If you are anything like me, and I'm vainly assuming you are (except not as good looking obviously), then you feel connected to some games before you have even played them. Lorenzo il Magnifico was one of those experiences. I some how knew in my gut I was going to like this game. It is like our coming together was destined to happen. In short we were made for each other.
Of course if there is one thing life has taught us it is that these fairy tale endings rarely work out. Would my dream game become a nightmare?
Doubt is a crippling beast and doubt caused me to delay on pulling the trigger on Lorenzo il Magnifico. Fearful that I would enjoy the idea more than the game I waited awhile before picking the game up. When the stars of 'great price' and 'disposable funds' finally aligned Lorenzo became mine.
My first experience was of disappointment however. You don't expect the components of a box with the CMON logo to be a bit shoddy, but unfortunately that was the case, misshapen wood and badly cut punchboard threatening to dampen this match made in heaven.
Reading the rules raised my hopes however, despite them being pretty ambiguous in places, I knew these were mechanics that should work together.
Pope Pleasing Points
What I didn't know about Lorenzo il Magnifico was how punishing it could be. It was almost like the game needed me to prove my love for it. When setting up you lay out four columns of cards sorted by colour. These are represented by towers on the board. Getting some of these cards can be pretty costly, and if anyone else has placed a worker on that tower already (including you) you must pay three coins to go there again - pricey!
Once gained, these cards are placed on or next to your player board dependant on colour. The yellow and green cards form engines you can run to produce points and resources, blue cards are usually one off powers or upgrades, and purple are end game scoring cards.
The other thing you will set out are tiles which I call 'papal punishments'. On the faith track, three tiles are placed with various negative effects. If you don't reach the required faith level, or choose not to spend the faith points at the end of every two rounds, you will be blighted by this negative effect for the rest of the game!
This all adds up to a hugely pleasing game of decisions and balance. You must manage your resources carefully, choosing when to spend and when to save. All the while keeping an eye on the faith track and deciding which of the negative effects are acceptable and which you must avoid at all costs.
In one game the last 'papal punishment' cost you victory points for each wood icon in your yellow machine, so I simply ignored all the yellow cards - and won! It's this flexibility in the system that makes it a winner for me. You can choose where to focus and what to ignore, and this freedom is compelling.
The cleverness and evolution of systems used in Grand Austria Hotel is clear to see here. But it is one of the biggest differences that is the cleverest. In Lorenzo you have three dice; an orange, white and black one. Each round these are rolled once. Everyone has four workers, three of these are linked to the die of the same colour and this dictates where you can place that worker. The fourth worker is a neutral one, that always starts as a zero.
The problem of Scaling
Fans of Grand Austria Hotel will know that while it was fantastic with two players, it became a bit of a drag as the player count increased. Lorenzo il Magnifico is the opposite, at two players too much of the board is shut off, whereas the game shines with the full board at four players.
Lorenzo is not the most straight forward teach either. With so many interconnecting elements and icons to grasp, newcomers can struggle - Particularly with the faith track and associated punishments. As usual I suggest you play a 'dry round' to make sure everyone is up to speed. Once learned though it plays very smoothly, as you attempt to act out your plan and react to the other players messing it up!
Lorenzo il Magnifico
Despite it's components, player count and ease of play issues, I love Lorenzo il Magnifico. You really feel as though you are earning everything, and good decisions early on reward you later. Thanks to the multiple paths to points you never quite feel out of the game. It's a hugely satisfying way to spend a couple of hours.