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Top 5 Paolo Mori Games

Paolo Mori Rustling Leaves

We are back once again to discuss a board game designer. This time, we’re looking at someone who is surprisingly difficult to research. Paolo Mori is a fine designer, who has brought to life some really clever games. He doesn’t like to focus on one particular mechanism or theme, which means you can get some real variety from his ideas. And really, that’s what we have today – we got the seasons. We got pirates. We got Romans. Time to dive in and see where it takes us!

Rustling LeavesFavouriteFoe

Paolo Mori has designed some brilliant games. When I see his name on a big box like Libertalia Winds of Galecrest, I know it is going to be a great experience. But he also sneakily appears on small boxes too. And one rather underground (or should that be forest floor?!) hit, is Rustling Leaves published by KOSMOS.

Rustling Leaves is a quick, quiet little roll and write of the multiplayer solitaire type. Played solo or multiplayer, the rules are easy. And like a crisp autumn morning, Rustling Leaves has a layer of push-your-luck, spatial crunchiness.

Inside the box is an immense pad of score sheets because it’s actually 4 games in 1, covering spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Each season is its own spatial puzzle with unique scoring objectives, so cracking value from the get-go!

Using two custom dice, players simultaneously draw an enclosure on their sheet corresponding with the dimensions shown on the die faces (e.g. 2 x 3 or 1 x 4). The clever Mori touch is that you can only score one icon type in the enclosure you draw. And, as each icon has specific rules about when and how it produces points for you, each decision is going to make you think. Some are independent, whereas others need (or need to avoid!) fellow creatures or features to score!

As your sheet fills up, your options become more limited. You can manipulate a specific die once per game. But if you can’t go, or don’t want to draw a specific enclosure, you’ll suffer -3 points! A really nice touch is that you get to decide when you want to stop playing. If the risks are becoming too great, you can just bank what you’ve got and wait until end game scoring to see how you’ve done. You can’t add anything else for more points. But you won’t risk losing any either. The game finishes when everybody has passed or can no longer draw any enclosures.

Rustling Leaves is a small, satisfying Paolo Mori gaming session that I would happily play any time of the day or year!

Libertalia: Winds of GalecrestLuke Pickles

As FavouriteFoe alluded to earlier, Paolo Mori is partial to a big game and I’ve gone for one of his biggest… sort of. You see, the original Libertalia was a great success but it has been out of print for a few years. Happily, Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games reached out to Paolo and revived it with Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest, the second edition released earlier this year. And quite frankly, it’s excellent.

Each player is utilising their deck of sky-pirates to gather as much booty as possible. All players start with the same hand of cards, and will choose one per round. Everyone reveals and then the characters are organised by their rank. Starting with the lowest ranked, everyone activates their daytime power, should they have one. In the dusk phase, you grab booty tiles, starting with the highest ranked character and return your character to your ship. Then nighttime powers trigger and so on.

The game plays much the same as the original, except there are so many quality of life changes and little gameplay tweaks that have added so much replayability. The artwork is much brighter, the treasure tiles are chunky Azul style tiles instead of cardboard, there are more characters and a reputation track to resolve ties. The game was a lot of fun as the original, but now the changes make it far more replayable. Excellent stuff! I have some fuller thoughts here if you want to hear more!

EthnosSeb Hawden

Straight off the bat, I will tell you that I love Ethnos a lot - Paolo Mori did not disappoint. However, I think it is high on my list for a graphical overhaul. When I heard about it, I was told how great, quick and rewarding it is but also, how ugly it was to look at. Boy, they were not kidding! I have got used to the generic art and very drab board, but I can see it putting a lot of people off. If you can look past these minor gripes, you will be rewarded with a fun, set collection, area control game with variable setup and scoring conditions.

The board is made up of a map and in each of the game's three rounds, you will be placing one of your markers on a district of your choice to try and win those sweet, sweet control points! In each game the points that each region awards are randomized, making each game slightly different. But how do you place markers on this bland map? By playing sets of fantasy-based creatures of course!

At the start of the game, you randomly select what strange and uncanny creatures you are playing with. This, again, leans into the replayability of Ethnos but also the tactics you may use to win the game. For example, the Orcs come with a bingo card of sorts and has you trying to collect all the various colours for higher amounts of points. Some races allow you to put additional tokens on the board, some allow you to move down tracks and all sorts of weird and wonderful wrinkles to get stuck into. With points being awarded for larger sets of creatures played and from other small corners of Ethnos it all adds up to be something quite different to anything in my collection.

With very quick turns, you either play a set of cards or pick up a new card, a lot of decisions and very little downtime, Ethnos is a game my family and I really enjoy. It may not look great but what you get in return is a highly replayable, entertaining game that takes up very little table space and very little time.

Blitzkrieg! World War 2 In 20 Minutes! – John Hunt

Blitzkrieg does exactly what it says on the box, delivering the Second World War brilliantly in about 20 minutes!

Both Allies and Axis have identical bags of chits and will pull three to place behind their screen. For the most part they show tanks, aircraft and ships and a value of typically 1-3. On your go you will pick one of the three to play in a free space in the open campaign of one of the war’s theatres, such as Eastern Europe or North Africa. The number depicts the number of spaces you move the slider above the theatre which tracks who is winning. If you fill the last space of a campaign the person winning on the slider gets the VP shown for the campaign and the next campaign in the theatre opens. First to 25 VP wins.

Sounds simple and it is, but there is some extra spice which makes it all the more interesting. Many of the spaces you put your chits on will show icons which trigger one of a host of immediate effects. You might get instant VP, or to move the slider in this or another theatre to your advantage. You might get to draw an extra chit and expand your ‘hand size' or return one of your opponent’s bringing their ‘hand size’ to two or one. Or you might add a unique science chit to your bag like a super carrier, spy, scientist, or nuclear bomb! And there are more still.
And should you every reach the end of the slider in a theatre before all of the campaigns are finished then you instantly trigger a decisive victory and claim all the remaining VP while instantly closing the theatre. Boom!

Paolo Mori has pulled another blinder, producing a lean, head-to-head 2 player struggle which is whip smart, pacey and offers loads of crunchy decisions with a simple rules overhead. Blitzkrieg is a fantastic game.

Caesar! Seize Rome In 20 Minutes! – Craig Smith

There’s no better feeling than a game just clicking for you. Caesar! (which is how I’ll refer to the game from now on to save time) is a game of very few rules, but very crunchy decisions.
In a two-player game, one of you plays as Caesar, the other plays as Pompey. On your turn you’ll play one of the discs from behind your screen onto a border between two provinces if it has the matching symbol. Once an area has been sealed off, the person who seals it off gains the bonus. The person who has the most influence in a province wins control of it, placing one of their influence tiles in the middle. The first person to have all their influence tiles on the map is the winner.

This is where the decision making comes in. Sometimes it’s better to sacrifice a province in the short term because the long-term benefits of the bonuses might be more useful. There’s also the risk of your opponent chaining provinces together, meaning they add extra influence tiles onto the borders as well.
I taught one of my friends how to play Caesar! at UKGE earlier this year, and I went from a position of perceived comfort to losing the game. Momentum is very, very important in a game of Caesar!

There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s not one of the best-looking Paolo Mori games, but in a weird way that adds to the charm. Caesar! is only meant to be on the table for a good time, not a long time… unless you get hooked into playing it time and time again like I often do!