Would You Like to Buy a ?
Greg Crowe,Tom Browne, Katherine McCorry
and Rebecca Hebner go "shopping".
Rob Flowers takes a break from his
El Grande GMing to play POF with David Gerson.
Many games cast you as a merchant amassing riches. In Princes
of Florence, wealth is of no account. As
a Renaissance aristocrat, you care only for prestige. In
fact, you splash money around freely as you seek to outshine
the owner of the palazzo down the road. Of course, it takes
money to maintain a suitably extravagant lifestyle, and the small
inheritance you start with runs out quickly. Too often
you must sell off the master works of the artists you attract
to raise the cash you need to stay on the back of fame's tiger.
Princes of Florence is a "gamer's game,"
but beginners learn it quickly because it has a clear structure
and a familiar theme - shopping. The game takes seven rounds,
and in each round you buy one item at auction and carry out two
actions - thus, you have 21 opportunities to maximize your winning
chances. Six newcomers showed up for the demo, and after
a rules explanation they were able to play several rounds of
a practice game, giving them a feel for play before the real
It's a challenge seating players quickly at the start of each
heat. I want to thank Katherine McCorry and Cally
Perry, my Assistant GMs, and Rob Flowers, who volunteered on
the spot. I strongly prefer 5-player games; as the
GM, I don't play if the number of players is divisible by five
without me. This year we had an unusual occurrence: one
player signed up for Heat 1, but left before I called out his
name for a table assignment. As a result, we had four
4-player tables in Heat 1; I didn't want to take the time to
move players among tables after the unexpected dropout.
Close games are common. There were three ties for
Prestige Points in the heats, with the winners determined by
the tiebreaker, most cash. Two other games were won
by a margin of just 1 PP. At the other end of the
spectrum, David Platnick won his first heat by a margin of 27
Last year I came in fifth in my heat, losing to Alex
Bove, who went on to win the tournament. This year
Alex and I were at the same table for Heat 1, but Alex came in
2nd and I third as Alan Elkner won. Alan
went on to win his game in Heat 2 also (no one else won both
heats) so it was no fluke.
Some people claim Princes of Florence is slanted
toward the player who plays 2nd in Round 1. It makes
sense in theory, but it didn't pan out in 2009. For
the second straight year, the bottom of the order out-scored
the top, and in fact Seat 2 came in fifth in five of the
eleven 5-player heats.
A list of 25 qualifiers and 25 alternates was posted on the
event kiosk. All 13 winners qualified, together with 12
players whose best finish was a 2nd place result.
23 qualifiers appeared for the semis, and I added the top two
alternates to fill five 5-player games.
In the semis and Final, players bid for player order, paying
florins to get their choice of seats. This year, the average
bids were as follows:
1st: 117 florins
2nd: 300 florins
3rd: 67 florins
All five semis were close. No one was more than
10 PP behind the winner. In one semi, Bruce DuBoff
(who bid 200 florins for Seat 2) finished with 54 PP, ahead of
Jason Long and Peter Eldridge at 53 PP each. In another,
Thomas Browne finished with 54 PP, ahead of David Platnick, Greg
Thatcher and Cheryl Meek, all three of whom finished with 53
PP. In games this close there are many decisions that
can make the difference between victory and defeat.
The players for the Final were Bruce DuBoff, Tom Browne, Chris
Senhouse, Rod Spade and Davyd Field. I observed that
there would be at least one first this year---a winner whose
first name started with a consonant! We bid for seating
order, and Bruce took Seat 2 for 400. Davyd paid 100 for
Seat 1, and Tom, Chris and Rod took Seats 3, 4 and 5 at no cost.
The game started off quietly. Bruce got a Builder for
700 florins, and Chris bought a Jester for 1100. Rod
paid 700 for a Recruiter, Davyd took a Forest for 200, and Tom
picked up a Prestige card (a "strait jacket", as the
players described it) for 200. Every player then bought
a Profession card and a Freedom.
The shape of the game began to take form in Round 2. Davyd
bought a Jester for what Chris had paid, but Bruce spent 800
for a second Builder. You can make a lot of hay with
multiple Builders, but Bruce was paying high prices. In
Round 3, Chris bought a second Jester, this time for only 1000,
and Rod got the Builder as Bruce was running out of money. In
fact, Bruce had to sell a PP for 100 florins to finance the construction
of a Studio. With the Studio in place, he attracted
a Painter, and then sold off the Painter's work to raise cash. Rod,
during his Actions, attracted the Organ Maker, a Professional
who later demonstrated the ability to toot his own horn.
