Player Count: 1-4 Players
Solo mode: Yes
Game Length: 90 Minutes
Following the death of famed composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, it is your responsibility as a patron to work alongside his widow to help complete his final work. You’ll actively commission composers to finish his work while reminiscing about the past in order to improve your position in his wife’s memoirs.
Lacrimosa employs a number of mechanics including deck building, area majority and movement points. Players will use a unique card playing mechanic that allows them to activate a current action while stockpiling resources for a future turn. Score points in a variety of ways including performing Mozart’s work in opera houses around Salzburg, Austria and compete with your opponents to complete the final 5 movements of the Requiem.
ON YOUR TURN
A truly inspired production, Lacrimosa blurs the lines between board game and art. The presentation embraces the period behind the theme doing everything it can to immerse you in the unique and ambitious subject, the process and its distinct moments. Right from the moment it was announced, Lacrimosa is a title that has captivated hobby gamers with 2 simple ingredients: a pedigree from Devir (the accomplishment studio touting the success of recent games such as Bitoku and Red Cathedral) and a truly eye-catching cover full of emotion and energy. Everything seems in place to not only deliver an exciting, functional game, but an original experience.
Each player begins the game with the same deck of 10 dual-purpose starting cards. Each card features a top and bottom action. These actions will allow you to activate various cards and areas around the primary playing board. On your turn, you’ll draw 4 cards and select 2 to play on your personal player board choosing one for its top action and the other for its bottom action. These actions thematically represent telling stories (embellished as they may be) of the travels and accomplishments of Mozart’s life, as well as preparing resources to fund the new works on a future turn. As you can tell, the choices come with a high emphasis on planning versus immediate benefits.
Players have the option to explore 5 different options in 4 primary areas. Players can draft cards from a market featuring a randomized selection of memory and opus cards. These memory cards feature upgraded “stories” you can tell on future turns and replace your current standard deck. Opus cards represent opera halls where Mozart put his talent on display. Opus cards will later be used to tell the story of fantastic past performances from Mozart or sell the music you commissioned earning you income. Traveling simulates Mozart’s visits to the country’s nobility and elite where he performed to earn money or learn from other maestros.
The final action is the requiem action, representing your involvement in Constanze (Mozart’s widow) pursuit to finish the final 5 movements of Mozart’s last work. This involves hiring 1 of 2 randomized composers to work on these sections in specific ways.
The game lasts 5 rounds with each round consisting of 4 turns per player.
Once the game ends, players will score points earned throughout the game, end-game objectives and through a unique, area-control scoring triggered by composer contributions.
ARTWORK & COMPONENTS
The game’s artwork and graphic design are fantastic. The period and musical-angle are beautifully tied together. Some of the text is a little challenging to read because of the stylistic font chosen, but that’s easily forgiven since it contributes nicely to the theme. The iconography is good overall. Some of the iconography is a little hard to make out, but I felt confident after my first game.
The components are highlighted by the personal player board. These unique dual layer boards provide a space to tuck cards in showing just the chosen action. I’ve been seeing these more often (most recently in the popular game, Carnegie), and they are a welcome touch. The boards feel sturdy and high-end and truly enhance the game’s experience. The cards and wooden tokens are all well done. This is what you’d expect from a game immersed in a theme of decadence and high society.
PROS & CONS
➕ Rich, interesting theme
➕ Cool dual-purpose card system where you get immediate and future benefits
➕ Decent tactical depth
➕ Card actions are easy to pick up
➕ Quality components
➕ Beautiful, timeless illustrations
➖ Theme seems a bit detached and ultimately a missed opportunity
➖ Turns aren’t super exciting
➖ Strategic depth is a little thin
➖ Card upgrading never really impacts the game like it should
WHY WOULD YOU LIKE THIS GAME?
Eurogamers looking for a medium-weight euro wrapped in a unique theme are going to find the most to enjoy. Lacrimosa tells a unique story that should engage the right audience.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THE GAME?
The best thing for me is playing the dual purpose cards in the unique dual-layer player boards. Dual-purpose cards typically make for interesting choices, but the cleverly designed boards make organizing and reading your actions a fun experience.
Devir went the extra mile to develop a game with a unique theme that engages the actions in a creative and interesting way. If I’m rating Lacrimosa on ambition and production, it’s an easy 10. Unfortunately, the choices, actions and replay ability don’t quite meet those initial lofty expectations. That’s not to say it’s a poor game, just one that didn’t quite live up to the expectations it built for itself. I’ll briefly dissect some of my issues and point out where the game succeeds and falls short.
I was surprised at how easy the game was to get into. The primary actions took a minute, but are pretty easy to grasp after a few quick glances of the reference page in the rulebook. This page is well organized and a huge help, but would have been better served as individual player reference cards.
The game board is well organized and easy to differentiate the different actions. The orientation of the board is a bit of a problem though. While it looks amazing, players sitting at the base of the board are going to have trouble reading the selection of memory and opus cards at the very top while players on the other end may struggle to read the labels of each movement and the composer bonuses.
The easy accessibility had a downside: the strategic depth really wasn’t there for me. First the positives: I do appreciate the dual-purpose cards and planning decisions that force you to weigh immediate benefits versus the need for future resources. This could be the starting point for some rich and difficult decisions if it wasn’t for one thing: Resources seemed rare until they just weren’t anymore. I attributed this to the run in the requiem section. This area control mini-game was quickly gobbled up in each of my games leaving certain resources specifically used in this section expendable—later turned trade fodder for other, more beneficial resources. This tactical element was really the only standout feature in the gameplay.
While the travel and card market forces you to pay a variety of costs that change as the position of the carriage moves across the map or cards are purchased, there is always something else to do to alleviate any tension. Sure, you might have to pay an extra resource, but the benefits of each card seemed so balanced, I couldn’t ever justify reaching too far for a card. As for traveling, you often had to be in the right place at the right time. There are objectives you can snag to provide direction and end game points, but I had trouble again, justifying the cost/reward. These objectives certainly provide good scoring avenues, but attaining them took some serious focus (and a little luck).
The other disappointment is in upgrading your hand of cards. I love this idea, but the upgraded actions never delivered. This is a combination of the limited turns in the game where upgrading a card will only benefit a future turn and the fact the upgrades weren’t that much better than the base cards.
In the end, I never found myself getting too excited about the turns. There are opportunities to build mini-combos, but I never found myself getting too high or feeling tension. The gameplay is fine and I would probably be up for a game of Lacrimosa in the future, but it’s not something I would play regularly. There are some interesting decisions, just not enough to get me excited. While there is some variable setup with different composers and different cards, I don’t think there is enough variety to justify too many repeat plays.
I love the theme and its intended implementation, I just didn’t feel the gameplay provided an equally interesting experience. I never felt like I was helping write music or even telling tall tales of Mozart’s famous exploits. I can see fans of the subject matter embracing this and even enjoying the turns and the actions. For me, there are just too many other great games (produced by the same company) I’d rather play.