Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: alea 2005




In the new Reiner Knizia game Palazzo from ALEA the players are taken back to the city of Florence in the 15th century. At that time the city was at its cultural and economic peak, and thus the players - assuming the roles of nobles - have joined a competition to find out who is able to built the most glamorous and valuable palaces (Palazzi).

As usual with ALEA games, Palazzo comes with a rather distinct set of rules and a playing mechanism which might seem a bit difficult to grasp at first sightening of the rules. When setting the game up, the "playing area" is created by placing one storage area at the center of the table and arranging four quarries around it. The figure of the Master Builder is placed at a random quarry, and then the building parts are prepared for playing.

On their backsides the building cards show numbers ranging from "1" to "3", and thus the building cards are separated into three stacks which are mixed separately. In the course of the game, the stack numbered "1" will be used before stacks "2" and "3". The stack numbered "3" not only has building cards in it, but also five end-of-game cards. Once all five of these cards have been revealed, the game will come to its end. On their frontside, the building cards show different parts for building Palazzi. These parts are characterized by the building material (clay, tuff, marble), the number of openings (doors and windows) and by the level number (1 to 5, since a Palazzo may have up to five storeys).

One building card from stack "1" now is placed openly at the storage area and on each of the quarries. As a final preparation, a stack of money-cards is mixed and each player receives four random money cards which he keeps secret from the other players.

The game itself is played in turns, and in his turn a player can chose between the following options. He may...

  • draw money cards or
  • buy or auction building cards or
  • re-design one of his already placed building cards.

When drawing money cards, the active player turns over one more money card than there are participating players from the deck of money cards, and then he is allowed to take two of these cards before each of the other players also is allowed to take one card as well. These money cards show coins of three different currencies with different values, and an important rule which needs to be observed during the game is that for making a payment a player only may use coins of the same currency. However, there also are some low valued "certificati" in the stack of money cards, and, although these cards do not have high values, it is their advantage that they may be used in any payment since they serve effectively as "jokers". The only instance when a player may use cards of different currencies is when he has cards of the same value of all three currencies. Then he may pay using these three cards, but their combined value is always "15" - regardless of the real value printed on each of these cards.

The most important option which a player may perform is the buying or auctioning of building cards. When a player chooses this option, he first reveals the two topmost cards from the current stack of building cards and places the first of these cards onto the storage area and the second card on a quarry (which quarry is determined by counting the openings on the building card and by going that many steps clockwise from the quarry currently occupied by the Master Builder). Once the new building cards have been placed, the active player decides whether he wants to buy or auction.

When the player decides to buy, he may only buy building cards from the storage area. He may buy up to two building cards from the storage area, and the price of each of these cards is determined by substracting the number of cards at the storage area at the beginning of this turn from "10". The player then pays the appropriate sum of money cards (no change is given !). However, if a player prefers to run an auction, he moves the Master Builder clockwise to the next quarry with building cards where now ALL of these building cards will be available in ONE auction. The active player will be rewarded with a special "certificato" money card which he uses as his starting bid in this auction. Now, the auction will progress in the order of the players, which each player being allowed either to bid more than his predecessor or to quit. If a player chooses to quit, he may take back all money cards he has played so far, and thus the auction continues until all but one player have quit. This last player pays all money cards he has bet and is allowed to take all building cards from the quarry.

Regardless whether a player decides to buy or to auction - all bought building cards have to be used immediately for either building a new Palazzo or for enlarging an already existing Palazzo. At this point the building rules come into play, since a player needs to observe several restrictions for placing his building cards:

  • In each Palazzo the building cards may only be used in rising order. This order is given by the level numbers, so that a lower level cannot be placed over a higher level.
  • No level may be added twice to the same Palazzo.
  • The building materials of the different levels of a Palazzo may vary, but a Palazzo built of only one material brings more victory points at the end of the game.
  • The openings on each level may vary.
  • A building card may only be placed above an already placed card or to open a new Palazzo. The only option to place a building card below an already placed card is by chosing the re-design option for an action.
  • Each player may start as many Palazzi as he desires, but each Palazzo with only one storey will force its owner to substract 5 victory points at the end of the game.
  • Each bought building card must be used immediately. However, a player may alternatively chose to discard a freshly bought card - an option which might seem advisable if the end of the game is drawing closer.

The third and final option which a player may chose for his turn is the re-designing of one of his already placed building cards. The active player then has to pay one of the money cards from his hand and for this he will be allowed to re-design one of his already placed building cards. Thus, he now may...

  • remove a building card from one of his Palazzi and place it as first storey of a new Palazzo in front of himself; or
  • take a building card from a one-storey Palazzo and add it at a fitting position to one of his other Palazzi; or
  • discard a building card from a one-storey Palazzo.

The game comes to its end when the five end-of-game cards have been reveale from the third stack of building cards. Now the players will have to calculate their victory points:

  • substracting 5 victory points fo each one-storey Palazzo;
  • ignoring each two-storey Palazzi since these do not have any value;
  • adding victory points corresponding to the number of openings on the different storeys of a three-storey Palazzo;
  • adding victory points corresponding to the number of openings on the different storeys of a four-storey Palazzo plus three;
  • adding victory points corresponding to the number of openings on the different storeys of a five-storey Palazzo plus six.
Additional points will be awarded if a Palazzo was built using only one building material, and here the bonus ranges between three and six victory points, depending on the size of the Palazzo. The game then will be won with he player who was able to score most victory points.

As indicated above, Palazzo is a game which is somewhat typical for ALEA and for Reiner Knizia as well. The rules have a few twists which make gameplay a bit staggering during the first rounds, but once the players got a hang on their available options the game continues easily and fluently. However, when deciding on a strategy, long-term planning is not suitable for the players, since they have to rely heavily on which cards will be revealed from the deck of building cards each round. Although this does not have a major impact on playing fun, I would have preferred a more sophisticated set of rules allowing players at least to try to delevop a long-term strategy, since especially the fact that it is difficult and time consuming to change existing Palazzi puts quite an emphasis on the question whether or not to start a new Palazzo.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany