A couple years ago, I played an old out of print game with friends as a warmup to a long game day. It was quick, accessible, and a lot of fun. The game, Medici, was one of Reiner Knizia’s finest games, but also one of his many out of print titles and I was unwilling to spend $60+ on a game with admittedly awful graphic design and a 30 minute play time.
Fast forward two years and Grail Games is bringing Medici back in a beautiful updated package with illustration by Vincent Dutrait. Suffice it to say, I jumped on the Kickstarter nearly right away and do not regret the purchase.
This review is as much about the reproduction and quality of what Grail Games put out as it is the game, which I will say up front is one of my favorites for this length and player count. So let’s dive in and take a look.
First, Medici at a Glance
If you haven’t had a chance to play Medici yet (which is likely considering how long it was hard to find), it’s a relatively simple game. Players are traders in the Mediterranean who must stock up on certain goods and set sail. Your goal in the game is twofold – to have the best hold of goods when your ship sets sail and to accumulate a strong hold on specific markets to gain additional bonus points. The game takes place over only three rounds, so it’s impossible to control more than 2-3 markets (at the most), so it becomes something of a balancing act throughout.
At the start of the game, each player starts with a certain amount of money (also acting as their victory points). In the original game, tiles were then drawn out of a bag. In the Grail Games edition, a deck of cards is used instead, effectively offering the same experience. The auction master each turn will put out either 1, 2, or 3 tiles and then put them to a bid. There is only one round of bidding and the auction master goes last.
Players then bid for goods in an attempt to get a large number of a single type of good, but also a high number in their hold. Scoring occurs in two phases. First, players will score for the size of their hold – the largest getting a pretty sizable sum of points, and then second place and so on with decreasing amounts of points. Then players will add up how many of each type of good they have and move up on the appropriate track. The players who are the highest and second highest on each track will score more points.
And that’s it. There are three rounds of this and the player with the most cash/points at the end walks away the winner.
Grail Games’ New Edition of Medici
Rather than diving into what I do and do not like about this game, let’s instead look at the new edition and how it compares to the original. First, here’s what the original edition looked like:
Not too pretty. Solid gameplay, tight auction mechanics, and a lot of fun when you have a short amount of time to fill, but extremely bland to look at.
Now look at Dutrait’s upgrades:
So much prettier. From the cover to the illustrations on each of the goods cards, this is a beautiful production of a classic game. The only drawback I can note, and this has come up several times and even caused some issues is the score track:
Unless you are in a room with a lot of light, this is very hard to see. It’s dark, the numbers blend into the background, and it’s easy to skip numbers if you’re not careful. Additionally, some of the extra bits added to the production (remember this was a Kickstarted game), are superfluous. It’s kind of silly, but harmless.
The Bottom Line
Medici is a tight, easy to learn, and easy to play auction game in which you must balance getting enough goods in your hold and cornering the market for 1-3 goods to maximize end of game points. From bidding up lots to make your opponents overspend to waiting for good deals (but not too long lest your hold come up half empty), the game holds up well even after more than 20 years of other auction games coming and going, this simple little game remains in the top 400 games on Board Game Geek for good reason. It’s a blast, and a good entry in any collection, especially this edition which is beautiful to look at and won’t push new players away due to poor graphic design.
SUMMARY & RESULTS
Medici is a classic of modern board games and a Knizia standby. If you’re a fan of his semi-abstract designs and quick auction mechanics, this is one to put on your shelf. And it looks pretty good to boot.