Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre: The Five Villages
Designed by Chris Handy

Multiple games are named after famous or significant places throughout the world. One of my favorite games is actually designed and named after a famous fortified French town, Carcassonne. Other really fun games named after famous locals include but are not limited to: Puerto Rico, San Juan, Hawaii, Pantheon, Jamaica, Alhambra, and Jaipur. Cinque Terre for those who don't know is a rugged portion of coast along the Italian Riviera. "The Five Lands" consists of 5 cities which are close in proximity one to another. If you check out the pictures online, it definitely looks like a nice place to visit. I have visited Italy once seeing Rome, Florence, and Venice. I definitely would like to visit Cinque Terre if there is another trip to Italy. Also, I would like to mention that it is kind of crazy that while reading Dan Brown's newest book Inferno that is based on Dante's The Divine Comedy and which takes place in Italy - I have reviewed both Little Devils and Cinque Terre.

The goal of this game is to harvest produce to sell in the varying markets completing as many orders as possible. The game is for 2 to 5 players and takes approximately  an hour to play. The game's concepts are easy to understand and I would think that children 8+ could play it fairly well (manufacturer recommendation is 13+). When thinking about the complexity of the game, I would compare it to Ticket to Ride. The competitiveness of the game however may relate better to Thurn and Taxis. You can't physically block paths like in Ticket to Ride, but you can claim available points before someone else. I and the wife really enjoyed this game. Let's take a look at what's in the box...

 As usual, Rio Grand Games has done a great job with the quality of the components (boards, cards, cubes, etc.). The game includes 128 wooden produce cubes, 80 produce cards, 16 starting produce order cards, 80 regular produce order cards, 16 dice (2 in each color), 1 large game board, 5 personal player game boards with matching scoring marker and produce carts, 5 MPV cardboard tokens, 1 cloth bag, and 1 instruction booklet. I do wish that there was a built in location to store the cards (I store them in the provided cloth bag, or you can use rubber bands to keep them contained within the box). I really like the personal player boards with references to available actions. The wooden cars or carts are a nice player piece, although I have really liked the idea that others have done by using matchbox type trucks as the players pieces so that they can physically carry the produce cubes around in their trucks (in the game, you store these cubes usually on your player board where there is a depiction of your produce cart). Very cool idea! The instructions are very clear with great illustrations and examples.

Set Up
Setting up the game does not take long and consists of shuffling card decks, placing produce cubes, and rolling and placing a few dice. If you have extra sandwich bags or game bags, I would suggest keeping the 8 different colored produce cubes in their own individual bag. This will help speed up the minimal set up time to
begin with. The cloth bag is provided purely for randomizing the produce cube placement and die placement. The bag will not be needed throughout the rest of the game. To help randomize the placement of the 8 different produce cube fields, place one cube of each color in the bag and draw them out placing them in the next field. You then can place the rest of the corresponding cubes in that field (see instructions for amount of cubes - varies with different amount of players). You do something similar with the die. Place one of each colored die in the bag, draw one out and roll it. Place that die in the top city on the left and continue until full (4 die). Then the next 4 go in the bottom city. Then you place the remaining 8 die in the bag and fill in the 3 other villages with die. The numbers represent how much each produce will be worth or sold in that village (if a die is not present for that village, people will be able to sell any produce still for 1 lire/point. Each player is also dealt a starting produce order card and 4 produce cards. The regular produce order cards are shuffled and a number of cards equal to the amount of players are dealt face up next to this deck. Players then place their cart on one of the 3 different harvesting locations.

The game is played by choosing to perform 3 actions each time it's your turn. You have 4 different options and these actions are listed on each players individual boards. You can perform these actions in any order and can perform each of the different options as many times as you like. The 4 different action options are:
  1. Move up to 4 spaces: The player can move his cart up to 4 spaces clockwise around the board. Remember that if you move your cart just 1 space, that will count as one of your actions just the same as if you choose to move 4 spaces. You may, as stated above, perform each of these actions more than once per turn. So, you could move 7 spaces, but that would be 2 of your 3 actions. You could also move 1, perform a different action, and move again.
  2. Draw 1 produce card: You may draw/take 1 produce card from the board and add it to your hand. Each produce card you take counts as an action. When you take a face up card, you immediately fill the empty space from the top of the draw deck. You may choose to draw blindly off the top of the produce deck for your action. There is no limit to the amount of produce cards in your hand. We created a house rule that when all 4 of the face up cards are of the same type, you discard all of them and flip over 4 new cards. This seems to have worked well.
  3. Harvest produce: The player may harvest up to 4 produce cubes if at one of the three locations to harvest. The player may only harvest the produce cubes available at that location and remember that you can't have more than 4 produce cubes in your cart. To harvest a cube, there must be a cube for you to harvest and you need either 1 matching produce card, or 2 cards of the same type can be used for any produce cube.
  4. Sell produce at a village market: The player may sell up to 4 produce at any one village for one action. They must have an available space on their player board for that city for all produce to be sold (this isn't made really clear in the rules, but after assuming and confirming that assumption - each player can only sell 8 produce to each city). You receive lire (or in other words, points) equal to what is shown on that produce's colored die. You can sell any type of produce in any village. If you are selling a particular produce not represented in that city by a die, you get one point.
How to Score
Besides gaining points for selling produce in the villages, the other key way to obtain points is from the
produce order cards (starting and from the table). Produce order cards are available from the table (# of them face up equal to the # of players). Players may score one order card at the end of their turn if they have all the produce sold in each city as described on the card. The player then places that card in front of them and scores those points. Now that player secretly draws the top card of the order deck. Then that player may choose whether or not they would like to keep that card secretly in their secret deck of order cards (with their starting card). Any cards kept this way remain secret until the end of the game scoring positive points if complete, and negative points if not completed. If they choose not to keep the card, it goes down onto the table face up to fill in the empty space. They player then gets one final choice -
draw another order card from the top of the deck or pass. If they choose to draw, they must keep this second card.

The final way to obtain points comes from being popular. The Most Popular Vendor (MPV) tokens are obtained when a player fills in the 8 slots for a city before anyone else. The player scores these points immediately and places the token in front of them with any other MPVs or publicly scored order cards.

Game End
The end of the game is triggered when a player gets a total of 5 point cards/MPV tokens which are laid out in front of them. Any completed order cards in a player's hand are scored at the end of the game, but do not count toward the 5 needed to trigger the end of the game. All players then get one final turn, including the player who triggered the ending.

Closing Remarks
This is a great game! I am giving it 4 fingers up (or 9 out of 10 stars). Cinque Terre is one of those games that provides a nice light (not too competitive) experience. A good "gateway" euro-style game that is easy to learn. I think people who enjoy such games as Ticket to Ride, Thurn and Taxis, and Jambo will enjoy this game. The game has some nice variation built into the set up to make each game a little different. Setting up the game doesn't take long at all and explaining it to new people doesn't either. Some people may not like that the game doesn't have more player interaction with each other (i.e. no trading aspect, markers don't interact or restrict people from spaces, etc.), but everything works well as designed and not having a lot of player interaction keeps the competitive nature more similar to Thurn and Taxis. Some of the hard-core gamer types might find the game a little too simplified, or may find that it doesn't provide enough strategy for them. I would say that this is a great family game where even kids who are 7 or  8 could get a grasp on the game pretty easily. I would recommend this game to everyone and that is How Lou Sees It!

A big SHOUT OUT to Rio Grande Games for making this review possible and for continuing to make great games!

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