The year of Stefan Feld continues with:
Rialto has already been released in Germany by Pegasus Spiele, but the Tasty Minstrel version should be coming out soon. This Feld design is for 2-5 players and takes 45 minutes. The game has the typical thrilling theme (for Feld, at least) of being a Venecian noble constructing bridges and buildings to gain power and influence. But, as usual, you don’t play a Stefan Feld game for the theme – you play it for the mechanics and strategic possibilities.
Rialto comes with a game board, five player boards, 77 cards, 90 wooden cylinders (councilmen), 10 wooden discs (VP and Doge markers), a district token, 60 building tiles, 6 bridge tiles, 6 gondola tiles, 30 gold coins, 6 round tiles, and 2 bonus tiles. Each player gets a board, a Doge counter (placed on the Doge track), a score marker (placed on 3 of the score track), 18 councilmen (5 of which are placed on the player board), and 1-3 coins (depending on the number of players and turn order). Each player, beginning with the start player, also gets to choose one value 1 building to place on their board.
This game has six rounds. There are three phases in each round.
PHASE ONE: The district for each round is determined by the location of the matching round token on the board, randomly placed in setup. The district token goes to that location at the start of the phase. Then a number of six-card rows equal to the number of players plus one are placed face up. In the order players are on the Doge track, each player takes one of the card rows, two cards from the draw pile, any leftover cards from the previous round, an any cards awarded by activated green buildings (buildings are activated by placing one coin on the matching building). You then may keep seven of those cards (possibly more with activated green buildings).
PHASE TWO: This is the action phase, and goes through six stages (A-F), and players will be playing cards from their hands and activating yellow buildings to make their actions stronger. You get one chance to play cards (you can play as many as you want), and this is done in player order – the first player on the Doge track goes first in stage A, but the start player for the other five stages is determined by who gets the bonus in the previous stage. Bonuses are awarded to the player who plays the most cards played.
- A. Doge – Advance your marker one space on the Doge track for each Doge card played. The bonus allows you to move one extra space.
- B. Gold – Gain one coin per card played. The bonus allows you to get one more coin.
- C. Building – Choose a building with a value equal to or lower than the number of cards you played. The bonus lets you add one to the number of cards you play. Buildings are green (special abilities in phase one – take extra cards or keep extra cards); yellow (special abilities for phase two – delay your turn, play a card as another type, or use the building as a joker); and blue (special abilities for phase three – get a more valuable building for an old one, get points, get councilmen, or advance on the Doge track).
- D. Bridge – Get one point per card. Anyone who didn’t play a bridge card loses a point. The bonus allows a player to gain an extra point and place a bridge to connect two districts.
- E. Gondola – For each card, move a councilmen from your general supply to your personal supply. The bonus allows you to place a gondola on a free connection and place a councilman from your general supply in either of the two connected districts. The first player with at least one councilmen in each of the three districts on one side of the Grand Canal gets five points.
- F. Councilman – Move one councilman per card from your personal supply (on your board) to the current district. If you don’t have any left, you can move them around on the board. The bonus lets you place one more councilman.
There are also joker cards that can count as any of these cards.
PHASE THREE: Activate blue buildings. That’s it.
At the end of the round, money on buildings is removed and returned to the bank. You can only use a building once per round.
After round six, there is a final scoring. Add the number of councilmen and coins you have left on your board and divide in half for that many points (round up). Get VPs for each building according to their value. Finally, score each district – the player with the most councilmen there gets the total value of all adjacent bridge and gondola tiles; second most gets half of that; third most gets half of that; and so on. Round up when doing this, ties are broken by the Doge track, and you have to have councilmen in a district to get any points. The player with the most points wins.
I was drawn to this game because of the really nice looking cover art and because of Stefan Feld’s pedigree as a designer. I’ve been hearing that it’s a lot lighter than some of his recent offerings, and I can see that. I see some Notre Dame in this game, particularly with the personal supply and general supply of councilmen. And the game doesn’t seem as brutal and unforgiving as some of his games – no “punch in the face” mechanisms here, other than losing a point if you have no bridges. It looks like it all comes down to the cards you get, but you only can keep seven, so that limits what you can play. The Doge track looks to be very important, not only in determining order, but also in breaking ties. In typical Feldian fashion, there’s a lot to do, and not nearly enough opportunities to do it.
Overall, this looks like a perfectly serviceable game. It’s lighter than a lot of Feld’s work, and that’s not a bad thing – it can be a gateway to some of his heavier stuff. I’d like to give it a try sometime. Thanks for reading.