Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fourteen Things I Like About Louis

By Ward Batty

For those who have been pining for the next game they will want to play again and again, I am pleased to report that we have just that in Louis XIV by Rudiger Dorn and published by Rio Grande Games. The goal of the game is pretty simple. Players draw mission cards, which require two tokens to be fulfilled, and can then be placed face up and gives the player an additional ability. Missions cards come in three levels of difficulty to fulfill, but are all worth five victory points at the end of the game. The reason to go for a more difficult card is that it should be of more use during the coarse of the game.

Players accumulate the tokens they need to fulfill their cards by placing influence markers. A clever element of Louis XIV is the game board. It consists of twelve square boards, arranged on the diagonal to form a 5x5 checkerboard (including spaces). The boards feature members of Louis XIV's court.

The game is played over four rounds with four phases in each round. First players receive income and the King Louis figure is placed on a character board. Players are dealt five cards that each match one of the character boards. Players either place up to three influence markers, starting with the character on the card they played, or use the action to retrieve three markers from their general supply. Players may move up to two markers to another board that is touching the board they first placed on, and may then move one of those two to another neighboring board. There are four placement turns per round.

After all the influence markers are placed, they are scored. At the beginning of the game, most boards offer the same token to anyone who has influence. The player with the most influence gets the item for free, but their influence markers go to their general supply where they will have to be retrieved. The others must pay gold for the token, but their influence markers go back to their own supply. Boards that have a majority winner are flipped. Next time only the player with the most markers gets the token. Others get nothing and have no right to buy anything. Each time there's a majority winner the card will be flipped again, so the board will change throughout the game. After the scoring, players use the tokens they have accumulated to meld their mission cards.

In the first game I played I went for winning as much for free as I could, but had to use actions to get my markers back from the general supply. An opponent took the opposite route, paying gold but not using up markers, and beat me by one point. When players can take different approaches and end up so close in the final score that's a sign, to me, of a really good game. Every game I?ve played since has been interesting and different. If you are looking for a solid game experience with lots of clever ideas and interesting things to do, check out Louis XIV.

Author's note: This review originally appeared in Scrye magazine #90.

Ward Batty is a long-time game-player who has been with the same weekly game group for over twenty years. "I understood there was a pension." is his excuse. He writes a monthly column on the business of board games for Comics & Game Retailer magazine and has written articles and reviews for The Games Journal, Scrye, Knucklebones and Games International.

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