What will you buy next?
GM Eric Brosius officiates in a game
with Sam Atabaki, Asst GM Katherine McCorry, and Chris Johnson.
Eric Freeman on his way to the title
over John Weber and Jason Levine in an early game.
The Princes of Florence schedule began with a demo
on Wednesday morning, an hour before the first heat. You're
welcome to play in the tournament, even if you're new, as long
as you attend the demo. Princes of Florence offers plenty
of scope for strategy, but the game itself is easy to play --
just keep buying things! Your goal as a Florentine prince is
to gain more prestige than your fellow players. Money isn't
an end in itself, but you have to keep spending if you want to
keep up with the Medicis. In each of the seven turns you may
buy one item at auction and take two actions. The winner is
the player who makes the most of these 21 opportunities. Some
items are more attractive than others, but your opponents are
likely to bid high for these, so a cheaper, less attractive item
could be a better buy. The gme is like an auto race along a
winding mountain road -- if you're too cautious you'll never
win, but taking a big risk could lead to a sudden crash, especially
if an opponent tries to seize the same opportunity. We had more
than five players at the demo, so I paired people up to play
one turn of a sample game. I must apologize to Boaz Gura for
forgetting his first name several times; at least I learned it
by the end of the week!
The game requires three to five players, but is best with
five (it's more exciting when the mountain road is crowded.)
We were fortunate to have all 5-player games this year; as GM,
I joined 49 other players in Heat 1 to fill ten tables. Games
took a bit longer this year, perhaps as players thought about
the Builder strategy that has generated many wins recently.
Some players feel that the person who plays second in the first
turn has a significant advantage, since that player has the opportunity
to buy an extra Profession card, but the Builder strategy adds
an important wrinkle by generating prestige points (PP) without
a lot of Professions.
In what some would call an upset, fifth seat players won half
of the ten Heat 1 games. Second seat players won only two, and
in one of those two games, second-seat player Cally Perry was
surprised to find no cards left in the Profession deck for her
to buy at the start of Turn 2. She shrugged and bought something
else instead. A few turns later, the missing Profession card
showed up at the bottom of the Recruitment deck, where it had
been misplaced when the game was set up. As GM, I ruled that
the final Profession card would be placed face-up on the table,
where it could be recruited, but not bought. Even though she
didn't get to buy the extra Profession card, Cally won anyway,
besting second-place finisher Beth Raphael by 1 PP. Albert Schwartz
used a well-executed Builder strategy to win his game by a comfortable
margin, and GM Eric Brosius finished 13 PP behind Albert in fourth
Our luck held and exactly 40 players arrived for Heat 2, giving
us eight 5-player games so I opted out to preserve the perfect
symmetry of five-player games. Eric Freeman, a strong player
who has been unable to play in recent years because of schedule
conflicts, coordinated the scheduling for many of the Euro games,
and was rewarded with a chance to play. He took advantage of
the opportunity, winning with 57 PP over Tom DeMarco and Pete
Gathmann, who came in second and third with 56 PP each. Jason
Levine won his game by 12 PP, the week's widest margin, and David
Platnick won again after winning in Heat 1. Eric Eshleman tied
Boaz Gura at 50 PP and won the tie-breaker by 100 florins. Boaz
qualified for the semis anyway on the strength of his finish
in this game.
22 of the 25 qualifiers appeared for the semi-finals, and
the top three alternates joined them to round out five 5-player
games. We bid for seat order in the semis and Final to even
out any imbalances. Average bids this year were 117 florins
for Seat 1, 250 florins for Seat 2, 33 florins for Seat 3 and
zero for seats 4 and 5. Boaz Gura won the closest semi, squeaking
past Yoel Weiss 6160 for his first victory of the tournament
and a ticket to the Final. Rod Spade also won by 1 PP, topping
Eric Eshleman 5554.
In the Final, Eric paid 300 florins for the second seat,
Rod and Boaz paid 100 florins each for the first and third seats,
and Greg and John took the fourth and fifth seat at no cost.
There were no early bargains. Boaz bought the first Jester,
but he had to pay 1200 florins for it. Eric paid 700 for a Recruiter
and John paid 700 for Builder. John may have had his eye on
a possible Builder strategy, but the high price of Builders discouraged
that plan. There's always someone who buys a landscape in Turn
1, and Rod bought a Forest for 200. Nine of the 21 Professions
prefer Forests, so an early Forest can solve many problems.
This left Greg Thatcher with a choice, and he took a Prestige
Card for 200. An early Prestige Card can be a double-edged blessing;
you don't know which you're most likely to fulfill, but you have
time to work toward the one you choose. Each player used his
actions to buy a Profession and a Freedom, so the Best Work bonus
for Turn 1 went unclaimed.
Prices didn't go down much in Turn 2. Rod got a Jester for
1100, a high price but slightly less than Boaz had paid. Eric
took a Builder and Boaz a Recruiter, each paying 700, and Greg
and Tom selected landscapes for 200 each. Landscapes are bid
up in some games, but this group didn't waste time on such frivolity,
and all twelve landscapes bought during the game went for the
minimum price. Eric bought the last Profession and another freedom
with his two actions, but the other four players each opted for
a building and a work. Boaz, Greg and John each scored 14 for
their works, but Rod ended any hopes for a four-way tie for Best
Work by using his Jester to score 16, giving him the lead with
nine PP. John took two PP for his work to reach five, leaving
Boaz and Greg at three PP and Eric (who had not yet put on a
work) at zero.
