SDJ Buzz: Strasbourg

Strasbourg - image by BGG user maeddes

Our final nominee for the KSDJ is Strasbourg, from designer Stefan Feld.  Strasbourg is a game for 3-5 players aged 12 and up, and takes around an hour to play.  Pegasus Spiele released the game in Germany, and I think a US edition is coming this summer.  The game is all about getting your family members into different guilds in the city of Strasbourg during the 15th century to try to increase your fame – in other words, your standard Euro non-theme..  There’s some area influence going on, as well as auction and tile placement mechanisms.  I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about this one, but it apparently made enough of an impression to get a nomination, so let’s take a look.

Components - image by BGG user cnidius

The game comes with a board, five round cards, five screens, 30 goods tiles, five edifices, a round marker, a starting player marker, five chapel pawns, 120 influence cards, 25 task cards, 10 privileges, 40 coins, 75 family member meeples, and five prestige markers.  Each player starts the game with 15 family members and 24 influence cards of a color, as well as a screen, 5 money, and a prestige marker to mark your score.  The five round cards are shuffled and placed on the board, with the round marker on the first space of the first round card.  The five edifices are also shuffled and placed face up at the bottom of each round card.  The start player is the one who has most recently been to Strasbourg (anyone?), and placed a family member in the Nobility Seat on the council.  The player to his left puts a family member on the Church Seat.  Each player is dealt five task cards, and you can decide how many you want to keep (you must keep at least one).  This is a secret objective you can work towards, a la Ticket to Ride – you can gain or lose points based on how much you finish by the end of the game.

There are five rounds in a game of Strasbourg, and each round has three phases – the planning phase, the action phase, and the council phase.  The planning phase can be completed simultaneously to make the game go faster, or it can be done in player order.  There are two steps – decide how many influence cards you want to draw, then dividing them into stacks.  All you do is draw an influence card, then draw another if you wish.  You can draw as many as you want, but you only have 24 for the whole game.  Once you’ve finished drawing, you split your cards into stacks.  Again, you can do as many stacks as you want.  You are free to look, but you can’t change the composition of the stacks after this phase ends.

Round Cards - image by BGG user duchamp

There are nine steps in the action phase (A-I), and these are laid out on your round cards.  For each step, the start player will either flip over one of his influence stacks or pass.  Everyone else does the same in order.  After bidding, players count up their influence and take actions based on their placement (ties broken by proximity to the start player).  If you pass, you do nothing.  The player in first place becomes the new start player, and you move on to the next action step.  Used influence cards are discarded.  Here’s what you can do:

  • Influence the Nobility & Church (step A) – The player in first place can place one family member on the Nobility Seat of the council, while second place goes on the Church Seat.  No one else can place.
  • Influence a Guild (steps B, D, and F) – The guilds you can influence change from round to round depending on the round card.  You’ll be using three different guilds per round, and their order switches.  If you’re in first, you can place a Master in a guild – place a family member in the appropriate seat of the council, take a good from the guild pool, and place a family member on the corresponding guild space of the city by paying the price (this is optional).  If you end up in second, you can place a Journeyman, which is the same as Master except you can’t have a goods tile.  If you’re in third, you can either take a goods tile or place a family member into the guild on the city.
  • Influence Merchants (steps C, E, and G) – If you’re in first, you can sell as many goods in your possession as you want.  No one else can do this. (In Step G, you can also place a family member on the merchant’s council seat).
  • Build Chapel (step H) – The player in the Church’s Seat takes a chapel and places it on any open white space of the city.
  • Build Edifice (step I) – The player in the Nobility Seat places an edifice in one of the open spaces of the city board.

In the council phase, you get one point per family member on the council.  You also get one Privilege for having the most family members on the council, which allows you to go last during a step when deciding whether to flip an influence stack or pass.

After the 5th round, the game is over.  Each family member in the city gets you a point.  Chapels give you one point for each adjacent family member.  Edifices give you the points printed on them for orthogonally adjacent family members.  You get one point for every unplayed privilege.  Task cards either give you points for being completed, or lose you three points for a failure to complete.  The player with the most points wins.

It must be said that I don’t like auction games.  I think I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it.  This isn’t really an auction game, though there is a kind of blind bidding where you decide how much influence you want to use at a time.  However, you decide what you want to use before knowing where to use it, and then can decide where to use it as the game goes on.  It sounds interesting – I think I’d be completely terrible at it, but it sounds interesting.  That being said, I’m not sure I’d like this game very much.  Stefan Feld has a lot of great buzz these days, but this one’s not sounding like anything I HAVE to play.  I probably should at some point, but I don’t think I’ll seek it out.

But what are its SDJ chances?  The predictions are coming up NEXT!  Thanks for reading!

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