Recently I’ve been getting into eurogames, board games that are quick, rules-lite, and player-friendly, the kind of thing that’s perfect for a few games in a lunch hour or in the evening. The most popular of these eurogames are big titles like Settlers of Catan and Carcassone, but just before Christmas, Joe (he of Barry Arrers fame) recommended the following gem to me…
Aaaah, Palazzo. How I love you.
In Palazzo, players take the role of Renaissance-era architects constructing palaces. The winner is the player who manages to make the tallest, most aesthetically pleasing palaces before the mayor arrives; pretty simple. The players get building materials either by buying them from the main supply, or auctioning for them at quarries.
It’s a fairly simple game, but there’s a lot of strategy to it, which is why I really like it. Each building tile represents a floor of a palace, and is one of three materials (brick, sandstone, or marble), and has one, two, or three windows; the more windows the better. You also get a bonus at the end of the game if you make a palace completely out of one building material, and those points can easily mean the difference between winning and losing. Due to the random nature of where and when certain tiles will appear, it does mean that every game is very different.
The fun comes in when you have to balance your money and your spending habits; if you buy a load of tiles from the main supply, will you have enough money for an auction? If you skip a go to get more money, will one of the other players get a tile you really need? And then there’s always reconstruction/demolition to consider, especially as one-storey palaces give you a penalty at the end of the game!
As for the end of the game, you’re never sure when it’s going to happen. In the third and final pile of tiles are five special tiles that combine to form a picture of the approaching mayor; if all five of those come out, the game’s over! I’ve had games when the mayor’s arrived when there’s still half the pile left, and others when it’s gone down to the very last tile. It definitely puts some pressure on you, especially if you need to do last minute reconstruction/demolition to get your palaces looking as lovely as possible!
Palazzo really is a great little game and I thoroughly recommend it. It can be a little tricky to get your head round at first, but I’ve introduced it to a few people and they’ve all picked it up and gotten wise to the strategies halfway through their first game. It does start a bit slow, but soon tiles will be piling up, money will be coming and going, and palaces will be getting higher and higher.
A fantastic, quick and casual eurogame perfect as a filler between something more complicated and lengthy. What more could you ask for?