building the best trinkets they can for shipment across The Glittering Lagoon.

The winner is the player with the most points, and points there will be aplenty! Like most “point salad” style games, Mille Fiori has a lot of moving parts and can appear complicated at first glance, but the key to this wonderful game is understanding and then mastering each area of the board and keeping an eye on what your opponents are up to.

Opening The Workshop

On opening the box for Mille Fiori you may find yourself initially overwhelmed by the look of the (frankly beautifully presented) board, all those spaces and symbols and numbers and colours and people and and and… Chill. It’s set in Italy, so it can’t be that complicated. Any readers who have played the excellent Azule games will be very familiar with this feeling. Set the board down in easy reach of all players then everyone fights over who gets to choose the best colour (it’s purple, obviously) and then take the corresponding 27 diamond-shaped glass tokens. Each player also gets a point maker, this starts on the “100” corner, marking zero points for the first round. Each player also gets a ship token, which is placed underneath the harbour, ready to take your goods around the world.

Finally, you need to deal the cards. There is one unique card in Mille Fiori called The Doge, this is your first player counter, this is given to the player who has the fullest glass for the first round or, you can just decide. Place the rest of the cards facedown, in a stack to the side of the game board. The Doge then deals five cards face-down to each player, including themselves. The Doge then draws an additional card per player (e.g. if you have a four player game, four cards would be drawn) and these are placed face up on the opposite side of the board to the stack of cards, these will be used for your bonus cards, which will be explained towards the end of this “How To”… But, for now, you are ready to play Mille Fiori.

Round And Round We Go…

Mille Fiori is played over many rounds” declares the rulebook, and it’s not wrong. But we have to say that the rounds come quick so you better have good math skills or a calculator to hand. Each round is started by the players each looking at the five cards in front of them, then choosing one and passing the rest, face down, to the player on their left. These four cards are placed face down in front of the new player and will be left there until the next turn in the round. Each player shows their card in turn order, starting with The Doge, and immediately actioned. We will discuss strategy towards the end of the tutorial. Once each player has finished fulfilling their card, the cycle repeats. So, to help:

  1. Look at the cards in front of you
  2. Pick one
  3. Place the rest face down in front of the player to your left
  4. Starting with the Doge, players reveal and action their card
  5. Once all players have revealed begin again, until there is only one card left to choose…

So, what happens then Dandy? Stop interrupting, and we’ll tell you. Once there is just the one card left, instead of passing this to the next player, you will add it to the face-up “bonus cards” next to the board. This marks the end of the round. Next part is easy, the Doge card is passed one to the left and the new Doge deal 5 cards to all the players to start again. The big thing to remember here, you do not add any more cards to the “bonus” pile at this point. This is only done during setup and at the end of each round.

Make It, Ship It, Sell It

So, let’s talk glass making. Just like a stained glass window, Mille Fiori has all sorts of pretty colours and each area uses a different one. This is important to know as the cards are coloured to match the area they represent. Yellow for The Workshops, Purple for The Residences, Green for The Townspeople, Light Blue for Trade and Dark Blue for The Harbour & Sea Route. Each area represents a different aspect of the glass trade and the players use their chosen card to place their tiles on the board in the corresponding area. Each of the areas have different symbols as well, these are all represented on the cards also.

We will briefly explain how each area works before going into the exceptions. Although you can play cards for any area at any point during the Mille Fiori (i.e. you can start placing tiles in the warehouse before the workshop, or vice-versa) we are going to start with the workshop because it make sense thematically. And we’re all about style, baby!

The Workshop

The Workshop is represented by Yellow cards and has four separate symbols: Quartz, Ash, Lime & Pigments. The workshop area of the board consists of a number of diamond shaped configurations, made up of the four base ingredients. If you have a workshop card, it will have a matching symbol right in the middle, and you can place your tile on any free workshop space that matches your card.

Players get one point for each tile they place, and an additional point for any other tiles they are diagonally connected to, even if the tile is not yours. The Pigment icon is special in the workshop as it is worth two points, but so are any tiles connected to it in the same diamond formation. Alongside these “instant” points there is also a reward for placing a tile on all four separate icons. 20 for the first player to achieve this and then 15, 10 and 5 for 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively.

Just a heads up, this reward mechanic is repeated in every area except the harbour & sea route, but the method of achieving this is different for each area. Finally, the player who places the final piece of a complete diamond in the workshop is rewarded with an additional card from the “bonus cards” that are face-up on the side of the board, which we will explain later in this tutorial.

Workshop Pro Tip; filling as many complete diamonds as possible is the key to victory in the workshop area, and don’t be afraid to steal the finishing move from other players to get that bonus card. All’s fair in love and glass making!

The Residences

The Residences in Mille Fiori are represented with the Purple cards and are an easy way to rack-up points, if you can get the cards before your fellow players. The Residences are a unique area on the board as you cannot choose where you place your tiles, they must follow the set path. Each tile’s point value depends on two factors, the number shown on the residency you land on and the number of your own tiles in sequence. So, for example, let’s say you play a Residences card and land on a space marked with a “4”, you automatically gain 4 points.

