Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de





No. of Players:
2 - 5



About a thousand years ago different city state (comuni) were competing for domination in Italy, and in this game the players have taken the roles of heads of mighty families who are responsible for the development of one of these city states. During the game it will be the players' task to increase their income (and victory points) by constructing four different kinds of buildings (Economy Military, Culture and Religion), but at the same time they must be heedful of the threatening external invasions which will happen at four times during the game.

Each of the building types is assigned a special kind of resources, so that an Economy building will produce gold, Military allows armies, Culture increases craftsmen and Religion brings pilgrims. At the beginning of the game each player will receive a certain amount of each of this resources, the exact number of each resource ranging between one and three and depending on which city state a player was assigned at the beginning of the game.

The gameboard mainly serves as a display for available building cards, but it also offers tracks for victory points and still available buildings cards. As a preparation the building cards will be divided into four decks ranking from A to D, and each deck will be shuffled and placed on a corresponding position. The decks will be exhausted in a rising order, with the cards being placed in the auction area where the players may try to acquire them, and whenever one of the decks is exhausted an Invasion takes places before the game is continued with the next deck.

During his turn a player first has to think about his current building projects, and to get new building cards to his hand he will usually put one of his playing pieces and some gold at the head of one of the rows of building cards at the auction area. If an other player's figure was standing there, the newcomer has to bid more gold so that figure and gold of the firstcome player will go back to that player's stockpile, unless the player actually plays a pilgrim which would allow him to reposition his expelled figure on another row in the auction area. This kind of repositioning actually may cause another, weaker bidder to be dispelled or repositioned.

A player who has a figure at an auction row at the beginning of his turn may actually claim the building cards available there instead of placing another figure, and all the building cards from the row actually go to the player's stockpile before the row is refilled with fresh cards from the currently active deck. A third choice would be to get some income from all buildings which a player already has constructed, but at the beginning no buildings are standing so no income is available.

In the following phase the active player is allowed to build one of the building cards from his hand for free, but as an option he could also use a craftsman for each additional building he wants to build. As said above, four different kinds of buildings can be erected, but a fifth type of building cards actually exists and this type serves as a joker and can be used in any building. Buildings cards of the same type of building actually can be stapled on already placed cards so that higher level buildings slowly are constructed, and this higher levels are important since a player may generate a corresponding income equalling the highest level building in each category. The highest level which can be reached with a building is four, and several restrictions need to be observed when construction a building. Most important here is the fact that the building cards have a level so that higher level cards must be placed on lower levels, and so a card of the same category as an existing building does not automatically it onto that building because the level of the new card might be too low. Here craftsmen help again, since they may be discarded to temporarily increase the level of the new card by one level per craftsman. Alternatively, building cards may also be faced down in front of a player, and these cards effectively will be used as city walls. City walls are useful because they can be manned with an Army in case an Invasion, and they are needed to defend the town against plunder markers (penalities!).

If a new building is erected or a level is added to an existing building the player also may turn his income-card of the corresponding category face up, and only if this card is face up the player actually is entitled to an income from that type of building in the income phase. In this case the player would receive income for the highest building level he has reached in each of the categories in which he possesses an active income card, and he will receive a corresponding number of gold, soldiers, craftsmen and pilgrims whereas the income cards once again will be turned face down and will wait for their next activation through a building action.

In addition, there exists a Master's character card for each of the four categories of buildings, and the player who possesses the most valuable buildings in a category will receive and keep the corresponding Master character(s) until he should be overtaken by another player. If income is collected, the player gets an additional income of the corresponding type for each of his Master characters.

So far you have seen that gold can be used for bidding for buildings and craftsmen are useful for construction operations. Two gold also can be exchanged at any time for an army, and two pilgrims can be exchanged for any type of resource. However, pilgrims also can be used if a player should have gotten plunder markers in an invasion, but it would be best if a possible invasion might be thwarted by the use of armies.

As said above, the exhaustion of a deck of building cards will lead to an invasion, and the attacking strength of the invasion will increase in the course of the game. However, only the player who is furthest back in terms of victory points will receive an attack at the basic strength of the invading aggressor, whereas all other players will by attacked at a higher strength with the force of the attack being as much stronger as the players are ahead in terms of victory points. This mechanism rather nicely reflects some kind of brainpower on side of the external aggressor, since it would have been naturally adivisable to attack the richest player with most troops.

Once the invasion has begun and the attack strength against each player has been calculated the players may spend armies to defend themselves. Now each player secretly takes into his left hand the armies he wants to use to defend his city, whereas in the right hand he takes the armies he sends to the common defence of all the player's city states. The armies spent in the common defence will cause the strength of the attack against all players to be reduced for the corresponding number, but it may be advisable to participate because the player who has sent the strongest contingent of troops actually will be awarded some victory points. Then the players look how many armies each of them has sent to defend his city, and it will be calculated whether enough armies were spent to keep the invaders out or whether some plundering takes place. For each point of strength the invader is stronger than the defender a plunder marker is taken. However, each unit of city walls can be manned with one army unit, and the level of a manned city wall actually is added to the defense rating of the player. All armies which were used against the invader then are discarded.

After the invasion the players resume play with the building cards from the next deck, and slowly they will build more lucrative buildings which will generate more income. A matter of balance is crucial here since players will have use for different kinds of resources during the course of the game. As said, pilgrims or gold may be exchanged for other resources, but the exchange rate means that two units must be given to receive one and on the long run it can be quite costly to depend on trades.

The first invasion comes from Venice, the second from France, the next from the Pope and the final one from the Kaiser. Before this last invasion takes places at a basic strength of 16 all players get a final turn, and after the threat has been dealt with the final evaluation will reveal who has won the game. During the game victory points were assigned for each level of a building, and now bonus points are added for being the strongest supplier of a defending army against an invasion, for possessing Master cards at the end of the game, for the possession of most resources of each type and for having at least one building of each type in the city. Penalties are deducted for any plunder markers which were not removed by the use of pilgrims.

Comuni offers are rather fine-tuned resource management mechanism which the players need to get a grip on. It is not too complicated since the different resources are not used on too many ways, but nonetheless the players first must learn to keep in mind that they will only gain an income if they have activated that source of income by constructing at least one building of the corresponding type. The interaction between constructing and collecting income is crucial to the game, and a player who tries to build too fast actually may run out of resources in times of need.

I would rank the complexity level in this game to be medium, but I really like the way in which the different categories of buildings and resources need to be used in order to keep a player's economy going. An unsuccessful defence against an invader is the correct penalty for mismanagement both in terms of history and game mechanics, and so the players are challenged to keep a good overview how to maximize their victory points while at the same time keeping a tolerable risk. And building up too much of a leading position is contra-productive as well because of the somewhat intelligent attacker, and thus a good level of competition is ensured throughout the game.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany