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Reviewer: Chris from Essex
Published by WHAT’S YOUR GAME
Authors: Andrea Chiavesio & Pierluca Zizzi Artwork by Mariano Iannelli
2-4 Players aged 12+ 120 minutes
Signorie has a box full of quality components: Player Boards, Wooden Meeples and Discs, Lots of Tiles, clearly defined cardboard Coins, and Hi-impact Dice, plus a reference sheet; an excellent, full page, glossy double-sided, most useful, reference sheet. This excellent reference sheet is the only complaint I have about the game! Why do I say that having just said it is excellent ? It’s because the reference sheet is so useful that all players need the use of the information on it regularly and that means it is constantly being passed around, adding time onto what is already a two hours plus game.
SIGNORIE is set in Italy during the Renaissance in the 15th Century. The players are Heads of Noble families vying for influence and power by allying with more powerful influential Italian families. On the board are five famous Italian cities; Milano, Venizia, Firenze, Roma and Napoli all of which come into play in a four player game, four with three players and three with two players. Which cities you use is determined by the players, there are no specific requirements; the number of cities in use decides the number of available Marriage and Diplomatic slots. These cities each have spaces for meeples (taken from Career tracks) that have reached the required rank and are placed to allow the players to gain the Mission tiles associated with the cities but only if they actually need them, they cannot be taken to spite other players; there is actually a lot of this attitude in the game, making it almost a friendly competition, with the emphasis on “almost”.
This is a game of making decisions based on your choice of dice taken from the randomly rolled dice pool that is created each round. Play runs through seven rounds with all the coloured dice (except the white set) being rolled and placed into the associated spaces on the board. It is from these spaces that the players select their four actions for the round. Some of the decisions you need to make come when you are arranging a marriage for a female family, which you are required to do and which scores you VPs when you spend Florins as a dowry – there’s a lot of thoughtful play required throughout Signorie despite the main mechanic being the randomness of a multi-dice roll. Like so many games of balancing, placement, and resources finances are as tight as a ducks butt. Money is always needed, but not always essential if you can plan your moves and decisions well.
Taking one die per turn, players put place the dice on their player’s board in the action slot matching the colour of the die. There are three actions in the die slots from which the player chooses one, possibly paying in Florins any cost indicated, and immediately performs it. Performing an action allows the same player to also, in the same turn, activate one or more Helpers in the same column. Players may only take up to four dice in a turn and must be able to perform one of the associated actions, else-wise they may not take the die (i.e. no taking a die just to prevent another player taking it).
Each round ends with phase 3, the rewards. This is what you have been aiming towards during the round, preparing your boards and pieces to score maximum VPs and getting the best starting position for the next round (this can be crucial). The end of the seventh round leads to the final settlement where players add up the VPs gained in each of the Political, Clerical and Military Rows and Tracks, including Marriage if you have at least 3 Alliance tiles (gained from Cities) in them.
This is one of those games where you are faced with numerous options of which you may only do one per turn, so naturally there are options that will be helpful to you, and other options that will enable you to prevent another player doing what they want. Here you have the dilemma of weighing up the benefits and advantages of each possibility before making your choice. This is probably as close as the game allows for player interaction, and yet even without this actual cooperative aspect you are still in opposition with the other players rather than simply playing against a game mechanic.
When performing actions the meeples being used have to be of the gender required, as depicted on the tiles, there are meeples with legs (males) and meeples with flat bases (aka skirts / females). Assignments and Helpers is where the reference sheet is extremely helpful. All the tiles and their icons/symbols are there, explained against illustrations for ease to locate and understand.
Apart from other spaces on the main board, player boards and dice rolling there are four tracks that players need to keep, well err, track of. Three are the Careers track which represents the three possible career paths: Political, Clerical or Military. Players gain small but meaningful bonuses by moving their meeples on these tracks. The fourth track is the Initiative track which determines turn order for each round.
SIGNORIE has just 12 pages of rules, well 11 actually as the front page is the intro story and the Components list, and yet it is a highly thought-invoking game with a great variety of options and actions. These rules are well designed and set out so that you can learn the game quickly and efficiently and headed and sectioned with illustrations and examples for ease of confirmation should any need occur during play. Mechanically it is a dice and collection game with awards and bonus points for doing things correctly, whilst visually it is intriguing with a touch of panache.
WHAT’S YOUR GAME is not a company whose name is usually mentioned in the first few minutes of boardgamer’s conversation when talking about their favourite games, designers and companies. I have been lucky to have played just a couple of their games to date and each has been a game that has stayed on as regularly played after it has been reviewed. SIGNORIE is amongst the top favourites of my regular gaming group and they are quite hard to please as we all have different ideas on what gives a game playable longevity; this one just hits all the right places and ticks, as they say, all the right boxes.
The company is based in Berlin and has been slowly building up a strong catalogue of games, along with a good mass of followers, making it one of the most popular stands at Spiel, Essen each October. If you are going to Spiel, any year, make sure you locate WHAT’S YOUR GAME early in your visit or you may leave Essen disappointed.