However, this is the third tile you have placed in the residences in a row. Therefore, you also gain the points value on each tile you are connected to, let’s say they were “2” & “3”. So, your total points would be 4 (for the tile just placed) plus 2 (for your previous tile,) plus 3 (for your tile before that.) This means you will gain 9 points in total for that card. In order to score the bonus point mechanic in The Residences you will need to have a tile on 4 spaces with different numbers.

To continue with the example, if you then placed another tile on a space worth 5 points, this will also score the bonus points as you have a tile on 2,3,4 & 5. As before, 20 for the first player, down to 5 for the forth. Finally, to gain the bonus card in The Residences, you need to have 3 and/or 5 tokens on different numbered spaces, just like with the bonus points.

Residences Pro Tip; The Residences can be your key to rapid points gain, but can also be a trap if other player’s see your scheme. Remember, there is some luck in this game, so do not rely totally on getting the big building points from this section. That said, if you have the cards and the guts, you could potentially dominate the game without ever leaving your house!

The Townspeople

The next area in Mille Fiori is The Townspeople, which is separated into two internal groups: The Nobili (represented by the Turquoise cards) & The Populi (shown on the light green cards.) The good news, each group works in an identical manner. The townspeople area is possibly the richest source of points on the board, if you are lucky enough to get the right cards. But be warned, your fellow players can swoop in any time and steal your winnings. The key to winning over the Townspeople is bribery, give them what they want and they will help you in return. In this section of Mille Fiori, you need to match the colour of each card with the pyramids in the middle of the town square (for the Nobili) or the market (for the Populi.)

There are three different symbols and three layers to each pyramid. The Nobili symbols are The Lion, Coin and Cross, whilst the Populi have The Fish, Shell and Crab (which looks like a lobster, but who’s to say…) The colour on your card will tell you if you can place a tile in the Nobili or the Populi sections, however you do not necessarily need to match the symbol shown. So you can play any card onto any symbol with the matching colour, i.e placing a token on a Lion symbol, even though your card shows a Cross. But If you are also able to match the tile to the symbol on your card, you score double points. The second thing to remember when placing tiles with the townspeople, is (just like in real life) you must build pyramids from the bottom up.

When forming the pyramids, start by placing tiles on the bottom level, each tile on it’s own here is worth 1 point. Once you have at least two tiles together, you can place a token on the next row up, the second row scores 3 points per token. Again, once you have 2 adjacent tiles on the second row, you can build on the third, and each tile here is worth 6 points. Remember, you double the points for each token if both the colour and the symbol match your card when placed. You also gain points for all tiles supporting the one you placed. So, for example, let’s say you place a tile on the third row, you gain 6 points for this tile, 3 points for each of the two directly underneath, and a further 3 points for the bottom level tiles as well.

But, the additional points are never doubled. Further to this, anyone who has a token in the pyramid also gains the corresponding points for just their tokens. The keen minded among you will have realised this means you can score multiple times from one token if you are successfully able to keep building on your own pyramid. However, bear in mind that your fellow players are also able to take advantage of your hard work. There is nothing to stop the next player putting the final piece on top of your pyramid and scoring all those lovely points for themselves, even if you did all the hard work.

To win the bonus points for the townspeople is very straight forward. You just need to place a tile on each of the different symbols, and you can do this for both the Nobili and Populi areas. I.e. placing a tile on a Lion, Coin and Cross space with gain you the 20 bonus points. The same is true for the Crab, Fish and Shell. Bonus cards are scarce in this section, you get one card each time you top of a pyramid, so there are a maximum of six bonus cards available.

Townspeople Pro Tip; You have to accept that someone is probably going to take points that you should get, so we recommend aiming for those easy-to-get bonus points by matching the symbols. You may even find that, as part of doing this, you accidentally gain ground on the pyramids

The Trade Area

The Trade Area in Mille Fiori is represented by the Light Blue colour. In this area, players will place tokens to represent trading their goods with merchants who store them in warehouses next to the docks. The trade are is closely associated with The Harbour but we will go over that in the next section. The Trade area is made up of four symbols, Glasses (as in, for drinking from), Carafes (as in, for drinking from if you’re brave enough), Jewellery & Swans (not for drinking from…) Players must match the symbol on their card to the symbol on the diamond space in order to put their tokens down. The value of each token is based on how many matching symbols have already been filled in that column. For example, if you place a Swan token down, and it is the only Swan token, it will be worth one point. However, if you are placing the fourth Swan token, it will be worth four points. Easy-peasy. However, each row only has space for one of each token, and once filled it cannot be covered over. So you need to be quick. However, your fellow players also gain points for each matching symbol they have. So, when you placed the fourth Swan, whoever has the other three Swans also gets a point for each one.

Gaining the bonus points in The Trade Area is also straight forward, match all the symbols and get the additional points. But, gaining the bonus cards is a little more interesting, this is based on making “good deals” for your fellow players. Let’s continue with the example above, you place the fourth Swan and gain 1 point. Another player has the other three Swans, so they gain 3 points. This is obviously a good deal for them and Mille Fiori rewards your generosity with a bonus card. Lovely.