Round 4 featured a minor bidding incident. Chris
put a Recruiter up for auction, and when Chris bid 600, Rod passed. Tom,
mishearing Rod's "pass" as "700", passed,
and was surprised to find that Chris had bought the Recruiter
for the relatively low price of 600. Tom did
not complain, settling instead for a cheap Lake. Chris
recruited the Organ Maker from Rod, performing a work, and Davyd
in turn recruited the Organ Maker from Chris, making it three
works by the Organ Maker in just two Rounds.
One tough decision in this game is how much cash to set
aside for the future. Every 200 florins you take from
a work costs you 1 PP, so you don't want to take too much. On
the other hand, if you run short of cash, you get only 100 florins
for each PP you sell - better to have taken cash up front. Going
into Round 7, Bruce had 400 florins left and Davyd had 700. Bruce
needed a Forest. Unfortunately, so did Davyd. Bruce
bid 200, Davyd 300, and Bruce 400 - all his cash. Davyd
raised the bid to 500. Bruce wondered whether Davyd
was just messing with him, but competitive auctions for Forests
are not uncommon - someone paid 1600 for a Forest in Round 7
of a 2005 semi! Bruce decided it was worth selling
PP for the second time in the game to get the Forest and bid
600, only to hear Davyd bid 700. When Bruce bid 800,
Davyd knew he'd have to sell PP to keep bidding, and he reluctantly
passed, allowing Bruce to sell four PP back to the bank to finance
the purchase. Tom had 1200, a lot of money for Round
7, and he used 900 of it to grab a Jester after spirited bidding. At
this point, Chris and Davyd each saw a Prestige card as the best
option. Chris put it up for auction and Davyd kept
bidding, even as the price soared above the amount of his cash. When
Davyd won the bid for 1200, he had to sell five PP back to the
bank to pay for it. This left Chris with the low-cost
option of buying a second Lake for 200, gaining 3 PP and leaving
him with a lot of money he'd never be able to use.
When it was Tom's turn to perform Actions, he started by paying
his last 300 for a Bonus card. He drew five cards
and was shocked to see that the "7 Categories" card
was among them. This is usually the best Bonus card
in the game, and it is almost always selected the first time
someone draws it. Tom didn't think twice. He
took the "7 Categories" Bonus and used it to add six
Work Value to his Dramatist, earning 11 PP and 100 florins.
After Round 7, Chris was in the lead with 47 PP, followed
by Rod with 45, Bruce with 42, Davyd with 38 and Tom with 34. But
it wasn't over. Bruce had a Prestige card and Davyd
and Tom each had two. Bruce's card was worth five
PP for "2 Large Buildings", putting him into a tie
with Chris (though Chris had more money.) Davyd had
"4 Buildings, 2 Freedoms and 4 Works" for six PP, but
did not score for "Most Works", leaving him at 44. Tom
then revealed "All 3 Freedoms" for eight PP and "1
Builder, 1 Jester and 2 Landscapes" for seven PP (no wonder
he bid so much for that last Jester) bringing his score to 49,
2 PP ahead of Chris and Bruce and in sole first place.
The final scores: Tom 49, Chris 47, Bruce 47, Rod 45, Davyd
I took notes during the final, so watch http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/336950 for
a detailed play-by-play report.
Congratulations to Tom, who won his first Princes of
Florence final at WBC. And thanks to all who
took part in this year's tournament.
One of the things that makes WBC special
is the dedicated GMs who put a lot of planning into running their
events efficiently. One of the best is Eric Brosius whose table
markers seen here are just a small visible part of the effort
he puts into his event.
Eric Freeman who co-ordinates the
co-operative Euro GM scheduling
efforts to reduce conflicts enjoys
the fruits of his labor
during WBC as he games with Aran Warszawski
back for his third WBC vacation.
Euro Quest Laurelists
Legend Dan Hoffman, MD
Rod Spade, PA
Bill Zurn, CA
Eric Brosius, MA
Tom DeMarco, NJ