Publisher: WizKids Games
Player Count: 2-5 Players
Game Length: 75-100 Minutes
As the head of a Renaissance-era, Italian, aristocratic family, supporting the artists, builders and scholars of the day is essential for cultivating fame and prestige. Build your reputation as patrons seeking out worthy artisans, develop your own principalities and become the princes of Florence.
In this tile-laying, contract fulfillment and bidding game, players will bid against each other to help local artisan’s fulfill their creative pursuits. Resources will be tight and savvy bidders will know when to strike in an effort to maximize their returns over 7 rounds where tension continues to escalate and both long term and short-term planning are critical for victory. Are you ready to become a prince of Florence? Find out in the review below:
ON YOUR TURN
The Princes of Florence was originally published in 2000 from the designers behind classic titles such as El Grande, Tikal and Colosseum and more recently, Downforce. In this revised edition, the artwork and components have received a major upgrade to bring this traditional euro into the new era of board gaming.
The game takes place over 7 rounds with each round divided into 2 distinct phases. Players will earn prestige points through a variety of ways and in the end, the player with the most prestige is the winner.
One of the central objectives of the game is to gather professional cards and meet as many of the requirements listed on each card as possible. These cards represent artisans of art, architecture and scholastic pursuits. Each artisan is influenced and inspired in different ways and it’s up to you to cultivate your resources to meet these needs.
Each round begins with an auction phase where players bid on 1 of 6 available objects. These objects carry a variety of benefits that may serve your available artisans. The active player selects one of the objects and all players bid. You can only win 1 object per round and once you’ve acquired an object, you can no longer participate in that round’s auctions. Once a specific type of object has been bought, no one else can buy that object for the remainder of the round. The objects feature landscape tiles that will later be added to your principality board, prestige and recruiting cards that provide endgame objectives and the ability to steal professional cards from other players respectively and builder and jester tokens that provide price and scoring benefits.
Once all players have completed the auction phase they move onto the action phase. During the action phase, players will be able to perform 2 actions from a selection of 5 choices.
Among other things, this is where you cash in your professional cards. Each professional card earns points for meeting certain point-scoring objectives. You don’t have to meet them all, but each round has point requirements for cashing in cards that must be met if you choose to cash in a card, so the later you wait, the more you need to earn. Your professional cards earn points for having certain landscape tiles or buildings in your principality (which can be purchased during the action phase) as well as holding certain cards in your hand as well as owning other objects.
Just from a setup perspective, the principality board plays a fairly prominent role in the game’s presentation. This gridded board allows you to place purchased landscape and building tiles throughout. These polynomial shaped tiles need to fit together in the grid and will benefit you when you cash in artisans. This provides an additional puzzle to consider when executing your strategy.
Having finished the action phase, players can choose to take money earned into your hand for future rounds or use it to purchase prestige points. The player with the most money earned during the round receives a bonus. This continues for the 7 phases and a winner is finally declared.
ARTWORK & COMPONENTS
I am a huge fan of the artwork in Princes. The characters are colorful, credible and full of personality. It’s full of style and nothing is overly silly or cartoony which is a great tone for the game. The game’s components are good and the overall production has a fairly classy feel to it. The game’s wooden token paws used to track points aren’t amazing. I would have liked to see a more custom shape than the traditional chess pawn, but they do get the job done.
The rulebook is fairly clear and easy to understand. I was able to jump quickly into both the base game and the solo mode without too much trouble.
PROS & CONS
➕ The bidding feels very tight and gaining those initial auction items is a real challenge
➕ Many paths to victory, but you have to be very intentional about your goals
➕ Great artwork and production
➕ Cool points/money split mechanic at the end of each action phase. This could be your key to victory, but you feel the tension in your choices.
➕ Overall set collection feels really cutthroat in a good, challenging way
➖ The game plays at a slower pace. I attribute that to the game’s old school approach
➖ This isn’t a crowd pleaser. It’s certainly for a niche audience.
➖ A bit rules-y and that can slow down gameplay
NEUTRAL You have to be very particular about your choices. Failing to grab a needed object can disrupt your pursuits and cost you big time.
WHY WOULD YOU LIKE THIS GAME?
Fans of classic bidding and euro games are going to enjoy the old school feel. This is a tight, cutthroat game and it can get pretty competitive. There is plenty of interaction in the bidding phase and it can get a little nasty with the right group. It has a little Use Rosenberg with the tile laying and there are plenty of choices and paths to victory for fans of that sort of thing.
WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS GAME?
This is both the best and the worst thing about the game: The auction phase can be brutal. Sometimes you really need to overpay to guarantee the right piece. It can be incredibly irritating when your opponents start driving up the prices, but it’s also super satisfying to pull one over on them. I’m a fan of bidding games and the tight choices really elevate the bidding process here.
I wasn’t sure how Princes of Florence would translate 20 years after it was first released. It definitely has an old school euro feel, but there is still plenty of personality in the mechanics that make for a fun, engaging experience.
The pacing of the game is where it does feel a bit dated for me. I think we’ve come a long way when it comes to pacing in modern games and Princes shows a little wear in this area. Perhaps there is a way to condense some of the actions, but it is what is and while the pacing felt off it certainly wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
This is a set collecting game, but the path to get there is what really makes it interesting. The bidding and tile laying aren’t anything revolutionary, but it’s the limited choices that make them engaging. Grabbing objects (or resources if you prefer) is super tight here. This all starts with the bidding phase and how only 1 object of each type can even be drafted that round and each player leaves the phase with only 1 object. The choices are solid as well. Should I grab a jester that’s going to earn me additional points with each professional card I cash in or go with the builder who is going to decrease the cost of buildings later on? Maybe it would be smarter to grab a prestige card to provide an additional end scoring goal to pursue? Don’t forget Landscapes or Recruiting cards! It all comes down to your own strategy and how that conflicts with the other players as the bidding commences.
The principality/polyomino mini game follows in a similar fashion. The space is limited and makes choices more of a challenge. Buildings can’t be adjacent to other buildings early on and this creates a bigger spacial puzzle that needs to be planned for and solved.
The key to your engine is the end of round scoring choices. After players cash in professional cards they can either take the money or trade it in for prestige points. Obviously the player with the most prestige is the winner, but you’re going to need money to outbid your opponents and purchase objects during the action phase. I doubt this is the only game to employ this technique, but it’s brilliant and needs to exist in more games. This mechanic GUARANTEES at least one really interesting decision EACH round.
Princes of Florence is an unforgiving game. Making the wrong choice or bidding too much for something can completely derail your game. Resources are tight and the 7 rounds feel not nearly long enough to accomplish all your goals. When you’ve finally finished fighting the other bidders, you then turn around and realize you have to start fighting the game with its tough resource stipulations and limited actions.
If it’s not clear by now, this isn’t a game for everyone. It can sludge along with the wrong players and be a bit frustrating at times. But, for players looking for a cutthroat game with really tight and challenging choices, Princes of Florence may be for you. I think fans of old school euros are going to find a lot to like here, but there are some progressive ideas that play well in today’s gaming landscape. I found the game also gets better and better with each play and that’s a huge plus for me. I think if you find the right group that embraces a more challenging, interactive and cutthroat game, this can be a real gem that begs for repeat plays.