In Turn 3, Greg paid 900 for the Jester, a price that looked
almost cheap! In some games, one player grabs several Jesters
early, but these guys were spreading them around. Rod took a
Builder and Boaz a Recruiter, each for 600 florins, as cash levels
were down and players started to budget. John now bought a Prestige
Card for 200 and Eric took a Lake. There was a sudden run on
Freedom of Travel this turn as the first three players bought
it, Boaz and Greg also buying Bonus cards and John building a
University. With only two players left to play, there were no
contenders yet for Best Work, and Rod played #6, the Physicist,
though with Freedom of Travel unavailable he could achieve a
Work Value of only 13. Eric was delighted to be able to earn
Best Work without using a Jester or Bonus Card. He built a Workshop
and then played #7, the Watch Maker, for a Work Value of 16.
He cashed it all in for 1600 florins, but three PP each for
building a Workshop and Best Work raised his score to six PP.
Prices continued their slow decline. In Turn 4 Eric paid
900 for a Jester, Rod bought a Recruiter for 500, and Greg got
a Builder for just 400. Boaz took a cheap Park this time, and
John got his second Prestige card. The order of play changes
each turn, and the last player has the advantage of knowing exactly
what it takes to earn Best Work. Boaz finished with #12, the
Choreographer, earning Best Work and moving closer to the leaders.
It was in Turn 5 that the players began to differentiate themselves.
Eric won his second Jester in the auction, paying only 700 this
time. John bought his second Builder, and Rod paid 500 for a
second Recruiter. Rod, Eric and Boaz now had the ability to
put on six works each, while Greg and John could put on no more
than four. On the other hand, Greg paid 200 for his second Prestige
card; if Greg and John could convert their Prestige cards at
the end of the game, it might close the gap on the leaders.
All five players put works on this turn. Eric's two Jesters
gave him a natural Work Value of 20, and Greg had to use a Bonus
Card just to tie Eric for Best Work. Early in the game players
had been selling their works, but they were now keeping the prestige.
We awarded the Best Work bonus to Eric and Greg. Eric was in
the lead with 26 PP, followed by John with 22, Rod with 19, Boaz
with 18 and Greg with 17.
Eric bought his third Jester in Turn 6, paying just 600 florins.
For some reason, interest in Jesters had disappeared, even though
most of the works remained to be played. John wanted a third
Prestige Card, but after seeing four of them go for 200 florins,
he had to pay 700 this time. Boaz had works left to use, and
he played one with a Bonus card to take Best Work with a Work
Value of 22 and jump into the lead. Greg and John trailed Boaz
by 12 PP each, but they had Prestige Cards and Boaz did not,
so the scoreboard didn't tell the whole story.
The last turn began with Rod, Eric and Boaz still having two
works available to play and Greg and John just one each. The
seventh and final Jester went up for auction and-would you believe
it?-Eric bought his fourth in a row, paying just 400 florins.
Eric actually had to sell one PP for 100 florins to finance
his purchase, but it was worth it to see those four Jesters piled
up on his palazzo. There was no more competition in the auctions,
as Boaz bought a Park, Greg a Lake, John a Forest and Rod a Prestige
Card, each for just 200 florins each. Boaz now had two Parks
and two Forests, earning six PP for a second landscape in each
type. It was clearly a close game, and the player who scored
Best Work could well be the winner.
Eric first played #1, the Mathematician, for a Work Value
of 20 even though he didn't have the University. That's what
four Jesters will do for you. He ended the suspense by following
this up with #19, the Poet, which was worth 24 naturally, and
supplementing it with a Bonus Card worth six more for a total
of 30. These two works gave him 25 PP plus another three PP
for Best Work. Boaz played two works of his own for 18 PP, but
he had lost a lot of ground on Eric. Greg played a single work
for 10 PP, but even if his Prestige Cards came up big, it didn't
seem that he would be able to catch the leaders. John determined
that he could not put on his final work (the lack of a Jester
can be a big handicap in the last turn,) and instead he built
two buildings for the prestige. Rod had saved up three bonus
cards, clearly hoping to take Best Work for Turn 7, but Eric
had put that out of reach, and Rod had to settle for 21 PP.
We then scored Prestige Cards. Rod earned seven PP for his,
but Greg earned only eight PP for his two cards and John 10 PP
for his three. Eric was thus the winner with 60 PP, followed
closely by Boaz with 58, Rod 56, Greg 43 and John 38.
Attendance was up this year, even though there were only two
heats. I give most of the credit to Eric Freeman's scheduling
initiative, which made it easier for Euro enthusiasts to make
more of their favorites. Eric's victory was made possible by
finally being able to play in a heat, but he still had to win
three games against strong competition to cash in the opportunity.
I'd like to express my special thanks to Assistant GM Katherine
McCorry. She provided invaluable assistance throughout the tournament,
and her detailed notes were the basis for my report on the Final.
Euro Quest Laurelists
Lyman Moquin, DC
Legend Dan Hoffman, MD
Kevin Walsh, NY
Andrew Gerb, MD
Eyal Mozes, NY