Episode 342 - Masters of Renaissance
Release Date: Feb. 24, 2020
S. Luciani & N. Mangone
1-4 players | 30-45 min | ages 14+ | 10 min to learn | $45
You are a citizen of Florence, seeking to gain wealth and favor with the Church. Gather resources and influence through developments. Play your cards right and powerful leaders may join you. But don’t forget the most powerful Leader of all, the Pope. He stands as the ultimate judge of your devotion and good works.
Approachable and challenging, Masters of Renaissance packs great depth into a game that lasts less than an hour. If you like tactics and strategy, this game is like catnip - a treat that is impossible to ignore!
Written review continues after the break.
You are an important citizen of Florence, seeking to increase your fame and prestige. To do this, you must visit the marketplace and obtain the resources you need to buy developments. By wisely combining your developments, you may increase your riches, as well as your status with the Church. Play your cards right and powerful leaders may join your enterprise. But don’t forget the most powerful Leader of all, the Pope. He stands as the ultimate judge of your devotion and good works.
Masters of Renaissance comes with 4 player boards, each with room for resources, development cards, and a track to chart the player’s Faith.
There is a small Market Board, and Tray, which will contain the 13 Marbles used to represent the resources in the game. 48 development cards, which are divided into 4 colors: green, blue, yellow and purple.
Also included are 16 Leader cards, which represent, albeit abstractly, the noble personages of Renaissance Florence.Also, four types of wooden resources and a tray to hold them, Pope’s favor tiles, faith markers,and an Inkwell token to indicate the start player.
To play, prepare the development cards into 12 mini-decks, separated by color and level. Each player collects their personal board and tokens and keeps two leader cards out of four dealt. Choose a start player; following players receive compensation in terms of goods and/or faith points. Now you’re ready for your first turn.
Each turn, a player must perform one of the following three actions:
1) Take resources from the market.
2) Buy one development card.
3) Activate your production.
Action 1: Take Resources from the Market
The 13 marbles in the market are laid out in a 3 by 4 grid, with one marble to the side. A player chooses either a row of 4 or a column of 3 and takes the corresponding goods from the resource supply.
The colors of the marbles correspond to the type of good. Yellow are coins, grey are stones, purple are servants, and blue are shields. There is also a single red marble, which represents an advance of one step on the Faith track. And 4 pesky white marbles, which yield no goods at all. Think of them as a kind of missed opportunity!
Once you’ve chosen your row or column and taken the benefit, you will use the extra marble as a pusher by inserting it in the chosen appropriate side and knocking out the marble opposite. This creates a new market display, from which a following player may choose.
Now you must place the resources you’ve taken onto your player board. Your goods warehouse is located on the left hand side of your board. The warehouse is divided into three depots; one with room for 1 good, one with room for 2, and one 3.
Each depot can hold no more than the marked number of goods. And only one type of good may be stored in a depot. Additionally, your warehouse may never have two of the same type of goods at once.
You may rearrange your goods as needed, but you have room for only six goods total. At any time you may discard excess goods, but doing so will award one Faith point to each opponent for every good discarded.
Action 2: Purchase a Development Card
Once you have some resources, you might want to use your turn to purchase a development card. The cards at the top of each pile are available for purchase by spending resources.
The cost is listed at the top of the card. At first, you may only buy level 1 cards to put into one of the three empty slots on your board. Once you have a level 1 card of any color, a level 2 card may be placed on top of it. In the same way, level 3 cards may only be placed on top of level 2 cards.
Each development features a book illustration which tells you the exchange rate when you activate your production. For example, a level 1 green card might allow you to swap a coin for a faith point. The similar level 2 card yields 2 shields and a faith point for one coin. Development cards are also worth victory points.
Action 3: Activate Production
Finally, you may use your turn to activate your production. Each player starts with one basic production: spend any two resources to receive one other good. Remember, though, the development cards you activate will give you more varied and powerful production options.
Note that only the cards on top of your three development areas are active. Cards below will count for points at game end, but cannot be activated. Thematically, they have been superseded by a more advanced development.
When you activate production, you take resources from your depots and convert them to other resources as shown on each card. For example, if you have these two cards on your player board:
You can convert the resources listed into 2 stones, 2 servants and 2 steps on the Faith track.
All the goods you receive during production go into your strongbox, located on your player board below your depots. The strongbox has no storage limit or restrictions. Any amount of goods may be stored in it, and goods of all types may be in your strongbox at once. Goods in your strongbox may be taken out later when you activate production, or may be saved up to purchase the more expensive Development Cards.
Optional Action: Leader Card
In addition to choosing one of the 3 Basic Actions, you may freely take a Leader action on your turn. A Leader action consists of one of two choices:
Discard a Leader Card from your hand to advance one Faith point. Play a Leader Card if you have met the requirements.
Leaders usually require that you have a certain combination of developments, say, 2 purple and 1 green. Some will be satisfied if you have accumulated 5 of a certain good.
All leaders are worth between 2 - 5 victory points, sometimes more. Additionally, leaders may grant a special power, which will help you during the game. These can include a discount on future purchases of development cards, an additional depot to store goods, additional production capabilities, and the ability to consider those normally worthless white marbles as goods of a specific type.
This game sets a simple task for the player: Run a more efficient operation than your opponents. The leaders you choose to satisfy can greatly assist you toward that goal.
So, player turns are quite simple: Either get resources, purchase a card, or run your production. Play continues until one player purchases their seventh development card or when a player reaches the final space on their Faith track.
The Faith Track
During the game, players will advance on the Faith track by either selecting the row or column with the red marble, running their production, or when an opponent discards goods from their depot. Along each person’s Faith track there are three highlighted sections known as the Vatican Report. When one player reaches the Pope space at the end of the Report section, play is halted temporarily.
Now each player checks their own Faith track. If their Faith marker is within the Report section, they keep the corresponding Pope’s Favor token for endgame scoring. Fall short, and their token is discarded. Failing to please the Pope can be quite costly.
Once the game ends, players receive victory points for the value of their development cards and played leaders, their progress along the Faith track and Pope’s Favor tokens, plus one point for every five leftover resources. Highest point total wins the game.
What Sets This Game Apart
Strategy in an Instant
Masters of Renaissance wastes no time in setting strategic challenges. Here, choose two leaders. Now, how will you get the resources and developments to rally them to you? And while you are making your plans, can you keep up with the pack on the Faith Track? The pope will be checking up on you!
This, combined with the pressure to get the right resources, both to buy that next development card and to run your resource engine, creates the kind of tense decisions that gamers relish. Time is tight and each choice matters.
Masters of Renaissance is the little cousin of the 2016 title, Lorenzo il Magnifico, a Spiel of Approval Award winning game we featured in episode 261. Although both share a similar setting, Masters strips out the essential elements of Lorenzo, and drills down to the latter’s strategic and tactical core. The fact that it captures this essence, and offers it up in half the playing time, is pure genius.
Timing and Tactics
Strategy is the grand overall vision. Without it, you stumble around in the dark. But tactics is the sharp-edged multi-tool which may help you realize your plans, or crush the hopes of your opponents.
In Masters, this decision could be something as simple as the resources you take from the market, pushing out a marble the next player was relying on taking on their turn. Or, buying that development card out from under their nose.
Even a well-timed push on the Faith Track might catch other players short, costing them a favor token. It might even be worth discarding a leader for that one extra faith point, just to trigger Judgment Day.
That’s tactics. The unexpected chance. The little opening you slip through at just the right time. A little gain for you and a little pain for them? “All’s fair...,” as they say.
Ease of play, as well as strategic and tactical depth should be like catnip for experienced gamers. Here, that treat is packed in a game which demands no more than an hour’s time. And perhaps best of all, Masters offers challenges without an overwhelming cognitive burden. Both approachable and challenging, it creates space at the table for a wide audience of players. And that makes Masters of Renaissance worthy of our Spiel of Approval.
Written by: Doug Richardson