Discordia

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The first cities on the Rhine emerged from Roman outposts protecting the border with Germania. As the governor of one of these cities, your task is to develop it in the best possible way, while also defending it against the Germanic tribes. Empress Agrippina and her son Nero will inspect your actions and honor the most successful governor. In ‘Discordia’, you develop you…
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Category Tags , SKU ZPG-IRG00026 Availability Out of stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Innovative gameplay
  • Easy to understand, hard to master
  • Fast-paced turns

Might Not Like

  • The games may feel the same
  • Theme is not much present
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Description

The first cities on the Rhine emerged from Roman outposts protecting the border with Germania. As the governor of one of these cities, your task is to develop it in the best possible way, while also defending it against the Germanic tribes. Empress Agrippina and her son Nero will inspect your actions and honor the most successful governor.

In 'Discordia', you develop your city by building farms, barracks, defenses, harbors, and markets, and by trading with ships. Use your seamen, soldiers, merchants, and farmers profitably, fulfill decrees, and secure privileges — acting carefully at all times so that your city grows neither too fast nor too slow. Will you have the best-developed city at the end of the fourth year, or will you manage to impress the empress before then and win the game early?

It’s 49 AD, the Roman Empire Empress Agrippina assigns you to move to the remote region of Germania to secure the border from Germanic Barbarians while making it prosper. In Discordia, a 1 to 4 players game by Bernd Eisentein, you develop your city with ships, barracks, market stalls and farms to get ready to defend from Germanic invasions, grow your economy and be the most successful governor in the region.

Unemployment Down

The game is played along 4 years, each of them consisting of 5 seasons where you will take actions. The win condition is very straightforward: be the city with the lesser works remaining after the end of the game or have none at some point to end it prematurely. Yes, you read it right. You need to try to have no workers left to win the game. It is like Llama, or Rummikub, where you need to get rid of your cards/pieces to win a round, but it is a work placement game. Simply brilliant.

Your city will be you player board. And here you find already another piece of innovation from the designers: it is a dual layer board that you build yourself. It is a base sheet where you stick a carton board after you punched the pieces’ slots. The result is a low-cost, yet totally functional dual layer board that perfectly accommodates your pieces. Getting back to its role in the gameplay, the board is comprised of a city area where you place your buildings, an aqueduct, an expedition path, a development track, and a decree zone. More details are to follow as I explain the game. There is also a common board that keeps track of the available action, current season, available buildings and barbarian invasion.

Each player starts the game with 15 random workers and a building of their choice from those initially available. Every building correspond to a specific worker: Ships are for Sailors, in blue; Barracks are for Soldiers, in red; Farms are for Farmers, in yellow; Market Stalls are for Merchants, in white. Each of them needs to be constructed in the corresponding row in the city, in an existing foundation. Otherwise, you need to first build a foundation before being able to build a new building. Each building varies in the number of workers it can allocate, the matching dice number(s) and maybe a benefit.

You Gotta Roll With It

And here we go again with another great highlight of the game: the dice system. In the best of The Castles of Burgundy style, you use dice randomly rolled every season to take your main action and as many bonuses actions as you can. Before each season, the three dice in different colours (blue, red and yellow) are rolled, and paired with the action in their respective slot in the main board. The first player chooses one of them and take the corresponding main action and take this die off the board, leaving for all other players only two dice options. It may be cruel sometimes, but it is just amazing yet simple action selection mechanism. Actions include building foundations and buildings, allocating workers, getting stars used to advance in the tracks and advancing on the Development Track. Very simple so far.

Let’s go for the bonuses: if you have picked the die in the same column as the season marker, you get the indicated bonus. They may be advancing on the Expedition Path or in the Aqueduct, building a tower to help you defend against the barbarians or in trading workers, getting stars or swapping workers; if you have any building showing a die with the same number and colour as the picked die, you may allocate workers on it for free. White buildings are colourless and only need to match the number. And you better believe, you want to do it as much as you can to get rid of your workers.

