Invented by Reiner Knizia.
Published by Amigo Spiele, 1995.
Reviewed by Kevin Jacklin.
Around 60 Minutes
In Medici, the players take the part of merchant princes, filling the holds of their ship to capacity and cornering the market in valuable trade goods. Commodities to be traded are Metals, Herbs, Porcelain, Silks, and Dyes. The winner is the richest player after three rounds.
The basics of the game are simple. In their turn, a player will draw up to three commodity cards to form one lot at auction (they choose how many). This must be bought by one player or discarded. (The auctioneer is not paid - he only decides on the contents of a lot). Each player gets a single bid, clockwise from the left of the auctioneer. The auctioneer may bid. The cards are valued from zero to five (plus a special 'bulk' card which scores ten but is not a commodity). It is up to the players to decide whether they fill their holds with sheer bulk, or whether to wait for commodities they are collecting to come up. Play passes to the left, and another lot chosen by the next auctioneer player.
This continues until everyone has filled their holds (maximum five cards only - and you cannot bid for more than will fit in your hold) or the cards run out.
Then the scoring begins. Players receive points in descending order according to the bulk their ships are carrying (points values of the cards are totalled). Then they mark the number of commodity cards carried, and receive bonus points for carrying the majority of that particular goods. The number of commodity cards is carried over to the next round. If sufficient number of one commodity is traded over a number of rounds, then extra bonuses are score. When the scoring is over, the next round begins.
In order to win the game, a player must achieve a balance of carrying sufficient bulk to score in the early rounds, against monopolising a commodity to score increasing bonuses in later rounds. However, because players pay for cards from their treasury (aka their scoring track), paying too much for bulk or particular commodity cards will make the return insufficient to cover the amount paid. On the other hand, it may just be worth overbidding for an item to prevent another player from achieving their goals. It's a tough decision! Also, deciding on the number of cards to auction in a turn is a delicate skill. The auctioneer can put together a mixed lot which contains only one or two decent cards (i.e. force someone to buy junk to keep a monopoly); or he could likewise sell a single card which two others will bid very high for. There is a psychological guessing game going on amongst players all the time in the auction, as they try to determine just how high someone will actually pay for a desired card.
There are some similarities in the auction mechanism between Medici and a previous Reiner Knizia game, Modern Art. The overall feel of Medici is not dissimilar either, and players who enjoyed Modern Art will certainly want to try Medici. The auctioning/bidding makes for extremely enjoyable interaction amongst players, and the increasing tension in later rounds as players try to keep their edge in one or more commodities is palpable.
The game does slow a little as players perform a quick (or not so quick) cost/benefit analysis of each auctioned lot, which is probably too much brainwork to make Medici a general family game. However, the simple elegance of the mechanism, combined with beautiful production values and a very reasonable price (around DM20) make Medici a 'must buy' for the serious boardgamer.
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell