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Subject: Da Vinci makes a big-box game rss

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Chris Farrell
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Cupertino
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After last year's Essen, I have tried to completely detach myself from the internet "buzz". Caylus, Antike, and Siena were all games that were getting great buzz, and all of them, for me anyway, turned out to be disappointing, while games getting little to no internet attention (Beowulf, Elasund, Hacienda) were big winners for me.

So I approached Leonardo Da Vinci, a game about which there is starting to be some interenet excitement, and also made by a company that produced one of my all-time most-hated games (BANG!), with a healthy degree of skepticism.

And hey, what do you know, it definitely did not suck! Players are inventors in the Italian city of Florence, trying to churn out inventions. The city elders want a fancy crossbow? You're on it. You'll need to round up raw materials (some wood and some rope, in this case), workers, a lab for the workers to work in, and perhaps a robotic assistant or two (Yes, really. These actually turn out to be better workers than the humans). You acquire these goods in a sort of vaguely Aladdin's Dragons-esque way, placing your workers in various areas of town, with the players who commit more effort to each activity getting better prices, while the less industrious get gouged. Of course, workers gathering materials aren't actually working on inventions. What results is a game with lots of interesting choices, almost all of which seem real (unlike some of those nasty, fake choices in Caylus) and well-balanced. And, critically, it plays in a reasonable amount of time and without excessive downtime; in this way it even scores over the classic The Princes of Florence, a game to which it bears some resemblance. I'm pretty certain Leonardo Da Vinci is nowhere near as well-honed a design as that classic, but it has definitely corrected that one flaw at least.

The theme of Leonardo Da Vinci for me has an interesting meta-relationship to the feel of the game itself. The players in the game aren't really playing the role of inventors, having interesting proprietary ideas and working out their inspiration in secrecy. No, the players are really producing made-to-order "inventions". The game tells you what to invent and how to invent it; you go off and do it. A better theme might have been war production in America in WWII: "We need a tank that'll be reliable, fast, and that will be suitable for mass production. Why don't you get on that, and sign us up for 50,000 of them. And don't go over budget." By the same token, the game itself does not feel like it was designed from any true inspiration, any interesting core idea. It's like the designer perhaps enjoyed the game systems in The Princes of Florence and Aladdin's Dragons, and decided to make a new game by piecing together the bits he liked from those games and adding some money management and removing the auction and the uncertainty.

So what does this mean, if anything? Possibly not much. Certainly not that Leonardo Da Vinci is a bad game. It just means it lacks that hook, the coherence of vision or creative spark of the top-tier games that really pulls you in. To say it another way, it lacks theme integration. It's a collection of fun mechanisms that are streamlined, well-presented, and engaging to play, and I liked it, and I'll play again; but most likely, this is ultimately just another in a long list of disposable euros.

This review was originally posted on by blog at:
http://homepage.mac.com/c_farrell/iblog/C2097221587/E2006102...
and is © Chris Farrell, 2006
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David
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Quote:
It just means it lacks that hook, the coherence of vision or creative spark of the top-tier games that really pulls you in. To say it another way, it lacks theme integration. It's a collection of fun mechanisms that are streamlined, well-presented, and engaging to play


So basically, it's a Eurogame?
 
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yegods
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hmm, one game i'd like to try out. are you bringing it to BA games day?
 
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