Trade Area Pro Tip; Variety is the spice of life here, the more symbols you can play the better as you are more likely to get the additional points and the bonus cards. But, also, as we said, look to The Harbour for a real chance to score big from The Trade Area…

The Harbour

The Harbour is represented by the Dark Blue cards and area on the board. The Harbour has two functions in Mille Fiori, you can either send your own ship out to sea on the “Sea Route” along the bottom of the board, or place ships in the Harbour itself to build a Trade Fleet. Let’s start with the Trade Fleet. Each fleet is made up of three ships and will be used to move the items stored up in The Trade Area.

Unique to The Harbour, the first two tokens placed in a row do not gain any points at all, but they are the foundations to what could be a big payoff. Whoever places the third ship, makes the fleet ready to set sail with the trading goods and this is where the link with The Trading Area comes in. For each symbol in the row on The Trade Area, you will gain points for the fleet.

There is some maths to do in this section but to save time, if you have all four trade symbols filled and you also filled all three ships for the trade fleet, you will gain thirty points for that row. Unique to The Harbour, there are no bonus points in this area. However, to get the bonus cards, you need to set out to sea.

The Sea Route is traversed by each player’s individual ship token. On a side note, this are some of the nicest tokens we have ever seen in a game of this style. The whole game is really pretty and really well made with lots of attention to detail. Ok, back to the game. Unique to the Sea Route, absolutely any card in the game (apart from The Doge) can be used on this route. Each card has a Ships Wheel symbol in each of the top corners with a number on the wheel.

When you play a card to The Sea Route, you move your ship along by that many spaces. The ship will either stop on a numbered space, and you gain that many points, or it will end on the gold star that represents the bonus cards. Once your ship has reached the end of the Sea Route, that’s it. You do not come back or progress further. So make each card count, you only get one chance to get those bonus cards.

The Harbour Pro Tip; The Trade Fleet can provide one of the single biggest scores you can get in Mille Fiori for one action, so try to get as many ships in each trade fleet as you can, but remember you can slip one of your own ships into somebody else’s fleet.

And that is the last of the areas in Mille Fiori covered, next up we will give some general rules and some advice on playing the game.

The Bonus Cards FTW

We have mentioned the bonus cards a lot during the tutorial so far, and that is because they are the key to building up large points quickly. The main benefits of bonus cards are:

  • They are played instantly, the moment you get them
  • You are choose any of the face up cards next to the board, so you can actually plan your turn rather than choosing from the random face down cards at the start of the turn
  • You can actually combine multiple bonus cards in one round, leading to a chain of moves which can seriously boost your points for that turn

It is not an overstatement to say that utilising the combination of bonus cards can enable one player to absolutely dominate a game, it is the key to winning Mille Fiori. Maybe you need to add a ship to a fleet to stop someone getting the maximum points, but you don’t have a Harbour card? If you can get a bonus card from the side of the board, you can give yourself a chance to get the card you need.

Or even with The Residences, playing a third numbered space will give you a bonus card, which you could use to get another Residences card, play it to get a fourth numbered space and gain not only another rounds of points but also the bonus additional points as well. Again, these can be game changing amounts of points. Dom recently played a game where he was able to get a streak of 3 cards, putting him from last place to first place and winning him the game. He often brings this up in conversation…

General Advice

For us, there are three points to always keep in mind when playing Mille Fiori that will help both make the game more enjoyable but also help players score the maximum number of points.

Make sure you have gotten all the points you are due. Remember that Mille Fiori is all about combining your tokens to generate multiple points per placement. So always take a moment whenever anyone places a glass piece to check that everyone is getting their share. If you put a glass piece next to someone else’s, they are probably going to get some points as well. This style of game is called a “point salad” for a reason!  Bonus points and bonus cards really are game changing.

Yes, yes. I know we have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating that, if you’re not sure what else to do, go for the bonus points and the bonus cards. Even if you are not the first player to qualify for bonus points in an area, it is better to get 15 points than none. Plus, the bonus cards allow you to take multiple turns on your go without anyone being able to interrupt.

Do not be afraid to steal points from other players. Mille Fiori is a gently competitive game. But it is competitive nonetheless, so do not feel like you have to hold back. The good news is, in most cases, your opponents will still score some points so you don’t have to feel too bad about it. This can also be taken as a warning, place your pieces carefully as your opponents can (and should) take advantage of any chance they get!

Short Review

Dom & Andy cannot agree over Mille Fiori, Dom loves the competitive nature but Andy is not such a fan of the “fruit salad” style. What we both agree on however, is the fantastic quality of both the artwork and the finishing touches to the game as a product. The cards won’t rip without a fight, the board is sturdy, the “glass” pieces are toughened plastic but feel realistic. The makers, Schmidt, really went all-in on the production value of Mille Fiori. We mentioned earlier in this how to, that the player Ship tokens are another standout feature, both visually appealing and a high quality build.

We would say Mille Fiori is an excellent game for both new gamers and the more experienced. Because almost every action you do will result in points, each move feels rewarding and no move feels wasted. It’s a nice feeling that you won’t get from some of the more “hardcore” competitive games.