As you may have figured out by now, the game is all about efficiency. Finding synergies, getting free actions, and snowballing your city into success is key to win the game. Dice manipulators help you mitigate the randomness to some extent, but it ends up being up to you to carefully plan your city to avoid falling into null turns. Advancing into both the Expedition Path and the Development Track will bring one-time bonuses or permanent abilities that help you progress (more or less) smoothly. The same is even more true for privileges, bonuses obtained after you built a certain amount of buildings in your city, that may range from one-time advancements on tracks or the Aqueduct to permanently treating one of your colours of workers as a joker. Decrees are also useful to get, by being the first to fulfil public objectives.

To be efficient also means to know when to build a new building and when to allocate your workers. That is because at the end of each year, two things happen: first, the barbarians try to invade your city and unless your military power equals or exceeds their strength, you get punished by whatever is indicated in their tile. Otherwise, you defeat them and get a bonus. Your strength is given by the number of workers in your fully occupied barracks plus the strength of your towers; second, since you are in charge of a brand new city full of job opportunities, new workers arrive seeking a better life. You got one new random worker from the bag for each empty slot in your buildings, plus a worker for each “worker in front of a bag” picture showing into your board and buildings, reduced by the number showing in your Aqueduct level (yes, Aqueduct advancements are HUGE!). If it was the 4th and last year, the player with the lower number of unassigned workers wins the game. Otherwise, you remove all your workers from your fully occupied building (yes, you need to occupy them again) and reset the main board for the next year.

A Unique Blend Of Classic Mechanics & Strategic City Building

Discordia is like if The Castles of Burgundy and Anno 1800 had a baby that was raised by Llama. You use dices to take actions, building up you city and allocating your workers to get rid of them hoping to be able to complete your final rush before the year ends and you get flooded with a new batch of desperate people looking for a job in a prospering land. It is an amazing game, with a very deep strategy besides its very simple mechanics. Bernd Eisentein managed to use some classic mechanics in a unique way, at the same time recalling some other games while feeling a one-of-a-kind. There is also a very challenging solo mode which can be played in about half an hour, where Janus, the automa, is constantly removing both dice and tiles from your options, making the game even more tight.

The production is incredible, from the dual layer board to the meeples. Everything of very good quality. The art is objective, with very easy to understand symbology. The rulebook is also great, well written and full of examples. The game lacks replayability to some extent, since all that changes from one game to another is the action assigned to each die number, the decrees and bonuses available, and the random workers that you get. In Essen, they distributed a mini-expansion that also randomly draws the season’s bonuses, but it may still not be enough if you want more dynamic set-ups and changing winning-paths.

Nevertheless, the game plays very smoothly in about 60 to 90 minutes depending on player count, and is very pleasant to play. It is able to catch your attention and keep your mind blowing while trying to figure out a way to build enough infrastructure to rush and win without flooding yourself with loads and loads of workers. This balance is key, and beginners may struggle in the first match with that. Specially towards the middle-game, the tension is always in the air with the dice rolls and first player picking, since, by that point, you may be already committed to a direction that has some weaknesses which may be exploited by your opponents. It is sad that player interaction is limited to that and a race towards some common infrastructure and decrees. All in all, Discordia is a very good and singular game from a small publisher and very humble designer that fits well in most collections.

Some Hints For Your First Match

Do not underestimate the power of the aqueduct. Not drawing extra meeples in between years is a big deal

Guaranteeing a few infrastructure tiles early in the game are useful to claim the most powerful privileges, but they are more useful towards the end of the game (especially the one that transforms a colour of meeple into wild)

At the beginning, you may want to get city tiles with lower amount of meeples to reduce the incoming number of meeples in between years. However, you will need big plays towards the end to be able to finish with your workers, and tiles that hold multiple meeples in a single spot are very efficient on that.

Do not feel overwhelmed by getting a lot of extra meeples in the first couple of years. Your city builds up in an amazing fashion (as long as you did your job developing it well), and you will be able to ditch a big amount of meeples on the last couple of years

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Innovative gameplay
  • Easy to understand, hard to master
  • Fast-paced turns

Might not like

  • The games may feel the same
  • Theme is not much present